Swann likely to request more restrictions ahead of hospitality sector reopening

Support us and go ad-free

Stormont’s health minister has said he is likely to be asking for further coronavirus restrictions for the north of Ireland before the scheduled reopening of the hospitality sector.

Robin Swann’s remarks raise the prospect of more executive discord in the near future, following a week when the coalition administration was consumed with in-fighting over its pandemic response.

After four days of acrimonious exchanges, a majority of ministers finally backed a proposal that saw the region’s four-week circuit-break lockdown extended by one week followed by a phased reopening of hospitality businesses.

Mr Swann voted for the proposals but only reluctantly. He had wanted a comprehensive two-week extension of the lockdown and said he only voted for the compromise deal as ministers had “run out of time” and a failure to strike a deal would have resulted in all the restrictions on hospitality lapsing by default on Friday night.

He said: “I’m disappointed, I’m embarrassed and ashamed that it took us to Thursday to actually come up with this compromise agreement, that doesn’t go in my opinion far enough.”

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The minister has made clear he will be asking for changes to the current plans before they are fully rolled out.

Cafes and coffee shops, along with close contact services such as hairdressers, are due to reopen on Friday November 20, with the rest of the hospitality sector to open on November 27.

“Between now and the 27th, I would say I’m near enough confident I will be coming again to the executive with a number of recommendations in regards to what will happen post the 27th,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme.

“What I am saying, I don’t think that it would be possible for hospitality to open up on the 27th the way we knew yet.

“There will be additional recommendations, there will be additional things put in place and that will be worked out between now and the 27th.”

Coronavirus – Tue May 5, 2020
Hospitals in the north of Ireland are close to capacity (Niall Carson/PA)

Last week, Sinn Féin voted against the proposals tabled by DUP economy minister Diane Dodds.

The measures were supported by Ulster Unionist Mr Swann and Alliance justice minister Naomi Long. SDLP infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon abstained.

The DUP’s desire to reopen sections of the economy drew it into a bitter confrontation with the other four executive parties, all of which supported Mr Swann’s proposal to extend the circuit-break by two weeks.

The DUP’s deployment of a contentious mechanism – the cross-community vote – to veto Mr Swann’s proposals for a two-week extension, and then a one-week stand-alone extension, has been the source of much of the political fallout.

Mrs Long has said the DUP’s move made her consider her position in the executive.

General Election 2019
Naomi Long said she considered her position in the executive following the DUP’s move to veto health regulations (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Swann was asked whether he would also consider his position if it happened again.

He did not give a direct answer but suggested the entire executive would become “untenable” if it was not defending the interests of the health service.

The minister said the circuit-break had yet to lift sufficient pressure off the health system.

“We haven’t seen the decrease that we would have liked to have seen with the number of inpatients that we currently have in our hospitals,” he said.

“We haven’t seen the decrease in the number of positive cases that we would have liked to have seen at this point in time.

“So, do I think further restrictions will be necessary, will be asked for between now and Christmas? Yes, I do.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. The Hospitality sector relies on Tourism, which is an environmental disaster. The economy will have to be restructured not just to accommodate covid but to save the planet. To restructure we will need to redistribute the worlds wealth. Close down tax havens, Tax the rich till their pips squeak and bring in a universal income.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.