A PROMINENT doctor quit Twitter after being told by a PR consultant, who claimed to be a “close confidante” of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, that his posts were undermining his reputation and clinical role.
Mr Donnelly has moved to distance himself from the incident which saw Dr Anthony O’Connor, a consultant gastroenterologist at Tallaght Hospital, delete his Twitter account on Tuesday after he was contacted by a person he said was close to Mr Donnelly.
“Ok lads you win. Just had someone close to Stephen Donnelly in the DMs telling me that my advocacy is undermining my professionalism and clinical role. So I’m out. Too much now. Stay safe,” he wrote prior to deleting his account.
Dr O’Connor, who is also running to be the next chairperson of the Labour Party, has been critical of the Government response to Covid-19 and is a contributor on TV and radio discussions on the pandemic.
In a Twitter direct message, seen by Independent.ie, public relations consultant Conor Dempsey suggested to Dr O'Connor that people may see him “so stressed” on social media that they “might be concerned” if they were referred to him for treatment.
He wrote: “I hope it does not offend you, but do you ever wonder if some of the scrapes you get into online undermine your reputation? I mean that in the sense that people may see you as being so stressed, which you are very entitled to be, that they might be concerned if they are then referred to you for treatment?
“I think you are so brave in your advocacy and understandably fraught with all that is going on, but maybe being so active online works against optimizing your clinical role? We need advocates like you to speak, but you are almost too transparent and informative one would wonder if I was referred to a doctor who appeared so distressed.
“I am guessing also that you find your advocacy cathartic and I also believe in the need to agitate for change. But maybe less can be more?”
In the message, Mr Dempsey said he had no “wish to offend” and apologised if he had crossed a line. He described himself as a “close confidante of Stephen Donnelly” but added that he did not work for the Health Minister.
Mr Donnelly has previously confirmed that Mr Dempsey, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as principal at Dempsey Corporate, worked for him in a voluntary capacity during his first general election campaign in 2011 when he was elected as an Independent TD.
Mr Dempsey was described in one report as communications director for Mr Donnelly’s first campaign. Twitter posts also show Mr Dempsey frequently defends and praises the Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow.
He did not respond to multiple calls and texts on Tuesday.
Dr O’Connor, who contacted one of Mr Donnelly’s special advisers about the message on Tuesday, said that the minister needed to distance himself from Mr Dempsey.
“The minister had no knowledge of this,” Mr Donnelly’s spokesman said in response to queries. “The minister will not be commenting on private messages on social media.”