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Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein

Let's work together for good of each other this Easter

Michelle O'Neill


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The new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital

The new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The new Northern Ireland Nightingale Hospital wards designed to treat coronavirus sufferers at Belfast City Hospital

Good Friday is an important date in the calendar for many people across the island of Ireland.

For Irish republicans, it is of course a time when we remember our patriot dead and all those who gave their lives in the pursuit of Irish freedom.

And for the last two decades it has been, of course, associated with the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998.

That historic peace accord was a momentous event in the transition from conflict to peace.

It led to the establishment of the political institutions of the Assembly and Executive to deliver locally elected, accountable and power-sharing government to the north. And those political institutions are now more important than ever.

Since the Executive was re-established earlier this year, it has put in place measures to transform people's lives. And now we are in a battle to save lives. This year it is a Good Friday like no other.

The global Covid-19 pandemic we are currently facing has changed everything.

While in previous years people would have been looking forward to a well-deserved break at Easter, visiting family and friends or perhaps a trip away, this year we have to do things differently.

We are in a time of great uncertainty and one which will unfortunately bring tragedy and loss to many across the community.

My thoughts and sympathies, and those of my Executive colleagues are with those who have already lost loved ones to Covid-19.

As an Executive, we are determined to do all we can to save as many lives as possible and to keep people safe.

We are also working collectively to save lives and livelihoods.

We have taken steps to keep people safe by implementing physical distancing measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we have put unique protections in place to protect workers and businesses and those most in need and most vulnerable in our society.

I have met with our frontline health and social care workers who are doing such an excellent job in very challenging circumstances in order to save lives.

I have listened to their concerns, particularly around the need for more testing, in line with the advice from the World Health Organisation and best international practice, and on the availability of Personal Protective Equipment.

That is why the Executive has been working together to source and secure PPE for all our brave frontline health and social care staff. We have already secured a significant consignment of PPE which is being distributed to staff and are actively sourcing more.

We are also working with local universities, innovators and manufacturers to produce PPE here in order to guarantee supply in preparation for a second peak of Covid-19.

A key part of the Good Friday Agreement which created the political institutions was all-Ireland cooperations and Executive ministers have been working with their counterparts across the island to coordinate our response to a pandemic which does not recognise borders.

Executive ministers are doing everything we can in order to save lives and protect the public.

And the response from the public has been heartening. People are listening to the message and taking it on board.

The vast majority are staying home, washing their hands and practising physical distancing.

That is all the more important this Easter weekend. This is not a normal bank holiday. It is an emergency.

Now as we are in the Covid-19 surge, it is more vital than ever that people follow the guidelines in order to protect themselves, protect our valiant health and social care workers and save lives.

I urge people to stay indoors, not to be tempted to go to the beaches or beauty spots for a walk this weekend.

Stay at home to save lives. Stay at home to live for tomorrow.

Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein is the Deputy First Minister

Belfast Telegraph