Sinn Féin spokesperson on Gaeilge, Gaeltacht, Arts and Culture, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has branded as “shambolic” and “insulting” the manner in which the government has rewritten rules for outdoor events overnight to save face for the Tánaiste’s attendance at a rule-breaking gathering.
Teachta Ó Snodaigh said:
“As recently as 31 July, I called yet again on Minister Catherine Martin to finally put together a plan for reopening with those in the music and events sectors in line with public health advice. We were told it couldn’t happen until the end of the month, as they were still awaiting ‘active engagement’ from other Ministers.
“Now, after months of inaction, we end up with a partial reopening but no plan, hastily thrown together to try and distract from the fact that the Tánaiste breached guidelines to attend a party days before trying to give the party’s host a made-up job.
“What we know for certain is that this sudden departure from the previous guidelines has nothing whatsoever to do with public health advice or the safety of workers in the industry.
“I struggle to think of any government anywhere in the world that has rewritten public health measures to provide political cover for a Minister who broke his own rules.
“No doubt many will be delighted to know that outdoor gigs of 200 people are once again allowed, but many are also disgusted at the way in which they have been treated.
“It is shambolic that nobody in the events, music, or hospitality sectors seems to have been consulted before the rules were rewritten, and frankly insulting that they are now being told they could have been holding events outdoors for weeks under existing regulations. This is not what they had been told.
“The Attorney General’s intervention appears to suggest guidelines held no weight because the regulations allowed for gatherings of 200 people. If this is the case, and only regulations matter, why the sudden rush to update guidelines this morning?
“We have heard reports of bands or venues being given warnings and threatened with prosecutions for running gigs in beer gardens, and many businesses who cancelled events and incurred significant income losses for fear of such punishment.
“This is a sector also reeling from the cancellation of Electric Picnic, and the loss of a summer during which a proper phased reopening should have already begun. Confusion remains rife – for example, music at weddings remains prohibited under guidelines, but seems to be allowed under regulations. When businesses and musicians were at risk of going bust and crying out for help for months, they got no support or plan for reopening. When Leo breaks the rules, the whole rulebook is rewritten in a matter of hours.
“Our music and events industry means so much to our economy and society, and deserves much more than being treated like an afterthought. They need basic supports like the PUP to be maintained as long as they cannot reopen, and a proper roadmap for when they can reopen.”