Prospect of early-2021 lockdown is raised by Covid committee chairman
Clare TD Michael McNamara says there has not been a proper debate on the Covid-19 committee’s report and recommendations
Clare TD Michael McNamara says the Dáil has not held the Government to account. Photo: Frank McGrath
November 02 2020 11:37 PM
A third lockdown early next year has been forecast in a blistering attack on the Government’s failure to heed Covid-19 warnings.
“Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it,” Michael McNamara TD, chair of the Dáil’s special committee on coronavirus, has told the Irish Independent.
“If we are not going to look at what didn’t work, then I don’t think there is a prospect of avoiding a third lockdown,” he said in an exclusive interview.
“We were asked to study some of the failures in the first wave, and we did so – but we are just repeating them in the second wave,” the Clare TD declared. “We can’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over and go into lockdown after lockdown.”
No debate has been held in the House a month after delivery of the Covid committee’s report and recommendations on October 6.
“There is a general tendency to sit on your hands on any contentious issue,” Mr McNamara said. “Ministers set up an expert advisory group and then ignore their recommendations, or set up a Dáil committee and then shelve the report.
“But the traditional Government ‘hot potato’ attitude doesn’t work with something as big as Covid-19. Instead of teasing out the strands involved, and their implications, it means only a series of knee-jerk reactions in response.”
Mr McNamara added: “I accept we are not the only country in Europe with a lockdown now, but France has an infection rate more than twice ours. In France they have locked down as a last resort. But we took it as a first resort.
“The Dáil doesn’t and hasn’t held the Government to account, and it then becomes very defensive and suspicious of being questioned at all. Ministers come in, answer a few questions, and go to lunch.”
The 115-page final report was based on 67 session over 30 days, involving hundreds of expert witnesses, both national and international.
“I think the Covid committee report has been ignored by Government,” Mr McNamara said. “There were 19 TDs on it, including four from Fianna Fáil, four from Fine Gael and one from the Green Party.
“I spoke to a Government TD last week who was on the committee and he asked was our report published yet? That pretty much encapsulates it,” he added.
One of the recommendations is that Nphet should publish in full its predictive model on future cases for peer review.
“Modelling that was carried out in other countries was pretty much trashed, and this also happened with foot and mouth 20 years ago,” he
“There is a debate in the media now as to where the current drop comes from. Is it the result of restrictions taking effect? Nphet said recently that its best estimate was that the R number was from 1.3 to 1.4, which was clearly incorrect, as the numbers couldn’t have been like that because of the speed with which they subsequently dropped.
“So if we are going to make such fundamental decisions on Nphet modelling, then we need to have confidence in that.
“They do publish some information, but we need to see all data and to have it peer-reviewed.”