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St Patrick's Day in Dublin in 2017 Sam Boal via

Extra public holiday to take place on 18 March and healthcare workers to get €1,000 bonus

In addition, from 2023 there will be a new annual public holiday at the start of February.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Jan 2022

CABINET HAS APPROVED plans for an additional public holiday on 18 March and a national commemorative event. 

The public holiday will be marked as a day of remembrance and recognition for those who died and worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The new holiday will be held on the after St. Patrick’s Day this year but will be at the beginning of February from 2023 onwards.

A €1,000 tax-free bonus for public sector healthcare workers has also been approved by Cabinet.

Frontline healthcare workers in nursing homes, porters and cleaners in healthcare settings, hospice workers, student nurses and members of the Defence Forces seconded to healthcare roles will all be eligible.

However, workers in private hospitals are not eligible.

The full list of workers eligible for the payment is currently being worked on by the Department of Health and will be provided in the coming days. 

It is understood that the payment will be paid either through payroll / expenses / or by cheque.

Speaking at Government Buildings today, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said the €1,000 tax-free benefit for healthcare workers acknowledges their “heroic efforts” during the pandemic.

Some unions and opposition TDs called for other workers – such as gardaí, teachers and retail workers – to also get the bonus.

McGrath said singling out one particular group was not easy but that no-one can deny the sacrifices made by healthcare workers in particular.

“The reality is that if you go beyond healthcare it gets really difficult to know where to draw the line,” he said.

We have about 350,000 public servants, many of whom went beyond normal duties over the course of the last two years. And we acknowledged that and that is there is in the form of the additional public holiday.

“In coming to a decision, we were faced with the reality of trying to identify where you draw the line. And we came to the view overall, as a government that singling out healthcare and healthcare on its own was the most fair, simplest and most effective demonstration of our support in particular for that sector.” 

Bank holiday

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the additional holiday this year would “recognise and say thank you” to volunteers, the Irish people, and to all workers who helped in the fight against Covid-19.

“We decided to make this decision now on a public holiday, rather than wait until the pandemic is over, because so many have already given so much,” he said.

“It also roughly marks the second anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic in Ireland.”

Varadkar said that while the public holiday was being observed on on Friday 18 March, some commemorative events may be held on the Sunday. 

“I anticipate there will be perhaps an ecumenical religious service and some sort of State event involving Taoiseach and President but that’s all to be worked out,” he said. 

In addition, there will be a new annual public holiday at the start of February from 2023 to mark Imbolc/St Brigid’s Day on 1 February.

This will fall on the first Monday every February, except where St Brigid’s day happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that day (i.e. Friday) will be a public holiday.

“The creation of a tenth public holiday will bring Ireland more into line with the European average and it is one of five new workers’ rights that I am establishing this year,” Varadkar said.

“The others are the right to statutory sick pay, the right to request remote working, new rights around redundancy for people laid off during the pandemic, and better protection of workplace tips.”

Ireland lags behind a host of several European countries in the number of public holidays provided in the State.  

The Tourism Recovery Plan from the Tourism Recovery Taskforce has previously said among its recommendations that an additional bank holiday in the off-peak season should be considered.

The public service trade union Fórsa welcomed today’s announcements, saying it was welcome that the additional public holiday was not a once-off gesture.

“This recognises workers’ contribution and sacrifice over the last two years, and brings Ireland closer to European norms in terms of the number of public holidays in place for workers,” general secretary Kevin Callinan said.

He added that health staff had taken “massive risks” during the pandemic to keep the country safe, and believed most people would welcome the €1,000 bonus in recognition of their efforts.

With reporting by Christina Finn, Órla Ryan, Rónán Duffy and Stephen McDermott.

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