Tag Archives: Morning Ireland

Michael McNamara and Aine Lawlor

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara spoke on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland about prejudice against the unvaxxed telling the host Aine Lawlor:

“…now we’re vilifying the unvaccinated. Before it was students and, before that, it was people who travelled…”


Aine Lawlor: “You spoke about the unvaccinated being vilified. I don’t know whether you heard Professor O’Reilly or Dr Gary Stack [on the show] talking to us earlier about what they’re facing on the medical line, frontline and, you know, the impact Prof O’Reilly was talking about, for instance, if somebody and the people in ICU that’s being driven by the unvaccinated at the moment. If they’re taking up a bed that maybe somebody needs a lung cancer operation can’t get into ICU, how fair are they being on the rest of the community?”

Michael McNamara: “Yeah, but you know, people who smoke take up beds, people who drink take up beds, people who in all sorts of behaviour that might not seem very sensible take up beds. If you go to the A&E unit in Limerick on your average Friday night and you’ll see a fair share of people who’ve drunk too much there. I mean they’re taking up spaces too.

“I mean throughout history, we’ve seen groups of people being blamed unreasonably, in hindsight, for various pandemics and various endemics and sometimes, with the benefit of hindsight, that looks ridiculous. We started off, there was a big campaign…”

Lawlor: “Well I don’t know who’s blaming? I mean I most certainly heard no vilification or blaming at the NPHET briefing yesterday.”

McNamara: “No, but there’s been a fair share of, there’s been an outrageous amount of it on social media, and there’s been a fair share of it on broadcast media, including RTÉ television, it has to be said.”

Lawlor: “Well I haven’t heard or seen any vilification.”

McNamara: “[inaudible] to be honest and I don’t think it’s healthy to divide society along that basis. You know…”

Lawlor: “No, and indeed we heard Prof O’Reilly…”

McNamara: “Can we continue…”

Lawlor: “No, just to make the point. Prof O’Reilly in fact spoke about the way that he engages with those who aren’t vaccinated. All the doctors that we’ve been talking to have been talking about engagement. They have also been saying, and this is the message, that for the sake of protecting the community, they are particularly appealing to the 1 in 5 18-30-year-olds who aren’t vaccinated at the moment, to go and get the vaccination for the sake of community, for the sake of the people who won’t be able to get that bed in ICU at the end of November.”

McNamara: “I don’t, I mean, I’m not going to, I’ve never countered medical advice, I’m not going to go against that but what I’m talking about is not doctors, but are commentators who feel they’ve suddenly found a group that they can, you know… We have increasing political correctness in our discourse in our media, it’s perhaps a good thing…”

Lawlor: “What do you say to the unvaccinated?”

McNamara: “I say to the vaccinated, do your research, talk to your doctors.”

Lawlor: “And get the vaccine?”

McNamara: “Talk to your doctors. I mean I’m not in a position to intervene in people’s lives. I don’t know the reasons they’re not taking the vaccine, there are people who can’t take the vaccine. I say talk to your doctor. Everybody, almost everybody, in Ireland has a GP, talk to your GP, listen to what they have to say. I’m not a GP, I’m not a doctor, I’m not an immunologist.”

: “OK, well thank you for coming in to talk to us on Morning Ireland.”

Earlier: Blame From Spain Falls Mainly On The Plain

Yesterday: Insight To Hatred

From top: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar; former head of the National Association of General Practitioners Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail; Minister for Justice Helen McEntee

This morning.

Minister for Justice and Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee spoke to Mary Wilson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about The Village reporting over the weekend that, back in April 2019, the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaked a confidential agreement reached with the Irish Medical Organisation to his friend and then head of the National Association of General Practitioners Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.

Mr Varadkar has since admitted that he shared the document with Dr Ó Tuathail on a date between April 11 and 16, 2019. He has denied that he acted unlawfully but admitted that his actions were not best practice.

In a statement released last night, Dr Ó Tuathail said:

“We received a copy of the finalised, agreed and announced programme for chronic disease management from the then Taoiseach in mid-April. This was seen as a continuation of the decision by the Government to consult with the NAGP and its GP members and keep them informed throughout.”

“We could not adopt a position on the programme for chronic disease management as a union, without full access to the details that it contained.”

During this morning’s interview, Ms McEntee told Ms Wilson that the agreement was reached on April 3, 2019, and that it had been widely circulated by the time Mr Varadkar shared it with Dr Ó Tuathail.

But she conceded it was not actually published in its entirety at that point.

Mary Wilson: “Minister, for clarity, was the agreement published?

Helen McEntee: “So the entire document itself was not…”

Wilson:Was not published…it was not in the public domain?

