The Government is on target to have a plan to reopen indoor dining in place for July 19th, according to the Taoiseach.
Micheál Martin said legislation will need to be introduced to allow indoor dining to reopen for a limited cohort including those who are vaccinated against Covid-19, with the legislation to be finetuned over the weekend.
Although a number of Government TDs previously said they would vote against restricting dining access, Mr Martin said he does not anticipate any major opposition when it comes to voting through the new legislation.
“We’re working with the industry, the whole idea is to facilitate the reopening of the industry, which I think most people would support in a safe context and in a safe way, so I don’t anticipate difficulties on that front,” Mr Martin said.
He added: “Because also, the policy options that will come before us will not just map out what will happen in the short-term, but also on a phased basis what can happen over the interim period.”
The Cabinet will next week make a final decision over reopening options for the return of indoor dining, with publicans slamming the proposals as “deeply problematic”.
Publicans and other hospitality representatives held talks with Government officials over the past week regarding the reopening of the sector indoors.
Most of the discussions focused on devising a system that will allow only vaccinated people and those recovered from Covid-19 to dine indoors, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said, with six reopening scenarios to be presented to Cabinet for a decision next Tuesday.
Hospitality representatives were informed that primary legislation and regulations will be required to allow pubs operate indoors in certain circumstances.
The Government will be in a race against time before the Oireachtas rises next week to push through a new law that will allow the return of indoor hospitality.
'Open to abuse'
Publicans from the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said they believe they have “no option” but to accept the “deeply problematic” Government proposals for reopening the sector — with the other option being to remain closed for several more months.
“We don’t like this approach and we don’t want it,” said LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe.
“We feel it is deeply problematic on a practical level. But when the choice comes down to this proposal or staying closed for several more months, we feel we have no option but to go along with it.
There will be real questions and concerns in the coming weeks as to whether everyone claiming to be vaccinated will be
“The system they are putting forward is open to abuse and there will be real questions and concerns in the coming weeks as to whether everyone claiming to be vaccinated will be.
“It is also deeply unfair and discriminatory towards hospitality staff and others who may not yet have been vaccinated or who are unable to do so for various reasons.
“We are expecting major problems on the ground such as individuals seeking to gain access under false pretences. Tourists that arrive here on a negative PCR test won’t be permitted indoors.”
The return of indoor dining was delayed on July 5th, following public health advice concerning a surge of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
VFI chief executive, Padraig Cribben, said: “Our primary goal is to get our members reopened in a safe manner both for publicans, their staff and customers.
“If a so-called vaccine pass is what’s required then the onus is now on Government to get the legislation passed next week before the Oireachtas takes its summer break.
“There remains legal issues to be resolved but we remain insistent that pubs need to reopen on 19th July. If the political will is there to make it happen then it will happen.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the EU Digital Covid certificate could play a role in the reopening of indoor hospitality and antigen testing was an option, but any such system would not be ready in time for reopening on July 19th.