Members of the Dáil probe into the State's coronavirus response have insisted its meetings will be carried out in strict adherence to public health advice.
It comes after former HSE boss Tony O'Brien claimed that holding sessions with the three most senior health officials in the country on the same day is "cavalier" as it puts them at risk of contracting the virus.
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan, HSE chief executive Paul Reid and Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin are all due to appear before the Dáil's Covid-19 response committee tomorrow.
It will be the first time that TDs will have the opportunity to quiz the officials at the forefront of Ireland's response to the coronavirus crisis in public. Sessions will be limited to three two-hour sessions as after that time people in the Dáil chamber would become 'close contacts' and have to self-isolate if anyone present falls ill with coronavirus.
Mr O'Brien has claimed this should not go ahead as currently formatted.
Writing in the 'Business Post', he argued that a plan for breaks between sessions is "no more than paying lip-service to health protection".
"Through its cavalier attitude to public health guidance and the Dáil's directions it runs the real risk of knocking out our three top health officials just when they are most needed," he claimed.
Mr O'Brien suggested there were other ways the committee hearings could be held, including having its two-hour sessions on separate days or using video-link technology.
He said that as it stands the planned committee proceedings should not be allowed to proceed.
Committee chairperson Michael McNamara said that if any invited witness raised concerns over public health, such concerns would be considered.
He added that "appropriate professional advice will be sought, if and as necessary".
The Clare Independent TD insisted the committee would "at all times take place in accordance with the public health advice obtained and implemented by the Houses of the Oireachtas".
He said this includes adhering to the recommended physical distancing, the provision of limited, pre-assigned seating in the Dáil chamber for members and witnesses and strict limits on the duration of sessions.
Sinn Féin committee member Louise O'Reilly rejected Mr O'Brien's suggestion that the committee meetings should not be allowed under the current plans.
"The committee has important work to do and we will be guided by public health advice to ensure that work is carried out safely for all involved," she said.
She suggested Mr O'Brien would "have been better off to check with committee members before making these claims because we could have reassured him".
She insisted the work will be "conducted in strict adherence to public health advice".
Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly said Mr O'Brien had made a "good point" in relation to the risk of all three senior officials attending on the same day.
"It's certainly worth getting public health advice on same," he said.
"If the advice is that it would pose a risk, then I'd be more than happy for the committee to consider how to best sequence the sessions."
Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said the plans were based on health advice that currently allows four two-hour sittings of the Dáil per day, but she said she would be checking this advice.
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