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Bertie Ahern at a funeral in Dublin in 2017.
Bertie Ahern at a funeral in Dublin in 2017.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Bertie Ahern on lifting lockdown: 'You will not carry the public if we drift into August'

The former taoiseach has outlined his thoughts on the government’s roadmap.
May 31st 2020, 1:08 PM 76,308 148

FORMER TAOISEACH BERTIE Ahern has said the government will “lose the public” if the current roadmap for lifting restrictions into August is adhered to.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 with Brendan O’Connor, Ahern said he thinks bars are “in trouble” right now but that the “entire tourist season” could be “ruined” if the country does not unwind restrictions sooner.

Under the government’s current plan announced on 1 May, the Covid-19 restrictions in this country are to be gradually unwound in five phases each three weeks apart.

It means that the final stage does not begin until 10 August, when bars can reopen and larger social gatherings such as weddings can take place

With chief medical officer Dr. Tony Holohan saying two weeks ago that the virus has been “effectively extinguished from the community”, much of the debate in recent days has been centred around whether the country is being too cautious in how it reopens

Three-time taoiseach Ahern says he believes thing must move quicker, referencing cafés and restaurants in his community he says are struggling. 

“They’re paying their rents, they’re only taking in a few bucks, and it’s going really really slowly, they can’t continue on that much longer. None of them seem to have got off their rents, people who are trying to open up, hotels as opposed to restaurants are still closed,” he said.;

By the way, on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday they’re delivering at home, that’s become quite a big one, a restaurant I know very well is delivering more meals on a Friday night and Saturday night now than they have places in the hotel. So it’s not all Doomsday, though there is a lot a lot of Doomsday.  

Ahern also suggest that Phase 5 of the roadmap could be brought into Phase 4 (20 July) so that tourism could benefit. 

“So I think you will not carry the public if we drift into August, you will ruin the tourist season entirely if you drift into August, but I don’t think you can just abandon it all,” he said. 

I think the fourth lockdown has to open up and if that doesn’t open up I think the season has gone, and that would kill a huge part of the tourism. There’s a half a million people, tied up in the bars, restaurant, tourist season in this country. I know about the health but if you’re balancing economics, I think that half a million, the people who are the people who are low money, struggling on the season, and they need that, so that’s a half a million workers.

“Bars and gyms I’m afraid, two things I like, but bars and gyms I think are in trouble,” he added.

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“Because even if you bring it down to the one metre rules.  I still think the end of July, 50 days from tomorrow if we follow all the other rules and seems like long enough I think drifting into August I think you’ll lose the public.”

Ahern said that he thinks the government has on the whole “done a good job” but that he sees several failings in how things have been handled. 

“I think the government has done a good job and I think Tony Holohan and his his team have done a good job, I have great admiration for the man,” he said.

There’s been lots of problems on the way and I think as I look at those as things we should learn. I think we made a hames leaving the Italians in when there was no match. They were all over Drumcondra that weekend, it was crazy, it was equally crazy to send 50,000, to Cheltenham. The PPE equipment thing was all over the place for a while.

“And the Leaving Cert, I have my own views on it. I have to say I still think Leaving Cert wasn’t to start until next Wednesday. And I still think we should have had it.”

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Rónán Duffy

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