Simon Coveney claims there is “politics being played” amid reports that the British government will offer Ireland 3.7 million vaccines.
Arlene Foster and Simon Coveney have tentatively welcomed a Sunday Times report that the British government is discussing plans to share almost 4 million vaccines with Ireland.
Although Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said “there is politics being played” as rumours swirl about the impact such an offer would have on the EU’s credibility, the Cork man did say the Irish government was open to accepting such a plan.
“Of course, if there was, we’d be very interested in talking to the British government about that,” Mr Coveney said.
“There may well be excess vaccines at some point in the future but I don’t think we’re realistically, looking at that for, for many, many weeks yet.”
The Fine Gael minister acknowledged Arlene Foster’s support for the idea, calling it “welcomed language.”
The First Minister for Northern Ireland had previously raised the idea with Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Fermanagh earlier this month.
“I think he (Boris Johnson) does understand the difficulties, particularly around border areas and the movement of people in relation to vaccination,” she told reporters.
“If there is surplus vaccine then we should share it with our nearest neighbours out of neighbourliness but also out of the fact it will have an impact of course on us here in Northern Ireland, so there’s a very practical reason why I believe that should happen.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she would also like to see the idea materialise.
“What happens across these two islands has implications because we move freely across the two islands, so it is crucially important that we have an all-island approach to dealing with vaccination rollout,” O’Neill said.
“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the good thing to do. It’s responding to a global pandemic and we are all in this together, so we need to work together in order to protect our people.
“I would like to see a lot more co-operation as we come out of this period and into the future.”
UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden downplayed the prospect of sharing vaccines for now however, explaining that the UK does not “currently have a surplus” of coronavirus vaccines to share with other countries.
“Clearly, our first priority is ensuring we deliver vaccines in the United Kingdom,” Dowden told Sky News.
“We clearly don’t currently have a surplus of vaccines, should we get to the point where we have a surplus of vaccines we’d make decisions on the allocation of that surplus.”
One British cabinet minister is reported to have called the prospect of exporting vaccines to an EU member state “a poke in the eye” to Brussels, according to the Sunday Times.
50 per cent of Northern Irish adults have now received their first dose of the vaccine, whilst the rest of the UK has surpassed 55 per cent, with less than 6 per cent of adults across the UK fully vaccinated with their second dose.
11 per cent of the Irish population has received a first dose, whilst only 4.2 per cent have been fully vaccinated with their second dose.