HE had warned his counterparts what he would say if it came up. A couple of hours later, Dr Tony Holohan was asked the predicted question about the arrival of migrant workers at the fruit company Keelings during the lockdown. The chief medical officer (CMO) expressed his discomfort, saying it was "not consistent" with public health advice. "He said, 'if I am asked about it, I cannot stand over it'. Holohan is playing with a straight bat all the time," a political source said.
The CMO's utterances prompted the Taoiseach to weigh in and announce a review of the rules, even though the use of seasonal migrant workers is in line with Government policy.
The problem is it is understood the company contacted the Government at senior levels to check if they were playing by the rules.
The signs of strain occasionally show in the corridors of power managing the crisis.
Department of Finance officials are said to be "holding their nose" as the coffers get emptied and the rebalancing of the books over the past decade gets reversed. The generosity won't last too long.
"At some point, a budget constraint will emerge and we will need to reduce our fiscal deficit. The timing and level we do not know," Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said in a conversation with academics at UCD Geary Institute.
After starting the week indicating schools would be opening soon, the Government finished it threatening a longer lockdown.
Varadkar was back carrying a big stick, saying "there is a direct connection between what people do" and easing the restrictions.
There's also a direct connection between what Government says and how the public responds. The clear and concise communication to the public on entry into the lockdown has been replaced by ministerial ego-massaging and contradictions on the exit.
Following the Keelings saga, Health Minister Simon Harris, speaking repeatedly about schools reopening last week, contributed to a feeling the restrictions were being lifted.
Spending the next 48 hours cleaning up the mess and denying plans to reopen schools, the Department of Education is said to have gone "ballistic" about Harris's utterances.
"It is the old school, and old school of departments. They haven't changed since about 1978. They consult stakeholders, but they are thorough and conscientious," a source said.
Harris's ubiquity in newspapers, TV, radio and social media is raising eyebrows in Government Buildings.
"He is on non-stop and is over-exposed. Look at the s**t he was coming out with about the schools. We don't need solo runs. He is generally on message, but he does fly kites," a Government source said.
"He's now a commentator," a party TD said dismissively.
Notably, Junior Health Minister Jim Daly said he has purposely avoided doing media during the pandemic following an agreement with Harris.
"Minister Harris and I have discussed this at length and it has been suggested that the media be maintained to himself on communications in relation to the Covid-specific issues and for what it's worth I agree with him," he said on Independent.ie's 'Floating Voter'.
The over-exposure prompted the "boo-boo" during a radio interview this week, when Harris incorrectly said that there were 18 other coronaviruses before Covid-19.
The other boo-boo of the week came with the Department of the Taoiseach's denial of anecdotal evidence of an increase in traffic.
The intention was to reiterate there was a small level of increase, but it was contained. Traffic data was provided by gardaí at the daily 9am meeting of the Crisis Communications Group, which involves relevant departments.
Department of the Taoiseach assistant secretary general Liz Canavan cited the data at a televised briefing as evidence "the vast majority of people are continuing to observe the essential public health advice".
Later in the day, a senior official in the Department of Health inadvertently came across seismology data showing increased activity and passed it to the chief medical officer. Dr Honohan referenced it as evidence of complacency kicking in.
Officials in the Department of the Taoiseach were not best pleased, and are said to have gone "bananas" about the mixed messaging, as a lot of thought had gone into the previous utterances.
The spat is a minor quibble in the greater scheme and, generally speaking, officials are pulling together.
"There are some very tricky relationships between the HSE and Department of Health. There are generally tensions between the policy and implementation sides, but it's less than normal now.
"An uneasy truce has broken out. They are burying the old hatchets and getting on with it. The big things we are getting across the board is people are fraying at the edges. Look, thousands of people are alive because of the measures being taken," an adviser said.
The next steps will test the system. Department of the Taoiseach secretary general Martin Fraser penned a memo to ministers, flagging the challenges ahead "whereby public health is paramount but restrictions are gradually lifted so as to limit the social and economic damage to the country. It is recognised that the health, economic and social dimensions of these decisions are completely interdependent".
The memo served as a reminder of the need for a stable government, which may even end up going against the advice of the medical experts.
"How do we unwind? All the vested interests will come out. It's going to be tough and you have to make choices. It hasn't arisen yet but my sense is Holohan is a sensible guy. You can't have good public health without a good economy," a Government source said.