reopening plans

Pubs and restaurants unlikely to open before the middle of summer, says Taoiseach

The Taoiseach said that the reopening of society is likely to be slow.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 20th 2021, 2:20 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEAL MARTIN has said that it is unlikely that pubs and restaurants will open before the middle of the summer.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Raidió na Gaeltachta earlier this morning, the Taoiseach said that the reopening of society is likely to be slow due to case numbers remaining high, alongside the prevalence of Covid-19 variants.

“We don’t foresee that [reopening pubs] before the middle of the summer,” said Martin.

“What the public health authorities are saying is that we stick with this until end of April, then we reflect on the situation and make decisions about the months ahead.” 

Restaurants Association of Ireland CEO Adrian Cummins said on Twitter that the government needs to increase business supports for hospitality.

“Business supports must be increased for all restaurant & hospitality businesses. Current level of support will not keep vast majority of businesses afloat until the summer,” said Cummins.

It comes as three cases of a new Covid-19 variant (P1), originating in Brazil, were discovered in Ireland yesterday.

Current plans by the government are to allow a phased reopening of schools from 1 March, with the Taoiseach saying that it will be a slow and cautious return to school.

“What we intend is to reopen schools gradually … it will be slow, we’ll be cautious, because we have to monitor the effect on the virus.”

Currently, it is expected that all primary school students will have returned to school by 15 March.

At secondary level, Leaving Cert students are a priority while a majority of secondary school students won’t return until after the Easter holidays.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that it was “critical” that people don’t take the return of schools as a return to normality.

“The concern is that it would be a signal to the rest of society to kind of, it’s back to normal,” said Ryan.

That’s the key issue, it the travel to and from and around school and the public perception would be that it’s a slight lifting, and that’s why we want to monitor it.

When questioned on poor communications by the government around the lifting of restrictions, Ryan said that “you would always accept criticism to look at what you could say better.”

“The key measure is to recognise that it is going to be difficult for the next few weeks. We are not going to see a huge reopening or lifting of restrictions. The key thing we want to get right is the return of students to school”

By preemptively saying when restrictions will begin to be lifted, Ryan fears that people will begin to gradually increase their mobility in the community.

“What that risks is people, kind of, preemptively thinking ‘okay well I can start increasing my level of travel or my level of movements.’”

Speaking to yesterday, the Taoiseach said that all restrictions would be kept under constant review and that “nothing is set in stone”.

The government is currently expected to release a revised plan for living with Covid-19 next week.

Northern Ireland Protocol

The Taoiseach also said he was disappointed by the DUP and unionist stances on Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol and their boycott of north/south contacts

“I’m sorry that the DUP has taken this stance that, I don’t think that’s the right way to deal with the question,” said Martin.

He said that the best way for both sides to address concerns was to come together and use the mechanisms of the protocol to find an agreement

There’s a committee where these matters can be discussed, and problems can be resolved, within the Northern Ireland Protocol, and they should be used.

“A lot of work was done over several years on this, and it’s not even two months since January … I think the most effective way to deal with the questions are within the Agreement.”

Article 16 is an override to a part of the Northern Ireland protocol which prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland. It was an emergency measure, intended to only be used in serious circumstances.

Martin said that there is an obligation on both sides to tone down the rhetoric of the last several weeks and find a solution.

“We have to put politics aside and deal with the issues within an economic, social and practical context.” 

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