Taoiseach Micheál Martin has defended Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and his secretary general Robert Watt over their decision to attend a health expo in Dubai.
Mr Donnelly and Mr Watt arrived on Thursday ahead of a series of meetings with technology companies, other health ministers and health workers.
It is understood they flew economy class to attend the health and wellness week of the event and went to meetings on tackling future pandemics and the next stage of Covid-19.
“It is the expo. It is a major world event,” Mr Martin said. “They are there with Irish healthcare companies and Enterprise Ireland. We were at a summit this morning on startups and entrepreneurship where the whole emphasis was on international connectivity and Ireland exporting abroad.
“It is part of the Global Ireland 2025 initiative that they are there. There is a lot of economic leverage and a lot of economic opportunities in the health arena.”
It is understood that Mr Donnelly and Mr Watt landed at 2am on Thursday. A few hours later they met more than a dozen Irish healthtech companies and then officials from the Dubai Health Authority.
The later meeting is understood to have involved discussions on the future of Covid-19, testing and tracing, public health measures and emerging technologies. There was also a meeting with the head of the ambulance service for Saudi Arabia.
Bilateral engagements were also planned with other health ministers while Mr Donnelly was scheduled to be a speaker at the ‘Expo on Building a Culture of Health at Work’.