Opposition TDs have slammed the Government’s legislation for reopening indoor dining as “a convoluted plan that won’t be enforceable”.
Serious concerns over the plan were raised by the TDs during a briefing on Tuesday morning, with warnings that it could create “confusion and inconsistency”, according to The Irish Times.
Under the reopening plan, those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months will have to show proof of this to access indoor hospitality, with accompanying under-18s also to be permitted entry.
A consensus on whether to waive pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill could not be reached after officials briefed members of the Oireachtas health committee on the plan, with a vote to be taken at 12.30pm.
The Government hopes to introduce the Bill to the Dáil as soon as today. After it is passed, the legislation is expected to be signed into law by the President next week, allowing pubs and restaurants to open for indoor service at the very latest by July 26th.
Slow the timeline
However, if pre-legislative scrutiny is required, it could slow the timeline for adoption of the new system, Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane said.
“You’d probably be looking at next week then before it would be brought before the Dáil and Seanad,” he said.
The Wexford TD said the current scheme did not take into account the revised vaccine rollout to younger people, and said there were concerns about allowing the legislation “go on the nod”.
“We can’t give the Minister a blank cheque,” he said, adding that there was a “real lack of clarity on how this will work”.
“We’re coming up with a convoluted plan that won’t be enforceable, won’t work and simply gives a pretence we’re doing something we’re not. It will just create confusion and inconsistency,” he said.
Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the briefing was “very unsatisfactory”.
“Officials were unable to provide any real detail about the manner in which this will operate. There are huge questions around enforcement and whether the HSA or HSE has any capacity to designate staff to carry out inspections,” she said.
“There is also no mention of any other mitigation measures, like legally required ventilation standards for indoor premises, in the legislation.”
People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny raised concerns as to whether indoor dining should go ahead at all before the substantial majority of people were vaccinated.
Given the mitigating circumstances of the Delta variant, indoor dining is not feasible
He said there were concerns on how the vaccine cert would be verified by the operator of a premises, and over the fact that unvaccinated people were being asked to work in hospitality but cannot walk into other premises as customers.
This is despite an adjustment to the plan which enables them to take a drink or meal where they work.
“There’s a lot of ambiguity around the workings of the legislation proposed. We all want hospitality to open but given the mitigating circumstances of the Delta variant, indoor dining is not feasible at this moment in time,” Mr Kenny said.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin has defended the plans for the reopening of indoor dining, saying that the proposals were about striking a balance between protecting public health and jobs.
On Tuesday morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin acknowledged there is a risk to reopening indoor dining but said the Government was being cautious.
Speaking on his way into Cabinet, Mr Martin said compliance would be crucial.
“Compliance is something that we all have to buy into – citizens, owners. Government has to create a framework that’s sensible in terms of a compliance framework and compliance officers working with the industry,” he said.
He added: “And I think the people understand what Government is doing here, they understand the rationale for it and the motivation behind it.”