Taoiseach signals that North may consider mandatory quarantine

All-island ‘alignment’ on restrictions may last beyond April 5th, says Micheál Martin

The “alignment” of restrictions between Ireland and Northern Ireland may be extended beyond April 5th as the North could take a “phased approach” to the easing of lockdown measures, the Taoiseach has said.

He also said it would be useful if there was alignment on mandatory quarantining.

“I understand the Northern Ireland Executive might have said it has plans in this regard but I am not too sure where those plans are or how concrete they are in terms of realisation,” he told the Dáil.

Mr Martin – who is due to the attend a meeting on Thursday of EU leaders – also said he would make it clear at the meeting “that I do not support actions that would disrupt vital supply chains and undermine vaccine production when the situation remains so fragile”.

The Taoiseach stressed that “the European Union must continue to hold to account those companies with which it has entered into contracts”. He had earlier said the Pfizer vaccine comprises 280 components from 86 suppliers in 19 countries.

“There must also be transparency as to the numbers and destinations of vaccines that are produced,” he said, calling for global solidarity on vaccine equity.

During a debate ahead of the EU meeting Labour foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Howlin said the row between the EU and AstraZeneca should never have got to the stage it had reached.

Mr Howlin said the EU had put itself in the position of being the “aggressor”.

‘Vaccine grabbers’

He said “there has been a failure of procurement, a slowness in authorisation and a communications strategy that has painted the most generous of national blocs as vaccine grabbers”.

Mr Martin also said that “ideally it would be great” if an all-island approach could be taken to vaccinations but that “does not make a whole lot of sense” because the North is part of the UK vaccination programme “and we have been part of the EU-wide vaccination programme”.

The Taoiseach added that the North and Britain are about a month ahead with their vaccination programme because of the different approach to authorisation of the jab and interval period in administration of doses.

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond questioned the level of formal co-ordination between the authorities on the island “when infection rates and hospitalisation rates in Northern Ireland are declining and its vaccination rate is at a much higher level than ours”.

Mr Martin said that while Ireland now has “one of the lowest incidences of the disease in the European Union, we, of course, remain vigilant”.

He said he would oppose actions that would disrupt vital supply chains and undermine vaccine production.