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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill speaking outside Stormont today. PA
Stormont

'It is a mess across the island': NI leaders seek summit to discuss Covid-19 travel restrictions

Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster will write to Micheál Martin and Boris Johnson to make the request.

STORMONT’S POLITICAL LEADERS are seeking a special summit including the governments in Ireland and Britain to address discord over Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster will write to Taoiseach Micheál Martin and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make the request.

Ireland’s ‘green list’ of 15 low-risk countries from which travel is permitted without quarantine does not include Scotland, England or Wales due to the UK’s higher infection rate.

Michelle O’Neill said: “The position is confusing for people, it is a mess across the island.

“There are a lot of anomalies north/south and east/west and it is time to import some common sense into the middle of this conversation.”

The British Irish Council was established under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and includes all the UK’s devolved regions.

It last met in Dublin in November.

Today, O’Neill also called on the insurance and travel industry to help families who would lose out due to pandemic and reiterated her concern about people travelling from Britain and spreading the virus in Northern Ireland.

She said she was seeking a sensible conversation about the Common Travel Area (CTA) which permits free movement for citizens between the UK and Ireland and a solution making the rules easier to understand.

“Let’s find a political solution to the problems we have.”

Northern Ireland’s travel guidance has been changed to urge holiday makers to take account of local advice on the pandemic when making plans.

It followed a meeting of Stormont ministers on Thursday.

Northern Ireland should act to protect itself against travellers from Great Britain spreading coronavirus, Michelle O’Neill said recently.

Visitors arriving from Britain are expected to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the Republic.

However, people can cross the border from Northern Ireland unimpeded.

Foster wants to preserve free movement for the sake of business and family life, but her powersharing deputy has urged the alignment of rules north and south of the Irish border.

Relations between the pair have been strained in recent weeks over O’Neill’s attendance at veteran republican Bobby Storey’s Belfast funeral when hundreds of people lined the route of the cortege.

For weeks before that they presented a united front as they led a powersharing administration which was only restored in January after three years in deep freeze.

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