I have received urgent representations from residents of each of the three Aran Islands expressing their concerns at the possibility of the islands opening sooner than mid-August. From the beginning of the outbreak, the government had clearly set out that the islands would not reopen until phase 5 on the 10th of August, 2020. Given the recent changes by the government, however, there is great uncertainty as to whether the 10th of August remains the date.
Urgent clarification is needed from the government and from NPHET on when the islands can be safely reopened. I raised this matter with Seán Kyne at the meeting of the Covid committee last week. During that meeting I could not over-emphasise how worried the islanders were. I also highlighted the GPs concerns and those of the nursing home and asked that NPHET be made aware of the serious restrictions on water usage in place now for approximately three months.
In the circumstances, the unrestricted opening up of the islands for tourists at the end of June is not acceptable. I agree with the islanders that there has to be a planned and phased reopening for the beginning of August. Indeed the organisation representing all of the islands, Comhdháil Oileán na hÉireann, has called on the government again to urgently clarify the timescale and to give proper directions and support.
In the meantime practical arrangements have to be made to allow essential workers and relatives to access the islands.