Has Nphet been consulted about the proposed revision to the guidelines?

The government has sacrificed its own public health guidelines in an effort to save Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s political skin, according to Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall.

“The government spent weeks in negotiations with the hospitality industry, about the rules that should apply to their businesses, but we now learn that everybody was working from a misplaced understanding of the law. Instead of the numbers for outdoor social gatherings being strictly curtailed, it is actually possible to host an event with up to 200 people. Curiously, this revelation was only made public after the Tánaiste himself attended a private function in a five-star hotel with 50 guests. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the government has sacrificed its own public health guidelines to save the Tánaiste’s political skin.

“This grubby little episode suggests there is a prevalent attitude, among an elite in Irish society, that there is one rule for the little people and another for them. It is possible to host an event for scores of political insiders at a swanky hotel, but communions and confirmations are deemed too dangerous to proceed while wedding parties cannot exceed 100 guests – even if they are held outside.

“The people making the rules should not just be compliant with the letter of the law. They should set an example and abide by the spirit of the law also. There has always been broad compliance with public health guidelines in this country, as people felt they applied equally across society. That public support has now been eroded, and is in danger of being jettisoned, thanks to the government’s unseemly scramble to retrospectively revise its own guidelines.

“Questions also need to be asked about the public health implications of any revised guidelines. Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has previously said that large groups of people, in close proximity outdoors, can facilitate the transmission of covid-19. If we now have a scenario in which events of up to 200 people can be held outdoors, what does this mean about the spread of the Delta variant through communities? Has Nphet been consulted about these new guidelines?

“While the government is clearly hopeful that Katherine Zappone’s decision, to decline the position as UN Envoy, will bring this matter to a close, questions still remain. Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has yet to give an explanation as to how this role came about, the nature of the job, the precise details of the recruitment process and whether the position is now vacant or not.

“Mr Coveney has said “mistakes were made in how this appointment was brought about”, but he has yet to tell us what those mistakes were and how he plans to address them. The Minister must now answer these questions. There is no reason he cannot give that clarity today.”

5 August, 2021


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