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The Briefing

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 06th August

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 06th August Banner

by Aiken PR


Let’s hope our politicians can take their lead from our young people, leveraging their positive emotions and can do attitude as they start to plan for the academic year ahead.

July and the marching season has come and gone, and the promise from some quarters of a long hot summer didn’t disappoint with the tarmac melting and the temperature rising to record highs. Thankfully though the measurements were only in Centigrade and Fahrenheit, and not comparable with the barometer of political instability and civil unrest of only a few short months ago. The only bone of contention, was the bonfire at the infamous interface of the New Lodge and Tigers Bay which petered out long before the cinders started to cool. And the catalyst for all of this… where it’s due, temperance within political and civil leadership. The hype and hyperbole that we saw from both sides during the Spring, was so positively conspicuous by its absence. Over the last number of weeks, despite its very significant flaws which are yet to be addressed, the world still has not caved in around the protocol with even Nolan himself appearing to dial down the heat of political confrontation.

So in fact, dialogue can be conducted in a much less irreverent way in Northern Ireland if the political class puts its mind to it. And to boot, despite their very, very different rationale for it, the political parties were this week able to stand four square together in their opposition to the UK government’s proposed statute of limitations legislation. As the political leaders announced their annual sabbatical from twitter this week, setting down their tools for their constituency recess, perhaps they’ll reflect on the civility of the last few weeks and the impact that their words and actions can have on the most influenced in our society. And as they re–emerge in September in line with the coming together of thousands of school children (COVID permitting) who will be full of hope, endeavour and expectation for the academic year ahead, perhaps our political leaders will also consider the positive impact that their collaborative working can deliver. A long shot I know, but here’s a novel first task…..what about the political parties collectively convening talks with those in our society who are actually navigating the protocol….in particular, the industries and businesses who are most impacted by it both negatively and positively, because there are both pros as well as cons to this complex legislation. If they could somehow properly listen to those employers and agree on what should stay and what should go, what would work and what would not speaking with one voice to the UK, Irish and EU governments, despite the huge complications of this treaty and their differing outlooks, it would at the very least make all parties stand up and take notice. Sceptics would say there isn’t the political leadership or courage for that type of discourse, but there never will be if the call from society isn’t loud enough. Let’s hope our politicians can take their lead from our young people, leveraging their positive emotions and can do attitude as they start to plan for the academic year ahead.

As for the Republic, Merrion Street was subject of another political controversy this week with firstly the appointment and then the resignation of Katherine Zappone as a part time special envoy to the United Nations. Something that should have been a clean, precise and simple win became a calamity of political errors and misjudgements culminating in a fiasco for the Fine Gael Ministers and the coalition itself. The initial error flaw was Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney’s breach of Government protocol by not notifying the Taoiseach in advance of the appointment, and that was then compounded by his and indeed the Fine Gael party’s failure in the days after to explain why he had not informed Micheal Martin.

As the Fine Gael Ministers went to ground, it then emerged that a mere 6 days before the appointment Catherine Zappone had hosted an outdoor party for 50 friends and former colleagues, including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at the Merrion Hotel which raised breach of regulation questions as well as the rationale for the appointment itself. The would be envoy directed all queries regarding the regulations to the Hotel who had assured her that the event was fully compliant. Compliant or not, it certainly did no instil any confidence in or support for a government who have consistently asked more than many of its EU neighbours to stay with them on COVID regulations. Shades of GolfGate on the eve of its anniversary.

Aside from the regulations, the lack of political vetting of the appointment has led to allegations of cronyism being raised by the opposition with the timing of the appointment so soon after the garden party adding fuel to the perfect storm for Sinn Fein and the other opposition parties. With many in the Fianna Fail leadership reeling from the Taoiseach’s slight, it will only serve to widen the division between the coalition partners.


Update on Health

• More than 3,000 deaths where Covid–19 is mentioned on the death certificate have now been registered in Northern Ireland.

• Young people aged 16 and 17 in Northern Ireland are being offered a first vaccination against Covid–19 from today, making NI the first part of the UK to give jabs to teenagers in this age group with no underlying health conditions.

Update on Economy

• Car sales in Northern Ireland were down by 26% in July compared to the same month last year, industry data suggests. An exceptional level of sales in July 2020, the first full month of trading after the first lockdown, is a major reason for the year–on–year decline.

• Northern Ireland’s high street voucher scheme will open in September and applications will be checked against the latest electoral register, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons has said.

• The number of people on furlough in Northern Ireland fell to 44,000 at the end of June. That was down 27% from the 59,700 on furlough at the end of May.

Update on Hospitality

• Requiring proof of vaccination to enter hospitality venues in Northern Ireland would be “blackmail”, an industry body has said. It has been reported that Stormont is exploring the option of Covid–19 passports. Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said the industry was being “singled out”.

• Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry is worth more than £5bn a year, according to the latest statistics. Sales were worth £5.37bn in 2019 – an increase of 4% on the previous year.

Update on Politics

• Assembly Speaker and Sinn Féin assembly member Alex Maskey will not stand in the next election. He has been a member at Stormont since 1998, representing the West and South Belfast constituencies.

Update on Construction

• Northern Ireland construction companies facing big rises in the cost of building materials could be allowed to increase the prices of previously agreed public sector contracts. Building firms are dealing with surging global prices for products like timber.

Update on Travel

• People who have been fully vaccinated in the EU or the US will not need to self–isolate when entering Northern Ireland from Monday. This easing of the Covid–19 travel rules is in line with changes made in England, Scotland and Wales.


Update on Health

• The Health Service Executive’s Chief Clinical Officer has said the rate of Covid–19 cases appears to be “growing more slowly than expected” but Dr Colm Henry urged caution about attending outdoor gatherings at this stage of the vaccination programme.

• The HSE’s chief executive Paul Reid has said he expected the “vast majority” of the country’s adult population will have been vaccinated against Covid–19 by the end of this month. Mr Reid said with the six millionth vaccine administered this week, 89 per cent of the adult population has now had their first dose (3.2 million), while 76 per cent (2.85 million) are fully vaccinated.

Update on Events

• New guidelines from Fáilte Ireland around organised outdoor events state that venues can now cater for a maximum of 200 people. The guidelines also state that live music and performances are permitted in outdoor hospitality settings, subject to adherence with all relevant Covid–19 guidance.

• Electric Picnic organisers say they plan to review their options after Laois County Council refused to grant a licence for the music festival this year. The event had been due to take place from 24 to 26 September at Stradbally Hall Estate.

Update on Hospitality

• Irish food and drink businesses are experiencing inflationary pressures across most cost headings, according to Food Drink Ireland (FDI) the Ibec group representing the food and drink sector.

Update on Insurance

• FBD has increased its estimate for the cost of business interruption claims by €33m to €183m. The insurance company said the increase in costs is due to higher expected legal costs and a reassessment of the estimated amounts that will be paid to customers.

Update on Travel

• Ryanair has said it will restore its second aircraft at Shannon Airport this winter, after announcing eight new routes from the airport. The airline will operate six new routes from Shannon this winter – to Birmingham, Budapest, Edinburgh, Fuerteventura, London Luton and Turin.