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'We are at a crossroads': Taoiseach in plea for people to have 'Covid safe' St Patrick's Day

Garda representatives say members are preparing for “one of the busiest and most dangerous days” of the year.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Updated Mar 16th 2021, 6:20 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has urged people to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day “in a Covid safe manner” as he said the country is “at a crossroads” in its response to the virus.

Speaking on the eve of the country’s national day when he will have a virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden, Martin said it was also an opportunity to reflect on those who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

He said that “more than 6,500 family, friends and neighbours across the island” have died that tomorrow therefore has “an added poignancy”

“We normally spend this day with our extended family and friends going to parades or to sporting events. Unfortunately, we cannot do this tomorrow. The enormous effort that the entire country has put in to drive down the rate of infection is working,” he said.

The Taoiseach said that the country has “successfully reduced the pressure on our health service” but that “we are at a crossroads”. 

He said that the B117 variant which is now dominant here “is much more contagious and therefore much more dangerous”. 

“We must keep it under control and I am hopeful that everyone will make a special effort to mark the day in a Covid safe manner,” the Taoiseach said.

It is very important that people do not congregate or meet up for social gatherings in their homes or anywhere else.  To do so would be to undermine all of the sacrifices we have made to date.

“Lá Fhéile Pádraig is the day when the world honours the Irish people.  There can be no better way to honour our people in 2021 than to stay focused and avoid another wave of infection with this terrible virus.”

Martin’s comments echoed similar words of caution from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), with Deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn warning last night that events such as Easter and St Patrick’s Day may encourage people to drop their guard and mix with other households. 

“If we do that over the next three weeks, given the levels of disease in the community, we will see a significant deterioration and none of us want to see that,” he said.

The Garda Representative Association has said ahead of St Patrick’s Day that gardaí are preparing for “what normal circumstances is one of the busiest and most dangerous days in the policing calendar” and are an “an over-stretched workforce facing into the unknown without protection against a deadly virus”.

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GRA President Frank Thornton said that the guards’ position on the vaccination rollout programme – in the tenth group – is an “insult”.

“As we face into St Patrick’s Day, I believe it is important to recognise and acknowledge what the members we represent are facing,” Thornton said.

“While we hope the day passes without incident, it is most likely our members will be exposed to the type of incidents that occur when alcohol is involved, such as public order and assaults,” he said.

Additional reporting by Lauren Boland and Christina Finn

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Rónán Duffy

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