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Local TD calls for ‘double standards on social distancing rules’ to be addressed

Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan has said she will be engaging with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris to seek clarification on why some mass gatherings are being approved while others remain severely restricted.

Deputy Nolan was speaking after being contacted by several constituents who felt deeply frustrated at the sight of hundreds of protestors in Dublin on Monday, while their own weddings or commercial plans had to be abandoned because of social distancing guidelines.

The Black Lives Matter protest, which saw around 4,000 people descend on Dublin, is now the subject of a Garda investigation.

According to the Irish Times, Gardaí are investigating with a view to potentially prosecuting organisers for their role in such a large public gathering during the Covid-19 lockdown.

While just a day earlier in Laois, the Derryounce Lakes and Trails in Portarlington had to be shut to the public following fears that the crowds gathering would be in violation of the Covid-19 restrictions.

The mass gathering of people in Dublin on Sunday was not condemned by the Taoiseach, who instead tweeted the following:

“Racism is a virus that we have been fighting for millennia. Despite the progress we have made, it is no less virulent today and no less dangerous.

“We need to show solidarity as people of all races & backgrounds around the world come together to stop its spread and defeat it.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Nolan said: “The issue here is not why the people in Dublin were protesting. The issue is around the blatant double standard that seems to be in operation.

“For example; under current restrictions, the Department of Agriculture will only permit rural marts to have a very small number of buyers present, with no sellers on site.

“Yet at the same time we have seen several hundred people being allowed to gather in Dublin city centre with no indication that social distancing guidelines were being adhered too.

“Agricultural fairs are also being called off right across the state because of these concerns and our ongoing attempts to keep the prevalence of Covid-19 down.

“From a physical distancing and disease prevention strategy point of view, the whole thing is simply incoherent.

“There are many people out there who may have been due to get married yesterday or over the weekend. They did the responsible thing and went along with the cancellations of their important day as an act of genuine social solidarity.

“They then look at the protests in Dublin and think; why did I bother? Why is there one rule for some and another rule for others?

“Either the social distancing measures apply to us all equally or they do not. The Taoiseach needs to make clear which it is.”

SEE ALSO – Talking Sport: Paul Cahillane on Celtic, Portlaoise, Ireland, Laois and Roy Keane

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.