Coronavirus: Irish cabinet protocols may need ‘revisited’


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Mary Lou McDonald

image captionProtocol is needed to ensure government services continue, says Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald

The Irish cabinet being told to restrict their movements on Tuesday raises “serious questions”, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has said.

The advice was given after the country’s health minister reported that he felt unwell on Tuesday afternoon.

Initially it was announced that the cabinet would have to self-isolate and the Dáil (Irish parliament) would be adjourned indefinitely.

However, the

Dáil resumed business on Tuesday evening.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly tested negative for Covid-19.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Mrs McDonald said serious questions had been raised by the “turn of events”.

“If there isn’t a sufficiently robust protocol then we are certainly going to have to re-visit it,” she said.

“The idea that all of government would grind to a halt because one person, one individual minister had to be tested raises some serious questions as to how organised the government is.”

image copyrightOireachtas

image captionThe Dáil (Irish parliament) was initially adjourned but it resumed business on Tuesday evening

“We are looking at dealing and living with this virus for quite some time to come and the idea of government in Dublin, or indeed in Belfast, not functioning is not a runner.

“You have to have an organised plan and a protocol and you must act safely but you should ensure that, to the best of your ability, services continue.

“In the times we are in with the Covid crisis, a Brexit crisis looming, the last thing we need in Dublin is a cabinet that cannot function.”

Speed of testing

The Sinn Féin president also questioned the speed at which Mr Donnelly received his coronavirus test results.

“The health minister was very lucky to get the results from his test within a matter of hours, which is not the experience for countless regular citizens,” she said.

“It has raised some eyebrows and raised questions on the testing and tracing system.”

image copyrightPA Media
image captionIrish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly reported feeling unwell on Tuesday afternoon

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin told Irish broadcaster RTÉ that the decision for the cabinet to restrict their movements came from “an abundance of caution”.

The Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Feargháil (Irish parliament speaker) told the Dáil shortly after 17:00 local time that after “very serious information arising out of events today the Cabinet must now self-isolate”.

However, the Dáil later reconvened after 20:00 – the Ceann Comhairle explained that he had been advised at the time that the parliament should be adjourned and then recalled by the Taoiseach.

Mr Donnelly was present at a press conference on Tuesday morning when the Irish government unveiled a five-stage plan on living with Covid-19.

‘Dublin left in limbo’

The coronavirus plan outlined by the Irish government outlined stricter rules for Dublin over the next few weeks because of the increase in infections in the city.

Pubs that do not serve food can reopen on 21 September, except in Dublin where they must stay closed.

From midnight on Tuesday, household visits in the city will be limited to six people from one other household.

Mrs McDonald said the plan was “not clear” and called for clarity on Dublin restrictions.

“We need the government to be straight with the people of Dublin to let the city and county know where things are at and what the course of action is,” she said.

She added that it was “crucial” to get testing and testing right.

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