New proposals for full reopening of live events sector to face opposition

Minister wants Cabinet to back reopening of live events ‘from earliest possible date’

There is great reluctance in Government to reopen live entertainment as Covid-19 infection numbers rise. Photograp: iStock

There is great reluctance in Government to reopen live entertainment as Covid-19 infection numbers rise. Photograp: iStock

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A bid by Minister for Arts Catherine Martin to significantly ease restrictions for live entertainment will meet stiff opposition from public health officials, as well as from within Government, this week.

Ms Martin is seeking Cabinet backing for the full reopening of indoor events for vaccinated people and the reopening of indoor arts, drama and dance classes in September.

She has outlined proposals in a note sent to senior Government figures in advance of crucial meetings this week, in which she advocates a reopening of live events “from the earliest possible date”.

There has been fierce criticism from the arts and entertainment lobby about the decision to allow 40,000 spectators to attend Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final while live events are still prohibited.

However, there is still great reluctance in Government, which is prioritising reopening of schools and colleges, to reopen live entertainment as Covid-19 infection numbers rise.

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Senior Government and public health figures also remain opposed to a suspension of social distancing guidelines for live events.

Pilot events

However, it is expected that a number of pilot events will go ahead in September, including a series of music and comedy events at Pearse Stadium in Galway, as part of Galway Arts Week.

Sources familiar with the memo said that it proposes a “return to full capacity indoor events” for people with vaccine passports, and that arrangements be made in September for unvaccinated people to be admitted to events on production of a negative PCR or antigen test.

Ms Martin has pressed for the reopening to occur as soon as possible , which she has argued is “vital” for producers and festivals to salvage what remains of the tourist season and to plan ahead for future events.

Ms Martin will meet with live events industry representatives on Wednesday to brief them on developments and listen to their concerns. The National Public Health Emergency Team will also be meeting on that day, in advance of issuing advice to Government about the forthcoming next phase of the reopening plan, which is due to be discussed by the Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee on Friday.

Ms Martin was denied a request to attend last week’s meeting of the committee but expects to be in attendance this week.

Remaining restrictions

Meanwhile, business and employers organisation Ibec has called for “more autonomy” for businesses to decide how they reopen as remaining restrictions are eased in the coming months. In a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Ibec chief Danny McCoy welcomes the news that the Government is drawing up a revised roadmap for the reopening of society but says “it is vital that this new roadmap is less prescriptive in nature than previously”.

“Specifically,” Mr McCoy writes, “it must provide the autonomy for all businesses to reopen fully in a safe and phased way”.

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