Evaluation of State’s Covid response could begin in early 2022, says Martin

Taoiseach says rules out ‘premature pull-back’ on PUP due to staff shortages

An evaluation of how Ireland has handled the Covid-19 pandemic could begin in the early part of 2022, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin said he would like to see “the back end of Covid” first before an examination of how the State fared begins.

Speaking in New York on Friday, He cautioned that the pandemic is not over and “we’re going to have a challenging winter ahead of us”.

Mr Martin said the exercise would be an “evaluation” of how the country preformed under this Coalition and the last Government in relation to the pandemic with “the objective being to learn lessons from it”.


He said: “I would like to get to the back end of Covid first, because all hands do still need to be on deck and particularly within the HSE.

“I think we’re going to have a challenging winter ahead of us, not least because Covid isn’t over and the levels of incidence are still high, but also there could be other viruses and other respiratory issues.”

In terms of beginning the evaluation, Mr Martin said he would be “looking at towards the earlier part of next year, where people would have to space and time to do this and then we’d have to work out the methodology, and the structure of such an evaluation”.

Mr Martin also said the Government is seeking ideas on how to commemorate the those who were lose in the pandemic.

He said he spoke to leaders in the Irish American community on Thursday and the impact of the Covid-19 emergency on the diaspora should be encompassed too.

“They had a unique type of grief as well in terms of losing people not being able to get back home, losing people within their own community in America, the grief of isolation, the grief of loss,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin separately rejected calls from the retail industry for an accelerated wind-down of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) due to staff shortages.

He said: “There will not be any premature pull back on PUP.

“The numbers on PUP have come down dramatically, very dramatically, I think down to 100,000-plus now.”

He said the number was more than half a million people at one stage, so there has been “a very significant reduction”.

Mr Martin added: “As the economy opens and more job opportunities arise, I think that will continue.

“We’ve made commitments in terms of the various supports that we’ve put in place and those commitments will continue.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times