Security fence set up at health minister's home as Government denies confusion over lockdown

Security fence set up at health minister's home as Government denies confusion over lockdown

A security fence has been erected outside the home of health minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A security fence has been erected outside health minister Stephen Donnelly's home after "a number of incidents" prompted security concerns.

The 6ft (2m) wooden fence was built outside the minister's home after what sources said were a number of incidents which included items being thrown at windows and left on the doorstep. Mr Donnelly and his wife have three young children.

A spokesperson for the minister declined to comment on the individual incidents but said that pictures of workmen putting up the fence seen by the Irish Examiner showed "security works".

Works are being carried out for security reasons in conjunction with An Garda Síochána. 

Mr Donnelly's Cabinet colleagues yesterday came under fire for perceived mixed messaging on lockdown restrictions. 

The Taoiseach denied on Friday evening that there was any confusion over lockdown after he told a newspaper that Ireland would be in severe restrictions until May.

Micheál Martin told the Irish Mirror on Thursday: “We’ve already certainly indicated that beyond Easter we’ll look at it again but until the end of April you can look at significant restrictions and we’ll review it after that then because we’ll have to see where we are.”

Earlier yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Taoiseach had not said that level 5 restrictions would last until April or May.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, Mr Varadkar said that the country was facing tough restrictions into April, and that this was well known. Mr Martin had told the Irish Examiner the same last week.

Mr Martin rejected calls for a formal Government announcement, and said he had been clear on the issue.

"It's not at all [very confusing], it's very consistent with what I've been saying all along and into April, is not the end of April - for example, I said Easter some time ago - the key issue is, this would be under constant review, but NPHET are really clear... schools are the first priority," he said on Friday.

I don't accept [there is confusion] I mean, the bottom line is this I've been saying consistently prolonged suppression of the virus, I've been saying schools as a priority from the very get-go since the Dáil resumed, we're looking at schools.

He said the situation is dependent on the progression of Covid-19.

I've been very consistent in the last number of weeks in the Dáil and saying that we are pursuing a prolonged suppression so we will get numbers really down, and NPHET advice is that they're somewhat concerned that the rate is slowing down.

Mr Martin said the situation would be reviewed in four weeks' time "at the end of March, beginning of April" but there would be no large-scale reopening of society.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised the Government's communication on the issue. She said people should be able to expect an orderly and coherent Government, adding that the issue had "caused huge anger and stress, and in some cases despair". 

Another week of speculation and uncertainty was "really, really unfair", she said.

The Taoiseach should come out and set the record straight and state very clearly and directly to the Irish people what is happening.

The confusion over how long the measures will last comes as gardaí have issued 944 fines to people for attending and hosting house parties against the public health guidelines.

Newly-released figures show that 747 €150 fines have been given out to those attending house parties, and 197 fines of €500 have been issued for organising them. A total of around 7,950 Covid-19 fines have been issued for a variety of public health breaches.

The majority of fines issued have been for non-essential travel with some 6,297 fines having been issued to people. A further 638 have been issued for travel to and from ports and airports. 155 €80 fines were handed out to those not wearing a face covering.

Gardaí stressed that regulations are still in place and will be policed.

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