Tánaiste says thousands will attend trial sports events in June and July

Smaller outdoor events to return with up to 200 spectators

The Tánaiste has signalled that “thousands of spectators” will able to attend a number of trial outdoor sporting events over the next two months but smaller events will be allowed resume as normal with up to 200 participants.

Leo Varadkar said Minister for Culture, Arts and Sport Catherine Martin and Minister of State Jack Chambers "have worked up some plans to allow a number of trials of outdoor sporting events with spectators - thousands of spectators - to happen across June and July".

Stating that there would be “positive” news on Friday about outdoor sports and cultural events, he told Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond the Government also hopes to give the “green light” to the resumption of smaller events at recognised venues in communities around the country “not as trials but just in ordinary course” with from 50 to 200 permitted to attend.

Dublin Mid-West Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins called for clarity in the announcements on Friday to allow children return to socially distanced indoor dance classes.

She said “children and their dance and performing arts teachers want to know, and they deserve to know, that they are not an afterthought and they will not be overlooked”.

The Tánaiste said he could not make any commitment in advance of the announcements but “it will feed into the discussions we have tonight and tomorrow”.

He added that Ms Martin had signalled that the rules for indoor training for sport should be the same as those for dance.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath, however, expressed outrage that under the Fáilte Ireland guidelines no live music is to be permitted indoors or outdoors and accused the Government of leaving the music and arts sector behind despite its promises.

“Are we going to have the Lonesome Boatman’ played as piped music in the bars or Biddy Earley’s silent lament or the music of the famine ships?

“What does the Government have against the arts industry, the music, the song and the rinceoirí (dancers)?” he asked.

“This is our heritage. It is what we are made of, our very being. Is the Government trying to kill the spirit of our nation altogether that it will not allow a rince (dance) or a man on the fiddle, a tune or a recitation.”

Mr Varadkar said Mr McGrath should know that the restriction was in place for public health reasons. He said he totally appreciated that this was “very disappointing news for people who work in the live music sector” but he said “if there is live music people will speak louder and they will shout” and increase the risk of infection.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times