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So the cabinet is to consider a major crackdown on house parties and pubs that do not comply with public health guidelines today, Garthe will be given the powers to close a pub immediately where they believe public health guidelines are not being followed. And all of this comes as the acting chief medical officer, Dr Ron Anglin, announced that pubs which don't serve food will not open next week. Now the industry is calling for immediate financial help from government. And Pori Crebbin, chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, is on the line now.
You won't have been surprised, though, nor will your members. I will imagine that pubs will not be allowed to open.
Good morning, Clare. No, I mean, we were not optimistic based on the numbers that are there, but I think the time has now come. This is the third time that we've been told at the very last moment that you cannot open and, you know, it is causing extreme mental anguish for our members and really what we need to be given right now. And if the news is bad, give us the bad news, because it now looks like based on what the benefit thinking is, based on the compliance with that thinking, that we are probably looking at a prolonged closure.
So if that be the case and by the way, we don't agree with that, we think the right thing to do is to be open with proper guidelines. But if that is the case, let us tell us that. But also put in place the package. And I would prefer if cabinet today actually concentrated on a support package for the three and a half thousand pubs that have now been closed for the past 24 weeks. They have they have serious financial problems.
They are under serious mental stress. And I think that's where the priority is for us today.
Isn't that not what Minister Leo Varadkar promised, though, that if the polls were not allowed to open at the end of the month, that today's cabinet meeting, there would be a package under consideration?
That is specifically what he said, is he said that he would like to be in a position at the cabinet meeting on the 20th to have a package of additional supports and jobs supports for pubs and nightclubs, recognising that there is a sector that has been ordered by government to stay, of course, longer than anybody else. And we have spoken with with the tarnish that we we have seen that they were able to put in place in the three counties that were locked down.
They were able to put in place immediate supports. We are now 24 weeks waiting for those supports. And really, today is the day there must be announced and there must be substantial and there must be cash.
Now, I also mentioned this potential crackdown on Hice house parties with some reports suggesting that you wouldn't be allowed to have more than six people in your home and that there would be laws against that. How do you feel about that?
Look, I don't know how that could be policed with any great effect. We also have some problems in, you know, the Garda not getting clear instructions. I had a call this morning from a member who was told by a guarantee that if he did something specific, that if he didn't stop doing something that he was doing that the guy the guy that was going to return and close them. And the specific issue is not at all covered in the guidelines.
And the member involved was doing nothing contrary to the guidelines. So I think there's there's a communication gap between the powers that be and the Garda on the ground that needs to be cleared. I just don't know how you can say that. You know, you you are going to stop having more than six people in a house if it beggars belief on the overall question, though, of of house parties and gatherings.
I mean, how do you feel about that as somebody who represents publicans who are not allowed to open?
Well, there are two issues out there that have been of grave concern to us for some time. One is the question of illegal shebeens, which is a different issue to house parties. And they are they have cropped up right across the country. And we have been in correspondence with the guy, with the authorities in relation to them.
And I think that what are they about people having parties with a bar in the garden or are they selling drinks, selling drinks? They're they're they're they're they're there. It's the illegal sale of drink in in sheds and in houses in various places around the country. Pretty, pretty prolific. I might add. And, you know, it is a major issue when you have three and a half thousand legitimate businesses closed and these are working with with impunity. I think they need to be addressed.
And I'm at a loss as to how they can address the house parties. We have for a long time been saying that. And we and we have the on the statute books, we have legislation around minimum unit pricing. We believe that should be should be implemented and implemented straight away. But I think there's an issue and I mean, if I look at my own house, if you look in your house, if I have er people in there tonight or 10 people, I don't know how anybody is going to know the number of people that are going to be in there now.
Take this back to basics, if people you say some people are selling drink, if there are house parties happening and we know that there are over 200 clusters as a result of gatherings and social gatherings in private houses. Should we stop having drinks, stop being sold altogether for a period of time?
Well, I mean, it's like everything else. I think all of those things need to be considered. But the real the real issue here is people taking personal responsibility. And the real issue is that pubs are a controlled environment. And the one thing that pubs are used to, they're used to regulation, they're used to controlling, they're used to controlling people. They're used to implementing regulation that sometimes they might be terribly happy with. I mean, if you go back and if you go back to the smoking ban of whatever number of years ago that has been implemented in in with a high level of slightly different thought, controlling the spread of it.
