Paul Reid grew up in Finglas as one of six children that his mother raised largely on her own.
At age 16, he left school early and started working as a trainee installer with Eircom. Yesterday he resigned from one of the top-paid public sector jobs in the country.
Mr Reid’s resignation as HSE chief executive two years before the end of his contract has seen him become the latest in a series of senior managers to exit the health service in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The news may not come as a major surprise, as back in 2020 he told the Irish Examiner that he has “never been interested in a job for life".
Now that he is leaving the role, which has an annual pay package of over €400,000, Mr Reid says he has “no immediate career plans".
The pandemic shoved Mr Reid into the national spotlight, but he has had a long career managing large, publicly funded organisations since he worked his way up to director of operations at Eircom.
After leaving the company in 2010 he worked as head of corporate affairs for Trócaire, chief operations officer at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and then as chief executive of Fingal County Council, before taking up his HSE post.
Though the Finglas man has said he copes with pressure by staying “objective” rather than becoming “personally immersed” in his work, in many ways his background and family life has shaped his managerial style.
He has spoken about how the sudden death of his brother, Noel, 16 years ago after he suffered heart failure abroad, has taught him to “keep things in perspective” in times of high intensity.
He previously told thethat he has stayed grounded because he saw a lot of his school friends “go the wrong way” through “drugs, alcohol, suicide, and mental health issues".
“We can all travel different paths very easily,” he said.
At the age of 21, Mr Reid’s life almost did take a different path: As a father of one who was studying nights, he pulled out of running for election as a member of the Workers’ Party at the last minute.
Since then he has ruled out life in public office, and though it doesn’t seem likely that he will retire, Mr Reid said he plans to focus on spending time with family.
His son Glynn works for Facebook in Texas where he lives with wife Lindsay and their young daughter Aisling.
At the height of the pandemic, Mr Reid said that regular FaceTime calls with them kept him going.
Closer to home, his daughter Ciara, who is in her early thirties and works with children with special needs, lives in Dublin.
Mr Reid has been married to his wife Margaret for 37 years and says she’s been “hugely supportive” of his career. They travel back and forth between Dublin and their summer house in Leitrim, where he is well-known on the golf course.
As chief executive of the HSE, he dealt with multiple waves of Covid-19 and the impact of the cyberattack. However, the criticism the health service now faces over the state of emergency departments, the revelation that 46 children suffered harm at the hands of Kerry mental health services, and criticism of their long-term strategy will doubtlessly be markers of his legacy too.