TAOISEACH MICHEAL MARTIN says Irish supporters could be back in stadiums by mid-summer.
Speaking on Off The Ball tonight, the Fianna Fail leader said the government are planning to trial having crowds at a number of sporting events in July.
“We would hope to do it this summer,” he said. “We’re going to trial certainly a number of events.
“I know Jack Chambers pulled together a group from the IRFU, the FAI and GAA, a working group chaired by Martin Murphy of the Aviva Stadium.
“They drew up an extensive protocols back in October and then the third wave came,” said Martin.
“So they’re going to update that now. We’ve had the Professor Mark Ferguson’s report on Antigen testing, we have the vaccinations.
“So we will be trialling some events. I think you’re probably looking at July and government is working up plans now and over the next number of weeks towards that end and also learning lessons from what’s happened in the UK and what’s happening in other jurisdictions to see how we can get fans back in in a safe way.”
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He said the government will “look at different options” around whether only vaccinated people will be allowed attend the early trials or also non-vaccinated supporters.
“Well I noticed in the UK they’ve done both vaxxed and non-vaccinated people coming in segregating them.
“There are issues around that too in terms of people’s entitlement and allowances and so on. But initially we’d have to trial it, get that right and then hopefully be in a position to evolve in terms of fans being able to turn up and spectators turning up at different fixtures and sporting events.”
On Leinster Rugby’s failed plan to hold an antigen testing event to allow 2,000 fans into the RDS for a game against Ulster, Martin commented:
“The public health advice has been [that in] May and June, let’s keep the control on the numbers, which we have [done so far]. There’s real concern about the B117 variant in terms of it’s transmissability and how the numbers could go wrong again as we’ve seen in other countries.
“Get the vaccination to certain key levels and then we’re much more confident about doing these things. That’s basically the thinking. Also working with sporting organisations.
“There are draft guidelines there. All the major associations have put a lot of work into it.”
He also explained that other facilities like swimming pools can expect to open in June.
“The indoor area’s going to have to be next – but the NPHET and public health has been very clear – the summer will be outdoors.