But I think the point is, give us the guidelines, put the sanctions in place, police the sanctions and the publicans of this country will respond accordingly.
OK, but go back to the sale of drink from off licences, because you have said, haven't you, that it should be paused, stopped for three weeks at least. I know.
What I have actually said is that if if if they believe that that to be a source of the problem, they should consider it. I think that's slightly different than saying that it should be done. They may decide that that's not an issue. It may very well not be the issue. But, you know, I think certainly cheap alcohol in supermarkets is an issue. We've been consistent in saying that for the last decade. It's not just now. And and I do believe that that should be addressed and addressed now.
But if if covid-19 if the spread of it was stopped in its tracks, it would give your members a better chance of reopening, wouldn't it? So if we had a very strict policy for a number of weeks, it might leave your people in a better position?
Well, I think, you know, if I go back about nine weeks, we've had an issue around certain things. We've had an issue around meat plants. We've had an issue around direct provision. We've had an issue around travel, even though let's all travel. The one thing that I'm really annoyed about and really concerned about is that we've known we've had these issue in particularly in Midpines, a direct provision for months and months and months. Now we're talking about a plan to do testing in those areas.
I think that where we're coming from behind the curve in tackling the areas that need to be tackled. And, you know, I think it's time we stopped telling people we're all in this together because I have three and a half thousand members who certainly don't feel that they're in this with everybody else when they see what has been allowed to happen in meat plants, a direct provision. And I think that we should stop telling people that, you know, we've all done a good job because if we had all done a good job, we wouldn't have had those issues in those meat plants.
We wouldn't have had those issues in direct provision that the the community and the people in the communities have done a good job. But I think others have been lacking in coming up to where they need to be.
When you heard last night, I'm sure, as I'm sure you did at the national press conference, that an outbreak of covid has been linked to one pub restaurant and it has resulted in 36 cases. When you heard that, were you concerned that even those pubs that serve food could be closed?
There are always concerns. I mean, that's that's one case out of about three and a half, 4000 outlets that are actually operating. So I would assume that there won't be a knee jerk reaction in relation to that. It's one case and obviously I don't know the full facts of the case. I don't even know that I don't even know where the particular outcome is. But you will have cases arising in various outlets for whatever reason, whether it's brought in or whatever.
But, you know, if you look at that one case, I think that the number of cases that Klosters they were talking about last night in the community was in excess of 200. So if it's one out of 200 plus, it's not a cause for immediate alarm.
When you think about when you might be allowed to reopen, when your members might be allowed to reopen, would it happen before the end of the year?
Well, we did a survey last week there and a very sizeable proportion, two thirds of our members believe that if they're not open by the end of the year, they'll be out of business. I think this is one of the key things that government have to have to signpost today, because if the news is bad, we would prefer to know that. And it does look it does look now based on the numbers, if we go back and we stick with the numbers back in July, the numbers each day were less than 20 and then we weren't allowed open.
If we have to get. There had to be allowed open and if, as everybody is predicting, there will be clusters on the schools open, then I would have to say if I'm a realist in the foreseeable future, as in the next number of months, yes, I think we have major challenges. I think government need to address those major challenges now. They need to address them primarily in terms of a support package, but they also need to address them in terms of been been upfront and not treating publicans in the insulting way that they have been treated by.
You know, we look at this in three weeks, we look at it in three weeks. That's that's no longer good enough. We now need something more definitive.
Paul Crebbin, thank you for joining us today. Chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Eilleen has been on to say, hearing that a number of pubs are currently that are currently open, are not abiding by the health guidelines, is not instilling faith in the opening of remaining wet pubs. And another listener says the issue here is alcohol. Take it out of the equation altogether. Problem solved. Simple. Let's talk some more about this now with the executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Liam Heraklion.
You're very welcome to the program. What do you make of this news, these reports about a crackdown through legislation on gatherings in homes?
Good morning, Clare. I have to say, I agree with a lot of our politics has just said. I think the idea that we're now leaping to more criminalization of private behaviour employees, first of all, that the government has done all that it can do to deal with proven evidence of problems in areas such as direct provision and meat plants and nursing homes. And it also assumes that the government has exhausted all of its resources in terms of clear public health communication and support to the community.