McEntee:It was not. However, what I do need to stress is that the deal had been reached, that the majority, if not all of the sensitive information, the information that the IMO themselves were then essentially campaigning with their GPs on had been agreed. It had been signed off by Cabinet, so any suggestion, and there seems to be a suggestion that this document was given for some sort of a) personal gain but also that there could be changes made, this did not come back to Cabinet. And everything that was agreed, the detailed information was already being campaigned on…”

Wilson: “Ok. But why, if as you say,…

McEntee: “To try and bring GPs on board.”

Wilson: “…it was all agreed, i’s dotted, t’s crossed, why was it then that the Tánaiste, who was the Taoiseach at the time, and the Minister for Health, why were they not calling in the NAGP, in a formal setting, walking into Leinster House, to have a look at this document. Why was it going, a document marked ‘confidential, restricted circulation, going by courier, to the head of the NAGP’s home?

McEntee: “So, again, and I go back to what you said at the very beginning and the Tánaiste himself has said the manner in which this was delivered could have been done better, it was not best practice, however, what he was doing and it’s important to say, that, you know, this wasn’t the first contact, there had been engagement with the NAGP throughout these negotiations but, as I said, the IMO, as the main representative organisation, the decision was taken to negotiate with them and, as I said, I do think a great deal was done by the IMO for their member. But this represented all GPs, it wasn’t just those who were represented by the IMO…”

Wilson: “Minister, in that case…”

McEntee: “That would have to understand this, that would have sign up. And so the commitment that was given to the NAGP, to keep them informed, again and I do accept and the Tánaiste accepts this, and I’m sure that he’ll say this again tomorrow when he answers questions, when he makes his statement and he was very clear that he would do that. The manner in which it was delivered could have been better. It was not best practice but the intention was clear.”

Wilson: “And yet Minister by the end of April, the NAGP members, it wouldn’t appear they had sight of this agreement?

McEntee: “Well, I suppose I can’t, I can’t say what happened after the document was given. The intention was that this was to ensure that GPs understood what they potentially were or were not signed up to so I can’t…”

Wilson: “A confidential, restricted circulation document.”

McEntee: “So, all of the information that was being, so to speak, decided upon. All of the sensitive information, the financial information, the nub of the details as I’ve said, the most sensitive of information was already out there. This was already signed off by Cabinet, this was already been campaigned on by the IMO, for the members to try and bring GPs on board.”

Wilson: “But we still come back, minister, we still come back to that fundamental question: Why then was this being put in an envelope, confidential, restricted circulation, sent by courier, by the Taoiseach, and he says now it was not best practice, to the head of the NAGP.”

McEntee: I can’t answer that for you. I…”

Wilson: “Isn’t that a question that needs answering though?”

McEntee: “And I think the Tánaiste will answer that and I have to say he was very quick to say that he had no problem in making a statement in answering these questions. He has said that that manner in which it was delivered could have been done better and I have no doubt that if he is asked that question that you’ve just asked me, he will explain it. But I cannot answer that. But I do know that he will answer any question that he is asked tomorrow in the Dáil when he makes his statement.”

Wilson: “He is the leader of your party, he is the Tánaiste, he was the Taoiseach at the time. Is trust a casualty here?

McEntee:On my part, no. And I say that on the basis of a) that I have worked with him for many years and find him to be an honourable person in every element of work that he does….”


McEntee: “…a very clear commitment was given to the NAGP to keep them informed. There had been engagement with them throughout the negotiations and yes, the manner in which it was delivered could have been done better but the motivation here was a) to fulfil a commitment made by Government. And b) to ensure that as many GPs signed up to this as possible.

“The detail on which and, you know, I have to point even to a tweet I saw yesterday from an IMO council member who said that they were submitting articles on deep details to medical newspapers, they were presenting this deal to GP groups, they were phoning dozens of GPs, hundreds of GPs had the information that was in this document.

“The intention here was to try and get more people on board to sign this contact.”


McEntee: “…the fine details had been published, it had been welcomed, Cabinet had agreed it, so you know, at this stage, hundreds of GPs had this information and the only intention and motivation here was to ensure that a very good deal…”

Wilson: “Briefly minister…”

McEntee: “…had been negotiated by the IMO…”

Talk over each other

Wilson: You are the Minister for Justice, would you leak a document in this way?

McEntee: Well I haven’t, you know, is the answer. Again I have to say this is information that was widely known by hundreds of GPs and hundreds of…”

Wilson: “But you still wouldn’t?”

McEntee: “…people…”

Wilson: “You still wouldn’t, even a document that you say was widely known, you wouldn’t do that?”

McEntee: “But, again, you have to ask what has actually happened here…”

Wilson: “No, no, it’s a simple, it is a simple question. A document, you say it was widely circulated, but it was still a confidential document, would you have leaked it in this way?

