- 29 Apr 21
The government today announced news of significant steps towards the re-opening of Irish society. While the emphasis is very strongly on caution, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, the Gaeltacht, Sport and the Media, Catherine Martin, has indicated that a return to lived music may not be that far off!
The Irish live music industry responded positively tonight to the news, announced by the Government today, that there would be an acceleration of the re-opening of Irish society, as the country continues to battle with Covid-19.
For the moment, there can be no doubt that caution remains the watchword, with the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, announcing what might charitably be called baby steps forward. These include news of the re-opening of a variety of retail outlets, including services like hairdressers and visitor attractions; and a return to training for sports clubs, with up to 15 participants.
On the other hand, the news that outdoor hospitality will remain closed until June 7 has disappointed and angered many in the restaurant business, especially as all shops will be able to re-open on May 17 and hotels and B&Bs are getting the go ahead for June 7.
Indoor dining and drinking won't be resuming until July at the earliest.
While the positive news announced today is incremental rather than dramatic, the promise is that they will be followed by a further easing of restrictions, with a return to competitive sport (with no crowds in attendance) planned for the end of the first week in June.
There is, therefore, for the first time in almost a year, news of a clear schedule for the resumption of the world-beating activities of the Mighty Men of Hot Press Munchengladbach 1891, who are positively chomping at the bit to get back into footballing action.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued this evening, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, the Gaeltacht, Sport and the Media, Catherine Martin, set out what might be considered an ambitious programme for the resumption of live music. Much will depend on the recommendations of the Return to Live Entertainment Working Group – and there is the likelihood that, for now, reduced capacity will be the name of the game. How viable gigs will be in this context remains to be seen. However, what is encouraging in today's news is that a return to live music is now being spoken of as a real possibility.
Hot Press will keep you informed of news and developments, as they take place. Meantime, here is the full text of the Minister’s statement tonight:
"For so many months, we have had to take tough decisions based on increasing transmission levels, pressure on our health system and new variants,” the Minister for Tourism, Culture, the Gaeltacht, Sport and the Media, Catherine Martin said tonight.
"However, due to the extraordinary commitment of everyone across the country, we have seen virus transmission levels stabilise and the rates of hospitalisation and deaths from COVID-19 drop.
"Due to your continued efforts, we are now in a position where we can look forward to the summer period.
As Minister with responsibility for tourism, sport, culture and the arts, I am particularly delighted to see that these sectors, some of the worst hit by the pandemic, will benefit from today’s Government decision.
"Today’s decision gives us great hope for individual and group sporting and cultural events.
"From 10 May it will be possible for small organised cultural events to take place outdoors. This will provide much needed cultural experiences for both audiences and practitioners, subject to a maximum of 15 people, and will go hand in hand with the upgrading of outdoor facilities recently announced by my department.
"This is in addition to outdoor adult sports training for pods of 15 people. As we move through the month, we also intend to provide for a return to outdoor sports matches, without spectators, from 7 June.
"On that date, we are also hoping to open gyms, swimming pools, and leisure centres for individual training. Due to the nature of these activities, it is critical that we all work together to ensure the highest level of compliance with public health measures, for example the wearing of face coverings.
"From 10 May, we will be able to once again enjoy a broad range of cultural and tourism experiences around the country.
"From this date, galleries, museums and other cultural attractions may reopen, and as the restrictions on inter-county travel are also lifted, we will once again be able to travel to and experience the wealth of cultural and heritage attractions around the country.
"As we move further into the summer, we will see this welcomed reopening expanding into other areas of the tourism and hospitality sector.
"From 2 June, we will once again be able to avail of hotels, B&B’s, self-catering, and hostels. Although, services will be limited only to residents from these dates, if we continue to work together to keep this virus under control, we can look forward to further resumption of services into the future.
"From 7 June, we will be able to enjoy pub and restaurant services outdoors, without any substantial meal restriction. It is critical that we begin with outdoor services only for this reopening phase, as we have seen the evidence these past months that outdoor activities are much safer.
"My colleagues in Fáilte Ireland will be working with the sector to ensure the highest level of compliance and will have a strong communications campaign for businesses and consumers alike.
"Across Government we will also continue to work at national and EU level on the safe return of international travel which remains critical for our tourism sector.
"These are just the first steps in our plan for reopening. If we continue to work together, doing the right things, in the right way, we will be in a position to reopen many more services and venues into the future.
"I am delighted to confirm that we are looking at the safe reopening of cinemas and theatres in June. Furthermore, Cabinet today also agreed that my Department, along with the Department of Health and the Department of Taoiseach, will prepare proposals on the holding of a limited number of pilot large events for sport and music, including both indoor and outdoor.
"European countries have taken interesting approaches. Details will be firmed up in the weeks ahead, but I am delighted this gives our live events and sport a signal. We are a nation that loves arts, sport and entertainment and I will do my best to help them.
"I also informed colleagues today that my Department is working on proposals for a phased approach to reopening small music venues (seated only), subject to health advice. I recently established the Return to Live Entertainment Working Group, who will submit their guidelines for the Live Entertainment sector next week."
More news as we get it...