Republic of Ireland news

Cabinet ministers concerned at lack of distancing by Croke Park crowds

Limerick celebrate their third All-Ireland title in four years following Sunday's win over Cork at Croke Park Picture: Philip Walsh.
Dominic McGrath, PA

Two Cabinet ministers have expressed concern about scenes outside Croke Park during the All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday.

Commissioner Drew Harris also said gardaI had learned some lessons from the match, which saw thousands of people gathered around the stadium.

“Everybody was very concerned about the scenes and it’s hard for people sometimes,” Minister for Justice Heather Humphries told reporters on Wednesday.

Ms Humphries was attending the Scott Medal ceremony, awarded to gardai for acts of bravery, at Dublin Castle.

“They’re jubilant about their team winning and you can understand that sometimes people just forget, and that is understandable too, but there is a strong onus on every single one of us to try and take responsibility for what we’re doing and try and keep our distance,” she said.

She said the Cabinet would meet next week to consider all advice and recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team meeting on Wednesday.

Earlier, health minister has said that rules on attending upcoming GAA matches at Croke Park will likely not change.

Stephen Donnelly said today that some of the scenes outside Croke Park did cause him concern.

“I think from within the stadium the event appears to have been well run. I was concerned at some of the footage I saw after the event.”

He advised anyone who might have been socialising in a “high-risk” way to get a Covid-19 test.

Mr Donnelly appeared to rule out any changes to rules and arrangements for upcoming All-Ireland finals in Croke Park, given how soon the fixtures are.

The All-Ireland football final will take place on September 11.

Yesterday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan suggested that he would like to see only vaccinated people allowed to attend large-scale events, such as GAA matches in Croke Park.

“We have no reason at this moment to suggest that there would be changes, either in reducing the capacity or if you were suggesting moving to a different model for fully vaccinated,” Mr Donnelly told RTE radio.

Mr Donnelly did say it was safer if large-scale events were confined only to vaccinated people.

“We applied this principle to restaurants and bars.

“There was a lot of political opposition when I introduced the bill, but I think it’s gone well,” he said.

Mr Harris said today that gardaí were working with licensed premises ahead of the upcoming fixtures “because they want to run responsible premises as well”.

“We are asking people to be sensible and to follow the chief medical officer’s advice,” he said.

While not suggesting that the approach to policing future Croke Park games would change significantly, he indicated that gardaí would be ensuring engagement with licensed premises ahead of the matches taking place.

Dr Holohan also indicated yesterday that he would have no public health concerns with a festival like Electric Picnic taking place with only vaccinated people in attendance.

The health minister declined to commit to whether or not the event should now take place.

Asked about the possibility of Electric Picnic being held, Ms Humphries said the government would be listening to the public health advice.

“We’d have to listen and hear what the medical experts say, but I do think that at this stage, our vaccination program has been so successful that it should mean that there is benefit here in all of this,” she said.

The National Public Health Emergency Team meets today, with the Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee due to meet on Friday.

In a joint statement, published today, college presidents called on all students to get vaccinated before the start of the next academic year.

The Irish Universities Association, the Technological Higher Education Association and the Higher Education Colleges Association issued the appeal amid questions about what the on-campus experience will look like for students in the new term.

Ciaran O hOgartaigh, President of NUI Galway, said: “It is gratifying to see the enthusiastic take-up of vaccines by university students for the public good.

“Their positive action to protect themselves, their families and fellow students is a key ingredient for the safe reopening of third-level institutions.”

“We encourage all remaining students to register now for the vaccine.”

A further 2,051 cases of Covid-19 were notified in the Republic of Ireland today.

As of 8am, there were 323 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 56 were in ICU.

Dr Holohan said the Delta variant of the virus was “still circulating widely” in the Republic of Ireland and causing “significant concerns”.

“Over 70% of cases are in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people, and we are seeing a high incidence of Covid-19 in adults and teenagers aged 16 to 29. If you haven’t yet registered for your vaccine or have delayed receiving your second dose, please do so as soon as possible,” he said.

“We know that vaccines work. They are about 80% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 disease and they provide approximately 95% protection against hospitalisation.

“It is very important that we remain vigilant and continue to follow the public health measures that we are all so familiar with. This is especially important for anyone who is soon to return to school and college.”

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