NOEL IDEA Varadkar says there is no certainty over what Covid restrictions will be in place at Christmas
TÁNAISTE Leo Varadkar has said there is no certainty over what Covid restrictions will be in place at Christmas and whether or not people will be allowed to see their families and loved ones.
Mr Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Thursday that he understood that people want to know if they can meet their families and friends at Christmas, but said there is no certainty over what level of restrictions will be in place at that time of the year.
The Fine Gael leader also told TDs and Senators at the private party meeting that the public will want to know what the exit strategy is if the entire State goes to Level 5, the most severe Covid restrictions that amount to an effective lockdown, as well as the rationale behind the Government taking such a decision.
Last week, the Coalition rejected the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team's (Nphet) advice to move the entire country to Level 5.
Meanwhile, former Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy told colleagues that every time the Nphet meets it is causing "major distress" to the public who automatically expect new restrictions.
Mr Murphy, a close ally of the Tánaiste’s, said the Government needs to be very careful before entering another potential lockdown. He said that a so-called 'circuit breaker' is not the short lockdown that the phrase suggests as it will last “weeks and weeks”.
Meanwhile, former Government chief whip Seán Kyne was said by those at the meeting to have, in effect, criticised Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe over the unprecedented €18 billion Budget spending package announced on Tuesday.
The Fine Gael Senator said he had been in Cabinet for years and could never get a penny form Mr Donohoe but new ministers, who had only just been appointed, were getting millions of euro.
Mr Kyne was the only member of the parliamentary party to articulate this view, but party sources said it was a position privately articulated by others in Fine Gael in recent days, particularly members who served in the last Government.
“Every Fine Gael TD is saying the same thing,” said one minister following the meeting.
“'Was Paschal too prudent? Why weren’t we able to do these things when we were in government the last time.'”
Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan questioned the way in which the Budget is delivered, pointing out that much of what was announced on Tuesday had been leaked beforehand and that the methodology needs to be reassessed.