Ireland in action during their recent November Test agains Argentina at the Aviva. The Six Nations opener next month is against Wales. File photograph: Inpho

Large assemblies to include Ireland’s opening Six Nations match at the Aviva

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: Nobody organised a party or danced the night away. Coveney’s involvement seems to have been limited to a brief speech. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister unlikely to relish questions on drinks scandal so soon after Zappone affair

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has asked  secretary-general Joe Hackett to complete a report on the drinks affair by the end of January. Photograph:  Julien Behal

Foreign affairs event in lockdown prompts calls from Opposition to interview Minister

For much of its existence the State – though politically stable – was not good at building a society of comfort or warmth, of opportunity or equality for many of its citizens. Photograph: Getty Images

Recent decades have been dizzying and change mostly for the better, we’re going in the right direction

Mr Varadkar said that every one in the country was shocked by what had happened in Tullamore. Photograph: Roisin Nic Lochlainn /PA

Taoiseach spoke to family of Ashling Murphy and to ‘express our solidarity with them’

Ashling Murphy: The murder investigation was continuing  as people in Tullamore expressed their shock and anger at the killing. Photograph:

Gardaí investigating the killing believe they now have significant forensic evidence

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said the possibility of lifting Covid-19 restrictions on hospitality and other sectors was ‘all in play’ next week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Lifting of hospitality restrictions ‘all in play’ despite record Covid numbers, Holohan says

Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking ahead of the Cabinet meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Martin defends handling of winter surge while further 20,909 cases and 88 fatalities reported

Roderic O’Gorman: he is bringing forward the  Birth Information and Tracing Bill

Birth Information and Tracing Bill will mean adopted people can learn the identity of their birth parents

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the easing of Covid rules would mean there would be no restriction of movement for close contacts who have had booster vaccinations. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

WHO warns half of Europe’s population could be infected within six-eight weeks

Catherine Martin: she will ask ministerial colleagues to approve the text of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill

Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill features a new office to oversee safety on the internet

Germany and Italy are among the countries who have promoted the use of FFP2 or equivalent masks in public spaces. File photograph: Getty Images

Public health team stops short of advising respirator or medical masks instead of cloth variety

Irish employers have been too quick to refuse to negotiate company-level agreements on remote working, says ICTU. Photograph: iStock

Unions welcome news, which they say will unwind the last of the austerity measures

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland since the start of the pandemic now stands at 1,002,013. Photgraph: iStock

Further 23,909 new cases reported on Monday with 1,063 hospitalised, 89 in ICU

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. The party  knows  that for all the talk  about a left-wing coalition after the next election the numbers may not add up for that option.  Photograph: Getty Images

Inside Politics: If Mary Lou does make it to power she will have to make real-world decisions about State’s resources

Dozens of  ambulances and crews from the voluntary sector have made themselves available to serve acute hospital patients. As of Thursday, 260 National Ambulance Service staff were absent due to Covid. Photograph: Laura Hutton

Tentative optimism as to variant’s limited capacity to harm as situation stays serious

HSE chief executive Paul Reid at a press briefing at Dr Steevens Hospital yesterday as a new record of 23,817 new cases of Covid-19 was confirmed in the State. Photograph: Leah Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Health and court services struggling with staff shortages as Omicron peak nears

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan   is expected to write to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly this evening. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Booster campaign is likely to be Government’s focus as Omicron drives cases higher

There is unease among teachers’ unions due to the high level of Covid-19 within the community. Photograph: iStock

Unions and school management bodies to meet Minister for Education today

President Michael D Higgins: he  has declared his support for a proposal to suspend the patents of Covid-19 vaccines known as the ‘TRIPS waiver’. Photograph: Frank Miller

Michael D Higgins writes to European heads of state about ‘moral issue of first order’

The Minister for Finance defended small countries’ right to compete with larger countries through their tax rate. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Not by nature one of life’s gamblers, Donohoe weighed the odds, and rolled the dice

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Micheál Martin  following their visit to the Treaty, 1921: Records from the Archives exhibition at Dublin Castle. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Sinn Féin enjoying wave of support as Taoiseach rotation looms for Coalition partners

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin. The year ends with the Coalition Government   under unrelenting pressure from the challenge of managing this once-in-a-lifetime event. Photograph: Johanna Geron/EPA

A good year for Sinn Féin, but a tough year for a Coalition trying to manage a pandemic

 Chief medical officer  Dr Tony Holohan and Taoiseach Micheál Martin at Government Buildings, Dublin. Dr Holohan said  he was not surprised by the high daily cases as Omicron now accounts for nearly three-quarters of them. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Ministers may consider tighter restrictions as Holohan warns of ‘rapid increase’ in cases

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: ‘Normally you would get out for a meal or to have a pint, but that just hasn’t been possible.’ Photograph:  Julian Behal/PA Wire

Taoiseach says he gets on with Coalition partners and received card hand-painted by Ryan

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are in a formal collaboration. And to some it looks like a last-chance saloon for that alliance because 2021 supplied ample evidence that voters will look elsewhere for a remedy to outstanding problems if they remain unresolved.

