Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (366)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

366. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the details of the latest discussions his Department has had with his counterparts in Northern Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic regarding the Border and combating the virus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6762/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Foreign)

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department does not lead on the response to Covid-19 from the operational perspective. However, I, and officials in my Department, continue to facilitate regular, necessary contact and coordination with Northern Ireland counterparts.

Regular engagement is ongoing also between Health Ministers, Chief Medical Officers and relevant Ministers on specific issues.

On Monday 2 February, with the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Robin Walker MP, I jointly chaired a conference call with the First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Health Minister Robin Swann and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to discuss the ongoing response to Covid-19.

This was the latest in a series of regular conference calls in this format, following the first such meeting, which took place in Armagh on 13 March 2020.

These meetings are a key element of our ongoing North South contact. They provide an opportunity to discuss recent developments, and update on operational cooperation within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreed by our Chief Medical Officers to strengthen North South co-operation on the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.

On this occasion, the latest developments in the collective effort to combat the pandemic were discussed, and the need to continue close cooperation in order to best manage the increasingly serious pressures facing our respective healthcare systems. The importance of providing clear messaging to the public was also emphasised.

We discussed Covid-19 restrictions on the island, North and South, with a view to adopting similar approaches wherever possible. The need for continued cooperation and coordination was reaffirmed, including with regard to international travel restrictions, in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Furthermore, in recent weeks, in view of fast-moving developments in both jurisdictions, official level calls have been facilitated with counterparts in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, to discuss measures in place.