Longford/Westmeath TD Joe Flaherty
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Longford / Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Joe Flaherty highlighted the importance of the government presenting a clear pathway out of lockdown ahead of what he describes as ‘the three most important months in the modern history of this country’.
Addressing Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, Deputy Flaherty referred to the significant effort from the public in the battle against Covid-19 and the faith they’ve placed in the vaccination programme.
“The Minister and I both agree that we simply cannot disappoint these people,” remarked Deputy Flaherty.
He added, “NPHET and the Government have significant decisions to make over the coming days but the reality is that the public needs to see the start of a pathway out of lockdown. At the end of the month, we will be 13 weeks into the current lockdown, and businesses need to know a start date, whether that is May, June or July. They certainly need some sort of signposting.”
Minister Donnelly agreed with his party colleague and said people need to know what the path out of this will be.
“I recognise Deputy Flaherty's point. I agree that what we are asking of people is really tough. People are exhausted. They have had enough. They need to know what the path out of this will be. We are asking people to stick with these measures, even though they are hard, for the time being to give the vaccination programme a bit more time and to get the most vulnerable protected so that we can begin this path back to normal living.”
Deputy Flaherty spoke of the need to allow children back to play and practise sport or hobbies. “They have lost out on the guts of a crucial year of their development and it is time to restart for them, especially as the evenings are getting longer.”
He also referred to Easter church ceremonies, outdoor sporting activity and the retail & hospitality sectors. “As we approach the most important date in the Christian calendar, it is important that people of faith will be able to celebrate Easter in churches this year.
“The 5 km limit has outlived its usefulness and we need to look at allowing travel within counties.
“It is time for golf and other individual sports, such as fishing, to resume in a controlled environment, because all of these can be done in a controlled manner and people have proven sensible in the past.
“The retail and hospitality sectors need to see a roadmap. They need at least indicative start dates that they can work towards. They have lost staff, customers and suppliers. They will need to rebuild and cannot be restarted overnight.
“These are small steps but I feel that it is critical that, in the coming days, we give some indication of when activity can start to return.”
Deputy Flaherty said he is pleased to see that the vaccination programme will ramp up in the second quarter.
“It is good to see that we have nailed down the supply for the next three months. These are potentially the three most important months in the modern history of this country. If we can get these three months right, it will mark a turning point.”
Having been critical of poor communication from the government earlier in the week, Deputy Flaherty wants a clear roadmap to be communicated to the public.
“As we look ahead to these three months and the implementation of the vaccination programme in earnest, it is also critical that next week sees the delivery of a message to the public that states that we are in this together and on a journey together. The public needs to see that pathway.”
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