By Cate McCurry, PA
The Taoiseach has rejected allegations that the hospitality sector has been treated like dirt in relation to the reopening of nightclubs and indoor live-music events.
Micheál Martin urged representative groups, like the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), to “moderate its language”.
It comes after Noel Anderson, the chairman of the LVA, said the industry has had two years of being treated like “dirt”.
Mr Martin said the protection of people and public health matters.
“I will say first of all, that no one has been treated like dirt,” the Fianna Fáil leader said.
“The LVA need to moderate its language. Government has been extremely supportive of the industry and a lot of people in the industry said that to me consistently.
“We need balance here. Public health matters and the protection of people and lives matters. We’ve always worked with the industry to work out issues and iron out issues.
“There has to be balance in terms of the commentary and I don’t accept the over the top comments that have been made in respect of what has actually been a reopening of the sector, that is always proved challenging.
“The problem for the sector is not Government, it’s Covid. It has been Covid-19 from the beginning.
“I understand the frustrations and the anger because everybody wants to open. Right throughout the pandemic our objective has been to keep businesses intact.”
Chief executive Of Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Padraig Cribben said: “If the Taoiseach was familiar was the detail of what happened at meetings in last seven days he would have different opinion.
“The Government has been very supportive and we have publicly acknowledged that on numerous occasions.
“The industry would be in a very severe situation without the support of the Government but what we are talking about is the unfolding of events over the past week and the way those happened.”
Mr Martin said the Government has been “very supportive” of the hospitality sector right through the pandemic.
“It’s not in the Government’s interest to close anything down, or to have undue restrictions, it’s always an objective to achieve balance,” Mr Martin added.
It comes as new rules regulating the industry is to be signed into law on Thursday.
Refreshed guidelines for the hospitality sector will also be published later on Thursday, almost a week after nightclubs reopened.
Mr Martin defended the decision to lift restrictions of the night-time economy when cases number are soaring.
Mr Martin said the country is in a different place compared to last year because of the high vaccination rates.
“Nphet advice was to reopen in the manner that we have reopened,” Mr Martin added.
“What Nphet are saying to us, and said it very clearly, is that collectively, if we all just moderate our behaviour, take precautions that we have done from the beginning we can limit the increase in cases.
“They are saying to all of us individually, rein that back a bit and there should be an outcome that will be beneficial to all of us.”