Is our politics getting better at serving society’s needs and leading the country? You decide

Sources say the Coalition wants to examine derogations for key workers such as gardaí, fire service personnel, prison officers

Taoiseach has asked officials to draw up ‘immediate contingency planning’ as fears grow over variant

There will be no further Covid-19 restrictions imposed before Christmas, Micheál Martin has signalled

Coalition to maintain watching brief, but Martin unwilling to be drawn on next steps

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and Taoiseach Micheál Martin address the media on Friday night. Handout photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Decision to move Nphet’s 5pm hospitality closing time to 8pm will likely please nobody

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: ‘I believe, come that next election, there is an argument for re-election that I, Fine Gael and the Government can win and I want to do it.’ Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Does it want to remain a centrist party or become something altogether more radical

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the recommendations were made to bring about a reduction in social contacts in 'high-risk settings'. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Emergency Cabinet meeting hears ‘stark’ advice on threat from Omicron variant

The three party leaders had met with chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Tuesday to seek to avoid Government being surprised by sudden lockdown advice from Nphet - yet that was exactly what had happened. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Senior sources say the proposed 5pm closing time for hospitality could be extended until 9 or 10pm

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar indicated to his parliamentary party that a big reshuffle is in the offing next year. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Analysis: FG leader has not had a good year with support for party falling in four Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion polls

There was a sense in Government that more robust Nphet recommendations could yet emerge

Inside Politics: There is a sense in Government that more robust recommendations could yet emerge

At a meeting between Coalition leaders and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and Prof Philip Nolan on Tuesday evening, politicians were warned that Omicron would spread rapidly and that while vaccines would provide protection, caution would be needed. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ministers warned ICU numbers could be worse than January due to Omicron spread

Omicron variant now accounts for 13 per cent of Covid cases in the Republic. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

Further 4,235 coronavirus cases confirmed, 470 Covid patients in hospital

Lorries at Holyhead port in Wales. The checks due to come in on January 1st are designed to bring post-Brexit customs arrangements between the UK and EU into line with those with the rest of the world. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Varadkar welcomes extension while EU-UK talks on Northern Ireland protocol continue

The Government plans to battle the Omicron variant with a souped-up programme of booster vaccinations. File photograph: The Irish Times

Inside Politics: Government plans to battle Covid strain with a souped-up programme of booster vaccinations

The State’s booster campaign is to see  a massive redeployment of healthcare and public sector staff. File photograph: The Irish Times

Government resistant to idea of any major new restrictions over Christmas

The diningroom inside the Irish Embassy in Paris, France. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Seven women are also among nine consuls general appointed by the Government

The gap between second and booster doses of the vaccine is being shortened to three months

Inside Politics: Concern returns about the hospitals being overwhelmed

 Accounts for the companies involved show significant payments last year to David McCourt, the US businessman who leads the project.  Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

Political unease following media reports of funding structure of broadband company

Queues of people form outside a walk-in vaccination centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Damien Storan/PA Wire

Gap between second and booster vaccine dose to be cut to three months, Minister says

A dried-up part of the Var river bed due to low water level and hot temperatures in Carros, southern France, in August. Photograph: Sebastien Nogier/EPA

Most agree it should be Government’s top priority and they will make personal changes

The latest poll results suggest that support for Irish unity is broad – 62 per cent say they would vote in favour. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Strong opposition remains for any change to the national flag or anthem

Sinn Féin voters are the most opposed to those measures – on the flag, anthem and joining the commonwealth – that might appeal to unionists.  Photograph: Getty Images

Latest poll finds gaps between desire and reality in attitudes of public to a united Ireland

Taoiseach, Micheál Martin: Had to tell people all those pledges about there being no going back to restrictions would have to be set aside. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Public’s faith in Coalition will be tested by whether it keeps classrooms open

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Micheál Martin: poll findings suggest that the public appears willing to contemplate some further restrictions. Photograph: Maxwells

Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll: Public willing to contemplate some further restrictions

New poll finds majority feel the Government has done a good job managing Covid

There is a fear the Omicron situation in Britain could be mirrored here in coming weeks, a threat that could prompt restrictions on non-essential international travel over the Christmas period. File photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins

