Subscriber OnlyPolitics

Covid-19: Will the Government be able to roll out the vaccine quickly enough?

Inside Politics: It’s the end of the road for Trump and Leinster House winds down for the year

Good morning.

The race is on to roll out a programme of mass vaccination, but will the pace be quick enough? That is the question that the Government will face today and every day until life returns to something approaching normal.

The Government launched its vaccination roadmap on Tuesday, compiled by an expert group chaired by academic Brian MacCraith. In recent days, the Taoiseach and his ministers have been emphasising that this all won’t be done in a couple of weeks; it’s going to take months before sufficient amounts of the vaccine can be delivered to enough of the population and restrictions will no longer be needed. The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly warned on Tuesday: “A vaccine won’t have a positive impact on the direct trajectory of this disease for at least months to come.”

But there was also good news when the European Medicines Agency said it might approve the first vaccine before Christmas rather than after it, meaning that vaccinations could take place before the end of the year. But that is largely symbolic. Expectations are being managed. You may be sure that impatience at the pace of delivery will be a political theme in the new year. Our report on the vaccine rollout is here.


Meanwhile, ministers and public health officials intensify their warnings that socialising and other personal contacts must be kept to the minimum possible over Christmas if we are to avoid the fate of many European countries, which are currently going back into lockdown. Dr Tony Holohan pointed out that the virus doesn’t care a vaccine is on the horizon.

There were 329 new cases on Tuesday, (report here) but the expectation is that numbers will begin to rise as the relaxation of the restrictions at the start of December takes effect. For now, though, the State has among the lowest rates of infection in Europe. In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, ambulances are literally queuing up outside hospitals.

Paul Cullen's analysis is here.

Over for Trump

The protracted and painful amputation of Donald Trump from the White House continues, but passed two significant milestones in recent days. On Monday the Electoral College voted for Joe Biden and on Tuesday,  Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Biden as President-Elect. Given political cover, expect more Republicans to follow. Trump will undoubtedly attempt various other wheezes, but he's running out of road. It's over for him. Suzanne Lynch's reports here.

Sinn Féin’s discomfort

A painful statement of a different type from a republican of a different hue yesterday when Brian Stanley made his apology to the Dáil. Most people around Leinster House are content to leave it there, though both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have enjoyed the discomfort of Sinn Féin in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Martin Browne, the Tipperary Sinn Féin TD who is also in trouble for his social media posts has taken ill and will be unable to answer questions at the committee he chairs this week.

Jennifer Bray's report here. Miriam Lord's take on the "Shinner sinners" is here.

Winding down

Things are winding down around Leinster House as the Christmas holidays approach; the sense of approaching the finish line is almost palpable. Sinn Féin whip Pádraig Mac Lochlainn made an attempt to amend the week’s order of business yesterday to get the House to sit on Friday – to extend the opportunity for TDs to further debate the great issues of the day – but you could tell that his heart wasn’t in it.

Protesting against the length of the Christmas recess is an important Leinster House tradition. But everyone remembers a few years ago when Micheál Martin – then opposition leader – went through the motions rather too effectively and the Government subsequently lost the vote. Everyone had to come back for an extra week before Christmas. Nobody wants a repeat of that. The Dáil will rise tomorrow night and return in mid-January. As will your digest.

Best reads

Naomi O'Leary reports from Brussels on the latest from the Brexit negotiations.

Paschal Donohoe's reviews Shane Ross's memoir of their time in Government is in our Book of the Day slot, and worth reading.

The estimated bill for public sector pensions has soared.

Like so much else in Northern Ireland, Séamus Heaney becomes a battleground for old divisions.

On rugby concussions, the brutal training methods of the recent past and forgetting his phone number, by Gordon Darcy.


Back to the Convention Centre for Wednesday and Thusday for two long days of Dáil business before the recess.

Government business begins at 9.15am and there’s a rural independents private members motion for two hours at 10am, in which the plight of rural pubs might get a mention, you’d expect.

Leaders' questions at 12pm. Weekly votes at a 10.45pm this evening, adjournment at 11.30pm. Full schedule is here.

Busy day also in the Seanad (where the social welfare Bill and finance Bill are to be passed) and at the committees.

Head of the vaccination task force Brian MacCraith is at the health committee on Wednesday morning, which is sure to be closely watched.

Brexit action at the transport committee and the EU affairs committee, while US congressman Richie Neal will appear at the Brexit committee. The meeja – in the shape of TG4, Virgin and local and national newspapers -– are in at the culture committee to discuss the impact of Covid. The full schedule is here.

Keep in touch on where we'll keep you on top of everything that matters.