Taoiseach signals ‘comprehensive’ plans to resume travel, sport and entertainment

Martin pointed to EU’s digital green certificate as framework for resumption of travel

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin  told TDs and Senators it was the intention to offer vaccinations to teenagers if the clinical trials indicated it could be done. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told TDs and Senators it was the intention to offer vaccinations to teenagers if the clinical trials indicated it could be done. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said there is a need to resume travel and aviation and said there will be a “comprehensive statement” next week on how this will be done later in the summer.

Mr Martin also told a private meeting of Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party that the announcement will also include plans for the future of mandatory hotel quarantine as well as sports and entertainment as part of the next phase of reopening for June and July.

It is understood Mr Martin pointed to plans for the EU’s digital green certificate as offering a framework for the resumption of international travel as well as progress on Ireland’s vaccination programme. 

On Wednesday, EU member states agreed to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions on non-EU visitors ahead of the summer tourist season.

EU countries approved a European Commission proposal to loosen the criteria to determine “safe” countries and to let in fully vaccinated tourists from elsewhere, EU sources said.

They are expected to set a new list this week or early next week.

Mr Martin said there was much work being done to evaluate mandatory hotel quarantine and spoke of the need to ensure connectivity for tourism, the economy and future growth.

He gave what was described as an “upbeat” assessment of the vaccine rollout saying there was 280,000 jabs last week, the same number expected this week and up to 1 million doses to be administered in May.

Mr Martin also told TDs and Senators it was the intention to offer vaccinations to teenagers if the clinical trials indicated it could be done.

Pfizer

He also hailed the announcement by Pfizer that it was to manufacture a component of the company’s vaccines in Ireland, saying it showed confidence in Ireland’s economy.

On another Covid-19 related issue, Senator Lisa Chambers highlighted restrictions on the partners of pregnant women accompanying them to some hospitals. She said that there were anecdotal reports that women were being examined to determine how dilated they were before their partner was allowed on the labour ward.Mr Martin is said to have told the meeting short of visiting each maternity hospital himself he had been very clear on the need for restrictions to be lifted. 

Sources said much of the start of the Fianna Fáil meeting was dominated by Aer Lingus’s decision to permanently close its crew base at Shannon Airport with several TDs and Senators raising concern at the move.

Cathal Crowe, a Clare TD, said additional supports for Aer Lingus should include some conditionality related to the retention of air routes, protecting staff and the base at Shannon.

He also argued that mandatory hotel quarantine is “excessive” given the current level of Covid-19 in Ireland and should be wound down.

Clare-based Senator Timmy Dooley said there should be “very significant financial support” for Shannon and key routes to London Heathrow and the US must be protected.

He also criticised Transport Minister Eamon Ryan claiming the Green Party leader has not delivered a plan for reopening aviation.

Engagement

Cork East TD James O’Connor questioned if Mr Ryan has had enough engagement with stakeholders in the aviation sector and said there must be a strong marketing plan for Shannon Airport to boost transatlantic business ahead of the 2027 Ryder Cup golf tournament to be held in Co Limerick.  

Both the Taoiseach and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath defended the level of support offered to Aer Lingus and Mr Martin said he has plans to meet representatives from the air line.Mr Martin told the meeting the Government was committed to regional connectivity and Shannon airport.

The Taoiseach said the cyberattack on the HSE was extremely serious and he denounced the criminals that carried it out.He said hundreds of people including external expertise are involved in working on the issue and seeking to rebuild the IT system and restore health services.

On housing Senior Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan told a private meeting of his party that Real Estate Investment Trusts (Reits) should be banned from buying any residential property, but still be allowed to build housing units.

He said housing will be the biggest issue in the upcoming Dublin Bay South by-election.

Generation

Mr Martin is said to have told the meeting that housing is the social issue of this generation and he outlined his party’s long-standing commitment to built social and affordable homes and to home ownership.

He told the meeting he wants supply to be increased to 40,000 homes a year over the next decade and that the Government is approaching housing like Brexit and Covid-19 with “all hands are on deck”.

He hit out at what he claimed was a lack of detail in Sinn Féin’s housing policy and arguing it is against any private sector delivery of homes and it would only exacerbate supply issues.

Minister for Housing Mr O’Brien also addressed the meeting outlining his plans to boost supply.