Move to level 5 would have been devastating for the economy and mental health, says Taoiseach

Move to level 5 would have been devastating for the economy and mental health, says Taoiseach

Micheál Martin stressed the point that the previous full lockdown saw more than one million on some form of emergency welfare supports

The rise in Covid numbers are deeply worrying, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told his parliamentary party, but a move to level 4 or level 5 would have “a severe and detrimental” impact on the economy.

Mr Martin was addressing his TDs and Senators for the first time since the Government rejected the advice of its own expert medical group to move to level 5 restrictions last Sunday.

The Taoiseach expressed concern about the high numbers of positive Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland, telling his members that the province will need financial assistance from London to overcome its challenges.

He emphasised the point that moving to either level 4 or level 5 would be devastating for many sectors of the economy, on society and on the mental health of the public.

Mr Martin stressed the point that the previous full lockdown saw more than one million on some form of emergency welfare supports, which is not sustainable over a sustained period of time.

The Taoiseach expressed confidence that level 3 restrictions can work in stablising the number of cases and the Government’s new oversight committee headed by Martin Fraser, the Secretary General to the Government can make it work.

The meeting was told that off-licences should be closed for three weeks amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19.

Junior trade minister Robert Troy proposed to extend further than Government plans and significantly reduce their opening hours.

He said it was necessary to restrict the number of house parties and large social gatherings by people.

Former Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary said he felt some limiting or curtailment is needed of below price alcohol in supermarkets.

Mr Calleary said it is not fair on small businesses who are facing closure while large supermarkets are allowed to continue selling large quantities of cheap alcohol.

Sligo TD Marc MacSharry says the party should also stop “over focusing” on closing off-licences.

He said he was not happy with the treatment of pubs. He said they are serving pints in hailstones and not sunshine.

He was also among a number of TDs who criticised the garda stopping of many cars on Wednesday, saying it was “ridiculous”.

Kilkenny TD John McGuinness said the party should be contesting the Senate by election caused by the resignation of Michael D’Arcy.

“The lines between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are so blurred we’re seen as the same. The amalgamation is proceeding,” he said.

A number of TDs expressed concern at the decision of Mr Martin to allow a free vote on the Dying with Dignity Bill.

Both Mr Martin and Public Expenditue Minister Michael McGrath addressed next week's budget, saying the level of supports in order to combat Covid-19 included in it are "unprecedented".

Mr McGrath said Fianna Fáil's input into the budget will be clear to see and he and the Taoiseach said there would be an emphasis on health, housing, education and climate while addressing the dual challenge of Brexit and Covid.

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