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safety first Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warns GAA fans against 'exuberant' celebrations

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned GAA fans

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned GAA fans

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned GAA fans

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has warned against "exuberant" GAA celebrations as the All Ireland hurling and football season draws to a close in the coming weeks.

As lockdown restrictions are to be eased significantly from tomorrow, Mr Donnelly appealed to the GAA to ensure safety remains paramount while also defending the decision to keep wet pubs shut.

The Health Minister said that over-enthusiastic celebrations after county championship games last September were a contributory factor in the spread of Covid-19, along with the reopening of third-level colleges and so-called 'wet pubs'.

Mr Donnelly said such celebrations cannot be repeated at inter-county level as the delayed All Ireland hurling and football finals are set to go ahead next month.

"It needs to not happen," the Health Minister said.

"The GAA, I think, is taking this very seriously, and measures have already been put in place," he told RTÉ Radio One's This Week.

The warning comes at a time when several counties are hoping for a win for the first time in decades.

The hurlers from Waterford - who have not won a senior title since 1959 - have already got through to the All Ireland final.

Yesterday saw Limerick defeat Galway in hurling to claim the second spot in the decider.

The footballers of Dublin, Cavan, Tipperary, and Mayo are all still in contention to take home the Sam Maguire Cup on December 19.

Disregarding

Earlier, Mr Donnelly argued that the Government was far from disregarding the expert advice of Nphet.

He said that the bulk of Nphet's recommendations had been taken on board.

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Mr Donnelly strongly defended the controversial decision to keep pubs which do not serve food closed over Christmas.

He said the decision to reopen restaurants and bars serving food was justified to give the devastated sector a break, and to give people a chance to get out of their homes after a long lockdown.

"People have been in their houses now for five and a half weeks and the people are saying: 'We want to go out'," he said in an interview with Newstalk presenter Gavan Reilly.

The Minister said it was impossible to clearly prove that a spike in numbers last September was down to wet pubs being open.

He said it would take an expert mathematician anything up to a year to prove such a proposition - but the Government had to "make life and death decisions in real time".

Mr Donnelly said he was not blaming publicans and insisted he believed the vast bulk of them took every precaution.

"The strong evidence from Ireland - and the strong evidence from around the world - is that despite the best efforts of publicans, people let their guard down," he said.

He added that he hoped the vaccine can be available early in the new year and he was bringing a memo to Government tomorrow to allow for a fifth vaccine to be added to the list.

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