Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has admitted the lack of a Fine Gael minister at last night's coronavirus briefing "definitely didn't look the best".
However, he has "categorically" stated there are no divisions between the three coalition parties on the new restrictions.
Minister Donnelly yesterday joined Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan to announce the range of new restrictions.
Media reports today, meanwhile, have claimed there were clashes between Mr Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar over the restrictions.
However, Minister Donnelly told The Hard Shoulder the only reason why Mr Varadkar didn't attend the press conference was because he also didn't attend Cabinet in person.
In terms of the lack of a Fine Gael minister, the Health Minister said: “That definitely didn’t look the best - I accept that. I was standing there and thought I’d be asking exactly the same question.
"There was no design to that at all: in the last one the Tánaiste was standing beside the Taoiseach… I’m sure he’ll be there in the future. He just wasn’t physically present at the Cabinet meeting."
He said that "hand on heart" there are no party divisions on the approach being taken.
Meanwhile, Minister Donnelly also rejected suggestions that the new measures are contradictory or confusing.
He said the message during lockdown was to stay at home, but the new approach is "more nuanced" to avoid another full lockdown.
He said: “Why are we saying work at home where you can, but next week we want to send the kids to school? Because one of the priorities is to get the schools open.
“For work, the message is please stay at home if at all possible. Why? Because we are seeing clusters from workplaces.
“We know that being on a train or bus for a long time is a higher risk environment. The public health advice is if you need public transport, use it… but if you can avoid public transport, please avoid it."
In terms of not allowing spectators at sporting events, Minister Donnelly said health officials have been seeing cases from the "activities around the matches".
He explained: “What they’re finding is it’s not the people standing in the stadiums - it’s the gatherings beforehand, the gatherings afterwards, and the travel to and from.
“I think the public health doctors deserve a lot of credit - the easiest thing for them to do was say we’re going to cancel sports for the next three and a half weeks, because they’re concerned we’re at a tipping point in terms of this virus.
“But what they said is sports and exercise are important… the data doesn’t back up cases coming from the actual sports events themselves.
“One person could say that’s confusing and a mixed message. I would say it’s a very nuanced approach."
The Fianna Fáil minister said the closing time for restaurants was extended by half an hour to 11:30pm as that last hour can be “very significant”.
He noted: “As you can imagine, in that last hour someone might buy the brandy, the whiskey, or have the dessert… and that’s where they can make the margin to keep the doors open.”