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special treatment Minister Simon Coveney says he 'totally understands' frustration of events industry

Coveney caused fury on Sunday when he said that there was a “big difference” between All-Ireland final day and entertainment events

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Supporters watch the parade before the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Limerick in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Supporters watch the parade before the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Limerick in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Supporters watch the parade before the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Limerick in Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Minister Coveney has said he "totally understands the frustration" of the events industry as leading figures have slammed the 'special treatment' of the GAA.

Disappointment in the sector last night led to calls for Taoiseach Micheál Martin to resign after his attendance at Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park, where thousands of fans were seen without masks or social distancing.

In a move that is likely to further upset artists and performers, the Irish Independent understands that Mr Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar are to snub an invitation from Culture Minister Catherine Martin to a meeting with industry representatives this week.

It will be the second time in a fortnight that they send officials rather than attend in person to hear directly from interest groups.

Anger has been growing for some time within the arts community but many are now furious after Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said on Sunday that there was a “big difference” between All-Ireland final day and entertainment events.

Speaking today, Minister Coveney said the point he was trying to make when he said there's a "big difference" between All-Ireland final day and entertainment events is that the Government liaised with this particular match.

"The point I made was not that it was All-Ireland final day but the Government worked with sports organisations to facilitate larger crowds in a very large stadium where people in the stadium can be separated from each other, wear masks and try to create as controlled an environment as possible," he said on Newstalk Breakfast.

"I was simply explaining that over the summer months those agreements had been put in place with sports organisations, but of course it’s a risk to have that many people in one stadium and more importantly meeting people before and after, of course, that’s a risk and it’s a calculated risk."

Asked if a calculated risk will be taking in the entertainment industry, he said: "Yes and that's why we have given a commitment that within a week we will give a timeline for the opening of the arts sector in terms of live performance and so on and the Government will follow through on that commitment.

"I totally understand the frustration here, the Government is trying to make decisions on the basis of public health advice and on the basis of working with sectors, Catherine Martin will be meeting with the industry today and the Government will be making decisions towards the end of this week."

The events industry had hit out at what its members see as preferential treatment of the GAA despite obvious social distancing breaches around high-profile matches.

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

 

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However, huge crowds gathered on streets in Dublin before and after the game between Limerick and Cork which was attended by 40,000 supporters.

Gardaí reported anti-social behaviour and a lack of social distancing in a number of areas and asked several publicans to “cease trading in the interest of public safety”.

When asked about the non-compliance with social distancing and mask wearing in Croke Park, the GAA said that it had no comment to make but will work with the Department of Sport if “issues” are raised.

The Event Industry Alliance called the Taoiseach’s attendance at the All-Ireland hurling final a “shameful indictment” and argued he must consider his position, which is “clearly untenable”.

Events promoter and spokesperson for the group Justin Green said it was an “absolute disgrace” that the Taoiseach shot down the group’s plans to reopen concerts only for vaccinated people with full contact tracing and did not attend the meeting last week.

“There is definitely discrimination and all we’re looking for is an equal playing field for a sector that has been shut down for the last 18 months,” he said on Independent.ie’s InFocus podcast.

Ms Martin will meet music industry stakeholders again tomorrow, having failed last week to give them a date for reopening.

Industry representatives had hoped to make their case to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste who were also not present at a similar meeting last week.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly are also invited to meet music industry representatives, but the Department of Health would not answer queries on whether they were going to attend.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said Mr Martin “regularly meets” with various groups and has “no issue” meeting with the sector “when one can be scheduled”.

A spokesperson for the Tánaiste said his officials will attend the meeting and that he is “committed to working with all sectors”.

On Friday, Ms Martin will make a presentation to ministers at a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19, having been denied participation last Thursday.

An agreed plan to reopen the live events sector must then be signed off by Cabinet next week. It is understood the minister will push for full capacity for indoor events for people with a Covid cert to resume “as early as
possible”.

Meanwhile, in the UK 4,700 Covid cases are being linked to a five-day music festival in Cornwall earlier this month.

The all-ages Boardmasters festival, headlined by Foals and Gorillaz, required attendees to show their Covid status, and if they were camping, to take a lateral flow test.

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