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Dublin minister says important to inform Irish people over Northern Ireland Executive on coronavirus lockdown plans

But concedes in hindsight it may have been better to inform Belfast

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Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty (Brian Lawless/PA)

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty (Brian Lawless/PA)

An Irish Government minister has said it was important to inform "the Irish people" of their lockdown plans instead of the Northern Ireland Executive.

The Irish Government set out a five-stage recovery blueprint with linked timelines and provisional dates on Friday on how it could emerge from the pandemic crisis.

At Monday's Covid 19 briefing, Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster said the power-sharing Executive did not receive advance sight of the Irish Republic's plan before it was published on Friday evening.

That came despite a memorandum of understanding in place between both jurisdiction's health officials.

Last month, Irish officials also said they would discuss any tightening of travel restrictions with their counterparts in Stormont.

The most important thing we needed to do was to tell the people we serve, the Irish people. Regina Doherty

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, Regina Doherty Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection said "honestly, I don't know why" Northern Ireland ministers were not briefed on Friday's plan on reopening the country.

"But I think what our most important task to do after we had our cabinet meeting on Friday was to tell Irish people. And that is what the Taoiseach did at the first opportunity after that cabinet meeting was over," she said.

She said the recommendations were put to all ministers in the cabinet for the first time on Friday afternoon, such was the scale of the plan.

She said "in hindsight" maybe the first and deputy first ministers should have been told of the detail.

"The most important thing we needed to do was to tell the people we serve, the Irish people and that is what we did on Friday evening.

"The roadmap is only a phased programme entirely dependent on the trajectory and response of the crisis to the actions we are taking in then next two weeks and the following three weeks.

"So what I would love to see is more opportunity for us to cooperate with north and south because the success of how we deal with this for the people that live on the island .. it would be much better if we had cooperation."

Later the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister and Tanaiste Simon Coveney told RTE's Sean O'Rouke programme a "head up" was given on the Thursday night to the health minister and first ministers but precise details were not shared.

The Republic's health minister Simon Harris has said it made scientific sense for the two recovery plans either side of the border to be as closely aligned as possible.

Starting on May 18, the Republic will move from one phase to another every three weeks, as long as health experts deem it safe to do so.

First Minister Arlene Foster said ministers from both jurisdictions met last week to discuss issues but confirmed the Stormont Executive was not given advance sight of the Irish strategy.

"The (north/south) memorandum of understanding which is in place is in relation to sharing information in terms of the health piece," she said.

"Of course it's always for a government to put in place their own staging posts, way forward and that's exactly what happened.

"We didn't have a comprehensive view as to what was coming in relation to that plan on Friday evening."

Belfast Telegraph