By Carmel Hayes
LAOIS TDs have reacted with shock and dismay to the partial lockdown imposed on the county for the next two weeks.
They have also urgently appealed for emergency aid for local businesses, which are already barely surviving after months of lockdown and are now facing another enforced closure.
Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan described the Laois partial lockdown as ‘Draconian’, while both he and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley criticised a failure to heed the warning signs coming from meat factories and direct provision centres.
Deputy Stanley said there had been no unannounced inspections by the Health and Safety Authority in food and meat processing facilities and an absence of testing until it was too late. He said that there were obvious warning signs of clusters in meat plants and direct provision centres, yet little had been done.
He said the lockdown would be “devastating” for the hotel and hospitality sector, which was just trying to get back up and running and is now hit by another blow.
Deputy Stanley said there is a case for a relief or emergency funding, as the new restrictions will cause “a deep economic shock” for the area.
Former justice minister Charlie Flanagan also called for emergency funding for local businesses, as he described the lockdown restrictions imposed on Laois as ‘Draconian’.
Speaking to The Irish Times last night, Deputy Flanagan said:“Business in the area has been struggling to recover in recent weeks and has now been set back considerably. Families with children, who opted to holiday at home this year, were preparing for holidays at the seaside and are in shock.”
The veteran TD also criticised the seemingly slow reaction of authorities to an emerging problem in food processing plants.
He said: “The issue of meat factories has been flagged for weeks. Testing meat factory workers should have been ramped up weeks ago.
“We now have a localised lockdown which is going to be impossible to implement and has caused widespread dissatisfaction throughout the midlands, an area already reeling from the economic shock waves of Bord na Móna. State aid needs to follow any restrictions.”
Businesses and centres that have had to close from midnight last night until midnight on 20 August include cafés, restaurants and pubs serving food, cinemas, theatres, museums, leisure centres and gyms. There will be no sporting events or matches.