Deputy John Paul Phelan
Kilkenny's hospitality and retail sectors need clarity now and can’t just be expected to flick on the lights and throw open the doors if it’s deemed safe to do so as the Christmas season approaches, according to Fine Gael TD, John Paul Phelan.
While the health and safety of the Irish public and those involved in all sectors of our economy, particularly the elderly and the medically vulnerable is paramount as COVID 19 continues to remain a serious threat, a case has to be made for re-opening certain sectors, Deputy Phelan said. He will make a clear case for reopening the retail and hospitality sectors at Fine Gael’s Parliamentary Party meeting on Wednesday of this week.
“Our publicans, our restaurant owners and retailers are responsible ladies and gentlemen. They know how to keep patrons safe. In fact many key outlets here in Kilkenny closed their doors ever before the first lockdown was announced in an all-out effort to keep us all safe and well. This was ever before floor markings and signage was introduced and wearing a face covering and using sanitiser at every opportunity became the norm.
“Two lockdowns have shown us the benefit of staying apart even when we are together and being responsible, even as we mingle in public places such as supermarkets and city streets with others. But we are human beings, we need to interact with others and we need to get some sort of normality back in very abnormal times. I will be making a case for the re-opening of pubs and restaurants when we exit Level 5 and that we signal this to both industries now so they can order stock, prepare their staff, get their properties ready for Christmas,” Deputy Phelan added.
The long-serving TD, who is himself classed as ‘vulnerable’ following a recent heart attack, added:
“Not everybody will want to rush back out when places re-open. We’ve matured as a society over two lockdowns and we know this just can’t happen. It will be very different, even as Christmas nears. There will be empty chairs at several tables as family members chose not to travel home. Many don’t know if they will be able to attend Mass, carol services, other important Church events in the Advent season.
“The isolation caused by lockdown has hit lots of people very hard and many will find the prospect of going to Mass, of getting back out and about, of meeting friends for a bite to eat or a few drinks just too overwhelming. The reality is that lots of families are also grieving or just not in the mood this year. They’ve lost loved ones to Covid or have lost their jobs or been impacted in some way by the pandemic.
“Our government needs to support all of our people and all sectors of our economy. As responsible, mature citizens and as patrons of law-abiding, mature and often family-run businesses, we have to weigh up the options based on the reality of living with COVID and trusting that we will be safe when businesses reopen.
“Rather than holding our counsel for a big announcement, having leaks and endless speculation, we need to give our retail and hospitality sectors clarity now. We all need to know what the plan is so we can all prepare for Christmas, albeit a very different one this year.”