INDEPENDENT Limerick TD Richard O'Donoghue has criticised the lack of information given by government around the easing of level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.
Government is expected to make an announcement this Thursday on the measures which will be in place during the month of December, as Ireland continues its bid to keep the rates of coronavirus under control.
But addressing Taoiseach Micheál Martin directly in Leinster House this afternoon, Mr O'Donoghue said businesses need some notice - with the hospitality trade unable to make orders due to the lack of information around what can and cannot operate.
"If the intention is to open for Christmas, why all the secrecy? If you're having a turkey for Christmas dinner, you are making plans around this. You are making plans a month to give weeks in advance as you will have to order your turkey, or whatever food you have for Christmas. Why? Because of supply and demand," he said, "Taoiseach, even the children all around the world send a letter to Santa Claus in advance to give Santa, Mrs Claus and the elves the due time to get their presents ready for them on Christmas Day. Even the children around the world know this. What ye have done to date hasn't worked."
The former Fianna Fail member said pubs and restaurants have not ordered food and drink from suppliers for months.
"They still do not know are they opening. They can't just turn a switch and say they are opening tomorrow and all the suppliers have the stock for them. The knock on effect is there is no guarantee on supply," he said.
Mr O'Donoghue added that by having pubs and restaurants open around Christmas, there will be "accountability and traceability" of where people are, particularly those who have returned from abroad.
Mr Martin replied: "I've made it clear, five weeks ago that it would be a six week application of level 5. The objective is to arrive back at a level 3 and see what we can do around that, depending on where the numbers are. My focus has been to get the numbers down. That's government's focus, that's society's focus. And as soon as you speak about relaxation two and three weeks out, that goes out the window. It's important we get the numbers down of a virus that is deadly ,that injures people long term, and can do real damage. Sometimes I feel that is being lost in the debate. That has to be our first motivation."
First-term TD Mr O'Donoghue said hotels and private businesses should be given room to gauge the situation themselves so they can prepare.
"Everything is a secret, and you expect that come the turning of a switch, everything is going to be rosy and things will happen straight away. Ye had the mechanism in your own department to go through dialogue and give this information to the hoteliers and businesses and say if we are at this level, we are opening at level 3, if we are this level, we open at level 4. It's called giving people personal responsibility. Empower the people - people are not fools in Ireland. They want to keep themselves safe. And you can then use the force you have to use for the minority who won't use it," he added.
The Taoiseach said many public statements have been made in terms of mechanisms.
"I made it very clear at the beginning we will be going to level 5, and we aim to exit at level 3. We will give thew sectors proper notice in advance of an easing of the restrictions and an exiting from level 5," he added.
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