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'There's no legal restriction': Taoiseach repeats that the advice is not to leave Dublin, 'if possible'

Senior ministers took to the airwaves this morning as cases continue to rise in the capital.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Wed 1:28 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has reiterated that the advice for people in Dublin is that they should not travel outside the county, while also reaffirming that it is “not a legal restriction”. 

His comments come as government ministers have raised the possibility that the restrictions level in Dublin could be raised from Level Two to the stricter Level Three. 

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe had earlier urged people in Dublin to “reconsider” leaving the capital for a wedding, urging them to think of the consequences of Covid-19 spreading at such an event. 

Donohoe, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath all said today that it’s possible that Dublin could be placed under the stricter Level Three of the government’s new roadmap for living with Covid-19.

Along with the rest of the country, Dublin is currently at Level 2 of the government’s new Covid-19 plan but is also subject to “additional measures” given the high incidence of the virus in the county. 

As part of these additional measures Dubliners are encouraged to limit travel outside the region, if possible.

Speaking at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Martin denied a charge from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald that there was a lack of clarity for people living in Dublin. 

“You know full well what the advice is and I’ll say it again, those living in Dublin should be encouraged to limit travel outside of Dublin, if possible,” the Taoiseach said. 

That’s the advice from Nphet. That’s the advice we’ve endorsed and that’s the advice that’s out there right now. There’s not a regulation, there’s not a legal restriction. That is the advice, to encourage people not to travel outside of Dublin.

“Of course, you knew that. But you just wanted to come in and say, ‘confusion, chaos’, this and that, you keep on doing that, that’s the mantra,” said to the Sinn Féin leader. 

McDonald had said there was “no clarity yet as to whether people can come, or indeed go from this city”.

“The message from your press conference was that people shouldn’t move outside of Dublin and then Minister Donnelly said the opposite, and then you were unclear last evening on RTÉ and then again this morning, again, we have two senior ministers contradicting each other within a matter of hours,” she said. 

Labour leader Alan Kelly pushed Martin for a “yes or no” answer:

Would you please tell the people of Dublin, whether they should go to weddings, go to hotels and tour operators, yes or no. A very simple yes or no. It’s a very simple question, they have to make decisions now. 

Staycations

The exchange in the Dáil came after Donohoe was asked on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland whether people in Dublin should leave the county for a holiday. 

“We are asking those who are living in Dublin to use their discretion and I of course am very conscious of the consequences of that guidance, but we are doing that because of our strong determination to contain this disease,” he said. 

Speaking later to RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, his Cabinet colleague Michael McGrath also urged Dubliners to familiarise themselves with the measures and use their common sense. 

All three ministers indicated Dublin could progress to Level Three of the new plan, given the sustained spike in cases in the capital recent weeks. TheJournal.ie reported this morning that ministers’ concerns were growing at case numbers in Dublin

Under Level Three, just one other household can visit your home. No indoor gatherings can take place and you can have 15 people at outdoor gatherings. There will be no matches or no religious services, and all cultural institutions are closed.

Bars and pubs will remain open, but there will be as yet unspecified additional restrictions. 

McGrath said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) would be meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation in Dublin, but said that moving to Level Three for Dublin could be a “distinct possibility”. 

He added that Cabinet would make decisions and it wouldn’t “shirk” making these choices. 

“None of this is easy,” he said. “We know what the consequences are if we don’t get on top of this.”

Speaking to the Dermot and Dave show on Today FM, Leo Varadkar said we’ll have a better idea tomorrow but the “truth is that the numbers in Dublin aren’t good”. 

“A decision will have to be made in the next couple of days or the next week as to whether we go to the next level, which would be what happened in Kildare, Laois and Offaly,” Varadkar said. 

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Weddings

Asked if travelling to a wedding outside of Dublin was something people living in the capital should do, Donohoe said they should “reconsider” their plans. 

“Well I very regrettably have to advise those who will be planning to leave Dublin to attend such a wedding to reconsider that and not do it,” he said. 

The minister added that this is because a wedding is a celebratory occasion and not one where people should be worried about spreading Covid-19. 

I absolutely understand how important and life-changing a good wedding day is. I absolutely appreciate that. But a wedding ceremony is meant to be about sharing hope for a better future. Getting family together to celebrate a wonderful day.

“And I’d ask all to consider how we could feel about a wedding if we then found out in a number of days or weeks time that the wedding turned into a place in which a disease was spread.”

Varadkar said today that it is currently an “advisory” to cancel any “discretionary journeys” outside Dublin at present.

“But if we move up a level, certainly if you move to Level Three or Four which may well happen in the next couple of days or the next week, then that would be enforced,” he said. 

With reporting from Sean Murray

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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