- Additional reporting by Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
Tánaiste Simon Coveney denies that the Government is preparing for up to 10,000 tourism and hospitality sector jobs to be lost by Christmas in a worst-case scenario Brexit amid growing demands for the cabinet to reveal its full Brexit plans.
Mr Coveney rejected claims that he and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefed cabinet colleagues on Tuesday about the scale of the short-term job losses and insisted that he has always been "an open book" on Ireland's Brexit preparations.
Leaked reports from Tuesday's cabinet meeting suggested on Thursday that Mr Coveney and Mr Varadkar told colleagues to prepare for up to 10,000 jobs to be lost in the tourism and hospitality sectors within three months of a no-deal Brexit.
The sources said the figure was raised during a discussion about a secret Government document outlining the scale of the crisis facing the country, copies of which were handed out to ministers before being taken back from them as the meeting ended.
The claims have led to growing concern over the potential damage a no-deal Brexit could cause Ireland, and to fresh opposition questions over the true extent of the Government's plans.
However, during a media event in Cork city where he also warned that a no-deal Brexit is "madness" and will be a "lose, lose, lose" situation for all involved, Mr Coveney denied any knowledge of the 10,000 jobs figure and said he has been "an open book" on preparation plans.
"No, you [the media] are reporting that. There was no report to Cabinet, there was nothing in writing, talking about 10,000 jobs. Different ministers spoke about different areas. There was a big discussion for about an hour or so in relation to a no-deal Brexit, the consequences of that and the supports that are needed for vulnerable sectors," he said.
He added: "I was the one giving the briefing as was the Taoiseach, I don’t think people were surprised. No report that I gave referred to the figure of 10,000 in any of the documents that I gave to the cabinet. I think it’s important to level with people and I have always been straight up with people in terms of a no-deal and why we want to avoid. It’s madness quite frankly. Everybody loses in a no-deal. This means a lose, lose, lose for everybody."
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have now insisted that the only way to convince the public of what preparations are in place is for the Government to publish all Brexit documents including the latest briefing to cabinet immediately.
"People are not able to prepare properly for what is happening unless they know exactly what is going on. This drip-feeding of information is not good enough. The information given to cabinet absolutely should be published. You can't expect people to make plans in the last few days, they need to make plans now. This is no way to govern," Sinn Féin health spokeswoman, Louise O'Reilly, told the Irish Examiner.
In a similar statement, Fianna Fáil's Brexit spokeswoman, Lisa Chambers, said that "given the ongoing instability" surrounding Brexit the Government "should publish the document and give the public and businesses the full facts of what we are potentially facing".