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EU to Ireland: Mandatory Quarantine might be illegal, chappies

There is, as Irish Catholic Editor Michael Kelly noted last night, a “glorious irony” to this:

Ireland, of course, has been at the forefront of EU efforts to condemn the Poles and the Hungarians for various alleged abuses of human rights on matters ranging from immigration law to abortion, to whatever you’re having yourself. And of course, as soon as it suits us, here we are locking up Europeans without trial on the basis that we suspect them of being potentially unclean. Here’s the story, from the Irish Times piece linked in Michael’s tweet. Note the part in bold:

“The Commission is looking into these measures as there are some concerns in relation to the general principles of EU law, in particular proportionality and non-discrimination,” a Commission spokesman said.

“We are in contact with the Irish authorities and will ask them for clarifications on this matter and the criteria used to determine the designated countries.”

At the heart of the concerns is why the five countries were picked, and not others. They are not the five with the highest rates of infection according to the chart of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which shows Poland, Sweden and the Netherlands to be worse or similarly affected.

In addition, there are concerns about proportionality given the high cost to citizens, and questions over whether the same results could be achieved through other means.

That highlighted bit, of course, has been the main course of this feast of incompetence that the Government calls Mandatory Hotel Quarantine. It’s designed on paper to prevent people with new variants of Covid arriving in to Ireland. But it doesn’t apply uniformly, to all countries. It depends on where you’re coming from, and the list of countries targeted has always been completely arbitrary, and lacking in sense. The European Union, not surprisingly, has noticed that Ireland appears to be discriminating against some EU citizens, while allowing others free passage, and is making clear that that is just not on.

It will be interesting, in the light of all of this, to see how long this absurd experiment lasts. It has been a political and policy disaster for the Government since day one, and it’s quite possible, if they are smart, that someone in Government buildings will figure out that “The EU made us stop doing it” is a much better excuse for stopping it that “it wasn’t working”.

The policy is, as this demonstrates, doing considerable damage to Ireland’s reputation, and that’s before it has really even been given a chance to work. Wait and see how the image of Ireland changes if and when five thousand Americans, arriving here for the summer, find themselves locked in hotels, instead of enjoying the ring of Kerry. Imagine further, how they’ll feel, when the find out that the policy doesn’t apply to the British.

In any case, the whole house of cards is just weeks away from collapsing on the basis of policy in Northern Ireland. When Stormont opens its pubs and restaurants, as it is expected to do within weeks, then cross-border travel will surge, making a farce of the Irish lockdown, and our travel restrictions. Are we really going to lock up Austrians and Belgians while our own people cavort in the streets of Belfast?

The Italian Ambassador, last night, called the policy “selective and discriminatory”. That’s very harsh language, from a diplomat. This policy is not making Ireland any friends, and it’s very questionable whether it is making Ireland any safer. So why persist with it?

Part of it, of course, is to save face. To abandon the policy now would be to admit that it is a disaster. What Government will probably try to do is stick with it for a month or so, and then claim that it is no longer needed, and has been a complete success. Nobody will believe that, of course, but it will give hapless backbench TDs a stupid script to stick to when they go before the media. They’d be vastly better off, all things considered, to abolish it tomorrow, and blame the EU. Then, if cases go up, they can pretend that it would never have happened if it wasn’t for Brussels. That’s worked relatively well for them on the vaccination mess, and now they have a chance to do it again.

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