McEntee: Well, I think the manner in which it was done could have been done better so if I was in that position, whether I would have done it differently, in terms of how it was delivered but this was a commitment, this was a commitment made to the NAGP. You’ve asked if I’ve ever leaked a document. That’s separate. This was a commitment to the NAGP to try and make sure that they understood what their members were potentially voting on.”

Listen back in full here


Members of the Irish Defence Forces loading PPE equipment after it arrived in Dublin Airport yesterday from China

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, China’s Ambassador to Ireland He Xiangdong spoke to Rachael English about the shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) on their way to Ireland from China, a deal in which Mr He and his staff have been involved.

The interview followed the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey claiming they have encountered problems with Chinese-made coronavirus testing kits and protective equipment.

It also followed the first batch of PPE arriving in Ireland from China, as part of a €208million deal, yesterday and being distributed around the country from last night.

Before the ambassador spoke to Ms English, the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor told Ms English that further shipments will arrive in Ireland via a total of ten flights by Wednesday this week.

She added:

“I think we have 300 flights coming with PPE over the coming weeks so that is very significant.”

At the end of her interview with the ambassador, Ms English and Mr He had this exchange…

Rachael English: “People may have seen reports over the past days from the Netherlands, the Government there saying that some face masks it imported from China, that there was a problem with them. Can you reassure people that that won’t be the case here?”

He Xiangdong: “I think that the HSE procurement department are working closely with the suppliers there in China. I think that we will try our best, do our best, together, to make sure that all the PPE will abide by the standards.”

English: “Well, listen, thank you very much for joining us…”

Listen back in full here

Faults in China-supplied coronavirus equipment reported in Europe (The Irish Times)


Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to Bryan Dobson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland

This morning.

Further to repeated calls from politicians and health experts for people to maintain “social distancing” of two metres, and suggestions that further restrictions on people’s movement will be put in place on account of the coronavirus, Health Minister Simon Harris told Bryan Dobson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland:

“We did see, over the course of this weekend see scenes of large gatherings, the one in Glendalough perhaps might have been the one that most people were talking about.

“I’m very pleased that the council stepped in there and said ‘look, we can’t properly socially distance here, we’re shutting down the car park, we’re shutting down the food premises. That’s the sort of decisive action that needs to be taken…

“To be very clear to everybody in Ireland today, you need to abide by the social distancing, that means there should be two metres between you and other people.

“If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be operating. Tomorrow the National Public Health Emergency team will meet. We’ve been very clear, myself and the Taoiseach, we won’t be making decisions based on kind of Twitter trends or political populism, we’ll follow the public health advice.

“Tomorrow Tony Holohon’s team will consider if there are further recommendations to be made to Government and I quite frankly expect that it’s likely we’re going to be receiving further recommendations from them…

“…we know that the two metres needs to be abided by and perhaps we know that there are some places where that hasn’t been possible to happen. So perhaps greater guidance in relation to playgrounds and public spaces could be useful as well and perhaps greater supports and guidance for businesses too…”



Paul Cullen, in today’s The Irish Times, reports that 40,000 people across Ireland are waiting for a coronavirus test.

Mr Cullen reports:

The HSE is now acknowledging people are waiting an average of four to five days to get tested; add in at least another two days for the swabbed sample to be processed and results reported back to the patients, and that gives an average delay of a week.

This is bad news for a system allegedly following the World Health Organisation advice to “test, test, test”. It is also of concern that it has taken so long for the system to admit to the delays, after journalists were last week being fobbed off with non-specific answers to their questions.

…The real problem is that the delays in testing are causing knock-on delays in contact tracing, the other essential element in the two-pronged approach used by Asian countries to successfully tackle their epidemics.

…The weekend has been dominated by discourse about a minority of people not observing social distancing rules. In reality, we are more likely to need a lockdown as a result of misfiring testing and contract tracing systems than because people chose to take walks on beaches and in parks.

Coronavirus: Delays in testing and tracing are the real problem (Paul Cullen, The Irish Times)


Hueston Station, Dublin this morning

This morning.

Minister for Health Simon Harris spoke to Bryan Dobson  on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

It followed a decision of the National Health Emergency Team last night, that people returning from Spain and Italy will be given leaflets at Irish airports in which they’ll be encouraged to restrict their movements for the next two weeks, specifically to not go to work and to lessen their social contacts.

In regards to people returning from Cheltenham, Mr Harris said they will get information about symptoms.

The Health Minister also said:

“We’re more likely to get this virus in our home from bad practice in terms of hand hygiene and the like, so do please follow the health advice. You have a really important role to play.”

