July 26, 2020
‘Misplaced constitutional considerations should not stop increased, common sense cooperation against Covid-19’ – Kearney

Declan Kearney MLA has said the decision to impose 14 days quarantine for travellers from Spain into England and the north of Ireland, demonstrates the need for anomalies and contradictions to be addressed between the administrations in Ireland and Britain regarding international travel for citizens.

The junior Minister in the northern power sharing Executive said;

“From the outset it never made sense for travellers coming into the north of Ireland from Spain to be exempted from 14 days quarantine, while others flying into the south were expected to self isolate.

“However, there are far too many contradictions in public health policy overseeing international travel, shared between the administrations north and south, and then between Britain and Ireland, within the existing common travel area.

“It is illogical for the information gathered from passengers arriving at southern airports and then potentially travelling into the 6 counties, not to be exchanged between agencies on a north/south basis.

“There is an obvious need to introduce universalised travel locator forms with unfettered sharing of that information among and between the administrations with responsibility for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, north and south.

“If legislation is required to enable this, it should be drafted and approved.

“The next North South Ministerial Council plenary meeting provides an appropriate forum to review and strengthen the Memorandum of Understanding on tackling Coronavirus between the north’s power sharing Executive and the Irish government.

“The proposal from the Joint Heads of Government in the north to convene an urgent meeting of the British Irish Council is a very timely and important initiative.

“This should be embraced as an opportunity to address the existing anomalies with regard to the operation of the common travel area in terms of travellers arriving in Britain and Ireland.

“But travel within the common travel area should also be overseen by the universalised use of travel locator forms for all travel, east to west, and west to east at air and ferry ports.

“Such an approach would provide additional resilience for contact tracing and isolation systems and enhance their operation throughout all neighbouring jurisdictions.

“At this stage in our collective battle against Covid-19, misplaced constitutional considerations should not prevent increased practical and common sense cooperation.

“Covid-19 is likely to remain with us for some time. That reality means that in the interests of all our citizens’ public health, there should be no limits placed on how to maximise common sense cooperation on an all-Ireland basis, and between Britain and Ireland.

“The North South Ministerial Council and British Irish Council now need to urgently address the development of effective two islands’ strategies concerning travel and public health. Nothing should be allowed to hinder delivering on this priority.”

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