Stormont seeks summit to discuss travel restrictions

Stormont seeks summit to discuss travel restrictions

Stormont’s political leaders are seeking a special summit including the British and Irish Governments to address discord over Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster will write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Micheal Martin to make the request.

Ireland’s list of 15 low-risk countries from which travel is permitted without quarantine does not include Scotland, England or Wales due to the UK’s higher infection rate.

Let's find a political solution to the problems we have

Michelle O'Neill

Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister Ms O’Neill said: “The position is confusing for people, it is a mess across the island.

“There are a lot of anomalies north/south and east/west and it is time to import some common sense into the middle of this conversation.”

The British Irish Council was established under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and includes all the UK’s devolved regions.

It last met in Dublin in November.

On Thursday Ms O’Neill also called on the insurance and travel industry to help families who would lose out due to pandemic and reiterated her concern about people travelling from Great Britain and spreading the virus in Northern Ireland.

She said she was seeking a sensible conversation about the Common Travel Area (CTA) which permits free movement for citizens between the UK and Ireland and a solution making the rules easier to understand.

“Let’s find a political solution to the problems we have.”

Northern Ireland’s travel guidance has been changed to urge holiday makers to take account of local advice on the pandemic when making plans.

It followed a meeting of Stormont ministers on Thursday.

Northern Ireland should act to protect itself against travellers from Great Britain spreading coronavirus, Stormont’s deputy first minister said recently.

Arlene Foster wants to preserve free movement for the sake of business and family life (David Young/PA).

Visitors arriving from Great Britain are expected to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the Republic of Ireland.

People can cross the border from Northern Ireland unimpeded.

Ms Foster wants to preserve free movement for the sake of business and family life but her powersharing deputy has urged the alignment of rules north and south of the Irish border.

Relations between the pair have been strained in recent weeks over Ms O’Neill’s attendance at veteran republican Bobby Storey’s Belfast funeral when hundreds of people lined the route of the cortege.

For weeks before that they presented a united front as they led a powersharing administration which was only restored in January after three years in deep freeze.

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up