Taoiseach discusses Covid travel concerns during first Stormont visit

Taoiseach discusses Covid travel concerns during first Stormont visit
Taoiseach Micheál Martin outside the Stormont Hotel, Belfast, following meeting with representatives of Northern Ireland political parties. He said "an all island approach is optimal" when it comes to Covid travel restrictions.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he expressed concerns to the Northern leaders about the “divergent” approaches taken about limiting overseas travel onto the island of Ireland.

Speaking after his first meeting in Belfast with Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, he said there was a realisation among Ms Foster and Ms O’Neill that Covid-19 does not recognise borders and, while he would prefer an all-island approach, he said it is complex.

He said the Northern leaders are very conscious of the travel issue.

“Of course, an all island approach is optimal, but we recognise there are constraints in terms of getting alignment. They do understand we are the one island,” he said.

“Covid levels on both sides of the border have been suppressed. 

"In the Republic, we have had an increase in numbers, which the public health officials are worried about. 

We recognise the Northern Ireland CMO works in a broader context in Britain, but they realise we are the one island and Covid doesn’t recognise borders.

He said the leaders did discuss the travel issue and agreed to keep the issue under control for fear of new clusters emerging.

Mr Martin was also asked about the controversial appointment of the former Attorney General Seamus Woulfe to the Supreme Court. 

He denied it was part of a political deal between himself and Leo Varadkar during the programme for government talks.

“That was a judicial appointments board (JAAB) appointment. 

"It had nothing at all to do with the formation of government and the JAAB meeting happened before the Government was formed is my understanding,” he said.

“It’s an appointment made independently of government. The recommendation came to this government. 

"We weren’t going to interfere with a decision of JAAB as its termed.” 

He said it was his understanding that one name was recommended by JAAB for the Supreme Court vacancy.

“It came to Cabinet this week, it was to come to Cabinet... I think there was some talk it would come the previous week but there was no big deal about this," he said.

“Once JAAB selects somebody, the government appoints that person and I don’t interfere with that, I’ve no intention of interfering with that.”

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