Of the closures announced yesterday, he said:

“They’re in place now until the 29th of March, they’ll be reviewed right through the process and reviewed again on the 29th of March. If they need to be extended they will be but we need see. We’ve taken some very, very significant measures that are asking people in our country to alter their behaviour quite significantly for the next fortnight. We’ll only obviously continue those measures if it’s absolutely necessary and if they’re proving to have a benefit.

“So at this stage it’s too early to say [if they closures be extended for a longer period of time].”

“….It is an absolutely reality that this is something that could be with us for many, many months and we have to be conscious when we’re taking those measures as well, that measures we take have to be sustainable. We have to try to keep our country going, not to put our country into lockdown, we need people to go to work today and we need people to bake the bread and supply our supermarkets and we need our healthcare professionals to get to work.

“And we need to look after each other as well. So all of the measures we’re taking have to be seen through that prism.

This is not a storm that goes away after a couple of days. This is asking people to alter our behaviour and change our lives for quite a period of time ahead.”

He also said:

“We have a suite of measures but we have to implement them at the right time and I think what we’ve now shown is a willingness to do that, to listen and to act quickly and decisively and we’ll continue to do that.

Obviously all of the measures that have been put in place could be scaled up, if the need arose so we have banned gatherings indoors of 100 people, outdoors of 500 people, there’s obviously potential to do that,

“But what we won’t be doing is kind of strongman, macho politics movements where you’re looking like you’re doing something for he sake of doing something. We’ll be following the science here, we’ll be following the doctors’ advice, we’ll be listening to the chief medical officer and we’ll be acting.”

“…It’s very much a marathon not a sprint. Our country is not in lockdown. This is still, the same great country it was yesterday. We’re just asking everybody to live their lives a little bit differently so that we can try and make a real national collective effort.”

Listen back in full here




A Cabinet Subcommittee meeting yesterday on Covid-19 with politicians and officials including Tanaiste Simon Coveney (left)

This morning.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney spoke to Dr Gavin Jennings on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the coronavirus.

He spoke about the Department of Foreign Affairs advising Irish people not to travel to anywhere in Italy while conceding that Ireland cannot “control” people travelling from Italy to Ireland.

They later discussed the immediate figure of public gatherings in Ireland with Mr Coveney indicating that fresh advice on this is imminent.

From the interview…

Jennings: “You announced packages yesterday of nearly €2.5billion to help people to stay at home. How soon will it be before more people are asked to stay at home?”

Coveney: “Well as the Taoiseach outlined yesterday, and I think [Health Minister] Simon Harris has been doing it as well, I mean there are, there are different phases here in terms of how you respond to something like this. We are currently in the initial, what’s called, ‘containment phase’.

“In other words, anybody who tests positive, we want to establish who they are, where they’ve come from and the likely source of infection. And so the vast majority of the 24 people who’ve tested positive in Ireland so far have come form Northern Italy and they’ve brought it home with them.

“And of course then our public health team have followed all of the contacts that those people have had to try to make sure that we follow any others who may have been exposed to that virus.

“That’s been the focus so far which is really about containment and minimising the number of people who are exposed to the virus. But I think it is inevitable that we will move on to what’s called the ‘delay phase’ which is essentially trying to stop the spread of a virus in a population that has no immunity and recognising the reality that we effectively have no vaccine and no treatment for this virus right now.

“And therefore the only way that we have of effectively limiting the numbers of people who contract the virus is through old public communication and of course providing comprehensive and good healthcare to people who have symptoms.”

Jennings: “At what point will that happen? At what point will we move on to a ‘delay or mitigating phase’ and that more people are asked to stay away from each other?”

Coveney: “Well, I mean, in some ways, that’s already starting. I mean we’ve, we cancelled, or postponed at least, a large rugby fixture, we’re also cancelling, essentially, St Patrick’s Day parades across the country. And if our public health team make further recommendations in relation to public gatherings, we will follow that advice and I understand that Tony Holohan, who is the chief medical officer and his team will be meeting today at the National Public Health Emergency Team and they will be looking to, to give clearer and more detailed guidelines around public gatherings. So that we can give people and organisations more direct advice on that, sooner rather than later.”

Jennings: “It looks that there are kind of two choices. Lock everything down before thousands become infected or lock everything down after thousands become infected, like what’s happened in Italy. Why are we waiting to make more moves here?”

Coveney: “Well, we are, I think trying to provide responses that are proportionate. So you know if you shut a country down without good reason and evidence to back that up, then I think you can cause significant damage to people’s quality of life also. And so what we’re trying to do is follow the public health advice that is appropriate, given the level of threat at any given time.

“And, you know, I’m a politician, a policymaker, we need to listen to experts in terms of the recommendations and the advice that they give. And I think that we need to follow that. This response needs to be health-driven and that is what we’re doing, rather than politicians going off on solo runs and doing things that aren’t recommended.