And only at the last resort is leaping to criminalisation. And I think there are two assumptions that are very, very questionable, given what we've seen over the last number of weeks.
When you look at what we know right about about what's happening with the cases of covid-19 and we heard last night with nearly 400 clusters. We also heard the 252 of those clusters relate to social gatherings in private households. So we have a problem.
Well, let's define clear. What do we mean by social gathering in private households? If we're talking about criminalising gatherings of more than six people in a private home, there are almost an infinite range of events or situations in which more than six people might gather in a home. My family has seven people in it. So does this mean that if we have two more people into the home from two other households, we're committing a criminal offence? Other people share houses and rented accommodation where there may be more than six people renting the house, they may wish to have one or two friends to attend them.
You can have family events. People can be caring for each other. The idea of this kind of social gathering being blurred with the purported problem of house parties of hundreds of young people gathering at locations is, I think, very problematic. And the idea that there are clusters and outbreaks, well, are these linked to large events or are they linked to the fact that young people are being encouraged to go back out into the economy and work and because inevitably they're coming into contact with community transmission, that there may be problems in homes?
I think this is a very unproven, vague and I would say something that really can't be dealt with properly by the law. And this is without, of course, looking at the huge legal obstacles that we are dealing with here. We have the protection of the family home, the inviolability of the dwelling and the right to private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights. And if we are talking about inserting the criminal law into the ordinary family and private life of members of the community, I think the government has to go much, much further to make a case for such drastic action.
I suppose, though, if you're looking at those numbers, though, as they have been on the increase in the last number of weeks, the alternative to doing something like this is another lockdown.
Well, this is, I think, the absurdity here, we don't have at present restrictions on movement outside of one particular county. So we're saying to people, you're free to move about, you're free to work, you're free to go to a pod, you're free to go to a restaurant. But we are we are considering criminalizing you, inviting a small number of people into your home. And we're saying that we can't trust you to behave responsibly in your own home.
I mean, we have, you know, the absurd situation at present that you can't attend a small sporting events gay soccer event with 100 to 200 people. You can go to a pub to watch the same event. But we're not saying to people that they won't be able to invite one or two friends over to watch the same event in their own home. And I think we really are in danger of here bringing the law into disrepute. And the idea that the guards would be drawn into policing private behavior is, I think, going against the whole ethos of what the guards have tried to and succeeded in doing over the last couple of months in strengthening the relationship with the community.
I see what you're saying, and it makes logical sense. But I suppose, on the other hand, we do have this problem and it's really difficult to square the circle, isn't it? I mean, for the authorities who are dealing with this, how do we control the infection rates without telling people through legislation if they need to, to stop gathering indoors?
I think what we're losing here is the logic and the coherence of how we go from public health advice to the government, weighing that up and making policy decisions and only as a last resort, introducing legislation that is necessary and proportionate. I think as we've moved away from the phases that we had earlier as an effort has been given a role of actually recommending criminal sanctions, it seems. No. And there was a confusion at a very profound level, though, between what's advice, what's regulation and what's law.
I think we are losing the coherence of our approach. The public have accepted incredible restrictions on their rights under the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. We accept the need for many of the restrictions that have been introduced. But they need to be done in a lawful way. They need to be done only where necessary and proportionate. And I think we are now leaping to very invasive criminal sanctions without the government actually articulating the necessity that we, for example, are we going to have restrictions on private homes when we don't have restriction on movement between homes?
And I think the government really needs to be doing more to explain this, rather than all of us only reading about this in the Irish Times this morning. I mean, two weeks ago, we were told the government was considering primary legislation. No, it seems this is going to be one of the health regulations. I mean, it really is not a proper way to go about dealing with the public on such an important matter. Okay, Liam, thank you for joining us today.
Liam Harik from the Irish Council of Civil Liberties. And I also I'm joined on the line by Laura Daquan, who's a consultant rheumatologist in Beaumont Hospital. Nora. You're very welcome. Thank you for being with us today. Do you think we should be cracking down on the number of people who are gathering in homes?
Oh, Claire, I think that as your previous speakers have said, the messaging here is absolutely way off. So we did hear yesterday from John Kolohe that we've 392 outbreaks and that 252 of those relate to Heisel guidelines. And somehow we immediately jump to thinking that these are all track parties and and that for me, as somebody in my 30s, I immediately think that those are other people's behaviours. So I immediately think and I'm sure lots of other people do that these are people who are in their teens and in their 20s and they're having crazy parties.
