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Government decision on indoor dining ‘just bananas’

‘Shocking decision’ undermining the Government’s credibility, warns councillor

THE decision to delay the reopening of indoor dining and drinking has been met with some exasperation in Clare this week, with Fianna Fáil Councillor Cillian Murphy warning that the Government has lost credibiilty in the eyes of the public.
“I think it’s a shocking decision, I’m extremely disappointed with the Government, I’m extremely disappointed with my own party,” the Kilkee representative said on Wednesday. The decision to delay reopening was announced on Tuesday, with plans for a vaccine pass set to follow.
It came after NPHET issued warnings to Government of a potential fourth wave, with a huge number of cases of the Delta variant and as many as 2,170 deaths within three months, under a worst case scenario. However, despite the advice from NPHET, Councillor Murphy said he does not accept the right move is being made, particularly with the vaccination programme having gone as far as it has.
“Maybe the data is being presented to me in such a way that I don’t understand the risk that’s being perceived. But what I’m seeing from an awful lot of sources is that it’s more transmissable, but we have the capacity; we have very few people in hospital, very few people in ICU.
“Maybe I’m stupid, but I don’t think I am. We seem to be taking decisions based on a very narrow set of parameters, by a single entity, NPHET, without looking at the impact on wider society.
“To be honest with you I just think it’s appalling. It’s going to have catastrophic consequences on our food businesses. Some will survive because of their location, they might be lucky to be in a city on a narrow street and have shelter.
“Take last Thursday, we had rain all day and all evening, it was a write off for any business. I was in the restautrant game for long enough, you have to roster staff, take bookings from people, and with that uncertainty (around weather) it’s impossible to run a business.”
He was very critical of the proposal to introduce a system linking access to indoor activities to vaccination.
“It’s just off the scale bananas, off the wall. Who’s going to police it? Most of the staff in our restaurants, in our service industry, are young people who are not vaccinated yet. We’re going to say it’s okay for wealthy, older people, to go and have dinner and be served by lower paid, casual, young staff who are unvaccinated? It’s bananas stuff altogether.”

He said he will be making his views known within Fianna Fáil and he feels the latest move has damaged the credibility of the coalition. “We’ve lost the country, people are looking at the three government parties and saying it’s not good, you’re not governing.”
TV coverage of the European Championships has highlighted that other countries have loosened restrictions despite the Delta variant he observed, while he also said that if the real reason for this week’s decision is the state of Ireland’s hospitals, some straight talking would be appreciated. “Maybe it’s not the risk from Covid or the Delta variant but our health service. If that is the reason, and people said that was the reason… Of course no one would be happy but the honesty would go some way.”
He said he is glad he now longer runs the business he once had.
“I’m very lucky to be gone out of the restaurant, I know how lucky I am. It’s impossible to run a business. I know for us to have stocked up to have opened you’d hardly have seen change out of €25,000 or €30,000. This is for a small restaurant in Clare.”
Those who are still in the industry are being put under huge strain, he added.
“I know this is going to cause serious hardship for business people, and in the main these are not multi national companies, these are small, family-run businesses.
“They are the backbone of rural and coastal communities and they’re going to be in serious financial bother now. That will have massive consequences on themselves personally. I know; we had a business through the last crash and we know the toll it took out of us to keep going, mentally and physically. I just think those factors are not being taken into consideration and I think it’s all wrong.”
He said that monitoring CO2 levels can show how good ventilation in an indoor area is, and he said that allowing businesses to reopen with monitors in place was an option that should have been used.
“CO2 is a proxy for air quality. We could have gone to business and said here’s the deal, we’ll allow you to open but every business has to have a CO2 monitor and the level has to below a certain amount. I’d say there isn’t a business in the country closed at the minute that wouldn’t take your hand off.
“That’s taking control and being responsible about how you deal with something like this. But no, it’s just a blanket, all out stop. And that to me is just fundamentally wrong.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.