“We’re very much working with our public health team, with the HSE and with the chief medical officer. Meetings are happening literally every day. Advice and discussions are happening at a European level and at a national level and as you saw yesterday, the Government will respond comprehensively on the back of public health advice.”

Jennings: “You were on television last night [Claire Byrne Live], taking questions for some time and beside you was a doctor and an expert academic, talking about increasing social distancing. They were talking about measures like closing schools, universities, pubs, restaurants and more.

“Now you got briefings yesterday from health experts, privately, can you just explain to us what they’re thinking is as to what point more social distancing, more restrictions will be introduced. We’ve what 24 cases in this State, 36 cases on the island of Ireland. At what point will more measures be introduced?”

Coveney: “I mean I think the direct answer to that question is when it will be effective to do that. And I think it’s important to say that the Government isn’t ruling out any course of action.

“If this virus takes hold and starts to spread in clusters in different parts of the country, we will need to respond very firmly to that. To try to delay the spread of the virus as best we can. I mean if you look at, and I’m learning about this like everybody else is, but from what I’m told, if you look at how a virus like this spreads in a population, the challenge for us is to slow down the spread of that infection, to give health authorities the time and the space to be able to respond to that comprehensively and to give populations also the time to actually understand how they can protect themselves and their families.

“So instead of this being a dramatic peak where very large numbers of people are impacted by the virus in a very short period of time, we’re trying to actually spread out that curve over a period of time, so that we can respond in the appropriate way to protect, most importantly, vulnerable citizens from this because don’t forget the vast majority of people who will be impacted by this virus will get through it.

“They will have relatively mild impacts on their health but maybe up to 20 per cent of people who contract the virus will have a significant health impact and of course a small percentage, for a small percentage, it could be fatal.

“And if you have very large numbers in the population impacted, well then even small percentages can mean thousands of people losing their lives. So this is something we are monitoring on a daily basis and you know as the Taoiseach said yesterday, really the challenge for the country here, potentially, if the spread of this virus happens on a worst-case scenario basis, this is a challenge that is totally unprecedented…”

Jennings: “Yes.”

Coveney: “…in Irish modern history.”

Jennings: “If the challenge is that big though why not move earlier? If the Taoiseach says almost 60% of people could become infected, what grounds are there not to move to delay with mitigating measures now?”

Coveney: “Well… I think that what we’re trying to do here is to respond to a crisis as it develops. And if you use all your ammunition on day one and then effectively…”

Jennings: “Do you not want to move before it develops?”

Coveney: “Yes, we are and we are doing that. That’s why we have already cancelled very big events, that’s why we have taken unprecedented action in relation to travel advice. That’s why we are preparing now, in our health service, to add significant bed numbers to decant people from hospital who don’t need to be there. So that we create space to try to deal with a problem that could become much, much worse, very, very quickly. So a lot is happening. And of course the advice will be upgraded on a daily basis.

“You know the special Cabinet committee on Covid-19 is meeting again on Friday, again on Monday after that. The national public health emergency team is meeting again today. And of course will update the Government, in relation to advise.

“So you may find that the Government moves to do a lot more very quickly but I think we need to do that on the basis of good, public health advice rather than on the back of political pressure.”

Jennings: “But there may be people this morning, listening, minister, who may decide to move before Government advice, before pubic health advice. People who are organising events, people who are organising matches, people who are organising parties, public gatherings who will think ‘will I wait for the advice from Government’ or is the responsible thing for me to do now, to keep people away from each other where possible?”

Coveney: “Well I think, as the Taoiseach said yesterday, I think we should all think carefully about unnecessary public gatherings and I think you will get advice shortly, if not even this evening, but certainly in the next few days on public gatherings and numbers and proximity and so on.

“But we want to make sure that advice is accurate and based on as sound, on evidence-based as we can provide it. So what I would say to people is if you are organising seminars, if you’re bringing people together for whatever reason, whether it’s a concert, whether it’s a sporting fixture, whatever it is, keep a close eye on the HSE website and we will be proving updated information on public gatherings shortly.”

Listen back in full here.



From Ireland V Italy game in Six Nations in 2013; and Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical officer at the Department of Health on RTÉ News last night

This morning.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to meet representatives of the Irish Rugby Football Union after it sought “reasoning” behind Mr Harris’ call to cancel the Six Nations Ireland V Italy rugby game on March 7 because of a coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy.

Last night, the IRFU released a statement saying:

“The IRFU is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Harris as to the specific reasoning behind calling for the cancellation of the Ireland V Italy Six Nations fixture in the context of the Government’s overall travel policy to and from Italy and other affected countries.

“Until such time as the IRFU has had contact with the Minister and gets an understanding of the government’s strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the cancellation of mass gatherings, it is not in a position to comment further.

