Fianna Fáil TD in October sent paper to Martin calling for Level 2 restrictions

Marc MacSharry suggested there was little evidence to back the idea restaurants and pubs were responsible for spread of virus

A Fianna Fáil TD sent a research paper to the Taoiseach calling for Level 2 restrictions on a day when the Department of Health announced more than 1,000 Covid-19 infections.

Marc MacSharry said in the report that the virus was not “indiscriminate”, and was mostly impacting older people and those with pre-existing conditions.

He said this rendered “a forced closure for younger, otherwise healthy, individuals questionable”, and suggested there was little evidence to support the idea that restaurants and pubs were responsible for spread of the disease.

The Department of the Taoiseach initially refused to release the report, saying it was sent on a “strictly confidential” basis. It had said release of the research would make it less likely that other TDs and Senators would send information to the Taoiseach in future.


The case was appealed to the Information Commissioner and the department relented and allowed release of the paper.

Mr MacSharry said the report was sent at a “point in time” before there was awareness of Covid-19 variants, and that his views had changed over Christmas.

It was sent to Micheál Martin on October 14th, with a short note saying: “It sets out an evidence-based suggestion for return to Level 2. I am only circulating it to you and Stephen Donnelly.”

On the day it was sent the daily statement from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) had notified 1,095 cases of Covid-19, and the second lockdown was introduced within a week.

In his research Mr MacSharry suggested there be a return to Level 2 restrictions with increased enforcement and compliance with what were described as “golden rules”.

These rules – which were taken from World Health Organisation (WHO) research – included mask-wearing, avoiding crowded indoor settings and maintaining basic hygiene.


He wrote: “At no point do they [WHO] refer to hospitality closures such as hotels, restaurants or bars. This is contrary to the Irish ‘level’ based system.”

Mr MacSharry asked whether we were “decimating” an “already reeling” hospitality industry when the WHO did not regard such closures as essential.

He said fear was being “compounded” by the prospect of a circuit-breaker lockdown, which he said was being “flouted” by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

The Fianna Fáil TD said Covid-19 “preys upon the old, vulnerable, and otherwise sick”, and that nearly 95 per cent of deaths involved people with “underlying clinical health conditions”.

He also said the spread of the disease was concentrated in households based on official cluster data.

“This highlights the superficiality of having restrictions on hotels, restaurants, and bars when the virus still has so many other vectors to facilitate spread,” he wrote.

Mr MacSharry also made a lengthy comparison with the experience in Sweden, which he said had relied on “personal responsibility”.

While accepting it had higher rates of death than neighbouring countries, there had been a “clear economic benefit” with the Swedish economy performing better than others in the EU.

He wrote: “In essence, the data from Sweden shows that it is personal responsibility which is the best preventative measure for Covid-19, not forced closures of businesses.”


In conclusion, Mr MacSharry said it could be argued that Ireland was “discriminating” against hospitality and retail while Covid-19 was not indiscriminate.

The TD said the research had been sent in October: “At the time we were not developing any sort of strategy of trying to live with it. You try to make suggestions; society is suffering – is there any way to develop a strategy?

“From the beginning I’ve been critical of our management [of this]. I don’t want to be put anybody in danger and my views would have changed over Christmas.

“You try to make suggestions and offer solutions; they’re not always acted upon, you’re not always right.”