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Northern Ireland may call on Irish Army for help during coronavirus outbreak, says Swann

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Robin Swann (Michael McHugh/PA)

Robin Swann (Michael McHugh/PA)

Robin Swann (Michael McHugh/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann has said he would call in the Army if it became necessary - and would even welcome the Irish Army in Northern Ireland.

However, it is understood he does not have the power to unilaterally call on the military.

"Folks, will I use the Army? Will I call in the Army if I have to?" he told the Assembly.

"If we get to a stage where they can provide a service that we can't, I'll use whoever's at my disposal.

"I'll use whatever tool I have at my disposal to tackle this virus. If the Irish Army want to come up and help us too when they've it sorted down there, I'd be more than happy to welcome them."

However, First Minister Arlene Foster said it is for the Secretary of State and PSNI to decide whether the military will be called upon to support efforts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

She said she does not think it is the time for such action at present, although this will be kept under review.

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland are putting contingency plans in place for what they need to do, they are working very closely with myself and the Deputy First Minister," she said.

"It is important that we don't go off down rabbit holes in relation to this issue."

Belfast Telegraph