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'Just Leo thinking out loud again': Mary Lou McDonald dismisses Tánaiste's border travel comments

Varadkar suggested the government is looking at advising against cross-border travel but he has said a travel ban is not being considered.

Mary Lou McDonald outside Leinster House today.
Mary Lou McDonald outside Leinster House today.
Image: TheJournal.ie

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s comments suggesting the government was considering advice against cross-border travel were “just Leo thinking out loud again”. 

Speaking during a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night, the Tánaiste said that north-south travel within Ireland is a “real risk that we cannot ignore”.

Asked about the comments today, McDonald said his comments did not reflect government policy and that people who live near the border are required to cross it for essential reasons.

“As to the Tánaiste comments, the Taoiseach has scotched those, it’s clearly not the government position. So I think it was just Leo thinking out loud again,” she said.

For people who live in border regions in particular, criss-crossing the border is a daily occurrence for work for education and to access services. So I mean there’s no serious suggestion that people wouldn’t cross the border. What we need is now advice, public health guidance for all of us, as regards safe travel, particularly in the Christmas periods. 

“And that has to be dealt with and framed by public health guidance but it also has to be guided by compassion and common sense,” McDonald added. 

“The kind of common sense that tells you that we live on a small island that we are a small population base and that people north and the south they come, they go, they act responsibly and they need to be treated with respect. ”

Speaking in the Dáil today, Varadkar said there are “no discussions of a ban on a north-south travel”.

“It’s not under consideration, not being discussed, period,” he said, adding that should Ireland move to Level 3 next week as planned then inter-county travel would be allowed for essential reasons only. 

“Level 3 will not permit inter-county travel of a non-essential nature, that also applies to north-south travel, that is intercounty travel,” he said.

Level down

McDonald was also asked about the government’s ongoing discussions over the restrictions to replace the Level 5 restrictions that are currently in place. 

A government announcement is expected tomorrow evening following a meeting of Cabinet. The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) met yesterday and the government’s sub-committee on Covid-19 is meeting today.

Asked whether consideration should be given to the reopening of the hospitality sector over the Christmas period, McDonald said it needed to be “weighed up”.

“I think that they need to weigh up the argument for people socializing in controlled environments versus people socializing on the streets or in in private households. And I would feel very confident that the Chief Medical Officer and NPHET will have an analysis of that.”

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“My own sense of it is that hospitality will be reopened probably in a staggered or a staged way. I don’t believe that it will be business as usual for for any in the hospitality sector. I don’t think those in the sector expect that, but I think it’s not unreasonable to ask for consultation and proper notice.”

Speaking in the Dáil, Varadkar said that “no decision” has been made in regards to restaurants and pubs. 

He also said that suggestions that reopening hospitality settings could reduce household gatherings is not necessarily the case. 

“Just because people gather in a pub doesn’t mean that household gathering’s won’t happen. After spending some time in a pub people could retire to a household afterwards, ” he said. 

There is no discussion of a north south travel ban, it is not being disucssed…… 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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