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FF and FG troops take aim at decision to postpone reopening of indoor hospitality

Inside Politics: Micheál Martin is told his party is now ‘toxic’ and ‘irrelevant’ to young people

They are nothing if not reliable, the backbenchers and Senators of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

The rambling parliamentary party meetings each Wednesday night usually see Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar address their respective followers.

And as for the troops, they have ample opportunity to either express dissatisfaction with the latest Government decision or deliver stomach-churning sycophancy.

Either way, political hacks tune in so that you don’t have to.


And last night’s gatherings were - predictably - dominated by the Cabinet decision to postpone the reopening of indoor services in restaurants and pubs.

Jennifer Bray and Harry McGee offer reports on the two meetings in our lead where they outline how the Government is facing mounting internal and external resistance against plans to delay the reopening of indoor hospitality and only allow fully vaccinated people inside.

Mr Martin was told Fianna Fáil was now “toxic” and “irrelevant” to young people by the youngest member of the Dáil, Cork East’s James O’Connor, after the decision on hospitality.

Senator Pat Casey, himself a hotelier, criticised modelling from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and is understood to have told the meeting: “yesterday I accepted that our Government doesn’t understand or respect our industry.”

At the Fine Gael meeting former ministers Michael Ring and John Paul Phelan said they would not support the measure to introduce a “vaccine pass” or further lockdown measures if there is a vote called on it in the Dáil.

Mr Martin told his party, however, his conscience was clear on the Government’s decision to temporarily delay indoor dining. He said the easy thing would have been to reopen but told his TDs “we took the tough decision.”

He is understood to have said although Nphet had “set the bar high” in terms of allowing restaurants and pubs to reopen, the Government would keep “an open mind” on how they could be reopened in future.

Mr Varadkar told Fine Gael the decision to pause the reopening will be reassessed before July 19th, with progress in the vaccine programme, monitoring how the Delta variant of Covid-19 plays out in the UK and developing the so-called corona pass being taken into account.

He warned: “Delta is coming here, and people are in denial if they think it isn’t” and said no Government would have made a decision not to pause the reopening given some of the scenarios presented by Nphet this week.

While members of the two main parties had the opportunity to sound off about the decision on restaurants and pubs, perhaps more substantive talks took place earlier between the Government and the hospitality industry.

As we report here, the Government told restaurateurs and publicans that a mid-July reopening of indoor hospitality might be possible if new data from the UK indicates lower hospitalisation and death rates from the Delta variant of Covid-19 than predicted by Nphet's modelling.

Those whose livelihoods depend on people getting back inside their local and favourite restaurants will be watching closely to see how events unfold across the Irish Sea in the coming weeks.

Truce in the ‘sausage war’

Connoisseurs of British bangers in Northern Ireland can breathe a sigh of relief as the European Union has agreed a deal with Britain to extend the post-Brexit grace period that allows chilled meats into the North from Britain.

The two sides will have an extra three months to sort it out before the prospect of renewed hostilities after the last-minute truce.

Naomi O’Leary, Denis Staunton and Freya McClements report how the EU has warned: “We are not issuing a blank cheque. This solution is of a temporary nature, to which strong conditions are attached.”

In fairness there are serious issues at stake in terms of the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit deal and unionist grievances over its impact on the once-free-flowing movement of goods with Britain.

But it’s difficult not to see a ridiculous side to a saga that at one point saw the DUP’s Sammy Wilson pose with a plate of sausages.

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Minister for Education Norma Foley takes questions on her portfolio from 9am followed by Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys at 10.30am.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is expected to take Leaders’ Questions at noon.

In the afternoon there will be statements on the future of Bank of Ireland.

TDs get to raise topical issues at 8.30pm, and there will be a debate on a Private Members’ Bill on Traveller Culture and History in Education put forward by Independent TD Thomas Pringle starting at 9.18pm.

Representatives of the Higher Education Authority are at the Public Accounts Committee from 9.30am

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will be at the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement to discuss issues that arose during the committee’s meeting with representatives of the Ballymurphy families.