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Donnelly defends potential for unvaccinated people to work in indoor dining, but not be able to avail of it

The planned reopening of indoor hospitality has been pushed until at least 19 July.

File image of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
File image of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Image: Leah Farrell

THE HEALTH MINISTER has defended the potential scenario for unvaccinated indoor hospitality workers to not be permitted in indoor dining facilities, as Labour leader Alan Kelly described the measures as “discriminatory”.

The planned reopening of indoor hospitality has been delayed until at least 19 July. The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the “safest way” to proceed with indoor dining is to limit access to fully vaccinated people or those who have had Covid-19 in the past nine months. 

Kelly said these measures are telling young people the “summer will consist of sitting at home and watching Love Island”.

Stephen Donnelly told RTÉ radio’s News at One that this situation is already “active” with any unvaccinated hotel workers currently providing indoor dining services.

“The example we were given last night was that in hotels, which currently have guests indoors, that staff are not required to be vaccinated,” Donnelly said.

However, if the industry have concerns on this, and indeed if representative bodies have concerns on this, this is exactly the kind of detail we’ll get into now with them. 

“There are health and safety protocols in place, you’re wearing a mask and there are infection prevention and control measures. However, if you’re a diner in there, obviously you’re not wearing a mask and those same protocols would not apply to you. That is the logic as put forward to us last night by NPHET,” the Health Minister said. 

Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing, the Taoiseach said he sees the “apparent contradiction” in this situation for unvaccinated workers. 

“It has never been a condition of any worker to be vaccinated in a workplace – in retail, the personal services – that has never been a condition, and so the same applies to hospitality,” Micheál Martin said. 

He said employers are being encouraged to ensure the “maximum protections” for employees are in place. 

“But we need to be very careful at the same time that we’re not now saying that it’s a condition of work that one has to be vaccinated.”

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Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Labour leader Alan Kelly said these measures are “not practical, it’s unenforceable and it’s discriminatory”.

He said the plan will “divide the people of this country”.

“You’re saying to young people, it’s illegal for you to go down the road for a pint if you’re not vaccinated, you can’t go for a meal in a restaurant, but it’s not illegal because of European law to go up to Northern Ireland, or get on a flight to Spain and go for as many meals or as many drinks as you want,” Kelly said. 

We’re essentially saying to young people of Ireland – your summer will consist of sitting at home and watching Love Island because that’s what we think of you.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said government wants to sit down with stakeholders, unions and industry representatives about these plans.

He said the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines being permitted for anyone aged 18 or older was “an important element” of the decisions made. 

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