A new public holiday to recognise the efforts of the country during the Covid-19 pandemic and to remember those who lost their lives has been agreed by the Government.
The once-off holiday will take place on Friday, March 18th of this year. The holiday will be followed by a day of remembrance and recognition, to take place over St Patrick’s weekend.
The Government has also agreed to give a tax-free recognition payment of €1,000 to frontline healthcare workers in Covid-19 exposed environments.
Furthermore, a permanent public holiday on which employees are entitled to a paid day off is to be established from next year in celebration of Imbolc/St Brigid’s day.
This holiday will take place the first Monday of every February - except where St Brigid’s day, the first day of February, happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that Friday will be a public holiday.
The designation of public holidays falls to the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who said the once-off holiday on March 18th will mean a four-day weekend due to March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, also being a holiday.
“We decided to make this decision now on a public holiday, rather than wait until the pandemic is over, because so many have already given so much. It also roughly marks the second anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic in Ireland," he said.
The new St Brigid’s day holiday will bring the number of public holidays in Ireland to 10, and means that all four of the traditional Celtic seasonal festival – Bealtaine in May, Lunaghasa in August and Samhain or Halloween in October/November – will now be public holidays.
Mr Varadkar said the new holiday to mark St Brigid’s day “will be the first Irish public holiday named after a woman.”
“It marks the half-way point between the winter solstice and the equinox, the beginning of spring and the Celtic New Year. The creation of a tenth public holiday will bring Ireland more into line with the European average and it is one of five new workers’ rights that I am establishing this year."
The bonus payment for healthcare workers in Covid-19 exposed environments will meanwhile be available to the following workers:
- Public service health and ambulance workers;
- Those seconded or assigned to the HSE (such as Defence Forces staff assigned to HSE testing centres);
- Supernumerary students who were required to perform training in clinical sites;
- Staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices affected by Covid-19.
A pro rata arrangement will apply for eligible part-time staff, and none of the payments will be subject to income tax, USC or PRSI.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly described the payment as “a small token of the appreciation and gratitude that my colleagues in Government and indeed, the Irish people as a whole have for your ongoing efforts to protect us all from the worst impacts of Covid-19.”
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said that “while no monetary amount could truly reflect the dedication of healthcare staff on the frontline,” the Government believes the once-off payment is appropriate in recognition of their efforts.
Healthcare workers have welcomed the payment, describing it as “the right thing to do.”