The Rural Independent Group has accused the government of “taking a bulldozing approach” to shut down social venues over Christmas and the New Year.
It reacted furiously to An Taoiseach’s announcement yesterday evening (Friday, December 17th) and said its latest raft of public health measures has the effect of “cancelling” Christmas for many people.
Measures that will come into effect from December 20th:
- All restaurants, bars and cafes, excluding takeaway or delivery services, will close at 8 pm. This will also apply to hotel restaurants and bars, except for overnight residents;
- No indoor events, including entertainment, cultural, community and sporting events, will take place after 8 pm. Events happening earlier in the day: attendance limited to 50% of venue capacity or 1,000 attendees, whichever is the lower. This includes cinemas. This does not impact religious, educational or normal workplace business activity and business events;
- Attendance at outdoor events limited to 50% of venue capacity or 5,000 attendees, whichever is the lower;
- Wedding receptions can take place with a capacity limit of 100 guests and continue after 8pm. Midnight closing time still applies.
The Rural TDs claimed the government’s “pathetically cruel, ever-changing” restrictions and new lockdown measures are “killing” the domestic economy and “destroying any semblance of a normal Christmas”.
The Rural Independents has described the government’s curfew as a “brutal humbug measure with no scientific basis”.
They believe “Ireland deserves better than government Ministers who think Covid only appears after 8 pm”.
Covid measures destroying sector
The leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath, stated:
“The ignorance of the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green government knows no bounds. Again, they have launched another devastating blow to the entire hospitality and entertainment sector.”
McGrath said the government has treated the sector, which is the “backbone” of the domestic economy, in a “shameful” manner.
“The announcement confirms that this government has completely lost the plot and gone beyond its limits.”
“They are infused with power, are now a danger to the public and are single-handedly destroying our entire tourism and hospitality sector and inflicting collateral damage everywhere.”
“Undoubtedly, it is now becoming clear that this government believes itself to be ‘above’ the citizens. We believe this to be a complete abuse of power.”
Similarly, he said it is “baffling” how government politicians would even consider curfews or think they would make any difference to the disease spreading.
McGrath added that such measures were introduced to “disastrous” effects in England last autumn.
Likewise, he claimed how the government “purposefully leaked” NPHET advice about closing restaurants and bars from 5 pm was “deeply cynical”.
The outcome of the leak was aimed at showing how the government would reach a seemingly less restrictive approach.”
“However, whether the new closing times for the hospitality sector are 5 pm or 8 pm is almost irrelevant. The outcome will be the same. In overall terms, it almost certainly means a full closure.”
Reduce incomes: Covid measures
Since the advice was leaked, the Rural Independent Group has been contacted by hundreds of rural publicans and restaurants owners over the past 24 hours.
“The level of stress and anxiety being placed on these people and their employees by the government’s ‘mind game’ tactics are quite disgusting.”
McGrath said new restrictions would directly impact reducing pubs’ incomes by at least 75% and restaurants by 50%.
Many such establishments will have “little option” but to close their doors at their busiest time of year.
“Any government to impose such restrictions on our largest domestic sector is heartlessly cruel. After all, the real reason for these restrictions is due to complete inaction by the government to bolster hospital bed capacity.”
“The government’s flawed approach miserably fails to consider that socialising, the arts and entertainment are central facets of Irish culture,” concluded the deputy.