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Sinn Fein urges Irish government to step up coronavirus containment measures

Mary Lou McDonald said efforts need to be ‘stepped up very substantially’ to keep families and communities safe.

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Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has called for more action to stop coronavirus (Sinn Fein/PA)

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has called for more action to stop coronavirus (Sinn Fein/PA)

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has called for more action to stop coronavirus (Sinn Fein/PA)

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has urged the Irish government to step up its containment measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Ms McDonald said efforts need to be “stepped up very substantially” to keep families and communities safe.

In a letter sent to the government on Wednesday evening, Ms McDonald requested that public sector staff work from home, mass gatherings are postponed and the school Easter holidays are brought forward.

Ms McDonald said: “Firstly we have to take the issue of minimising social contact seriously.

“We believe there needs to be strict direction and advice across the public and private sectors that people work at home, where possible.

“We believe that now is the time to make clear that social gatherings, mass gatherings, are either postponed or cancelled.”

Ms McDonald added: “We believe that the Easter holidays for schools should be brought forward and that arrangements need to be started for that.

“Testing needs to be ramped up very significantly and we also need to increase very dramatically the number of staff engaged in contact tracing.”

It comes as the Green Party called for a national government of all parties to be formed to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, the party said: “The Green Party parliamentary party met this afternoon and agreed that, in light of the unfolding coronavirus crisis, the party are calling on all parties to suspend discussions on forming a majority government and work towards forming a crisis national government to be reviewed in three months.”

It's an unprecedented crisis and we feel the best way to deal with that is by forming a national government.Catherine Martin

Green TD Catherine Martin said: “All government formation talks for a majority government should be suspended and the focus should be on dealing with the coronavirus.

“It’s an unprecedented crisis and we feel the best way to deal with that is by forming a national government, and that’s where we feel party’s energy should go.”

The Green Party has written to all political parties urging them to form a national government.

“The time for that sort of horsetrading that we see happening in government formation, that needs to stop and we need to take this seriously,” Ms Martin added.

Reacting to the Green Party’s position, Ms McDonald said: “I think in the very immediate term we need that joined-up collective leadership, that’s why, at my insistence, the Taoiseach brought together the leaders of the political parties.

“I think that forum is an essential forum to ensure that we have the right measures and that they’re stepped out in a timely and an orderly fashion.”

I can't tell other people what to do, but I don't think, unless you absolutely have to as a matter of life or death, travel off the island.Mary Lou McDonald

Ms McDonld also backed measures proposed by the Green Party to close schools immediately, ban marriage and funeral services and shut pubs and restaurants by 6pm for two weeks.

Ms McDonald added: “I can’t tell other people what to do, but I don’t think, unless you absolutely have to as a matter of life or death, travel off the island.

“I think, for now, for the next number of weeks, we sit tight here and we do the things that we need to do.”

It comes as talks between the deputy leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael on the possibility of forming a government took place on Wednesday.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Fianna Fail’s Dara Calleary held discussions before both parties engage in more detailed talks over the coming days.

Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe said that the Covid-19 outbreak will influence their discussions with political parties across the spectrum.

The party’s negotiator said further detailed discussions could take place by Sunday.

“They will form the early part of talks that we will be having with them (Fianna Fail) regarding whether it will be possible to form a new government,” Mr Donohoe added.

“At the best of times this would be a very demanding political exercise, but we are truly in extraordinary times and that will influence the discussions that we will have with political colleagues all over the spectrum of Irish political life.

“In terms of what priorities I might be raising with them, from my experience of these discussions I know it is not helpful if they hear about my priorities through (the media).

“They need to hear about it from us directly and personally and that’s what we’ll be doing over the coming days.”

He said discussions are under way between the deputy leaders and further talks will happen over the coming days.

Fine Gael’s parliamentary party is expected to meet next Thursday.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said the party is having conversations with “everybody”.

She added, however, that her priority is dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s important that people realise that we have a government in place that has full executive powers, and we are working extremely well with all of the political parties in the Dail at this time to try and meet the challenges that this is presenting on a societal basis,” Ms Humphreys added.

PA