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NPHET to attend North-South council meeting, as Taoiseach set to discuss travel restrictions

The council, one of the bodies set up under the Belfast Agreement, will meet in Dublin today for the first time since 2016.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN will discuss the different travel restrictions between Northern Ireland and the Republic at today’s meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council.

Representatives from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) were due to attend the Dáil’s Covid-19 Committee today, however, the meeting has been cancelled. 

NPHET health officials will instead be attending the North-South Ministerial Council meeting today where they will meet with their Northern Ireland counterparts.

The council, one of the bodies set up under the Belfast Agreement, will meet in Dublin today for the first time since 2016.

DUP leader Arlene Foster is expected to appear alongside Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill at Dublin Castle.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will meet with DUP MLA and Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds.

The Taoiseach said this week that the Republic of Ireland has stricter travel restrictions in place than the North, with people advised to only visit an approved list of 15 countries, while Northern Ireland allows 58.

While the issue of travel restrictions will be discussed, the Taoiseach said there are challenges when it comes to adopting an all-island approach.

Earlier in the week, Micheál Martin said:

“We do have to have a reality check in terms of what is possible and what is not possible and we need to be honest with people,” he said.

“I think I have to make the point because we have had much stricter guidance in the Republic with regard to travel – stricter in terms of what is going on in the North at the moment.

“I think it important to recognise the dangers travel can present in terms of creating spikes on the island of Ireland. We have to work towards a joint approach in relation to that.”

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for an all-island approach when it comes to health.

“We need a single island system of protection as that is the only way we can get ahead of this virus,” she said in the Dáil this week.

Martin pointed out that the Northern Ireland Executive, which Sinn Féin is a member of, has approved 58 countries are open for travel.

Government sources have said there is a “zero chance” of an all-island approach being agreed today.

Travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is permitted, while Great Britain is still nowhere near getting on the Republic’s green list. 

With reporting by Press Association

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