Biggest repatriation in history of the State as 4,600 Irish citizens return home

Tanáiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has spoken of the “biggest repatriation ever in the history of the State” as 4,600 Irish citizens have been helped “in one way or another.”

Mr Coveney told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show that the Department of Foreign Affair's helpline had received over 16,000 calls.

The aviation industry has been turned on its head, he added and normal stop overs simply are not available anymore with many airspaces closed down which has complicated repatriation efforts.

His department will continue where possible to block book seats on commercial flights to get Irish citizens home.

However, he acknowledged that there are some Irish citizens who want to come home but there are not commercial flights available or they have limited funds.

Mr Coveney said that 900 people had been repatriated from Australia in the last 10 days along with other Irish citizens in New Zealand, South Africa, Vietnam and India.

There are now fewer numbers, but more complex cases, he said.

Mr Coveney pointed out that the Department is also assisting Irish communities in countries like the UK, Canada and the USA.

He said he was particularly concerned about the undocumented Irish in the USA who were “a vulnerable community who may have become even more vulnerable.”

Mr Coveney said that the government has managed the health crisis “really well”.

“We are conscious as a government that we don’t have a majority in the aftermath of a general election,” he added.

“In a few years’ time, when people look back at this, people need to ask themselves what role did they play in helping to rebuild the economy and did they play a constructive role in forming a government?”

Mr Coveney added: “This country faces extraordinary challenges, not just in the context of fighting this this disease (and) spread of this virus.

“We have an emergency to manage and if you look across Europe, 25,000 people have died in the EU in 10 days from Covid-19.

“Our job in Ireland is to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to minimise the number of people who die from this virus in Ireland, and we’re doing everything we can do day and night to do that.”

- Additional reporting by Press Association

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