Summer camp providers anxiously await green light from Government

NPHET to discuss children’s summer camps and the reopening of playgrounds

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will discuss when and how summer camps can go ahead as part of its weekly meeting on Thursday.

NPHET says it intends to make recommendations to Government about measures intended to ease the burden of the Covid-19 lockdown on children including start dates for summer camps and the opening of playgrounds.

There is growing frustration among children, parents and providers of summer camps about the lack of information. Three weeks ago NPHET said it would address the issue but no decision has yet been made.

In response to a question from The Irish Times as to whether the Government intended making a decision on summer camps, a spokesman said NPHET “will meet on Thursday and make recommendations to Government.


“Those public health recommendations will be based on the always-evolving national and international evidence available up to and including Thursday and will be made public as soon as possible.”

The School of Irish Archaeology has summer camps in Harold's Cross and Malahide in Dublin and Kilkenny catering for more than 400 children. Its founder Mark Kelly said his business has been "decimated" since March and the uncertainty is continuing to adversely affect his ability to plan ahead with time running out for preparation.

“We have had no guidance as to what we should do as a sector,” he said. “I’m at a stumbling block as to what we are going to do. At the moment our July camps are not going to be running because we haven’t got enough lead-in time to get staff back and even to employ staff, train them up and get them back on track. We are finding it difficult to find any information out there.”

The Irish Girl Guides would normally be busy planning summer camps but that has all been put in abeyance because of the pandemic.

"There won't be any group camping. It would be too difficult with social distancing," said Irish Girl Guides spokeswoman Fiona Murdoch. The guides and the scouts do not expect to get back to weekly meetings until the autumn.

Sports camps

By far the most popular summer camps are the sporting ones run by the GAA, the FAI and the IRFU. Between them they cater for 200,000 children every year.

The Kellogg's GAA Cúl Camps alone had 157,000 children participating last year. Its director, former Sligo All-Star Charlie Harrison, said GAA camps would not be going ahead until July 20th at the earliest even if the Government gave the go-ahead for them to start earlier as the GAA had its own roadmap for restarting.

“People need to plan their summers. We are planning with our staff as if they [the camps] are going to happen. This summer is unique for everyone. I would be thinking that parents, once we align to the Government phases, will be happy to send their kids to Cúl Camps.”

When asked if NPHET had been in consultation with the GAA about Cúl Camps, Mr Holohan said on Wednesday: “Let me put it in these terms, we wouldn’t be making recommendations that have relevance to big sporting organisations without their awareness.”

The Intersport Elverys FAI summer schools catered for 36,000 children last year. A FAI spokesman said the situation was being "constantly reviewed and all decisions will be based on the advice from Government agencies and in line with the Government's roadmap".

All four provinces within the IRFU hosted summer camps last year. Leinster Rugby had 4,800 attendees across four camps. It ran a school of excellence, a general summer camp, a language and an inclusion camp.

Leinster rugby's head of rugby development Philip Lawlor said it hoped to run a modified version of its camps later in the summer, but without the school of excellence, the language camps or the inclusion camps.

“The modified version will be in fewer locations, for a smaller group of attendees and the core exercises will be modified but all with a view to adhering to social distancing rules that we anticipate will still be in place and also rolling-out the graduated return to the rugby programme that was communicated with the clubs by the IRFU last week,” he said.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times