The Rural Independent Group has slammed the government’s new re-opening plan, which it revealed yesterday (Tuesday).
It has accused the government of failing to “consult, engage or listen to” the hospitality sector, which employs 260,000 people and contributes over €6 billion to the Irish economy.
“The government’s chaotic U-turn on re-opening the country is dishonourable and unforgivable,” the group stressed in a statement.
Originally, the 22 October plan was to:
- End the use of Covid certificates for dining and drinking indoors;
- Re-open nightclubs;
- Allow outdoor events without restriction.
Consequently, the group pointed out, industry planned and invested based on this date.
Government’s re-opening plan
Speaking from his Tipperary constituency, leader of the Rural Independent Group, Mattie McGrath.
“Now, this announcement by the government changes all that. It is a U-turn on the original plan, saturated in anomalies and contradictions. Nightclubs, for instance, can return to full capacity.”
“Meanwhile, pubs and restaurants must meet more stringent restrictions – which includes table only service – potentially, up to at least February 2022.”
“When will this government get out of the way and allow people to return to a normal life?” he asked.
For example, the group has been calling for rapid antigen testing for over a year now.
McGrath said having such a testing system would allow for normalcy to return much sooner.
“The testing could play a vital role for people to test themselves and take themselves out of circulation when needed.”
He said the continuance of only allowing fully vaccinated patrons into hospitality venues is “highly discriminatory, unethical and not grounded in science”.
“It is also highly troublesome and unworkable from a practical standpoint; for several reasons. This includes the expectation that publicans and their staff must police such a prejudicial policy.”
“Pubs and restaurants have been allowed to open since May in the North. Yet, this government continues to penalise our sector, which has already been hit by the most stringent government-imposed restrictions in any western country.”
“This ongoing approach of making it up as you go along or wait and see, rather than executing a plan that can sustain the hospitality sector, is another shambolic creation of this government.”
He stressed the country needed clarity on a path forward. “Instead, we got more confusion today as questions remain and answers were in short supply.”
“How can this government permit certain activities while preventing others within the very same sector. A return to dancing is welcome, but there is no logic in permitting that activity while ruling out the use of the bar counter?”
Restrictions well into 2022
He said it now appears that the government, for whatever reason, wishes to impose stringent restrictions on pubs and restaurants well into 2022.
McGrath stressed extending these restrictions will have “very serious” financial and economic consequences for already hard-hit workers and business owners in the sector.
“In overall terms, this decision shows a deep lack of any consideration for this sector from the government.”
“Alarmingly, Revenue has confirmed that 350 pubs here were forced to close last year.”
“Clearly, government restrictions, which have been the longest and toughest anywhere, played a key role in this,” the deputy concluded.