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Expect to hear ‘cautious and conservative’ line ad nauseam over coming weeks

Inside Politics: The Greens continue to struggle with the realities of Government

Good morning.

Though it is four weeks away, attention in Government is turning to what happens after the current lockdown expires on March 5th, and how many of the current restrictions can be lifted. Don't get your hopes up: the Taoiseach stressed yesterday that the bulk of restrictions would be staying in place after March 5th, telling his parliamentary party last night that a period of prolonged suppression of the virus is in store, as Harry McGee reports.

And despite assertions by both Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien in recent days that construction would reopen on March 5th, there was pointedly no reference to this by Mr Martin yesterday when he told the Dáil that there would be no “significant reopening” in March. Many people in and around Government expect no great relaxation of restrictions until Easter. Expect to hear the “cautious and conservative” line ad nauseam over the coming weeks.

In fact, the focus in Government is as much on tightening up restrictions as it is on planning for reopening. The legislation for mandatory hotel quarantine is due next week and officials are currently wrestling with the details, as our lead story reports this morning.


There is better news on schools, however. Special schools reopen today, while the teaching unions – or some of them, anyway – edge toward co-operation with a more general reopening. Carl O'Brien reports this morning on what is the only question for many parents.

The Dáil also debated zero-Covid yesterday, as Marie O'Halloran reports. But while there was much talk from Opposition TDs of the benefits of achieving zero-Covid, there was much less detail about what would be required to get there. My analysis of the Government's cautious creep towards reopening, and its rejection of zero-Covid, is here.

Jennifer Bray has a guide to the emerging quarantine plans while Miriam Lord's take on yesterday's exchange is here. Meanwhile, there is continuing concern about the level of people returning home from holidays, as Cormac McQuinn reports.


The Greens continue to struggle with the realities of Government. The EU's free trade deal with Canada – which the Dáil is due to vote on – is a festering sore, with significant opposition within the Greens conflicting with the acceptance of the political leadership and the parliamentary party that they will just have to swallow it. But Eamon Ryan eked out some breathing space yesterday when the Government agreed to refer the issue to an Oireachtas committee for examination, further postponing a vote. Ryan had to backtrack, however, on his reluctance of sign off on a new road in the Moyross area in Limerick (roads were always going to be a flashpoint) but he has made progress in efforts to tackle atmospheric pollution. Win-lose-compromise. Such is life in a coalition.

Best reads

Naomi O'Leary on Ursula von der Leyen's appearance before the European Parliament yesterday.

Newton Emerson on why the debate about policing the Border for Covid reasons is absurd.

The Government has signalled that it will tighten the Level 5 restrictions to prevent a return to play for the GAA inter-county teams.

Kevin O'Sullivan on the health worries about private water supplies.

The WHO says the AstraZeneca vaccine is suitable for older people, but Irish doctors don't expect a change in the Government's policy of not using it for over 70s.


Lots of Government legislation in the Dáil today, and there's Leaders' Questions at 12 due to be taken by Leo Varadkar. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will take questions on the vaccine rollout at 1pm. The full schedule, including three committees meeting in private session, is here.

There are briefings by the HSE and by Nphet scheduled for the afternoon and evening.

In Washington, the impeachment trial of Donald Trump continues. Michael Gove and Maros Sefcovic meet in London amid continuing fallout from the EU's aborted attempt to trigger article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol and trade difficulties between Great Britain and the North.

And there is snow forecast for the east of the country. So wrap up.

Finally, it's a year since the general election. Some ruminations and sundry windbagging on the subject on this week's podcast, available here, or wherever you get your podcasts, as they say.