Taoiseach says 50% of eligible adults will have first vaccine dose by next week

Micheál Martin strikes defiant note against critics of Coalition’s record during the Covid-19 pandemic

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the plan to reopen society and the economy was working. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the plan to reopen society and the economy was working. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said 50 per cent of all eligible adults will have received their first dose of vaccine by next week, as he made the strongest defence to date of his Government’s strategy on Covid-19.

Bolstered by the smooth rollout of the nationwide vaccine programme, Mr Martin struck a markedly defiant note against critics of the Coalition’s record during the pandemic, including internal critics within his own party.

Addressing Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators on Wednesday night, he said the plan to reopen society and the economy was working, people were getting vaccinated and the mood of the people was now “extraordinarily positive”.

“When the history is written and there is full evaluation it will show how this Government responded in protecting lives and supporting society in this difficult period,” he told colleagues.

In an upbeat assessment of the situation, he said the case numbers of coronavirus were steady and remained suppressed during the reopening that had already happened.

“Aviation, travel, hospitality, sport, entertainment and the arts will be in focus in the coming days,” he told colleagues, saying the economic recovery plan to be unveiled early in June would reboot the economy.

He also said that by next week, 50 per cent of all eligible adults will have received their first dose of the vaccine.

He also said the volume of doses had topped 300,000 last week and this week, with the total number of doses administered in the State now set to be well in excess of 1 million during May alone.

“The public appreciates how this is working. Each phase of reopening is allowing more people back to work and allows us all to plan to get back to normal over time,” he remarked.

Earlier, the meeting heard criticism from a number of TDs and Senators about the hospitality guidelines that were published by Fáilte Ireland on Wednesday, with some complaining they were convoluted and complicated and would be too difficult to operate.

Cork North Central TD Pádraig O’Sullivan, Offaly TD Barry Cowen and Dublin TDs Jim O’Callaghan, Paul McAuliffe and Cormac Devlin all delivered harsh criticism of the guidelines. The Mayo Senator Lisa Chambers said that people would lose patience with them.

The strongest attack on the guidelines came from the Sligo TD Marc MacSharry who told the Taoiseach he needed to listen to his colleagues. “You need to realise our role is more than selling tickets for the annual party draw,” he said, adding that many people are now vaccinated and are entitled not to be subject to a 11.30pm curfew.

“Vaccinated people should not have to live in such a totalitarian regime,” the Sligo TD said.

The leadership emphasised that the Fáilte Ireland document amounted only to guidelines, and could be changed by the Government.

Clare politicians Cathal Crowe and Timmy Dooley raised the crisis in the aviation industry and argued that action was needed immediately.

There was wide support for increased use of antigen testing as society reopened after Senator Catherine Ardagh raised the issue.