‘I do wonder is the hassle going to be worth it?’: Taoiseach faces ‘kick back’ over indoor dining law
THE TAOISEACH WILL face some “kick back” within his own party on the proposed emergency legislation to reopen indoor dining, announced yesterday evening.© Shutterstock Claire Whitehead
However, according to Fianna Fáil sources, members will row in behind the government to pass the new law.
Micheál Martin would not confirm yesterday what date indoor dining might resume, but government sources have indicated that it is hoped this will happen on 26 July, subject to Cabinet approval on Tuesday.
It is understood that the EU Digital Green Certificate will be used as an indoor dining pass, which will allow only fully vaccinated people to dine indoors.
Primary legislation will be needed to operate the new system.
Advice from the National Public Health Emergency (NPHET) last week suggested that only fully vaccinated people should be allowed dine or enjoy a pint indoors, prompting a backlash from those in Opposition and also within government political parties.
The government said at the time that it was “blind-sided” by the advice, while the proposal was dubbed unacceptable, discriminatory, “bananas” and possibly not legal by those in Opposition.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said it is strongly opposed to the government proposal to rush through emergency legislation, and “extremely concerned” at the precedent that would be set if the plan goes ahead.
“We cannot set a precedent whereby government can declare that problems with its own re-opening timetable constitute an emergency, which would justify ignoring serious and complex issues of workers’ rights, equality law, privacy, and data protection. Human rights law is there to protect us all. We cannot dispense with it when faced with political dilemmas,” said ICCL’s executive director Liam Herrick.
Labour leader Alan Kelly said the government was pushing discrimination by only allowing fully vaccinated people inside. He said:
“When did discrimination by government become the norm in Ireland.”
Galway TD Catherine Connolly said the Government’s plans will have serious implications and will create a “division among our people”.
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane said such a measure did not sit well with him.
Even within the Taoiseach’s own party, criticisms piled up at the party’s weekly parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night.
The Taoiseach was reportedly told by Limerick TD Willie O’Dea that the idea of such a cert or pass was an “anathema to me”.
He told the Taoiseach that if special legislation is required in the Dáil, it would be very difficult to get passed.
A number of Fianna Fáilers confirmed that there is an “internal divide” within the party about whether to sign up to this proposal, which will prevent those who have not got a second dose permitted inside a restaurant or pub.
There were predictions of “war” when the emergency legislation comes before the Dáil and Seanad next week before the Oireachtas rises for the summer recess.
However, when asked if the Taoiseach would face any real difficulty in getting the legislation passed, one Fianna Fáill TD said “absolutely none”.
“There is going to be a bit of kick back,” they said, but added that if the industry backs the measures, TDs will ultimately not stop pubs and restaurants from reopening.
Another TD said that the government will get the law passed as hospitality seem to be going along with it “reluctantly”.
“I think the issues raised still stand, how will it be policed and what message is it sending to those who haven’t been offered a vaccine? Not a good message in my view,” they said.
At last week’s parliamentary party meeting, Cork East TD James O’Connor said that as the Dáil’s youngest TD, it is getting harder and harder to defend the Government and his party.
Speaking to The Journal about the new system to get indoor dining reopened, he said his personal preference would be for Ireland to follow the system in Denmark where it operates a ‘Coronapass’ system.
The Coronapass is a digital app on your phone which shows whether you have had a negative test result within the last 72 hours, a certificate of vaccination or proof of a previous infection two to 12 weeks earlier. It can also be in paper form if necessary.
Ireland’s proposed new system will only show proof of vaccination as a means to entering a pub or restaurant.
O’Connor said Denmark has a “clear template” for Ireland to follow to successfully reopen indoor hospitality, due to Denmark having a similar population, and the fact they are slightly behind Ireland when it comes to vaccination numbers.
He said he had concerns about how those who are not yet fully vaccinated, and perhaps have weeks more to wait for their second dose, are not being catered for. But he added that he encouraged everyone to get the vaccine.
“I do wonder is the hassle going to be worth it, the government resources and the time,” he said, highlighting that other countries have reopened indoor dining using antigen testing.
Framework ‘dreamed up’
Another TD, who did not wish to be named, also wondered if the proposed legislation is worth it, and questioned if anyone will actually enforce it if it is passed.
They said the framework had been “dreamed up” in order to appease NPHET, and that it would only create problems if the public think that it is leading to inequalities.
They pointed out how, at the moment, a non-vaccinated person can dine indoors at a hotel and asked whether, in a few weeks time, a vaccinated person will be able to dine inside a hotel with an unvaccinated person who is resident in a hotel.
The same TD expressed concerns about how the new system will deal with families, particularly given advice by the government for people to holiday in Ireland.
They contrasted this with people from outside Ireland who travel here and who are not vaccinated but have had a negative test result, asking if they will also not be allowed to dine inside a restaurant.
The TD predicted that these measures will be introduced to get the hospitality sector to re-open, but that once the practicalities become clearer, the measures will be too difficult to enforce.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Vintners’ Federation of Ireland chief executive Padraig Cribben said “it became clear” in discussions yesterday that concerns around families “will be addressed”.
However, he added: “There is a fairly significant anomaly in relation to people who are travelling here on a PCR test, as distinct from a Covid certification. They will not, from what we understand, be able to avail of indoor drinking and dining.”
The emergency legislation is due to be finalised over the weekend, before going to Cabinet for approval on Tuesday. The Dáil rises on Wednesday, leaving little time for debate or scrutiny.