It’s been reported there have been 90 suspected cases tested in Ireland but none have tested positive for the virus.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Jackie Fox spoke to Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health and asked him if it would be possible for the game to be played “behind closed doors”.

Dr Holohan said that would be a matter for the IRFU.

Ms Fox also asked him about St Patrick’s Day.

From the interview…

Dr Tony Holohan: “This won’t be the only mass gathering that we will look at. But this was one that was coming quite soon and obviously involving an area in Europe that has been added to the list of countries that you’ve just outlined where community transmission is taking place and we felt we couldn’t make no other responsible advice or decision.”

Jackie Fox: ‘But there’s nothing to stop the 2,500 thousand Italian fans still travelling to Ireland. Should flights have been cancelled rather the game?”

Holohan: “No, we don’t think that would be a proportionate measure. The WHO is not recommending cancellation of, or restrictions on foreign travel. We make specific travel advisories available and in this country we do that through the Department of Foreign Affairs and their website there. And we make available information then through the points of entry to the country to raise awareness.

“And we’ll be stepping up that as part of the decision that was taken yesterday with more information and physical presence of HSE staff and more posturing and leaflets and so on at the airport. To raise awareness of the symptoms that could occur so if you’ve travelled back from one of the listed areas that you’ve set out which are Japan, Singpore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran, and one of the four regions, now identified in Northern Italy, which are Lombardy and Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte alongside mainland China.

“If you’ve come back from any of those regions in the last 14 days and experienced flu-like symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or a fever, you should stay at home, make contact with your GP and be guided by your GP from there. ”

Fox: “The IRFU are meeting with the minister today. If they choose not to take this advice, do authorities have the power to stop this fixture from going ahead?”

Holohan: “I think the IRFU is a responsible organisation and will be willing to work with us to ensure that a measure that we have advised like this which nobody wants to find ourselves in a position of having to to cancel or recommend not take place, I’m sure that they, as a responsible organisation, will be, just as we are, minded to act in the interests of the health and welfare, not only of their spectators but for their players.”

Fox: “But could they, for instance, play the game behind closed doors?”

Holohan: “Well, that will be a matter for them.”


Holohan: “It is an unfolding infection. We don’t know everything about it. We know that the pattern of severity in relation to it, based on the information about it out of China and other places that have experiencing significant number of cases can be severe, that in 20% of cases, approximately, people have a severe illness. And in a small percentage of cases but it would be substantially higher that is currently the case with ‘flu, unfortunately deaths are occurring at a rate of about 2%. But that is not insignificant and it would be nothing other than irresponsible of us if we weren’t to respond fully with the containment measures that we now have in place to try and limit the spread of that in the first instance and prepare ourselves fully in the event that we do have community transmission taking place in this country to minimise the impact on the population here.”

Fox: “Briefly, can I just ask you briefly about the next mass gathering that’s due here, on St Patrick’s Day. Are there plans or is that being looked at at the moment?”

Holohan: “Mass gatherings of all kinds take place all of the time as I’m sure you know from small meetings to large conferences and sporting and other fixtures. So as well as the decision that we recommended in relation to the rugby match, we’ve set up a process to enable anybody, any organiser of a mass gathering to get in touch and for us to consider, according to the guidelines I mentioned, the guidelines that would have informed our decision yesterday in relation to the match, to give that advice in relation to those mass gatherings.

It can be difficult to predict for something that’s a number of weeks away because we could find ourselves in a situation where other regions of the world are affected. Italy was not an area of concern for us a week ago and it’s now the reason why we’ve made this recommendation. So this is a fast-changing situation so it’s impossible to make a prediction now as to where we might be for a an event that could be, you know, five, six weeks, or more weeks away.”

Listen back in full here

Previously: La Forza De Destino 

From top: Apple CEO Tim Cook greets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at an IDA Ireland event in the National Concert Hall last month to mark Apple’s 40 years of investment; Aidan Regan

On RTÉ’ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Gavin Jennings asked rhetorically why most people who voted in the general election, and who responded to RTÉ’s exit poll, said “they didn’t believe they benefitted from the country’s economic recovery”.

He told listeners:

“Ireland’s economy is growing richer, faster than most European countries and there are more people working than ever before.”

Dr Jennings then interviewed Associate Professor at University College Dublin’s School of Politics and International Relations Aidan Regan, who writes a column in the Business Post.

Dr Gavin Jennings: “You were writing in the Sunday Business Post, as far back as 2017 that the economic boom was setting up a political timebomb that could stoke a Brexit-style backlash. What did you mean and do you think you were right?”

