The Government must clarify Dublin’s status in the plan for dealing with coronavirus, Alan Kelly has said.
The Labour leader said the proclaimed five-point plan was actually a “five-and-a-half point plan”, with Dublin sitting somewhere between levels two and three – having been given a “yellow card”.
During exchanges in leaders’ questions in the Dail, Mr Kelly told the Taoiseach Micheal Martin: “This isn’t a five-point plan, this is a five-and-a-half point plan.
“It’s the talk of the country because we need clarity, we cannot have a situation where we have Dublin as ‘two-and-a-bit’, that they sort of get a yellow card and if they behave themselves in a short space of time they may go back to where all the rest of us are.
“It’s like something Orwellian – some people are more equal than others.”
Whether this is a five or a five and a half point plan is the talk of the country because we need clarity.— The Labour Party (@labour) September 15, 2020
Today @alankellylabour raised the confusion about the Governmentâs latest Covid-19 plan. pic.twitter.com/plF0Utr3ZY
Mr Kelly said giving Dublin level two status with some specific added restrictions set a precedent that could see other counties object to any attempt to move them to a different level status in the months ahead.
“We have five phases, we support the five phases, it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“5.5 phases is not the right thing to do because it sets a precedent. What happens to Louth or some other county in a few weeks’ time, if they go to a certain threshold where they say, ‘why can’t we be a Dublin?’”
The Labour leader told the Taoiseach: “By tonight, make your decisions, gave clear advice, clear advice once and for all. Where Dublin is at – is it at two or is it at three?”
Mr Martin insisted there was no such thing as a “two-and-a-half” level.
He said the added restrictions placed on Dublin were not significant in the overall picture.
The Taoiseach made clear that the Government had acted on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team.
“It’s not two-and-a-half,” he said.
“Nphet give us advice on Dublin, and we acted on that advice.”
In terms of the moves announced on Tuesday, Mr Martin insisted there had been no major deviation from the advice given by Nphet experts.
Social Democrats joint leader Roisin Shortall branded the plan “confusing”.
“The new plan was supposed to provide clarity about the five levels of risk, yet on the first day of the announcement the Government decides to muddy the waters and to talk about a ‘two-and-a-bit’ level,” she said.
Ms Shortall added: “How can you blame people for being confused about what you’re saying – it is entirely confusing.”
She also questioned if it was appropriate to deal with an area the size of county Dublin as one homogeneous area, highlighting that there were varying rates of virus prevalence in different parts.
Again Mr Martin rejected the “two-and-a-half” characterisation.
“There’s no 2.5,” he replied.
“So don’t pretend it is and don’t create that language because it just simply does not exist.
“Here’s no such thing as 2.5, you know that well.”