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Ship of State appears to be in steadier Covid waters

Inside Politics: Managing pandemic and adjacent issues are biggest risks the Government faces over summer

Good morning.

As the dust settles on around €5 billion more in Covid interventions, there is a sense that although the scarring on the economy is deep, the State in general is in a steadier position with regard to the virus than at any time since last summer.

There is little tension between the Government and the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet); the medium-term plan for restrictions and labour/business supports is set out; and the vaccination programme is ticking over at a reasonable clip. So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a few things actually. Despite the relatively low Covid ebb, managing the pandemic and a host of adjacent issues are still the biggest risk the Government faces over the summer.


Elsewhere, and most immediately, the Dublin Bay South byelection is a high-profile risk, especially for Leo Varadkar, if James Geoghegan fails to hold the seat for Fine Gael.

Speaking of risks to the Tánaiste, the Garda investigation of his leak continues to rumble ominously in the background. The HSE hack, which is not getting better quickly, must be managed, with the attendant risk of a data leak. The controversy over the role of investment funds in the housing market shows that issue can roar back at any time, along with a host of quality-of-life/quality-of-service-provision and affordability challenges that drove the outcome of last year’s election.

On the Covid front, while the current situation is stable, recent communiques from Nphet have flagged a lack of confidence about how the virus will behave amid planned reopening, a lack of total vaccine cover and the role of the Delta (formerly Indian) variant. Public health sources believe that Delta may well become the new dominant variant but hope that it is only marginally more transmissible than Alpha (formerly the UK variant, or B117).

However, they are awaiting further data from the UK, while watching closely for unexpected increases in the R number or the incidence of that variant here that could spell trouble.

Meanwhile, the hope is the stepwise approach and the managed approach to interaction will still restrain virus growth long enough to cover large swathes of the population before the end of summer, and before relaxations on international travel.

Speaking of travel, renewing the mandatory hotel quarantine legislation is just one of several Covid policy challenges that also have to be managed, including navigating Opposition flak over PUP cuts, continuing to manage vaccination, the effective and sustained resumption of sport and cultural events, and addressing the impact of Covid on non-pandemic healthcare.

Some in Government also worry that despite mapping out cuts to PUP yesterday, the Coalition has become increasingly detached from fiscal realities and will return to earth with a thump if the pandemic recedes, finding spending demands across the board that will be difficult to manage.

Against this, the Coalition believes it has a chance to map out a promising post-pandemic future for people, focusing on things like remote working and workplace reforms, sick pay and consolidating the economic and social gains of reopening.

Certainly, the Government is in better shape than last year, when it spent the summer backbiting, shedding Ministers, and generally giving the impression it would struggle to organise a hooley in a brewery - even if plenty of Coalition party members managed to attend one in a golf club.

Our lead lays out the heavy borrowing that will drive Covid supports for the rest of the year.

Simon Carswell's story on Covid reinfection is a reminder of the virus's capacity to confound and complicate efforts to keep it under control.

Changes to the Catholic Church's penal code complete the front page line-up.

Best reads

We have wide ranging and comprehensive coverage of the Economic Recovery Plan.

Pat Leahy analyses the politics of the matter. Our Q&A is here. Cliff Taylor has two pieces, one on unwinding supports and the other on property tax reforms.

Miriam Lord's take is here.

Away from matters Covid, Michael McDowell writes on the resonance of the Tulsa racial pogrom today.

And Emma de Souza argues UK immigration policies are a challenge for Ireland.


Action kicks off in the Dáil at 9.12am with topical issues, followed by Private Members’ Business from the Independent Group, which has a motion on National Maternity Services at 10am.

It’s followed at 12 by Leaders’ Questions from Sinn Féin, Solidarity-PBP, the Regional Group and the Independent Group. Questions on promised legislation follows at 12.34pm, before Taoiseach’s Questions at lunchtime, and statements on yesterday’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The Dáil will debate extensions to the emergency Covid powers at 6.29pm, before weekly divisions and a planned adjournment at 9.29pm.

No Seanad sitting on Wednesday, but committees sit throughout the day, beginning with the enterprise, trade and employment committee at 9.30am, grilling minister of state Robert Troy over the ticket touting Bill.

Also at 9.30am, the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Hospital Consultants Association and the Irish Medical Organisation will tell the health committee of the impact of Covid-19 on cancer services, and the committee on European Affairs will hear from a senior European Commission official on the Ceta trade deal.

In the afternoon, the finance committee will hear from the State’s most senior civil servant, Martin Fraser, on the determination of remuneration of senior public servants. I wonder do they have anyone in particular in mind? That’s at 12.30pm, as is pre-legislative scrutiny of the online safety and media regulation Bill in the media committee.

Also at 12.30, the transport committee will hear about challenges to the aviation industry and the recent announcements from Aer Lingus on Shannon and Cork airports. The Irish language Committee will hear from Conradh na Gaeilge on the new Leaving Certificate syllabus.