"We will prevail and come through this," chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan declared today as he was honoured for his leadership during the pandemic.
He hailed the way the people of Ireland have followed public health advice to suppress Covid-19 and save lives.
And we are on course to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
He was speaking after receiving an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), in recognition of his outstanding leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As chief medical officer Dr Holohan has led the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) in providing national direction and expert advice on the development and implementation of Ireland’s response to the pandemic, the citation said.
RCSI President, Professor Ronan O'Connell, said: "I congratulate Dr Holohan on his award of Honorary Fellowship of RCSI. Dr Holohan's contribution to Irish healthcare long predates the pandemic, yet this will be his legacy. Putting public health first, Dr Holohan has been transparent from the start, providing clear information which inspired trust and cohesion among a great majority of Irish people."
In his address Dr Holohan said we have lived in a "time like no other."
He told the gathering that “those of us who prepared and planned for public health emergencies could never have predicted how so much of our lives would be impacted and how our most basic assumptions of modern life were tested to breaking point and beyond .
"We will prevail and come through this. Irish people consistently responded to public health advice.
"They have stayed home, wore masks and washed hands whenever we asked.
"It's easy to forget we have had remarkable levels of compliance from the vast majority of the public .
"It is only through such high compliance that we have been able to suppress the virus and minimise the impact of the disease on public health."
“We are seeing it play out in the uptake of vaccination which is on track to become one of the highest in the world."
He paid tribute to health staff and pointed to the remarkable advances from finding ways to treat people in intensive care to developing vaccines.
Professor Cathal Kelly, RCSI chief executive said, "Under Dr Holohan's stewardship, early and decisive action was taken, putting Ireland in a stronger position to manage the first wave of the virus than our neighbours to the east and the west.
"Since then, as we have moved through three waves, Dr Holohan has been steadfast and consistent in putting the health of Irish people first. We thank him for his service to our country and the outstanding example of public service and vocation he has shown for the healthcare leaders of the future."
Following his graduation, Dr Holohan trained in general practice. He went on to study for a Masters in Public Health, which he achieved in 1996, graduating with honours and in first place.
He was awarded membership of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine in 1998 after undertaking a major project on the health of homeless people for his thesis.
During his training as a Specialist Registrar in Public Health, Dr Holohan was awarded two research grants by the Health Research Board to study the health of men, women and children living in hostels and temporary rented accommodation.
Other areas of work during this time included communicable disease control, cluster investigation and health intelligence.
Dr Holohan was appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health in 2001, a role he had for eight years before being appointed Chief Medical Officer.
He has worked tirelessly on a wide range of major policy issues including health service reform, patient safety and quality in health care, health technology assessment, health protection and emergency planning, Healthy Ireland, alcohol and tobacco control, bioethics and reproductive health.