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Taoiseach to give statement next week on travel, entertainment, sport and hotel quarantine for June and July

A plan for the aviation sector will also be ready by the end of the month.

THE TAOISEACH WILL make a “comprehensive statement” next week on travel, aviation, entertainment, sport and mandatory hotel quarantine as part of the next phase of reopening for June and July.

Micheál Martin told his parliamentary party meeting that there is a necessity to restore travel and aviation, stating that he is due to meet with Aer Lingus tomorrow to discuss the announcement that the airline is due to lay off staff and permanently close its cabin crew base in Shannon.

There is substantive work on the evaluation of the mandatory hotel quarantine, he said. 

A motion will come before the Oireachtas shortly on the mandatory hotel quarantine system, whether to extend it and for how long.

The EU digital certificate provides a framework to get travel back, said he Taoiseach, with a plan for travel and the aviation sector to be ready by the end of the month. 

“We are in a different space with vaccination and as a small open economy aviation is really important.

“We must ensure connectivity for tourism, the economy and future growth. The government is committed to regional connectivity and is committed to Shannon airport.

“There will need to be an effective rebooting of aviation and we will engage with the airlines and airports. This is crucial to tourism and economic growth of all regions in the country,” he said. 

On the issue of housing, the Taoiseach said:

Housing is the social issue of this generation.

“Fianna Fáil has a long standing commitment to build social and affordable homes and fulfill people’s aspirations of owning their own home,” he said, adding: 

“We are approaching housing like Brexit and Covid and all hands are on deck.”

His comments come as Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien addressed the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening, giving his government colleagues a presentation on his plans. 

The meeting was described as “good, informative and constructive”. 

TD Charlie Flanagan, who extended the invite to O’Brien, said this evening that he regretted that the meeting was portrayed as “divisive when it’s working cross-party as a government”. 

O’Brien gave an updated as to the the work that was underway in his department, detailing future plans, as well as taking questions from members.

Fine Gael members complimentary

Fine Gael members were very complimentary of the minister, stating that his presentation was “very good”, and stating that he had a “practical can-do attitude”. 

After his ten minute presentation, members were told that the government’s shared-equity scheme will mean the mortgage repayments will be far less than the rent they are paying. 

The Housing for All plan will be launched in July, and he new rural planning guidelines will be issued in the same month. 

The minister promised Fine Gael members that he would take action to get thousands of vacant properties back into use. 

A vacant property tax is understood to be under “serious” consideration.

O’Brien also said enforcement is needed regarding short term lettings, such as AirBnB properties, following 2019 legislation brought in by the previous Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

It is hoped to tackle this in the near future while a lot of these properties are vacant, he said. The minister previously told The Journal that he plans to regulate short-term letting platforms before the tourism sector returns, stating that he is working with Tourism Minister Catherine Martin on this area.

He added hat revised guidelines for one off housing, which makes up a quarter of the housing stock each year, will be issued this summer from his department.

The minister also said there should be consistency in relation to planning in different counties or constituencies.

The Taoiseach said this evening that the government is determined to get supply up, sating that they want to hit 40,000 properties a year over the next decade.

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Separately, on this week’s cyber attack, he said it was “extremely serious”.

External expertise and specialist consultants are working on this issue, with the rebuilding and restoring the systems already underway.

“This is crucial for patients who need access to radiology, diagnostics and therapeutics. We are working on it in a calm focused and determined way,” he said. 

In relation to the recent bombing of Gaza, the Taoiseach repeated that the action taken by Israel has been “wholly disproportionate and the violence is appalling where innocent civilians, children and families are being bombed”.

“We are calling on all sides to allow for a ceasefire and are articulating this at EU council level and the UN Security Council,” he added.

Maternity hospitals

Senator Lisa Chambers also raised the issue of maternity hospital restrictions. She siad hospitals are saying they are lifting restrictions but, she said it’s not happening uniformly across the country.

Some women in Limerick and Galway are having issues with accessing their 20-week scan, Chambers told the Taoiseach.

Martin said short of going into every maternity hospital in the country, he has been very clear, indicating that the restrictions should be removed now.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it was both challenging and frustrating, stating that he has asked for an updated survey of all units to assess the current level of  restrictions in place.

Chambers said it was concerning that some hospitals were ignoring national guidance from both the minister and the HSE chief on the matter.

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