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Mary Kenny no longer speaking at Roscommon festival after questioning travel quarantine rules

The journalist was asking whether a 14-day quarantine applied to her arrival into Ireland from Britain for a festival.

Journalist Mary Kenny during a seminar by The Irish Catholic in 2002.
Journalist Mary Kenny during a seminar by The Irish Catholic in 2002.
Image: Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland!

LONG-STANDING JOURNALIST Mary Kenny will no longer attend a literary festival in Roscommon next week after questioning the quarantine rules applying to her arrival from Britain.

Kenny was due to give a talk entitled ‘Journalism a Despised Career?’ at the Percy French Festival on 22 July  in Co Roscommon.

Kenny tweeted and spoke on RTÉ Radio One to question whether she would be subject to a 14-day quarantine period after arriving into Ireland from Britain.

Anyone arriving into Ireland is legally required to fill out a Covid-19 passenger locator form. People are also expected to self-isolate for 14 days following their arrival from anywhere aside from Northern Ireland. 

The columnist told RTÉ radio’s Today with Sarah McInerney that Micheál Martin’s comments yesterday relating to travel from British people made her consider her own planned trip.

“I thought, well I’m not British, I’m an Irish citizen and I’m not a tourist. I’m actually returning to my native country where I also have a residence, so does it apply to me?” she said.

“As Ireland and Britain are a common travel area… it never occurred to me before there would be any restrictions.” 

Micheál Martin told the BBC yesterday that it is too soon for British citizens to holiday in Ireland without going into a two-week quarantine.

Mary Kenny said: “I got a lot of very angry, scolding messages on Twitter saying that I was putting the entire Irish population at risk by coming from a hotbed of Covid, like Britain.” 

Kenny said on Twitter and the festival confirmed on its website that she would no longer be in attendance in Roscommon next week. 

“Of course I won’t flout quarantine prohibitions by speaking at the Percy French Festival at Roscommon,” Kenny said. 

Other people due to attend the literary festival include Kevin Myers, Fáinche Ryan and Patricia Casey.

The festival said that “in response to the announcement by the Taoiseach that travellers from Britain should not for the time being come to Ireland”, Mary Kenny would no longer participate in the planned events. 

“We greatly regret this, but acknowledge that it is the duty of us all to put the health and safety of the people of Ireland first,” the festival said on its website

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When questioned by TheJournal.ie about social distancing guidelines in place for the festival, a spokesperson declined to comment further but said people would see these “on the day”.

Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice will open the festival next week and said he “expects” from talking to the organisers that all social distancing protocols will be adhered.

Fitzmaurice said the event will be held in a large marquee outdoors. Outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people are permitted in Ireland when conducted in line with public health guidance.

The TD said he will “wear a mask going in”, remove it to speak and put a mask back on after speaking. 

He added that it is his understanding the “speakers won’t be near each other” on the day. 

“Restaurants are open, pubs are open, schools will be – but you have to adhere to the protocols,” he said on the decision to continue with the festival in person.

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