Serious division in Cabinet over Government’s hotel quarantine policy
5th April 2021
The Government’s hotel quarantine policy is causing serious division in the Cabinet, with ministers Stephen Donnelly and Simon Coveney said to be at loggerheads.
The Health Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister are said to be at odds over the list of countries that should be attached to the current quarantine hotels legislation.
And with growing public unease over restrictions, the Government’s general handling of the pandemic and vaccine queue-jumping – as relentlessly exposed by the Irish Daily Mail – one minister has decried ‘the utter inability of this Government to stop shooting itself in the foot’.© Provided by Extra.ie The Government’s hotel quarantine policy is causing serious division in the Cabinet, with ministers Stephen Donnelly and Simon Coveney said to be at loggerheads. Pic: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
The escalating spat between Mr Coveney and Mr Donnelly over hotel quarantines is now adding to the Government’s woes, they said. Having been initially forced into a U-turn on plans to extend hotel quarantine to the US and 17 EU states, Mr Donnelly is expected to revisit the issue amid Cabinet unease.
Among those scratched from the revised mandatory quarantine list were Italy, Germany and France who are currently firefighting another wave of the virus. This ruthless chopping back of the proposed list was imposed by Mr Coveney, sources said.
He had concerns that the hotel quarantine measure would impact on Irish citizens such as those living in France, who return here for their summer holidays.
But sources said that France, Germany and Italy were included on the original list because of high Covid case numbers, and a significant number of cases of the Brazilian or South African mutations.© Provided by Extra.ie The escalating spat between Mr Coveney and Mr Donnelly over hotel quarantines is now adding to the Government’s woes. Pic: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
One minister said ‘Donnelly over-reached and Coveney put him in his place’.
However, the ugly wrangle between the two on the issue is still raging.
And there is division in Cabinet over whether the Coveney diktat was the right one. Fianna Fáil minister Niall Collins said: ‘France is on fire, Europe is on fire, we need to pull up the drawbridge.’
Hinting at the possibility of the hotel quarantine list still being extended, Mr Donnelly said last week that there was ‘significant’ extra capacity available should Ireland need to add more countries to the list.
Amidst the growing tumult, key ministers fear a lack of leadership and an incapacity to communicate is also compromising the Coalition in its Covid fight. Indeed, a Kantar poll in yesterday’s Sunday Independent illustrated growing public apathy at the Government’s handling of the pandemic.© Provided by Extra.ie Mr Donnelly said last week that there was ‘significant’ extra capacity available should Ireland need to add more countries to the list. Pic: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Approval for the Government’s management of the crisis plunged below the 50% mark for the first time, with just 43% supporting the Government’s response.
And after a week of controversies exposed by the Irish Daily Mail – including the Beacon Hospital scandal and the HSE’s flaky vaccine portal for healthcare staff which allowed flagrant queue-skipping for the jab – the poll also revealed a tsunami of public anger on the vaccine rollout.
A scathing 53% strongly disapprove of the manner in which the Government has dealt with the rollout.
Reacting to this massive fall in support and the lingering dispute over the quarantine list, one minister told the Mail: ‘We are incapable of taking a decision and we are now going to have a second week of this [hotel quarantine] spat.
‘It is rows like this that are sapping public support.’© Provided by Extra.ie Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs, Mr Coveney said that there are many other negotiations that were required for a palatable Brexit. Pic: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
And whilst the focus of the division is on Fine Gael’s Mr Coveney and Fianna Fáil rookie Mr Donnelly, ministers have laid the blame for the storm at the feet of Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
In a wounding critique of the Fianna Fáil leader, one senior minister noted: ‘This is where Micheál needs to take command and lead. It is his job to sort out these rows. Yet he turns invisible.’