Omicron may now be in Ireland in significant numbers, according to senior figure

An outdoor screen shows the slogan for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, which reads ‘Together for a Shared Future’, in Beijing, on Wednesday.  Photograph: Jade Gao/AFP/Getty

Group of TDs, Senators write to Taoiseach urging him to say he will not accept invitation

A view from Old Belfast Road in Carrickcarnon on the northern side of the Border, between Newry and Dundalk. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Change due in 2025 will not mean document checks at Border, UK minister says

A lucky escape for a motorist at Newcastle, Co Wicklow, on Tuesday morning after a tree fell on the windscreen of their car. Photograph: Wicklow Fire Service

Schools in 12 counties told to close as Government warns worst not yet over

The HSE said there has not been the same urgency from the public to go for boosters as during the initial vaccination programme. File photograph: Getty

High number of no-shows for booster appointments discussed at Cabinet meeting

Labour Leader Alan Kelly Kelly said he would have concerns as there are times when ‘we have to hear directly from public health experts in relation to specifics’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

Alan Kelly told Dáil it seemed public health officials had been ‘gagged’

The booster jabs are expected to be administered initially by appointment only at vaccination centres for people who have had their second vaccine dose at least five months earlier. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso /AFP via Getty Images

New advice to schools on mask wearing for children to be issued on Monday

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said the €9m  fund will be accompanied by an awareness campaign around antigen tests and their appropriate use. Photograph: iStock

Simon Harris to announce €9m fund which will see colleges provide students with tests

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar  described the decision of the Government to impose further restrictions as ‘peculiar’, but also one he understood.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Nphet-Government relationship has had more than its fair share of ups and downs

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the unvaccinated have a disproportionate impact on our health services, on our ICU bed. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

‘Public health will advise, Government will decide,’ Micheál Martin says

The Taiwanese flag. There is definitely one way of standing up to China that will make Beijing take notice – we can seek closer relations with Taiwan.  Photograph: Getty Images

Unless the Chinese government is annoyed with you, you are not really standing up for human rights there

The HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry, has warned there will ‘probably’ be breakthrough infections among people who receive Covid-19 vaccine booster doses. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Ministers and officials to consider reduced capacity for pubs and restaurants

On mica, the Government finds itself in retreat a day after it unveiled its long-awaited plan to fix the thousands of homes in Donegal and beyond that are falling apart because of defective building material. Photograph: Joe Dunne

Omicron response has public frustrated, while mica redress plan is a botched job

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó’ Fearghaíl is a strong supporter of links between Ireland and China. Photograph: Eric Luke

McDowell describes Ó Fearghaíl’s 2018 letter to Oireachtas members as ‘deeply unfortunate’ and ‘regrettable’

Two pieces of legislation – one to extend several Covid powers  – including those concerning masks, hospitality restrictions, Covid certificates, travel restrictions and others – are  to be brought to the Dáil and Seanad in the coming days. Photograph: Getty Images

Official rules out prospect of schools failing to reopen after the Christmas break

Judge Karen O’Connor, a judge of the Circuit Court since 2014, is one of three new High Court judges to be appointed after agreement at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Agreement at Cabinet paves way to fill vacancies created by recent departures

The Cabinet is likely to endorse National Public Health Emergency Team recommendations that children aged nine and over wear masks when in school. Photograph: Getty

Cabinet poised to approve Nphet advice with PCR tests for travellers likely to be discussed

Eamon Ryan at the Green Party convention. Photograph: Alan Betson

Eamon Ryan to bring plan for as many as seven new plants to deal with energy demand

Éamon de Valera:  will Sinn Féin follow him in his patience and realism – hypocrisy, if you like – on the North? Photograph: Getty Images

Pre-1932 FF campaigned on economic populism, social reform and Irish unity. Sound familiar?

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has urged people to reduce their social contacts. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Nphet advises that children aged nine and over should wear face masks in school

Photograph: iStock

Nphet also recommends extending Covid passes to gyms and hairdressers

A requirement for children in primary school to wear masks is expected to be discussed by Nphet. File photograph: The Irish Times

Children of primary school age have highest Covid-19 incidence of any age group

On his way into Cabinet on Tuesday the Green leader Eamon Ryan told reporters that normally the Government would wait two or three weeks before seeing if restrictions had an effect. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Government keen to keep distance from further restrictions

A woman wearing a mask in Dublin city centre. While acute concerns about the situation in hospitals remain, the Government has adopted a wait-and-see attitude on the imposition of further restrictions. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Government plans to subsidise antigen tests further delayed over retailer pricing

Despite expectations since last week that a plan for providing antigen tests to the public at subsidised cost of around €3, no proposal has yet been brought to the Cabinet. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Holohan has warned incorrect use of antigen tests could lead to increased infections

