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McAuliffe is a former Lord Mayor of Dublin. Leah Farrell/
public health emergency

Political row after Fianna Fáil TD suggests 'decommissioning NPHET'

Labour has criticised the call from Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe.

A GOVERNMENT TD has said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) should be “decommissioned” in light of the ongoing vaccination programme. 

Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe made the comments online today in response to guidelines for the partial reopening of the hospitality sector over the coming weeks. 

The guidelines place limits on the number of people who can be seated at tables indoors and outdoors, with closing time to be 11.30pm and no live music allowed. 

Some government sources have suggested that the measures may be relaxed before the wider reopening of indoor hospitality in July but a firm date for this has not been confirmed. 

Reacting to the guidelines, McAuliffe tweeted: “Honestly as we approach June and July and large numbers of people are due to be offered a first dose…Isn’t it time we considered decommissioning NPHET.” 

In response to McAuliffe’s tweet another Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry asked: “Why must we persist with the Stasi-esque rules?”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening, McAuliffe said he feels the guidelines “over-regulate activity” and could lead to “large scale non-adherence”. 

On the issue of public health measures, he said “we need to move away from some of the tools we used last year”. 

He said that NPHET “has a role” in the ongoing battle against Covid-19 but that its role must change, adding that it was necessary to “decommission the tools we had earlier in the pandemic”

“There was a time where we had very prescriptive, detailed regulations but I believe that once large numbers of people are vaccinated, particularly vulnerable people and older people, it will be incredibly difficult to bring younger people with us,” he said. 

I’m not suggesting we disband NPHET, they have a really important role going forward, it’s a type of rules that we have, we can’t be having these level of prescriptive rules. I just don’t think people will follow them.  

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has criticised McAuliffe’s intervention, calling on he an others from Fianna Fáil to “cop on”.

NPHET was established in January 2020 and was tasked with a mandate to “oversee and provide direction, guidance, support and expert advice on the development and implementation of a strategy to contain coronavirus in Ireland.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan is the chair of NPHET and said last week that it would continue to meet but “doesn’t need to meet every week”.

“We meet as frequently as is necessary, if you go back over the pathway there have been days we’ve met twice, weeks when we’ve met every day, there have been other weeks that we haven’t met, it’s really proportionate to the kind of concern that we have,” he said.

NPHET met today to consider the advice it will give to government, with Cabinet set to decide on Friday on a timeline for the reopening of sectors such as aviation, tourism and hospitality. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that NPHET’s view is that “the trajectory is positive”  

“I have just come from a meeting with the Chief Medical Officer, following today’s NPHET meeting relating to advice that will be brought to the Cabinet on Friday,” Donnelly said. 

“I am very happy to report, as I am sure members are aware, that NPHET’s view is that the trajectory is positive, again thanks to the Irish people getting behind the measures day after day and keeping case numbers and hospitalisation figures low.”

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