HSE boss Paul Reid has said that growing up in a single-parent home in a working-class area has helped him “stay grounded”.
As the CEO steers the health service through one of its most difficult periods, Mr Reid said that his background has helped him maintain a “good social conscience”.
Originally from Finglas in Dublin, Mr Reid took over the reins of the HSE in April last year and has overseen its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
After starting out as a trainee installer, Mr Reid became an underground cable joiner at Eircom and progressed through a 28-year career.
“I literally came from the shop floor and went through management roles, various different roles in the organisation over many years, and ultimately became the executive director of Eircom,” he told RTE Radio 1.
“We grew up in a very working-class area, very socially deprived area and yes, my mother would have raised the six of us.
“My dad – these things happen in families – he wasn’t there for a significant period of our time.
“Thankfully later on everybody did reconcile. My dad did play a great role in supporting all our grandchildren.
“Certainly my mother was to the fore, working very hard herself doing two or three jobs a day.
“She reared us well, all our family have done quite well for ourselves in terms of raising our own families, but it was a difficult period.
After leaving school at the age of 16 and without a Leaving Cert, Mr Reid went on to complete a degree and a masters in business administration.
“I’ve always remained grounded,” he added.
“I think it always keeps you in a good social conscience because from my perspective I’ve seen many of my earlier friends go the wrong road, and some may be involved in drugs, mental health issues and alcohol abuse and you know you do count your blessings.
“I would have always been very ambitious, even in school, although I did leave early, I was quite good at school and I enjoyed it.
“I was never an engineer, I was never a salesperson but I managed big organisations, so I think that stood with me.
“You have to really understand what makes an organisation tick.”