And that does not relate to my own personal behaviour. But the truth is that we're talking about households gathering. So we're talking about brunches, lunches, dinner parties, barbecues, communions, christenings. The things that we all really enjoy doing is the things that we all love to do. And I think that sometimes when we're using the word house party repeatedly, we're kind of depersonalizing it and we're kind of putting it on to, oh, this is all the young people who are doing crazy things.
And like the truth is, Claire, are young people have missed out on vast quantities of really important life events and they have been remarkably compliant. And I suppose through all of this messaging, my concern is that we start finger pointing at our young people who out of all of us have missed out on the most important life event. The administration are leaving source their summers, their summers away. Some of them will miss out on starting college and university.
You know, they have missed really I know now I know in my years that those are really important things for me and perhaps they don't know that yet.
But, you know, when you say most young people have been compliant and I'm sure that is the case, but we know that most covid-19 cases of late have been in the under 45, haven't they?
Yes, yeah. But I suppose they're not in the under it's not all the under 25 who are getting it. It's all people within my age bracket. And I'm not going to have parties doing anything crazy. I'm going to work of my major risk factors working in health care, you know. I'm not indulging in what I would seem to be crazy behavior, so my point, Karen, kind of coming to it in a bad way is that we have to be able to personalize this.
So I would argue that's what we need from the effort and from the government is is our actual, you know, clear messaging on what they think about behaviors are because they say outbreaks relating to house parties. We immediately all walk away from it and say, I don't have parties. You know, I'm living a very quiet life.
Well, they said social gatherings. Yes, a social class, which could mean anything.
Exactly. And I suppose I want people to explain to me what those gatherings are so that I can be informed and modify my own behavior. And I presume that's the same as everybody. I would like examples. I would like people to educate me, and I would like people to educate the people around me. As to what these high risk examples were and why there was so much transmission in those scenarios were undermined. Like the Irish people are really clever and well-educated.
They can understand this, but they need to be informed. They've had huge draconian measures put on them for the last six months and they will play ball with all of the measures that continue to come. But they're going to need to be informed about the average Irish person. Care has never been better informed about epidemiology, about virology, you know, health and public health. And I think we're being a little bit unfair to them all by not giving them a little bit more detail and a little bit more information so that they can make informed decisions rather than coming in with a big stick and saying, you know, if you sick people to your house, we're going to call the guard is a huge there's a big stack coming for the pubs as well.
It would seem from what we're hearing, that there will be more powers for Garthe to shut down pubs if they're open when they shouldn't be. Do you agree with that?
So I want the guards to be able to do their job and feel safe at work. And if that means that they have to go into places and that they need to be able to have a power to implement whatever the necessary public health guidelines say, I want them to be able to do that. But I really don't want us to be asking the guards to police the individual behaviours and be driving around housing estate, thinking about how many people might be in each house.
You know, that's not how we operate in Ireland. And what we have asked of people so far in the past six months have been phenomenally successful. Now where we have a surge, again, we're going to need to do it all again, but we're going to need to pull together. And people want to do this in a way that is kind of, you know, we're all in it and that we're all, you know, pulling the same or that we're all that Irish people are all on board.
They're going to respond really badly to the concept, but they're going to be punished into compliance. And that doesn't work in this country.
The notion that the pub should remain closed, are you on board with that?
Oh, look, I feel really bad for the publicans. And, you know, their businesses have been decimated. And I absolutely agree that they need to be supported. I do wonder I had wondered whether or not looking at the square footage purple and the number of people per square foot and, you know, but perhaps those are not workable models. And I completely agree that they need to be supported because they are looking like it sounds like they're going to be closed into the new year.
And we want the Irish public to continue to be a part of our our world. And so we're going to need to support them as they get through this.
And the pubs that are open, the ones that are serving food, are you concerned about them?
So if we look at the numbers, so as so 392 outbreaks and one of those within a pub to serve food, I would say statistically that's quite low. So that would imply that in the vast majority of cases that the practices that we're using in our pubs that are open that we're getting is right. And so perhaps that one place where there was an outbreak, I'm sure we need to look a little bit about why that was and how that worked and that that may inform our practices for the other pubs that are open.
