Michelle O’Neill: UK and Ireland need to align approach on tackling pandemic

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill (PA Media)
13:38pm, Fri 06 Nov 2020
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The UK and Ireland need to align their approaches to the coronavirus pandemic, Stormont’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said.

The Sinn Fein vice-president warned the issue of travel between the countries is crucially important in the future.

On Friday she attended a virtual meeting of ministers from around the UK and Ireland which focused on recovery from the virus’s devastating impact.

We have had different approaches on this across the island and I think that has been really unhelpful

Ms O’Neill added: “We must be as aligned as we possibly can be and the issue of travel is crucially important as we move forward and out of wave two.

“We have had different approaches on this across the island and I think that has been really unhelpful.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minster Mark Drakeford, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove also attended the meeting of the British Irish Council.

Arlene Foster (PA Media)

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster stressed the importance of economic recovery and protecting people and the health service.

She said: “We have to move through this in a way where we bring everybody with us and protect the NHS, I think that’s imperative.”

During a meeting last summer, Mr Martin said Irish cross-border work on improving the monitoring of quarantining international visitors is moving forward.

Harmonising travel regimes across the UK and Ireland will be “challenging” but the threat posed by the pandemic means politicians also have to act quickly, the Irish premier said at that time.

International arrivals in Dublin airport can cross the border into Northern Ireland despite impediments to how visitors from Covid-19 high-risk countries are monitored for self-isolation compliance once they do so.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann has held talks with his opposite number in the Republic, Stephen Donnelly.

On Friday Ms O’Neill said: “The virus doesn’t stop because it’s moving from one jurisdiction to another, it moves very freely across this island.”

The council of leaders last met a year ago when discussions focused on restoring devolution in Northern Ireland and Brexit.

It was set up following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

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