Aidan Regan: “I mean, broadly speaking, yes. Perhaps not as quick as has appeared to have happened. But what’s meant by that, and of course, I don’t pick the headlines for these things…what’s meant by that is that Ireland is very dependent on one or two key sectors and in particular, and increasingly so, on the ICTC sector, let’s say big tech, right, for your listeners.”

“And that foreign direct investment and big capital for technology companies has been beneficial right? It has ultimately lifted the economy out of the recession. It has generated computer service exports and in that sense has enabled the Government in the austerity years to implement an internal adjustment without effectively crashing the entire economy.

“But, in terms of the kind of job and income growth and productivity gains that comes with that, it’s very narrowly concentrated in a very small section of the workforce.

“And those work in these high-tech, high-income sectors, or more concretely, in these firms, like think about Dublin City here where we are, Google is the biggest…”

Jennings: “Apple, Cork, yeah.”

Regan: “….biggest private employer in the city. You know, if you’re working those companies, of course you don’t feel, you don’t, there never has been a recession. There has been no austerity. But you do obviously feel the effects of under investment in public service infrastructure.

“So the point of that article and the point of that research suggested was ‘look this is not sustainable’. When you have an economy that’s so dependent on one or two key sectors, and the net gains of that increasingly are concentrated, in addition to the fact that there’s a lot of funny money floating around.

“The headline figures look a lot better than they are. It does not provide the fertile ground for political and electoral sustainability.”

Jennings: “There has been a rise in wages nationally. But it’s an uneven rise in wages.”

Regan: “Yes, I mean. So overall in the economy, and particularly in the past couple of years, overall earnings have gone up. People’s wages have improved but some people’s wages have improved by double digit figures on a year-on-year basis for a couple of years.

“When you have that type of wage growth, it obviously creates, that’s to say, puts upward pressure on the price of non-tradeables as you would say, basically housing, rent, restaurants, etc. And so therefore, if you’re earning those higher incomes, in those particular sectors, you’re in a position to, well, afford to pay the cost of living within the city that you would live in.

“But not everybody earns those types of wages.

“So whilst there has been a growth overall in our earnings and wages, it has not been equal. And, effectively, if you look at the income distribution, break it down by earnings. It doesn’t look as healthy as is often assumed.

“I mean the median wage in this country is about €36,000. Gross income, it’s stripped out. If you include earnings and non-earnings, 85 per cent of people in this country have less than €50,000. That’s not a huge amount of money to be able to afford those things in this country which are expensive, housing, health, education.”


Regan: “It’s estimated that 70 per cent of people who work in Google are non-Irish which would suggest that they don’t have a vote in the national elections. The public policy regime in Ireland is increasingly tailored to, you know, the high-tech, higher income earners and that’s understandable which would make sense in most countries, given that those same people would have a vote and they would typically support, in this case, the centre, centre-right parties.

“And that’s what you would expect. But in this country, that’s not the case because these people don’t have a vote. So it’s a very volatile growth regime. It’s a very volatile growth model that’s dependent upon not just inward investment from US multi-nationals but also the free movement of workers from the European Union.”

Listen back in full here

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy at the Housing Summit in the Custom House, Dublin in 2017; architect Orla Hegarty; Morning Ireland clip on Soundcloud

This morning.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Dr Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in Housing Studies at Dublin Institute of Technology, and Orla Hegarty, architect and assistant professor at the school of architecture at University College Dublin, spoke to Audrey Carville about the housing crisis in Ireland.

It’s possibly the calmest conversation aired about housing so far in this election.

From their discussion:

Audrey Carville: “How do we get to a point where we’re building the number of houses that we need?”

Lorcan Sirr: “There’s a huge confusion, Audrey, about the number of houses that we need and the number of houses that the private sector, in particular, can supply.

“So when you listen to the experts, like the ESRI, they will tell you that you need something like 34,000 houses a year. And they’re absolutely right, when you look at the demographics of Ireland, and if houses were free, we could give out 34,000 houses tomorrow and they would all be taken up.

“The problem is the market, there isn’t a market there for 34,000 houses, by which I mean there aren’t enough people out there, mortgage-approved, who will buy 34,000 houses.

“Typically, in any year, only about half the houses that are built come on the market for sale. One quarter go for social housing, one quarter are one-off houses and the other half then come to the market.

“In 2018, we saw about 10,000 or 11,000 houses come to the market and last year we built about 21,000 houses, just over half of those will come to the market. Already, prices are slowing down which means there isn’t a market for 34,000 houses.

“So the problem, builders are obviously not going to build when there isn’t a market there and we see the rate of housing output slowing down every year from 2017 to 2019.

“So the difference between the 12, 13, 14,000 houses that the private sector can supply and the 34,000 houses that we need is the issue for Government and that’s probably where some sort of concept like public housing comes in.

