New Government plan to safeguard ‘reasonable quality of life’ - Taoiseach

Micheál Martin says strategy for next six months will balance public health and economics

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin stands at the Éamon De Valera bust with former TD Máirín Quill at the Cork Public Museum where he officially opened a new exhibition on Friday. Photograph: Darragh Kane

Taoiseach Micheál Martin stands at the Éamon De Valera bust with former TD Máirín Quill at the Cork Public Museum where he officially opened a new exhibition on Friday. Photograph: Darragh Kane

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government’s strategy for living with Covid-19 over the next six months would focus on ensuring economic activity could continue and giving citizens “a reasonable quality of life”.

Speaking in Co Cork, the Taoiseach said “there is not going to be a knee-jerk reaction” to rising infection rates in Dublin as he played down suggestions of a regional lockdown in the capital.

The Government was still working in tandem with acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn and other members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on developing a mid-term plan, to be published on Tuesday, Mr Martin said.

He said the Government had learned a lot over the past six months since Covid-19 arrived in Ireland in terms of the measures that work to help curb its spread and he emphasised that everyone had a part to play in terms of how they behave.

“We will be publishing a national plan in relation to dealing with Covid over the next six months in all its aspects and obviously in that framework, consideration has to be given to the economic situation, to protecting jobs and making sure citizens have a reasonable quality of life.

“Fundamentally, what will drive the plan is personal behaviour and all of us, collectively and individually, have to focus on personal behaviour because if we want our children to stay at school and sporting competitions to be completed, it’s personal behaviour that will enable that to happen.

“That really is the key message from here onwards: We must be resilient. People are fatigued, I understand that, people are fed up with restrictions and they would love to go back to the normality we once experienced but the virus is around for a while and will be around for a while.

“We have got to be clever, we have got to be smart and we have to be resilient in terms of how we deal with it. The overarching objective must be public health but equally to protect livelihoods and keep people working and then have a decent quality of life for our children and our people overall.”

Backbench criticism

Speaking in Clonakilty where he announced 150 new jobs at financial company, Global Shares, Mr Martin took issue with comments by Fianna Fáil backbench TD Marc McSharry who had called on him to stop Dr Glynn from appearing on TV every evening.

According to The Irish Examiner, Mr MacSharry told Mr Martin at a teleconference meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that Dr Glynn’s appearance on TV every evening to provide updates on Covid 19 was “scaring the bejaysus out of people”.

But Mr Martin said that he would “seriously disagree” with the approach advocated by Mr MacSharry as he believed Irish people wanted to be informed about Covid-19 and the countries that were best dealing with the pandemic were those listening to public health experts.

“That is something I can’t quite comprehend because the Irish people want to hear from the Chief Medical Officer, they value and respect Ronan Glynn and indeed his predecessor, Tony Holohan. Why? Because in a global pandemic, people want information and they want reassurance.

“And those societies that value public health advice have done best so far in this global pandemic- those that endeavour to relegate the views of public health experts, disappear them or take them off the screens have not done as well in terms of mortality or their whole dealing with Covid-19.”

On the financial impact of Covid-19, Mr Martin acknowledged the importance of Cork and Shannon Airports to regional economies and pledged the Government would take account of European Commission proposals on safe international travel in the national strategy.

Asked what the Government would do to support the airports, Mr Martin said: “We are conscious of the European Commission’s publication recently of a framework in which the member states of the European Union would manage travel in terms of green, orange and red zones and we are very minded to give that positive consideration.

“We are still currently reflecting on that and that will form part of our response on Tuesday. Obviously we are conscious also of the supports that may be needed in the aviation sector and the respective ministers are giving that due consideration as well.”