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easing restrictions

Taoiseach and Tánaiste to meet live event reps next week as pressure mounts to reopen entertainment sector

Government has said it will follow through with its commitments to provide a comprehensive plan for the sector.

LIVE EVENTS INDUSTRY representatives will meet with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste on Monday amid ongoing backlash against the government for the slow pace of easing restrictions for the entertainment sector. 

Advocates within the sector have been pleading for a specific roadmap for some time but nothing so far has been signed off.

Representatives were due to meet Arts Minister Catherine Martin today, however, the meeting has been adjourned to next week.

There had been criticisms of both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste for not attending previous meetings they were invited to as regards the entertainment industry. 

Martin yesterday met with the Minister Martin yesterday to discuss the upcoming roadmap for the reopening of society, including the live entertainment and arts sector. 

It was agreed that a meeting with industry stakeholders will take place next Monday, and that both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste would attend. 

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet today, in advance of issuing advice to Government about the forthcoming next phase of the reopening plan, which is due to be discussed by the Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee on Friday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said yesterday that clarity on the reopening of the live entertainment industry will be given “within days” as the Cabinet meets next week to finalise plans.

Coveney said the government will follow through with its commitments to provide a comprehensive plan for this sector. 

Comparisons have been made in recent days between the large crowds at recent sporting events and the regularity of live performances in Northern Ireland. 40,000 people attended Croke Park on Sunday for the All-Ireland hurling final. 

Those in the industry have also highlighted that Irish bands have been playing to full capacity audiences in Northern Ireland, with no social distancing required. 

Kodaline and Fontaines DC have each played large gigs in Northern Ireland in the past week with concert organisers in the Republic pointing out that they cannot even sell tickets let alone host an event. 

In her latest submission, the minister has also requested “a return to full capacity indoor events” with admission on presentation of proof of vaccination.

Sources state that it is proposed that arrangements be made in September for unvaccinated people to be admitted to events on production of a negative PCR or antigen test.

It is understood she is seeking this from the earliest possible date citing the successful roll out of the vaccination programme and its recent extension to younger cohorts.

The minister is believed to make the case in the note that it is “vital” for producers and festivals to salvage what they can right now and to give them necessary lead-in times to plan for future events.

Government sources have said that the live entertainment sector is already front and foremost in the government’s plans, stating that Minister Martin is free to make a presentation on her proposals to the sub-Cabinet meeting on Friday.

In terms of live music events, senior sources have said they are afraid the window to organise any large-scale music events in September has now been missed, with the summer being lost for the sector. 

Frustration was vented by ministers at the slow pace of reopening this sector last week at a meeting attended by the chief medical office.

‘We need to get on with it’

With a push for both indoor and outdoor events to reopen, sources stated they would hope to see events in venues like Vicar St, Whelan’s, and The Olympia operating in October, by the latest.  

Senior government figures said the mood within Cabinet is that “we need to get on with it at some stage”.

While they stated that vaccines are great they said they are not going to get the country to herd immunity, highlighting that we are going to be dealing with Covid similarly to the way we handle influenza each year. 

Other than live events, Martin is also calling for indoor arts, drama and dance classes to be back in September in line with the schools reopening.

It is expected that ministers will approve the reopening of some indoor activities such as small classes, for example yoga, fitness, music, and dance classes.

Businesses that remain closed, such as bingo halls, arcades, and bowling alleys are also expected to be given the green light to reopen, under certain restrictions. 

Government sources said it is difficult to see how all these things are higher risk than having 40,000 at matches or concerts.

Remaining restrictions

Speaking yesterday at the Department of Health, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said he hoped remaining restrictions could be gone “much sooner” than Christmas. 

“It’s hard to be certain about it in advance but obviously our hope and ambition is that we might get there much sooner than that,” he said. 

Holohan added that that levels of vaccination are key in determining whether “unsafe” activities can return and that Ireland may be in that place in “four to six weeks”. 

“Obviously it’s going to depend on us getting as far as we reasonably can in terms of our vaccine, but the nature of vaccination and the time it takes for an individual to receive both doses and then to become vaccinated – it will be well into September by the time we complete the vaccination programme,” he said. 

Holohan said that from a public health perspective, there would not be “major concern” with only fully vaccinated people attending an outdoor event like Electric Picnic, adding that he believes that only vaccinated people should attend large scale matches in Croke Park right now.

However, the public health experts said as the vaccination programme progresses, it is predicted there will be a peak of cases, before they plateau.

Holohan told reporters yesterday that by the end of September we may get to a point where the need for Covid certs and pass checks could be gone, but said that now is not the time for a relaxation of such restrictions.

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