The Rural Independents Group has said that “the lack of a plan” in regard to Covid-19 “has left Ireland facing the toughest Christmas in living memory”.

Speaking this morning, the leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath said: “My colleagues and I in the Rural Independent Group have spent the last nine months pleading with the Government to listen and interact with the people, including small business owners. We also called for a much more robust and proactive approach to developing common-sense solutions and on executing a clear pathway out of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the Government has failed to consider these views. Thus, the people must face another rigid lockdown over the Christmas and New Year period.”

“The economic, social and mental health impacts of these ad-hoc and last minute lockdowns are extremely severe. These implications are not only being felt now, but will regrettably be more far-reaching over the longer term.”

“For instance, last week in the Dail, in a genuine attempt on our part to be helpful and constructive, we tabled a comprehensive and strategic motion aimed at finding solutions to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and lack of resourceful planning. Our motion set our clear plans and solution-based goals. For example, we sought additional ring-fenced funding for mental health, to tackle the spiralling fallout from the ongoing lockdowns and implementation of EU policies to support SMEs in Ireland,” he said.

The Rural Independents said that the proposals they put forward “arrogantly dismissed in the usual manner by a Government devoid of any plan.”

“Going from one rigid lockdown to another is not a plan. In fact, Einstein’s widely credited definition of insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results’ springs to mind when trying to garner some semblance of understanding at this Government’s approach. It is mind-boggling as to why the Government will not incorporate input from the public and small employers into their decision-making process,” Deputy McGrath said.

“Separately, the Government blocked air and ferry travel from Britain at the weekend. However, despite our calls for rapid solutions to bring our stranded Irish lorry drivers and citizens home, little is being done. In fact, the promised dedicated phone line at the Department of Foreign Affairs, to assist people with returning home from Britain, continues to ring out.”

“Yesterday, I called on the Government to deploy our defence force capabilities, to bring our citizens in Britain home. This is an extremely serious situation and must be treated with action – press conferences with little or no follow up simply are not sufficient,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.