And, yeah, it will be interesting to see whether or not we hear and think.
If I thought just listening to Dr Ken Henry on Morning Ireland this morning, he was talking about the unintended consequences for older people looking after themselves and staying at home. And he was saying the people are presenting in hospital with malnutrition and decreased mobility. Are you aware of that?
Oh, listen, it's actually been incredibly difficult on our older people. So I've had you know, there's lots of people in the community care who are quite marginal in terms of their, you know, perhaps they have dementia or cognitive impairment or they're lonely and isolated. And for them, their social outlet, some of them would have gone straight to the pub every day. That would have been their little cycle where they go out for their lunch and then come home, or they would have gone out every day.
And the removal of all of their social outlets from them has been enormous. Lots of them visually impaired. Perhaps they can't hear can't use the phone. They have been in a horrible bubble and it's been really difficult for them and it's been really difficult for them. Once they get into hospital, they still can't see family members. It's been a really hard time for all of our older people. And I suppose when we think of all of this and we're all, you know, feeling a bit annoyed that this is a total dose and that life is never going to be any fun again, the truth is for all of us this we will ultimately get back to normal and everything will be fine.
And but for our older people, they're giving up what could be their what are likely their last years. And their families are not with them. It's really hard for them. And we're doing this to keep them safe. So we have to keep that in mind.
I know you'd like many of us have children going back to. School this week, how confident are you about the schools returning? Oh, God. So, yeah, two of my three are back to school this week. There's great excitement at our house, but I'd say there's less excitement in the houses with some of the teachers.
And, you know, I find you understand that totally. If I look back to how I felt going into work in February and March, you know, I was anxious. I was worried care. I was redoing my will. I was really, really I couldn't sleep. I was dreaming about pandemics. And I'm sure that the teachers who've been who've been, you know, educating from home, they're only now probably fronting up to that now. So I'm sure they're totally anxious, concerned about how this is going to go.
And I think we all have to understand and be responsive to how it does go. So some things will go really well. You know, there may be small outbreaks and we're going to have to respond to those appropriately. We're going to have to be quick. And, you know, as parents, we're going to have to make sure that we don't send people into schools who have anything more than the simple stuff. And I don't know about your health, but the stats are constant and our are pretty constant.
Yeah, like they're just gripping. And while we know from the age of these, they say write simple software, fine. We're not too worried about the coughing. If they have a fever, if there's anything else going along with this case, keep it home and give the guy a cold so that I understand. But the flip side of that care is that employers are going to need to understand that. They're going to need to know that, you know, no person is an island.
We all exist with our families. If you have a sick kid, you're going to have to be at home until that issue get sorted. Either they get swabbed or they get better or whichever your GP tells you to do so. So we are going to need a flexibility with our workplaces in order to ensure that people don't send sick children to school, because that's the worst possible thing that we could do.
And then when people hear that the hospital numbers are down, that the ICU numbers are down, you'll hear people saying, oh, don't know, don't worry, the hospital numbers are down. So it's OK. And people will give lots of theories around that, that, you know, maybe the virus has changed. It's not as serious as it was before. What's your advice or view on that?
Oh, yeah, we hear all of this so that we have covered lives now. And so so, listen, the truth is that we are seeing plenty of coal, but we're seeing a plenty of are coming in. We are seeing it in the younger age bracket and we haven't been seeing critically unwell people with covid, which is fabulous and reflects lots of the hard work. The people who are vulnerable have been doing so, the people who have been staying at home, the people who have health vulnerabilities, they have been keeping away.
But the truth is, the more KOVR-TV, the reason the community, the more likely it is that those people are going to ultimately become infected. We saw it across other countries. We saw it in Florida. If you look at those statistics at the beginning, healthy, well, people, you didn't see a big surge in the ICU, but ultimately it builds to a critical point where we start to see sickness in our older and more vulnerable people.
And that's where we absolutely don't want to go. So, you know, it's not that it's you know, I don't want people to get critically unwell. And but but the truth is, the young people who aren't getting critically ill. Well, I'm delighted. But the more of them there are, the more likely it is that our old and vulnerable will catch us.
OK, well, look, thank you very much for your time today, Dr. Nora Daquan, who is a consultant at Beaumont Hospital. We'll take a quick break. Back with you after this.
Text five one, double five one today with Clare Byrne on Radio one.