In Seanad Éireann, Senator Micheál Carrigy has called on the government to revisit the numbers which can attend sports events after the pause in phase 4 of the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Senator Carrigy said “A significant milestone will be reached this weekend with competitive action in GAA recommencing after 4 months of lockdown. This restart is very much welcome for the mental and physical health of the nation. However, owing to the pause in Phase 4 of the roadmap the limit at outdoor sports remains at 200 and this includes all persons at the venue rather than the planned 500.”
Senator Carrigy continued, “NPHET has applied a ‘one size fits all’ approach when this is clearly not the case. Crowds have been gathering in parks and beaches with well in excess of the 200 limit that is permitted for sporting bodies. For example, in Dundrum Town Centre a person is 19 times more likely to catch the virus and the centre has a capacity of 6000 people.
"At my own club Sean Connolly’s, we could safely fit 250 people around our pitch whilst adhering to guidelines. The GAA have been to the forefront particularly in rural Ireland in the fight against this pandemic. The association has led the way with the implemented safe return to play protocols which have been shared with other sporting organisations.
"Some of these protocols include:
- The completion of all players of a COVID 19 eLearning Module which over 200,000 participants have completed
- Return to play questionnaire and confirmation of a person’s health status which over 500,000 have completed so far;
The GAA have not re-opened their dressing rooms either and I believe that all of this proved that the GAA through its embeddedness in the communities understand the risks involved and knows how to manage these risks. All the protocols have been designed and implemented to minimise risks and this has been successful so far.
"I feel that allowances for sporting bodies which have applied similar protocols should be allowed to apply for an increase in attendance numbers. As part of the GAA return to play guidelines the GAA have insisted in keeping participants and spectators separate so there is no interaction inside and outside the game.”
Senator Carrigy concluded, “The GAA and other sporting bodies took a leap of faith to return to action and they did this for the good of all the community.
"It would be great to see situation that 500 capacity could be revisited for sport and of more immediate importance and what would be a terrific message to send to these clubs who have led from the front would be to interpret the figure of 200 at outdoor sporting events to mean 200 in addition to those on the field and stewarding the event.”