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The Briefing

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 10th September

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 10th September Banner

by Aiken PR


We are, where we are. That’s government, together we stand, divided we fall.

Following yesterday’s announcement by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson the ramifications of any potential fall of the Executive, which would be another mighty fall from grace for local politics, is starting to hit home. For three years between 2017 and 2020 the only power brokers in the land were the NI Civil Service who, in reality, where in a state of limbo, operating on percentages of allocated budgets and able to say neither yay or nay without fear of being slapped with a court order. The electorate will never accept that folly again. As we emerge from the pandemic crucial decisions need to be made on public health, education, economic investment and employment, sustainability and the climate change bill, the future of our urban and rural communities, infrastructure… I could go on and on. While there are those who say that electioneering has been at play for some time, by all parties, the bottom line is that this Executive cannot continually fall from one crisis into another… irrespective of whoever or whatever is the catalyst for the crises or the nobility – or otherwise – of the cause. There should and must be collective responsibility. There is too much at stake. The world is changing in so many ways and it will leave us behind.

Stable government is a key pillar. The Protocol needs sorted, no doubt. So, here’s a novel thought that this digest has mooted before: what about the Executive sitting down collectively and compromising, coming to an agreement on what they can live with and what they can’t, what is good and is bad within the Protocol? What can deliver the best of both worlds? Then take it to the proponents and purveyors of the Good Friday Agreement and peace: the UK, EU and Irish governments. It would be very hard to completely ignore with the world’s media watching. We, as in our political representatives, must stop blaming others for this, recognise our role within it and take that ‘collective responsibility’. We are, where we are. That’s government, together we stand, divided we fall. In the short term while we may stumble through these latest crises, unless or until the mindset changes, regional government will never deliver upon its considerable potential, and its longer term future will continually be in doubt. As Doug Beattie said yesterday, if the Executive falls it will be down for a very, very long time before it is back and what happens after that, is anyone’s guess.


Update on Restrictions

• The NI Executive this week agreed on several changes to Covid restrictions. From 5pm on 10th September:

o Table service rule removed from indoor and outdoor hospitality settings

o Limit on indoor gatherings will rise to 15 people from four households

o Dancing permitted at weddings and civil partnerships

o Requirement to purchase tickets in advance for live indoor performance removed, along with the need to have audience members in allocated seats

o Nightclubs, however, remain closed

Update on Vaccinations

• In a further push to vaccinate more students, the Health Minister Robin Swann has announced ‘jabbathon’, a new initiative which will involve 60 walk–in clinics across 30 universities and FE colleges.

• Emerge, a special music event to promote vaccine awareness, is to be held at Ormeau Park on 17 September. It is being supported by the Department of Health and Department for Communities, with admission granted on vaccination status.

Update on Education

• The Ulster Teachers’ Union has warned NI schools are ‘on the verge of collapse’ under the strain of Covid–19. There have been over 3,000 confirmed cases of the virus among school children in the past seven days.

• The Northern Ireland Assembly was recalled this week to discuss rising pupil absences in schools due to Covid–19. It is expected that schools will be urged to encourage pupils to take twice–weekly lateral flow tests, rather than PCR tests, to curb the absence rate.

Update on Economy

• Northern Ireland MPs voted against Number 10’s plans to introduce a new health and social care tax across the UK. However, the motion passed by 219 votes to 248, with a 1.25% rise in National Insurance beginning April 2022.

• Ending the £20 uplift in Universal Credit will hit NI harder than other parts of the UK, a leading economist has warned. The latest figures reveal there were 34,070 claimants of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland in May 2021.

• Amazon is to create 20 permanent jobs, and more than 100 driver vacancies, with a new delivery station in Portadown. It is the company’s second fulfilment centre in NI.

Update on Health

• Increased pressure in Northern Ireland’s hospitals has led to a ‘battle for beds’, as experts warn the NI health system is on a ‘knife edge’

• Beginning 10th September, the Public Health Agency will begin contact tracing in schools. It is hoped the move, agreed during a recall of the Stormont Assembly on Thursday, will relieve pressure on teaching staff.

Update on Trade

• NI businesses which import and export goods are being impacted by the “worldwide crisis” of rising shipping costs. According to Logistics UK, the cost of importing shipping containers from China has risen by up to 800%, with several factors, including the pandemic, said to be behind the surge.

Update on Brexit

• In a speech on Thursday morning, DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson signalled his party’s intention to bring down the NI institutions if changes are not made to the NI Protocol. The warning came just hours before Donaldson met with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic in Belfast.

Update on Travel

• The Department of Health has said NI’s vaccine certification app, CovidCertNI, will not work for domestic use and is ‘built for overseas travel only’. It comes as Scotland plans to launch its vaccine passport plan on 1 October.


Update on Restrictions

• From 13th September, live music and dancing can resume at weddings, while outdoor events can take place at 75% capacity. The Irish government plans to end almost all Covid–19 measures in the State by 22 October.

Update on Vaccines

• Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed residents aged 65 years and older living in long term residential care facilities, as well as people aged 80 years and older living in the community, are set to receive a booster dose of an mRNA Covid–19 vaccine.

• The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has listed the neurological disorder Guillain–Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis, as a “very rare” side effect of the AstraZeneca Covid–19 vaccine.

Update on Economy

• The annual rate of inflation rose by 2.8% in August, according to the Central Statistics Office. It is the biggest increase in almost ten years and in line with the euro zone average.

• Amazon is to create a new Dublin distribution centre with the creation of 500 jobs. The ‘fulfilment centre’ at Baldonnell Business Park will ensure faster delivery for Irish customers when it opens in 2022.

• Intel has revealed Ireland is among 10 finalists on a shortlist of countries for a possible further multi–billion–dollar investment in additional chip manufacturing capacity. The location of these plants will be announced by year end 2021.

Update on Government

• A Taoiseach spokesperson has said Micheál Martin does confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. It comes after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald signalled the party’s intention to submit a motion of no–confidence in Coveney over what she branded ‘behaviour not of the standard expected of a minister’.

Update on Health

• Ireland is witnessing a decline of Covid–19 “across the country,” according to CMO Dr. Tony Holohan, as well as a stabilisation of hospital admissions.

• On Thursday, the number of people in hospital who have tested positive for the virus was 335, a reduction of 32 on Wednesday. Of these, 56 are in intensive care units, a decrease of three on the previous day.

Update on Education

• The HSE has revised downwards the estimate for the number of school children and young people who have been obliged to stay home from school after being deemed a close contact. Originally thought to be 16,000 in the first weeks of term, it is now more likely to be between 10,000 and 12,000.

• Over 60% of childcare managers in Ireland have said their facility could face closure in the coming months due to an inability to recruit qualified workers, a new survey by the New Deal for Early Years coalition has found.

• Post Leaving Cert colleges are receiving an increased number of enquiries this year because of a rise in points required for university courses.

Update on Environment

• New rules to be introduced next year will see more polluting solid fuels removed from the Irish market. The sale of smoky coal is already banned in 42 towns and cities across ROI; however, there are no restrictions affecting its sale elsewhere.

Update on Brexit

• Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said the EU is in ‘solution mode’ following the DUP’s threat to bring down NI institutions over the NI Protocol.