Northern Ireland needs financial help to fight Covid-19, Taoiseach tells Boris Johnson

Situation in Northern Ireland is ‘very worrying’, Micheál Martin tells prime minister

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told British prime minister Boris Johnson that Northern Ireland needs financial support to fight a “very worrying” increase in Covid-19 cases.

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, Mr Martin said he made the case to Mr Johnson following contact they both had earlier in the week with First Minister Arlene Foster and the Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, “both of whom are very concerned about the rising case numbers in the North”.

“I made a very strong point to the British prime minister that the situation is very worrying in terms of the growing numbers in Northern Ireland,” Mr Martin said.

He said he told Mr Johnson “they need support”.


“The Northern Ireland executive needed support and if he could give consideration particularly in terms of financial support to underpin any efforts or any restrictions that they might decide themselves to bring in,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin also said he has discussed increased co-ordination between both chief medical officers in Northern Ireland and Ireland in terms of “harmony of measures” on both sides of the border. He said he did not discuss an island wide “circuit breaker” lockdown as it was a very specific discussion on supports.

Mr Martin also said he has confidence in Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and does not believe Mr Donnelly leaked any information on the National Public Health Emergency’s (Nphet) call to move to a Level 5 last Sunday.

Mr Martin said the Government is enhancing enforcement of Level Three measures because “Level Four and Level Five have serious consequences for the economy, for jobs and for society”.

The Taoiseach was this afternoon meeting with president of the European Council Charles Michel where the two spoke about the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

While Mr Michel said the situation was “challenging” and more clarity was needed, Mr Martin said “the mood appears to have changed”.

“There has been more intensified engagement . . . but mood is one thing, it does need substance to follow the mood. One needs concrete outcomes from the negotiations and positions need to change. I think Europe has given good indications over the last while and they need to be reciprocated,” he said.

“I have been very consistent from the outset that the logical outcome of this in terms of the citizens that we represent is to have a comprehensive free trade agreement absent of quotas and tariffs.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times