SDLP calls for ‘island-wide’ co-ordination after Taoiseach’s lockdown-easing speech

Dublin and Stormont should come together to plot way forward, says Colm Eastwood

An “island-wide” Covid-19 co-ordination plan should be immediately organised in the wake of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announcing his five-stage proposals to ease the lockdown in the Republic, the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has urged.

The Foyle MP said on Friday evening that it was “incredible” that there were “divergent” strategies for easing the restrictions in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mr Eastwood said the Executive and the Government should “come together and implement an island-wide approach to testing, tracing and isolation immediately”.

“The First and Deputy First Minister need to make a joint statement on the way forward,” he said.

“It is very difficult to listen to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announcing a comprehensive strategy for reopening society and businesses less than a mile down the road while our Executive is still publicly squabbling about (opening) garden centres,” added Mr Eastwood whose constituency is on the border with Donegal.

“We are too far into this crisis not to be learning the lessons about co-ordination that are critical to preventing transmission and saving lives,” he said.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken said the Northern Executive must now press ahead with its own plan for easing the coronavirus restrictions.

“It just seems disappointing that Scotland has got a plan, Wales has got a plan and Boris had produced his five-points. Now Leo has a plan and from the Northern Ireland Executive we have got a resounding nothing,” he said.

Mr Aiken said the Executive must now get on with devising a “recovery plan”.

“The people of Northern Ireland need to have an idea of what the longer term plan is,” he added.

From Monday the Northern Executive is to begin reviewing when and how the lockdown might be relaxed.

A DUP spokesman said it was likely that the Government and Mr Varadkar’s approach to softening the restrictions would be one of the issues considered by Northern Ministers as they plotted a way forward.