Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the cyber attack on the Health Service Executive's IT system is very serious and should not be downplayed.

There has been serious disruption caused by Friday's ransomware attack which has led to the shutting down of some hospital IT systems and the subsequent effect patient on services and the cancellation of appointments.

The Department of Health has also been subject of a separate cyber attack, it emerged today.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Coveney described how the HSE has "effectively set up a war room" to deal with the issue, supported by a number of Government departments and groups including Interpol.

"The truth is what has happened right across our HSE healthcare system is malware has been inserted across the network. It is going to take some time to clean that data piece by piece and protect as much of the data as possible," Mr Coveney said.

He said the Government is taking the attack seriously and taking as much international advice as it can as Ireland is not the first to be impacted in such a way.

Mr Coveney said there are "real consequences" to paying a ransom to criminals.

"We have a lot of smart people in both the public and private sector working with a Government team to try best protect private information that is being hacked effectively.

Mr Coveney said he does not believe those tackling and investigating the attack are speaking to the criminals, but they are talking to many people who are used to speaking with criminals in these type of situations, to make sure we protect citizens and the State as best possible.

HSE disruption will 'go well into this coming week' - Henry
Dept of Health responding to cyber attack since Thursday