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Michelle O’Neill ‘will not stand in the way’ of a request for army help

The Deputy First Minister had hit out at Health Minister Robin Swann, claiming he asked for help from the army without consulting the Executive.

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Handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence dated 27/03/2020 of soldiers from 1 Royal Anglian Regiment working in the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus (PA)

Handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence dated 27/03/2020 of soldiers from 1 Royal Anglian Regiment working in the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus (PA)

Handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence dated 27/03/2020 of soldiers from 1 Royal Anglian Regiment working in the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus (PA)

Michelle O’Neill has said she will not stand in the way of a request to the army for help during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Deputy First Minister had hit out at Health Minister Robin Swann over the weekend, claiming he had asked for the army’s assistance without consulting his Executive colleagues.

Mr Swann told the News Letter newspaper that he has submitted two requests to the Ministry of Defence to secure army assistance to the health service as Northern Ireland battles coronavirus.

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The requests are for military logistics support in distributing life-saving equipment to hospitals and assistance in planning for a possible Nightingale hospital at the former Maze Prison site.

Ms O’Neill reacted claiming Mr Swann had acted “unilaterally and without consultation with Executive colleagues”.

Speaking at the Executive’s press briefing on Wednesday, Ms O’Neill said she has had a conversation with Mr Swann about the matter.

“My number one priority is to save lives and whatever is required, including using the British Army to save lives, I will not stand in the way, that’s what I’m here to do. I only have one objective,” she said.

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The British Army help move medical supplies at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, which is being turned into a 2000-bed hospital to help fight coronavirus. (Ben Birchall/PA)

The British Army help move medical supplies at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, which is being turned into a 2000-bed hospital to help fight coronavirus. (Ben Birchall/PA)

PA

The British Army help move medical supplies at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, which is being turned into a 2000-bed hospital to help fight coronavirus. (Ben Birchall/PA)

“I have raised concerns with the Health Minister around how that was communicated and the fact there wasn’t an executive discussion but I’ve had that conversation with Robin.

“There clearly is guidelines around these things and all departments will be aware of those guidelines.”

PA