“We didn’t have this issue before because we didn’t have macro-prudential rules that limited the amount of money effectively that people could buy. Now people are much more limited in what they can borrow. So therefore the amount of people out there available to buy is less. So that’s a huge issue…”

Carville: “Ok.”

Sirr: “…around the housing output.”

Carville: “And I do want to talk about the availability of land and those issues that are actually involved in getting houses built but Orla, to you, will increase in supply make houses affordable?”

Orla Hegarty: “It’s not possible to make housing more affordable by just increasing supply because there are capacity constraints in the construction industry and we would have heard that earlier in the programme in terms of skill and our boom/bust cycle actually exacerbates that because people with skills lose their skills or they leave and we don’t train apprentices.

“So we’re now in a situation where the industry is effectively at capacity but that capacity is all concentrating into the niche markets where there are high returns.

“So what we’re seeing is the median price of new housing in the country is up at €350,000 even though the target about four years ago was to have this sort of starter homes in Dublin at around €260,000 so the costs have gone out of control but that isn’t to do with the construction sector making more money or construction costs being out of line.

“That’s got to do with what’s going on in the land market and the amount of disruption  with all the changes in planning have been brought into it.

“I mean on the department’s own construction figures, for example, we can see that in Dublin, we could be providing housing under €250,000 for people. And that would give so many people some choice. It would give them control and it would mean they didn’t need subsidies.

“So that type of housing, whether it’s three-bedroom houses, or two-bedroom apartments would meet an enormous need in Dublin.

“Obviously some people will always need some subsidy on their housing but this has broader implications for, generally, for the economy. Because what’s happening in the new supply is it’s happening in three areas really.

“It’s high priced rentals that are owned by institutions in Dublin city. There’s very little else coming to market in Dublin city…”

Carville: “And rental security as well?”

Hegarty: “Security is important but the next wave of supply that we’re seeing at the moment is more commuter-belt housing which is contrary to all of our broader Government policy to do with climate change and transportation and engagement in the workforce.

“Students and people are commuting long distances. It’s a barrier to women staying in employment.

“It means more infrastructure has to be built, to get people to work. And all of that is a policy in housing that is pushing people out into the periphery and causing other problems in the economy.”

Carville: “Lorcan, some of the parties talk about the availability of public land for social housing and who will build it and they argue that the land is there, it’s owned by the State, it’s public land, the local authorities should use it to build and they can do it for much cheaper than the private developers who do it for profit.

“So what’s the obstacle to more of that happening and building houses, as Orla says, so people can buy for €250,000 which is still an awful lot of money.”

Sirr:In theory, Audrey, the State could build houses for X and sell them for X and the State doesn’t really need to be making profit and we have hundreds of thousands of acres of State land out there, available and ready to go, or ready to go with very little input.

There is an ideology, I think, on policy-making level against competing with the private market.

“And I think that’s a big one where the Government are afraid to start building houses at any scale because then you’re starting to compete with private sector and that would be an ideological barrier from the Government’s perspective.

“They have set up a thing called the Land Development Agency [launched by the Government in September 2018 with the promise of building 150,000 new homes by 2038] whose remit is to go and take land, public sector land and use it for lots of things, including housing.

“The problem there is that they, of course, want to involve the private sector, and do partnerships with the private sector and when you bring the private sector in, the profit motivation of the private sector is not compatible with providing housing that’s affordable for your average household.

“So between the ideology and the way they’ve set up this new Land Development Agency which, in theory, is good but, in execution, is not going to provide housing that is affordable for most people is going to be a problem.”

Carville: “Do you agree with that, Orla?”

Hegarty: “I think a lot of people would see the LDA as being a new venture that could provide affordable housing. In fact, they have no remit for affordability. The remit for the LDA is to return a profit in some ways in the way that Nama was so what that means is: in the short term, it may return a profit to the State from the land value. But all of that will be paid back, over time, by the people, the residents…”

Carville: “So from your point of view, what are the key areas that the next Government that takes office, later this year, will need to address urgently?”

Hegarty: “Well what we have in our favour is we have a lot of land compared to a lot of cities that have a housing crisis, we have a lot of land. We also have a lot of vacancy. A lot of money, up to a billion next year, this year, will be spent on rent subsidies into the private sector.

“By moving that into more efficient means, and that would mean using vacancy, using EU funding for energy upgrades and commercial vacancy – every town in Ireland has vacancy. That would start to free up some funding for seed capital.

“And the important thing with housing development is, it’s not like university building or a children’s hospital. You don’t need all of the funding. You need the money to start because housing is built incrementally.

“And if it is phased, the first billion can do a certain amount, that can roll over into the next phase. So it’s a strategic approach. A finance to procurement and a design that’s going to be important now.”

Listen back in full on Soundcloud above or here