| 16.5°C Belfast

Sinn Fein leader denies using coronavirus pandemic to score political points

Mary Lou McDonald has criticised the British Government’s approach to tackling coronavirus.

Close

Mary wants a ‘harmonised’ approach to tackling coronavirus (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mary wants a ‘harmonised’ approach to tackling coronavirus (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mary wants a ‘harmonised’ approach to tackling coronavirus (Brian Lawless/PA)

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has denied using the coronavirus pandemic to score political points as she called for the Government to press for an all-Ireland approach to tackling Covid-19.

Ms McDonald called for more harmonisation between politicians in the Republic and Northern Ireland during the pandemic.

She told RTE radio: “We need a single harmonised regime across the island to keep people safe and ensure compliance with necessary measures and to ensure this virus does not sweep through our population.

“We have consistently made the point that to protect the population on this island, that for public health purposes – we are a small population living on a small island.”

Ms McDonald said the Irish Government should press more for an all-island approach.

“I have been concerned that the system in the south has been a bit passive to that end and ensuring everyone on the island is safe,” she said.

We need a single harmonised regime across the island to keep people safe and ensure compliance with necessary measuresMary Lou McDonald

“Of course I have huge concerns, particularly in the early phases at the approach that the system (UK Prime Minister) Boris Johnson and his Government were pursuing.”

Asked if it was appropriate time to use coronavirus to make political points, she said: “It is time to make points that are important in terms of protecting people’s health.

“People will recall when we discussed Brexit, people may not have considered the issue of the border and suddenly the penny dropped that decisions being taken in London were going to have huge ramifications for the Irish economy.

“I have made the point that if Brexit caused concern then certainly a public health emergency is of greater concern, when you have someone in Number 10 Downing Street who was pursuing a reckless and dangerous policy, and then there was concern that recklessness would be replicated in the north eastern part of Ireland. No responsible person would countenance that.

“We need a single harmonised regime across the island to keep people safe and ensure compliance with necessary measures and to ensure this virus does not sweep through our population.”

Meanwhile, a further three-month payment break for loans and mortgages is close to being announced, Ireland’s banking federation has said.

The first three-month repayment holiday was announced in March to help borrowers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ali Ugur, chief economist with Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), told RTE radio there has been progress towards widening the payment break, adding: “They are very close to it.

“We have done a significant amount of work by introducing the first payment break in a way for mortgage holders and SME customers.

“We recognise it has been an ongoing issue for a lot of people.”

Close

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

PA

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

With more than a million people receiving some form of state income support, applications for the scheme are expected to increase.

“We recognise that it’s an ongoing issue for a lot of people and I can say there’s been significant progress achieved,” added Mr Ugur.

On Wednesday night, chief medical officer Tony Holohan gave his strongest indication yet that Covid-19 restrictions will not be lifted next week.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is due to issue advice on restrictions to Government on Friday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there are still too many patients in intensive care to ease restrictions and the numbers of deaths and new cases remain too high.

PA