The Government should give €250m to Northern Ireland to pursue an all-Ireland Covid-19 approach to dealing with the pandemic, it has been proposed.
People Before Profit (PBP) TD Richard Boyd Barrett said Northern Ireland should be funded because the British Prime Minister to date had “not been forthcoming” in resourcing the region with what it needed to deal with the crisis.
The proposal was contained in PBP’s alternative budget, supported by Rise TD Paul Murphy, which was unveiled on Monday outside the Department of Health in Dublin.
Mr Boyd Barrett said it was clear the Government’s strategy of trying to live with Covid-19 had failed and that a zero-Covid strategy was needed north and south of the border to “get on top of the crisis”.
“Unless we get a grip of Covid-19 and crush Covid-19, there will not be anything like a sustainable or viable economic outlook for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“Protecting public health and protecting workers and protecting livelihoods go absolutely hand-in-hand and that has to be done on an all-Ireland basis.
“I think we’re unique in actually proposing a fund where we would assist the North, if they needed it, and Boris Johnson isn’t willing to give the North the money to pursue an all-Ireland coherent effective strategy.”
He added that it made “no sense” to have one level of restrictions in one jurisdiction and a different level in another given the permeability of the border.
The party also called for testing and tracing to be increased to 200,000 per week at a cost of €828m and for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Wage Subsidy Scheme to be restored.
Mr Boyd Barrett said the party would fund the measures contained in the alterative budget not from borrowing, but from introducing a wealth tax, closing tax loopholes and implementing a vacant site levy.
The Dun Laoghaire TD said a zero-Covid policy was not about introducing lockdowns, rather it was about avoiding lockdowns.
“It’s about imposing public health measures now to drive down the virus to a level where we can actually control it, tracking, tracing, proper public health teams that are resourced across the country so we can actually exit lockdowns and restrictions,” he said.
Otherwise, he warned, the current trajectory was one where the country would be “bouncing in and out of restrictions” with no full recovery in the economy for any time in the foreseeable future.
“That’s a pretty grim prospect,” he said.
“I think the public would buy into a strategy which says we act now for a short concentrated period of time.”