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'When were you last in a nightclub, Taoiseach?': Calls for clarity on new rules as talks resume

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin says a solution will be found in the next 24 hours.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Oct 20th 2021, 3:00 PM

TALKS ARE ONGOING today amid uncertainty over rules for the reopening of some sectors following yesterday’s announcement that there will be a halt on a full lifting of all remaining restrictions. 

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin said today that she is “confident” a solution will be found within the next 24-hours to the issue of standing in music venues.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, she said that engagement is ongoing this afternoon and she is aware of the needs of those in the industry.

“I want fairness across the board,” she said when asked about the disparity in the rules around seating and table service in different venues.

The issue of clarity for sectors was raised in the Dáil today during Leaders’ Questions.

“When was the last time you were in a nightclub”, Labour’s Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach in the Dáil this afternoon.

While he said he was asking in jest, he wanted to make the point that confusion over the rules for pubs and nightclubs are “ridiculous”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Dave Parle, who runs Hidden Agenda Promotions, said owners of live music venues were facing a “plethora of anomalies” as a result of guideline confusion.

Parle said that while he had club events organised for Friday, due to lack of clarity with the guidelines “we’re still figuring out some of the actual mechanics of actually operating a club show.”

“It is really, really last minute. That’s stressful for everyone in the industry,” he added.

Also speaking on Morning Ireland earlier today, Restaurants Association of Ireland President Mark McGowan and owner of Scholars Townhouse Hotel and Peggy Moores pub in Drogheda voiced his frustration at the lack of clarity given to businesses.  “Again, it’s the 11th hour and we haven’t received our full guidelines yet.”

McGowan detailed that many restaurant owners are still unsure about guidelines as they begin to head into the busy Christmas period.

 ”We know that the table numbers have gone from a six to a 10, but that doesn’t really help in terms of multiple tables, we can already receive couch tours, believe it or not, so I can serve Christmas parties if everybody decides to say that they’re part of a coach tour.”

It was confirmed yesterday that nightclubs will be allowed to reopen as planned this Friday, 22 October – but new advice specifically for the sector is being developed, and has yet to be released.

The announcement was made yesterday by Taoiseach Micheál Martin following a Cabinet meeting to discuss the easing of restrictions.

In a government document released yesterday afternoon, it was confirmed that:

  • Specific sectoral guidance will be developed for nightclubs setting out appropriate protective measures.
  • This will involve Covid-19 passes, contact tracing data collection and wearing of facemasks except when eating, drinking and dancing

However, this sectoral guidance is yet to be released. The Taoiseach did confirm to reporters that “what traditionally happens at nightclubs will still happen at nightclubs” – though he didn’t specify exactly what that entailed.

When asked about the confusion today, the Taoiseach told the Dáil “what’s critical is that as we reopen further in the context of a deteriorating situation in relation to the prevalence of the disease and its penetration into hospitals, we do so in a cautious way, that’s the central message of yesterday”.

“And as I said yesterday, there would be sectoral guidance issued to different sectors,” he said.

“It’s simply not going to work. You can’t have a situation where a pub that changes into a nightclub changes rules in a matter of minutes,” said Kelly, stating that the regulations as is are not “natural”.

Earlier today, the Taoiseach denied that his comments on people needing a “sense of perspective” was a “slap in the face” to those in the industry.

When asked about the lack of clarity on nightclubs the Taoiseach had said there was a “need to get a sense of perspective a bit” as 464 people are in hospital, with 74 in intensive care.

When asked if he thought his comments insulting to nightclub operators, he said:

“I find it difficult to comprehend, genuinely, how saying that my concern to save lives and save public health is a slap in the face to anybody. It’s not. It certainly wasn’t a slap in the face to any sector: it’s a statement of fact.

“That is the central concern in terms of dealing with Covid-19. It remains the central concern, and I really would appreciate if that construction is prolonged by my remarks.

“But I do believe what I said and I think we have made very good progress as a country, in terms of reopening. And that’s evident in terms of how fast the economy has come back and how fast thousands of jobs have come back. And we want to maintain that, but it’s challenging in the context of the behaviour of the virus.”

The Department of Tourism yesterday confirm that it is working on guidelines for the sector. 

In relation to live events, the government confirmed:

  • for indoor live music, drama, live entertainment and sporting events audience/spectators should be fully seated (standing permitted at your seat)

This would affect any standing-only events booked in by Irish promoters from 22 October. 

Speaking to RTÉ last night, the Taoiseach said: “I will say to the sectors, work with us over the next number of days, I understand the timelines are short, and we will work this out, just like we worked it out for hospitality during the summer.” 

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Martin said he accepts that the sectors “need clarity”. 

“Please work with the Department of Tourism and we’ll work it out,” he said. 

The Taoiseach confirmed yesterday that from Friday, Covid-19 Digital Certificates will continue be required for indoor activities, and there is advice that people with Covid-19 symptoms should stay at home.

When asked on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night what the government will do about businesses that are not asking customers for their Covid-19 Digital Certificates, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there will be an increase of enforcement.

“We’ve had 45,000 inspections since last May and we’ve more inspectors and we can step them up, but we do need a level of self enforcement as well,” Varadkar said.

“The message I’d send out to industry here is that we are in a precarious position again, we’re not out the gap, this isn’t over, please help us to enforce this measure because that’s how you will stay open,” he said.

“I’d also say to people, as well, if you’re going into a premises and somebody doesn’t ask you for your vaccine pass, ask them why not.”

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