Harmonising travel regimes across Ireland and Britain will be 'challenging'

Taoiseach says cross-border work on improving monitoring of quarantining visitors 'moving forward'.
Harmonising travel regimes across Ireland and Britain will be 'challenging'
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, First Minister Arlene Foster, and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar in Dublin Castle for the first summit of the North South Ministerial Council since before Northern Ireland's powersharing administration collapsed. Picture: Damien Eagers/PA Wire

Cross-border work on improving the monitoring of quarantining international visitors is moving forward, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Harmonising travel regimes across Britain and Ireland will be "challenging" but the threat posed by the pandemic means politicians also have to act quickly, he said.

He hosted a "constructive and warm" North-South Ministerial Council meeting at Dublin Castle with the North's First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

Mr Martin said: "This is a vicious virus, it spreads like wildfire in certain settings. That is not just a phenomena on the island of Ireland but throughout the world."

The North's Health Minister Robin Swann held talks with his opposite number here, Stephen Donnelly.

Mr Swann has raised major flaws surrounding enforcement and monitoring of quarantine after international passengers arrive at Dublin Airport snd then cross the border into the North.

Mr Martin added: "There are different jurisdictions with different chief medical officers who come forward with maybe nuanced advice. These are realities but both chief medical officers will be engaging on these issues. 

We have seen what is happening in France, Germany, and Spain. These numbers are moving on very significantly at a rapid pace.

At present, visitors from Britain can travel through the North and across the open land border into the Republic without quarantining.

Visitors from the UK and other countries not on Ireland's green list of low coronavirus risk are required to quarantine for two weeks on entering the Republic.

A meeting of administrations in the UK and Ireland to discuss travel restrictions has been sought.

North-South co-operation Key

The Taoiseach added: "Relatively speaking North and South are managing this relatively well so far but it will take vigilance."

Ms Foster referenced recent outbreaks in England. 

She said: "In relation to international travel, there is a need for a discussion on the location of international travellers as they come through Dublin so as there is good sharing of information."

She said the meeting was "worthwhile and productive".

Ms O'Neill said members of eight parties in both administrations had met.

She added: "Our co-operation is more important than ever as we continue to respond to the biggest health emergency we have ever faced and when we reflect on the previous months, we must reflect on the fact that 2,320 people have died from Covid on this island alone."

Mr Martin added: "It was a warm meeting, it was a meeting in which a wide array of views were expressed. North-South co-operation is a key priority for our Government.

"It was extensive and constructive and we had a particularly good conversation about Covid-19."

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