Nordies & Tesco’s finest Beaujolais.
Nordies & Tesco’s finest Beaujolais.
Two bank holidays in the middle of July, what’s not to love. As some prepare to celebrate, others are looking forward to a long weekend at the coast. The tee time is reserved, a case of Tesco’s finest Beaujolais is neatly packed away in the boot and the restaurant of choice is booked, weeks in advance. The North Coast or the wild Atlantic Way of Donegal, it matters little, it’s an annual rite of passage which is as sacrosanct as ‘The Twelfth’ itself. Well it was until Micheál and his cronies threw a major spanner in the works for the Nordies exodus to the forgotten county or anywhere else south of the border for that matter. The proverbial hit the fan when party goers WhatsApps were pinging early this week with restaurateurs’ cancellations. Despite the persistent challenges of COVID, with Ireland now being reported as the fourth highest incident rate in the EU, the Irish Government has made a hames of the approach to the re–opening of indoor hospitality and the issues the sector faces.
The cabinet remains split about when to reopen ‘indoors’ with vaccine passes having emerged as the only viable option for the sector. Micheál and Leo will spar it out in Leinster House on Tuesday on the path to indoor reopening with the Tánaiste preferring July 19, but the Taoiseach said to favour reopening a week later. It looks like Micheál Martin will win out on that one. New legislation is set to pass through the Dáil and Seanad next week to amend the 1947 Public Health Act to allow vaccinated people to eat and drink inside bars and restaurants. Just how this will work in practice without being subject to considerable abuse is anyone’s guess, yet the sector has taken a positive and pragmatic approach in the circumstances with LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe stating, “We don’t like this approach and we don’t want it. We feel it is deeply problematic on a practical level. But when the choice comes down to this proposal or staying closed for several more months, we feel we have no option but to go along with it.
As if all of this wasn’t enough for beleaguered Micheál to be dealing with, Fianna Fáil are likely to get a pasting in the Dublin Bay South by–election. The seat formerly held by Fianna Gael’s once Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has, at the time of writing, Labour Party candidate Ivana Bacik on course to top the poll.
Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, with the Executive confidently having announced the further easing of restrictions on 26th July, it is a picture of relative serenity with politicians, in the main, dumbing down on the rhetoric in advance of the Twelfth weekend. Famous last words! As for those smugly looking forward to an indoor jar in Portstewart on Sunday evening as they quietly celebrate England ‘bringing it home’, or not, prepare for plenty of company with a likely influx of D4 reg’s not seen since the big fella from Offaly was four in the lead going into the last day of ‘The Open’. Wherever you are or whatever you’re doing, enjoy the long weekend!
Update on Restrictions
• The Northern Ireland Executive agreed several new restriction relaxations this week. The below are subject to review and will need final ratification by the Executive on July 22 before coming into effect on July 26:
o Up to 10 people from three households can mix indoors
o Up to 15 people from any number of households can mix in gardens
o Legal requirement to socially distance will be reduced to 1 metre indoors, and removed altogether for outdoor activities.
o Requirement for face coverings to be worn in places of worship will be removed.
o Live music indoors will not be subject to sound level restrictions
o Audiences will be able to return to seated theatres and concert halls.
o Close contact services will no longer have to operate on appointment–only basis
o Classroom bubbling and the use of face masks in classes will be removed from guidance.
• A ministerial meeting on August 12 will decide the requirement for face coverings in other settings.
Update on the Vaccination Programme
• As of 8 July, 2.09 million Covid–19 vaccinations have been given out in Northern Ireland. It is the total figure for first and second doses. Currently around 80% of NI’s adult population has received at least their first dose, with a push to reach 90% by the end of July.
• 11 walk–in vaccination centres have opened across NI, offering anyone aged 18 and above their first Covid dose.
Update on Health
• Health Minister Robin Swann says current level of pressure on NI health service “at least on par” with what is normally experienced in winter.
• Public Health officials are driving NI’s vaccine uptake after senior medics here say an increase of just 5% would cut hospital admissions by 200 in September.
Update on Travel
• From July 26, those returning from amber lists countries who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will not have to self–isolate upon arrival in NI, or take a test eight days after their return.
Update on Legacy
• A brother of a man shot dead on Bloody Sunday has secured judicial permission to challenge the decision that Soldier F should not stand trial. The charges were to be withdrawn on 9th July, however the PPS will now ask for court hearing to be adjourned until September.
• The compensation process for survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland is set to be reviewed. A Stormont committee heard in April that it could take 10 years to process approx. 5,000 applications.
Update on Brexit
• The British government has challenged a €47.5 billion divorce bill for leaving the European Union. The figure covers the UK’s liabilities for spending commitments made by the EU up until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. Treasury officials from the UK believe the sum should be lower.
• The UK government will publish its plans for the future of the NI Protocol within the next fortnight. Brexit Minister Lord Frost says the situation is becoming “urgent,” but that it is still possible for the UK and EU to agree changes without the UK having to take unilateral action.
Update on Trade
• A Chamber of Commerce survey has revealed 56% of firms here are finding it more difficult to trade with Britain due to the NI Protocol. It also found one in four of members believed new trading arrangements had improved trade within NI.
Update on Health
• HSE CEO Paul Reid said it is likely the spread of the Delta variant will “outmatch our supply of vaccines” over the coming weeks. The Delta variant now accounts for 70% of cases in ROI.
• ROI government continues to work on legislation that would allow fully vaccinated individuals to eat and drink inside restaurant and bars. The bill to amend the 1947 Public Health Act is set to go before the Dáil and Seanad next week.
Update on Vaccination
• Over two million people, or 53% of the adult population, are now fully vaccinated against Covid–19 in Ireland. HSE also confirmed around 70% are partially vaccinated as of July 8.
Update on the Economy
• In its first strategy review since 2003, the European Central Bank set an inflation target of 2% in the medium term. The new strategy, announced Thursday for the 19 countries in the bloc, will also take greater account of climate change in its forecasting and stimulus programs.
• G20 finance ministers are to push proposed overhaul of global corporate tax to be ironed out by October.
Update on Politics
• Counting is underway in the Dublin Bay South by–election. Polls closed at 10:30pm on Thursday with early tallies indicating a strong turnout for Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan and Fine Gael Cllr James Geoghegan.
Update on Travel
• Ryanair has urged Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to immediately follow the UK’s decision to allow both vaccinated people and their children to travel freely from 19 July without imposing any quarantine restrictions.
• State bus company Bus Éireann recorded a €9.2m loss last year as it dealt with the fallout from the Covid–19 pandemic.
Update on Employment
• Deutsche Bank has announced plans to cut 450 full–time and contractor positions from its Dublin office. The German bank will relocate nearly 250 jobs to its other centres worldwide.
Update on Housing
• Eurostat confirms house prices within the Euro area rose 5.8% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to Q1 2020, the highest annual price increase since 2006.