North South Ministers discuss sharing passenger locator data

O’Neill says there is a ‘confused picture’ around travel regulations in North and South

Plans to ensure information in passenger locator forms for those flying into Ireland are shared more effectively between North and South was discussed at a North South Ministerial Council meeting. Video: PA

 

A plan to ensure that information in passenger locator forms for those flying into Ireland are shared more effectively between North and South was discussed at a North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) meeting on Friday.

At the meeting, attended by First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Government Ministers, Ms O’Neill said people needed to “hold their hands up and say there has been a confused picture” in terms of travel regulations North and South.

“I think it is confusing for citizens in so far as we have two jurisdictions on the island with two different approaches and that in itself is confusing. We feel the anomalies need to be addressed as quickly as possible,” she said.

She said a meeting of the British Irish Council had been called in order to discuss different travel arrangements and advice in the UK and Ireland.

Mr Martin defended Ireland’s position on international travel and said the Government had taken a cautious approach.

The meeting was also given an update on the most recent Covid-19 figures by the acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

Mr Martin also said it was not yet clear if the spike in cases reported in the State on Thursday was a pattern or a series of isolated clusters.

Mr Martin said Covid-19 was “a vicious virus and it spreads like wildfire in certain settings.”

He said the most significant issue was the effectiveness of the testing and contact tracing system.

“That can never be lost sight of as we learn to live with Covid-19.”

Mr Martin cautioned against reading too much into the recent increase in Covid-19 cases in the State, ahead of a Cabinet meeting next week during which the Government will decide whether it can proceed to the next phase of re-opening.

On Brexit, Mr Martin said there had been progress.

“There is work underway in terms of the protocol. I think it is fair to say there has been progress in principle in relation to the operation of the protocol.”

“I think it is the shared opinion of all of us that we want an agreement that optimises the economic situation on the island of Ireland.”

Ms O’Neill said: “On Brexit, time is running out, we are the eleventh hour. We have four months left and what we have is a situation where businesses and citizens in north are confused as to what will be the outcome. We need certainty and clarity.

“We have to have the protocol implemented in full, it recognises our special and unique circumstances on this island.”