Taoiseach signals rules on face masks could be eased after meeting with Holohan

Focus on vaccination as 800,000 to become eligible for booster in March, Martin says

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has signalled that the rules surrounding the wearing of face masks could be eased.

His remarks at Fianna Fáil's parliamentary party meeting come after he met with chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

Mr Martin is said to have delivered an optimistic assessment of the current Covid-19 situation.

He also said there will be a continued focus on vaccination as almost 800,000 people who had the virus recently are set to become eligible for booster shots next month.


Face masks must currently be worn on public transport and in shops by law and there are fines for breaches of this requirement.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is meeting on Thursday and the continued rules surrounding face masks are expected to be discussed.

Mr Martin told TDs and Senators that Dr Holohan is currently considering the issue and that the Government’s public health advisers “may draw a distinction between mandatory mask wearing by law and public health advice generally”.

Booster jab

People who have had a case of Covid-19 recently must wait three months before they get a booster jab.

Mr Martin said almost 800,000 people will become eligible for boosters in March.

He said the booster campaign has had a “huge impact” on reducing hospitalisation.

He suggested that there could be an annual vaccine for Covid-19 and that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is examining the next phase of vaccination policy.

Separately, the meeting heard a presentation from the chief executive of Enterprise Ireland on growing employment, strengthening exports and supporting new businesses.

Mr Martin said enterprise is a "core principle" of Fianna Fáil and there must be a strong enterprise base to export and create wealth to fund and support progress on many public services.

He argued that some in the Opposition are “anti-enterprise, anti-trade and oppose this export-led pillar of our economy”.

Mr Martin said the economy has “bounced back” and surpassed all growth predictions from the Government’s recovery plan.

He suggested that 2024 targets could be met this year and he said he wants to make sure the recovery is “meaning to people on the ground and those with low incomes”.

Mr Martin also took a moment to congratulate Willie O'Dea on 40 years in the Dáil. The Limerick city TD was first elected in February 1982.

Sources also said the meeting also heard criticism of funding for roads and claims that some projects have stalled due to Green Party policy. It came as part of a discussion on a motion on roads funding brought by Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness is understood to have pushed for projects involving the N24 and N25 to go to the next stage and not be delayed by "Green tactics". Mayo TD Dara Calleary called for Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the National Transport Authority to be invited to address a future parliamentary party meeting.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times