Likely to be second quarter of 2021 before differences from vaccine seen – Varadkar

Taoiseach says there are grounds to be ‘more hopeful’ about Brexit this week

It is likely to be the second quarter of next year before people start to see the differences from Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told a meeting of his parliamentary party .

However the Tánaiste told Fine Gael colleagues that there is a real possibility of vaccinations beginning in the State before the New Year, with nursing home residents and healthcare workers, in contact with patients, the first to receive immunisation.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told his party meeting on Wednesday night that a small volume of vaccine could be available in December.

Hospital Report

The Taoiseach also said there were are grounds to be “more hopeful” about Brexit this week, and that there is a pathway on the outstanding issue of the level playing field which has held up a trade deal.

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Speaking to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting he said that the issues of fisheries is "challenging", and warned that the country and economy would take an "enormous hit" if there is a no deal Brexit.

The issue of CETA, the EU-Canada trade deal, was discussed at both party meetings , with the Taoiseach saying that Fianna Fáil's identity is as a "party of multilateralism and trade". He argued that the party had opened up the country under Sean Lemass. Two Green deputies have indicated they may not vote with the Government on the matter, and argued that support for the deal was ruled out during negotiations on the Programme for Government.

Mr Varadkar said the Government had to sign off on the CETA trade agreement with Canada, and argued that the programme for government states it would support new and existing trade deals. He said agreements like CETA benefit the country’s enterprise, investment and business.

John McGuinness raised the issue of CETA as well, and told Fianna Fáil colleagues that he welcomed the postponement of the vote, which would give TDs and the public more time to debate the deal. John Lahart told the meeting that it would enable the party to convey the benefits of the deal. Mr Lahart also raised the issue of "not standing idly by" if the North needed medics to assist with Covid.

Stephen Donnelly, the Minister for Health, gave an update on talks over improved allowances for student nurses. He said there had been good progress on Wednesday evening over two reviews that are underway.

Michael McGrath, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, gave the Fianna Fáil meeting a briefing on the new public pay deal, saying the deal would increase the cost of the public pay bill by four per cent over three calendar years. He said the deal regularised many of the changes and efficiencies that became practice during Covid.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times