HEALTH MINISTER SIMON HARRIS has said the new emergency legislation gives him the power “shut down events and places” such as pubs who refuse to comply with the Covid-19 restrictions.
Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins raised the issue with the minister yesterday, stating that some pubs have refused to closed despite the majority shutting down this week.
“In my constituency however, and in other parts of the State, some pubs have continued to trade. This is shocking and alarming, and local communities are outraged by this,” he said.
He called for a written directive or a ministerial order ensuring that all pubs do close be issued once the legislation is signed into law this weekend.
“We are aware that 99% of pubs have closed but others have gone rogue on us, unfortunately,” he said.
He also highlighted an insurance anomaly whereby publicans now have an issue trying to step away from the liability.
“The companies are getting into a stand-off situation with the policy holders by saying that the directive was a verbal one and is non-binding. The pub trade needs a written directive or a written order from the minister or from the Government,” he said.
Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne said he also had concerns, stating that he got reports of house parties on St Patrick’s Day.
The reaction of the constituents who contacted me about those parties was one of utter fear and trepidation as to what might be the results. Those constituents are not party poopers, they are simply afraid. They are doing their bit, as is 99% of the population, and they want to make sure everybody else does their bit,” he said.
Harris said the Vintners Federation of Ireland “behaved highly responsibly”, he said.
He added that there is an obligation on businesses that cannot comply with social distancing to do the responsible thing and close the businesses for a temporary period.
“The severity of that is not lost on me. It meant 7,000 public houses closed and 50,000 people temporarily lost their jobs. However, they are doing it for the public good. I certainly hope that when this country bounces back – we will get through this – people will support the responsible businesses which have done this.
He said once the legislation passes, he will hold the power to ensure pubs close.
Speaking in the Seanad today, Harris warned people not to socialise this weekend and insisted social distancing will save thousands of lives.
“Doctors will save hundreds of lives during this crisis but the people of Ireland can save thousands.
“This is not a weekend for socialising. We must tell children this is not like the summer holidays so they should not gather in large groups.
“As we come into the weekend, have a conversation with your partner and family and ask them are there ways we can go for a walk and social distance?