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe on Tuesday unveiled the terms of reference of a wide-ranging review of the banking sector, which will take 12 months to complete. Photograph: Laura Hutton

Focus on developing mortgage market and how competition feeds setting of interest rates

The Government is expected to approve the plan to provide subsidised antigen tests at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Photograph: Enda O’Dowd

Chief medical officer warned repeatedly of danger antigens could be misused

After months of going forward, as Taoiseach Micheál Martin liked to call it, and of promising there was no going back, the State’s Covid gears were about to be jammed into reverse

Officials hope heavy messaging, restrictions and boosters will start to do their work

The failure of Nphet’s models to anticipate where the virus is going is becoming a bit of a habit. Photograph: Getty Images

It is the leadership of the Government that bears ultimate responsibility for all this

HSE chief executive Paul Reid: ‘The entire health system, both hospitals and community healthcare, are now under very serious pressure.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Extra ICU capacity to be identified as HSE warns of ‘unthinkable’ consequence of surge

Several members of the Business Committee are understood to have raised objections.

Government parties say they will pay costs for their members

Mural of a healthcare worker in Harold’s Cross, Dublin: Modelling indicates that under pessimistic projections case numbers could rise to more than 12,000 daily. Photograph: Alan Betson

Modelling shows case numbers could rise steeply by the middle of December

Pressures in the rental sector are likely to continue to grow for the next six to nine months, according to the ESRI

TDs question researchers on impact of carbon tax increases on households

It is expected that a plan to supply Government-subsidised antigen tests for €3 each through pharmacies will be announced in the coming days. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Latest measures include midnight closing time for bars and clubs as hospitals face pressure

Taoiseach Micheál Martin robustly defended the decisions but struggled to explain the rationale for them and the Government’s expectations for the immediate future.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Though not quite a U-turn, Coalition’s response to fourth wave is lacking direction

Booster jabs started for people aged 60-79 years earlier this month. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Government ‘taken aback’ by level of hospitalisations as Covid subcommittee meets

The compensation  is expected to cost more than €800 million in payments to the former residents. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Some 50,000 former residents will be eligible for compensation from wider scheme

The Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force’s total funding isn’t much more than €1m, while just half a million euro was set aside in this year’s budget to tackle crack cocaine addiction nationwide. Photograph: Getty Images

More money alone won’t solve Ireland's drugs crisis – but it will help

  Alan Kelly: he must map  out the future in a credible way that articulates and then creates a central role for Labour in Irish politics

Byelection victory lifted party morale, but securing wider electoral success a major challenge

Estimates of the total cost have been put by official at north of €3 billion – and that’s without the State paying for the ancillary costs that the afflicted homeowners will face. Photograph: Joe Dunne

Inside Politics: Issue is one of great political potency, pitting finance against politics

British chief Brexit negotiator David Frost: “We have inched a little bit closer; there has been some movement, and that is good. We just are not moving together quickly enough.” Photograph: Virginia Mayo

British Brexit minister says move still an option but vows to keep up talks

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘My views are very strong and I don’t think there’s a need to trigger Article 16. I believe it would be wrong to do so.’ Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Dublin and Brussels concerned about a possible British move to trigger Article 16

A new and bitter phase of Brexit may be set to begin

Inside Politics: Irish Government and EU are seeking to dissuade the UK from triggering article 16 of the Northern Ireland protoco(...)

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says planning for potential no-deal Brexit would now restart. Photograph: Julian Behal/ PA

Dublin and Brussels officials fear move could result in trade war between sides

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen at his final press conference in September 2009. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Séan FizPatrick and two of the bank’s directors played golf with Brian Cowen

Coveney said the EU “would respond in a very serious way” if the UK invoked article 16. Photograph: iStock

Dublin and Brussels poised for Britain to effectively suspend operation of NI protocol

Department of Finance officials have suggested Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien should attend an event for institutional investors, reassuring those alarmed by moves to limit bulk buying of properties.

Department of Finance indicates Ministers should attend, but events draw Sinn Féin ire

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he needed to be blunt in his warnings to London.

Brussels ‘would respond in a serious way’ if London suspends operation of NI protocol

For Brussels and Dublin, recourse by the British to article 16 will change things fundamentally from the EU’s perspective. But will London opt to trigger this element of the NI protocol?

A trade war is all but inevitable if Britain triggers article 16, according to insiders

Green coup: Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The plan represents a very significant political success for the Green Party

There are growing fears in Dublin and Brussels that the British government will shortly invoke article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol

Taoiseach warns in the Dáil that any move to trigger article 16 would be ‘irresponsible’ and ‘reckless’

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