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Martin leaves reopening anomalies behind as he heads for Brussels

Inside Politics: EU leaders will discuss vaccination rates across countries and looming booster-shot campaign

It has been a hectic few weeks for Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Good morning.

It’s been a hectic few weeks for Taoiseach Micheál Martin as he raced from Slovenia to the budget to the national development plan while squeezing in another big Covid-19 announcement at the tail-end.

He is Brussels-bound today for an EU summit where the agenda is jam-packed. Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 is one of the big-ticket items up for discussion at the European Council meeting.

The focus here will be two-fold as leaders discuss the varying vaccination rates across the European Union and the looming booster-shot campaign that may become increasingly important the closer we get to winter.


Infection levels are rising in a number of European states, and although some of this may be waning immunity, some countries have witnessed a proliferation of vaccine disinformation. European leaders will be keen to discuss the best way to tackle this, but of course the Taoiseach will be attending the meeting armed with statistics about Ireland’s impressive vaccine uptake.

Even notwithstanding the fact more than 92 per cent of the population are fully jabbed, politicians are becoming increasingly anxious about the number of people in hospital and the number of patients very sick in intensive care.

During the summit, we may hear a reaffirmation of European plans to roll out a relatively widespread booster programme. This will come at an interesting time in the national debate as Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has written to Niac to ask it to consider the issue of extra jabs for healthcare workers.

Another major item on the agenda will be the soaring energy prices that are leaving households footing significantly pricier bills to heat their homes as the colder period looms.

The discussion today will focus on what EU member states can do individually and what the European Union can do as a whole to address an issue that has been partly caused by higher global demand and tighter gas supply.

The European Commission is looking at a few options including additional energy storage capacity, reviewing electricity market design and voluntary joint procurement of gas stocks.

Although we can also expect to hear updates about climate change and the upcoming Cop26 in Glasgow in November, one thorny issue may overshadow all others.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said this week that Poland’s challenge to the supremacy of EU law was calling “into question the foundations of the European Union”.

The commission is expected to take action on foot of Warsaw's flouting of European Court of Justice rulings, which have indicated its ruling Law and Justice party compromised the judicial system by stacking courts with party loyalists.

The stand-off culminated in a ruling by Poland’s constitutional court earlier this month that backed the government’s position that the Polish constitution trumps EU law. The crisis has raised fears that Poland could exit the bloc.

Upping the ante is the fact that billions of euro in Covid-19 stimulus funds are being held back from Poland. With all that drama set to play out, keep an eye on for updates from our European Correspondent Naomi O'Leary who will be covering the summit.

Meanwhile at home . . .

According to Miriam's Lord hilarious sketch today, Mr Martin is jetting off to the EU having had quite enough, frankly.

Take this paragraph: “How galling it must be for the Taoiseach - who is back and forth to Europe on important national business and who leads a country with a seat on the UN security council - to see his hard work and high office reduced to probing questions about whether the shift in Coppers is outlawed and if the mandatory wearing of masks late at night in darkened drinking dens points to a disturbing lowering of morals in Cabinet.”

The Taoiseach was also at a press conference yesterday morning on Cap funding when he appealed to everyone to have a bit of perspective when it comes to the anomalies around the reopening of nightclubs and late bars. He could barely hide his exasperation.

He can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as it looks like guidelines will be published by Fáilte Ireland today to allow almost the full unrestricted reopening of the entire hospitality sector.

As Harry McGee and Paul Cullen report, the guidelines will restore most of the pre-pandemic operations for nightclubs and live music venues, and will also lift the majority of remaining restrictions in pubs, restaurants and bars.

In the immortal words of Martin, what traditionally happens in a nightclub will continue to happen in a nightclub. If that’s a part of your weekend, we salute you and will see you back here bright and early next Tuesday where not another word will be said about it.

Best reads

There is an interesting piece here from Conor Lally who has details of concerns expressed by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about new "disproportionate" powers to be given to the Garda oversight agencies.

A scoop from Jack Power: Irish-based funds and banks were used by a group of hedge funds and traders to carry out a massive multibillion-euro financial fraud that targeted tax authorities in European countries.

Harry McGee was keeping a watchful eye on the parliamentary party meetings last night where Covid-19 was once again the main topic of concern.

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Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue will take parliamentary questions at 9am, followed by Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys at 10.30am.

Leaders’ Questions will be up at noon and will be followed by questions on promised legislation.

At 1.44pm there will be statements on breast cancer awareness month. The Child and Family Agency Bill will be up after.

Topical Issues will be up around 6.30pm.

At 7.15pm, expect a Private Members’ Bill from Sinn Féin, namely the Statistics (Decade of Centenaries) Bill 2020 that aims to bring forward the publication of the 1926 Census, which is currently not due to be published until 2027.

The Dáil adjourns at 8.30pm.

Here is the full schedule.


At 10.30am, commencement matters are up. This will be followed by the order of business and then a motion on the arrangements for the attendance by members of the European Parliament before the House in November.

Read more details about the rest of the day here.


The Public Accounts Committee meets at 9.30am to discuss Tusla’s financial statements.

At 9.35, the Joint Committee on Disability Matters will talk about aligning disability services with the UNCRPD.

At 1.30pm, the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement will discuss the proposed All-Island Cancer Research Institute.

At the same time the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community will hold hearings in relation to Travellers’ experiences in prison.

There are one or two other hearings planned, the details of which can be found here.