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Island Federation Calls on Government & Health Officials to Explain Safe Re-opening After Covid

22nd June 2020
The Aran Islands - one confirmed case of Covid-19 The Aran Islands - one confirmed case of Covid-19

The Irish Islands Federation has called on the Government to provide “clear guidance and protocols” on the safe re-opening of islands to visitors.

The federation, Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, has also called on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to provide more detail, amid considerable concern about its decision to approve early re-opening from next Monday, as Afloat reported earlier.

In a statement today, the island federation said it had not received any written reply to submissions to State agencies, "seeking direction and supports for the offshore islands".

“The board of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, on behalf of all offshore islands is again urgently seeking clarity and guidance from the Government regarding the safe reopening and required supports,” it said.

The NPHET decision to allow travel to and from islands to resume from June 29th, announced last Friday, threw offshore communities into confusion over the weekend.

Acting Gaeltacht minister Sean Kyne says he opposes the move and believes there should be a phased approach. He says this will be considered at this Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Aran Islands, which had one confirmed case of Covid-19, has been on rationed water, and this is adding to residents’ worries if visitors are permitted.

There are also medical concerns about the elderly population’s exposure to the pandemic.

Mr Kyne said that apart from the water issue, local authorities had no time to prepare piers and public facilities and signage for an opening on June 29th.

While there has been a welcome from tourism interests, medical professionals have advised against an early opening, he said.

A survey conducted by the co-op on the Aran island of Inis Óirr last week indicated that 92 per cent of residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

Islands had originally been closed until the beginning of phase five of the Government’s Covid-19 road map and expected to open again to visitors from August 10th.

Mr Kyne said that when phase five was scrapped, he received a large number of communications from island residents and businesses, expressing opposing views about the timing of re-opening.

“I’ve sent recommendations to the Taoiseach, who has been engaging with NPHET on this issue,” Mr Kyne said.

“Unless the islands can come up with an agreed position, however, the NPHET decision is the default one,” he said.

At a special sitting of the Dail Covid-19 committee late last week, Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuiv (FF) proposed a special package of assistance to island businesses if there is later re-opening.

Published in Island News
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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