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[00:00:00]

Now, let's go back to the front page of the Irish Times today, so they're saying pubs reopen by mid September. Now, last night on The Late Late Show, Chief Medical Officer Rowan and seemed to be saying he hoped it would be open by Christmas. So there's there's it's hard to know where we're going from here. So, look, to try to talk us through it. I'm joined now by Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy, who is one of the people who wrote that story today.

[00:00:25]

Good morning, Pat Moynihan.

[00:00:27]

And Pat, we start with the good news, which we're kind of addicted to outrage and bad news in everything. Let's take a win where we get it. Largely speaking, most of the kids in the country went back to school in the last week or two and a few hiccups here and they're expected, but largely speaking, I think a lot of people seeing it as a kind of a pathway back to some kind of normality maybe.

[00:00:51]

Yeah, I think so. And I think there's been sort of a large exhalation of relief across the country about the fact that the schools went back with with a minimum of fuss, but they went back relatively successfully. There certainly was such an explosion of relief in my household. But I can tell you of the jurors, but I think there is some satisfaction in government that it has gone ahead without turning into the sort of disaster that some people feared. Now, you know, we're not there yet.

[00:01:31]

By any stretch of the imagination. There will be outbreaks in schools. We've already seen some instances of that during the week. And on Monday, there's the leaving search results to out. That's, I think, another significant challenge for the government. But by and large, at this point in time, the education business of getting back to normal is more or less on track, I think. And I think, you know, putting the political hat on for a moment, I think that's vastly important for confidence in the government to manage the next phase of the pandemic, because I think if the return to school had turned out badly being poorly managed, poorly planned to parents across the country felt that it hadn't gone well or was badly organized, then I think the sense that this government just can't do anything right would really begin to get a hold of things.

[00:02:36]

And while we've seen political troubles during the week on the appointment of the commissioner, the nomination of the next commissioner, I think for most people they care about politics when it affects their daily lives and schools, affects a lot more people than the commissioner does. Yeah, and look, we should say as well that a lot of it is not down to the government, but don't extraordinary work that a lot of teachers and principals did. And I think yeah, I think that had it had it gone wrong and I think it's the government that would have got the blame for it.

[00:03:10]

Absolutely. Now, so we've done that and now we're into next steps. There's a lot of confusion out there about what's happening next. OK, first, a simple question. When are the polls opening?

[00:03:22]

My understanding is we report this morning in the Irish Times is that the government intends to have them open later this month, hopefully by the middle of the month. That's the sort of conversation that's going on in government.

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And that is do we have any idea how this conversation took hold? Because, look, as little as a week ago, we wouldn't have been thinking that the problems are suddenly going to reopen. I know Leo Varadkar was kind of encouraging about it, but did something shift here?

[00:03:48]

There is there's very definitely, I think, two schools of thought in government broadly. There is the school of thought that says that wants to reopen quicker, that wants to learn how to live with the virus, and that involves necessarily taking more risks with with the pace of reopening. And there's also a more cautious wing of government at that is, I suppose, paying that was paying more attention to the public health advice. I think all through government, they're paying attention to the public health advice.

[00:04:24]

But perhaps more weight is being placed on the public health advice as opposed to the voices of economic interests such as but not restricted to the public funds that are carrying more ways with the with with with other parts of the government. So, I mean, Martin and Stephen Donnelly in the cautious wing. I think Stephen Donnelly is certainly in the cautious wing, I think Hall Martin is trying to straddle the two camps, as perhaps you might expect from the leader of government.

[00:04:55]

But I do know we have reported it previously in the Irish Times that the government has made clear, as in the leadership of the government, the two party leaders have the three party leaders, I should say, have made clear to the public health experts that they don't envisage any circumstances in which there could be a return to the lockdown. And and they believe that, you know, that the country must reopen. They're listening to, as I say, economic interests and and so forth.

[00:05:27]

And they made it clear to public health experts that they shouldn't recommend formally to them a real reintroduction of the lockdown, because that's not a step they're willing to take.

[00:05:39]

OK, so in terms of then the living would covid plan that we're going to see in a week or two, what are we going to see in terms of there seems to be a shift going on in terms of travel? There seems to be a shift going on with Katherine Martin asking the sporting organizations to come to her with ideas for for how to have spectators at sports. Are we going to suddenly start seeing our lives virus allowing? Are we going to see our lives suddenly opening up this winter instead of what we were kind of led to expect, which was a horrible the worst winter ever?

[00:06:13]

I don't think we'll see anything suddenly, Brendan. And, you know, I should say at this point that there is a draft plan, I understand, in circulation, but I'm told it is very much a draft plan and will undergo significant changes. This I think the eventual plan would be a product of a lot of discussion that is yet to take place, both within government and between government and the public health experts as to whether we are heading for a reopening.

[00:06:42]

I think that is the intention, but it does depend on the next couple of weeks in terms of the spread of the virus, the level of infections and so forth. I mean, to a degree, I suppose everything depends on that, but it is certainly the intention of government, that society and the economy in as we go into the autumn will be more open than it has been than it has been up until now. That's the intention, but it does depend on how the virus is managed.

[00:07:15]

OK, fingers crossed. Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy, thanks very much. Let's take a break.

[00:07:21]

Brendan O'Connor on our TV Radio one.