Shoe shops will be allowed sell for children by appointment, says Martin
Guidance to be published enabling shops to measure for children, according to Taoiseach
Parents have struggled to order properly fitting shoes for growing children during the lockdown. Photograph: Getty
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said shoe shops will be allowed to sell children’s shoes “by appointment only”.
Mr Martin said the guidance would be published shortly and would be for children’s shoes only.
Mr Martin said it “is an issue the Government is examining. We do take the point that there have been issues in terms of children’s shoes being an essential item in terms of growth and development of children and the need to provide for that.
“We are finalising specific guidance. This will be published and will be outlined in the regulations that would facilitate shoe shops in particular, shoe services, to measure children and to provide for children on appointment online or by phone call.”
He stressed it is being done “for children’s shoes only. It’s very specific to children, very specific to the needs of children and development of children” and the guidelines will be published shortly.
The issue had been raised with the Government by medical personnel.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly had said he wanted to see shops selling children’s shoes reopen as soon as possible.
There are medical implications for children and those shoe shops need to be added to the essential retail list, said Mr Donnelly. “They need to be opened immediately,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One. Mr Donnelly said he spoke to deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn on Wednesday morning about the issue.
“Obviously children grow fast and the shops have been closed for a long time . . . they need to be added to the essential retail list specifically for children’s shoes,” he said.
Mr Donnelly’s intervention comes only hours after Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe reiterated that parents should continue buying shoes for their children online. He said the sale of children’s footwear in shops would be considered by the Government in May as it also examines ways of reopening non-essential retail.
The Minister said he appreciated some of the decisions made to save lives could create difficult situations. But he added that there are already circumstances where children’s shoes are available to buy.
Mr Donohoe reacted strongly to a suggestion on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio show that his party had a history with the issue of children’s shoes. He rejected any suggestion of being unaware of the needs of families with young children. “Everything our Government is doing, and our party is doing, is motivated by keeping people safe,” said Mr Donohoe.
In the meantime reopening schools is the priority, he said. “I absolutely appreciate the needs that our parents have in relation to their very, very young children. We are prioritising that, for example in relation to schools opening.”
If a decision had been made on Tuesday to reopen shoe shops Ministers would now be answering questions as to why other retailers could not reopen, he said. The Government must be consistent in its decision making, he added.
A Government source said on Wednesday: “As the Tánaiste said last night, work is under way on the issue of shoes for children. There will be an announcement later today on how we’re going to ensure that children who require new shoes are able to get the right shoes for their requirements.”
Sources indicated a limited approach is under consideration, rather than a wholesale reopening of shoe shops. Certain conditions could apply – for example, purchases may be arranged by appointment.
On RTÉ’s Prime Time on Tuesday evening Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government “will need to look at” situations where some children with medical conditions require special footwear.
Members of the Cabinet considered allowing click-and-collect [purchase] for children’s shoe shops more generally, he added. But he said they had been told by gardaí that collecting items from non-essential shops was an excuse given frequently by people travelling outside their 5km radius. Mr Varadkar said click-and-collect services contributed to “a lot of movement” by the public when open previously.
The Tánaiste said the Government recognised that children’s shoes are essential. But he noted that they could be bought online or by phone.
On Tuesday, Niamh Lynch, a consultant paediatrician in the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork, said children are “suffering” in shoes too small due to the continued closure of shoe shops.
Dr Lynch said some children are walking “barefoot” or in socks as parents are unable to order shoes online that fit correctly. She added that she had seen cases in recent weeks where children were wearing painful, ill-fitting shoes that could have long-term implications on a child’s gait.