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New law needed to get indoor dining reopened in pubs and restaurants by the end of July

It is hoped indoor dining can resume on 26 July, and it’s likely to only apply to those who are vaccinated.

Image: Shutterstock/Claire Whitehead

Updated Jul 8th 2021, 7:50 PM

PRIMARY LEGISLATION WILL be needed to operate the indoor dining system, the Taoiseach confirmed this afternoon. 

It is understood that indoor hospitality will likely only be available to those that are fully vaccinated, as per the public health advice.

The emergency law will need to be rushed through the Dáil and Seanad next week before the summer recess.

Micheál Martin would not confirm what date indoor dining might resume, but government sources have indicated that it is hoped indoor hospitality can resume on 26 July, subject to Cabinet approval on Tuesday.

It is understood that the EU Digital Green Certificate will be used as an indoor dining pass.

A letter will shortly be issued to fully vaccinated people ahead of the return of non-essential travel from 19 July, so they can avail of the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

Talks resumed this afternoon between government and representatives from the hospitality sector as part of efforts to bring about the return of indoor dining.

A Government spokesperson said this evening that discussions mostly focused on “operationalising NPHET advice, including necessary legal underpinning and updating of operational guidelines, with a view to ensuring the safety of workers and customers in the sector”.

“The Government is to consider the possible options discussed in the coming days,” the spokesperson said. 

A statement from the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) said “while the protocol of vaccine certification is not perfect, more work is required over the weekend in order for legislation to be brought forward to put the reopening of indoor hospitality on a legal footing”. 

“There will be a phased approach to reopening with ventilation, CO2 monitors, work safety protocols and reopening guidelines developed for indoor hospitality. 

“The Restaurants Association of Ireland is pushing for the 19th July as the date to restart indoor dining,” said the RAI boss Adrian Cummins.

The RAI states that gardaí may play a role in regulating and inspecting the new protocols, as will environmental health offices and the Health and Safety Authority, although this has not been confirmed.

The used of antigen and PCR testing will be investigated in a view to rolling out the use of testing for hospitality in the weeks ahead.  

Final details to be worked on over the weekend with a focus on how the system will work for families, and under 18s accompanied by adults dining indoors.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said in a statement that six options were presented to Government, most of the discussions focused on devising a system that allows only vaccinated people and those recovered from Covid indoors. 

Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive said:

“Our primary goal is to get our members reopened in a safe manner both for publicans, their staff and customers. If a so-called vaccine pass is what’s required then the onus is now on Government to get the legislation passed next week before the Oireachtas takes its summer break.

“There remains legal issues to be resolved but we remain insistent that pubs need to reopen on 19 July. If the political will is there to make it happen then it will happen.”

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, the Taoiseach said there will be further engagement over the weekend and the “short” piece of legislation will be “fine tuned”.

The new legislation will ensure there is “solid legal grounding” for the new legislation, which will have to be approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.

A number of Fianna Fáil TDs indicated to the Taoiseach at a recent parliamentary party meeting that they would not support legislation that creates a two-tier society. When asked if he thought he could bring some of his party members on side, Martin said he believed he could. 

He said the government is working with the industry to get them reopened, which he believed most people supported.

The policy options that the government sign off on will outline what will happen with indoor hospitality in the short-term, but also what will take place over a phased basis.

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“This is a short window we are talking about,” he said in the context of the pass being in operation and with the progress of the vaccine programme.

“We don’t see this as a long-term measure,” he added.

“This is a very challenging position,” he said, one that the government didn’t want to find itself in, added Martin.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will not be consulted again regarding indoor hospitality,with Marin stating that they have already given their public health advice on how to reopen hospitality.

The new system will reflect that public health advice, he said.

In terms of the legality of such a vaccine pass, the Taoiseach said the government received very strong advice from NPHET in relation to the Delta variant. 

“The issue for us is, it is about protecting people. It is not about discriminating, I think that is a very unfortunate perspective that’s been put out there over the last week or so,” he said.

“People can take court cases, that’s their option, that’s their legal right, their entitlement, I can’t pre-empt people from that perspective. But we will have legislation underpinning this specific initiative  to facilitate the policy decisions.

Earlier today Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said while antigen testing was an option, any such system would not be ready in time for reopening on 19 July.

“It may have a role, but it may not have an immediate role in reopening hospitality or dining,” said the Taoiseach.

He added that the HSE is also “actively considering” rolling out antigen testing on a population wide basis, as a mechanism to supplement PCR testing.

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