Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.09 18 Oct 2020


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The leader of the SDLP in Northern Ireland has appealed to people to 'leave politics at the door' to tackle the continuing coronavirus crisis.

Question marks are hanging over restrictions here, after lengthy meetings on Saturday broke up without any agreement on whether or not to implement level five.

The border counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal are on level four restrictions, while the rest of the country remains at level three with additional measures in place.

While Northern Ireland is in the midst of a so-called 'circuit-breaker' lockdown for four weeks.

Colum Eastwood told On The Record he is concerned that negotiation means actions are taking longer.

"I've always felt from the very beginning of this whole pandemic that it didn't make any sense for us to have two different approaches across this island, for the very obvious reason that the virus doesn't respect international boarders."

"The problem we have to be honest is the decision-making process in Stormont doesn't make an awful lot of sense.

"We saw the DUP and Sinn Féin largely going off into a room for a full day to try to negotiate what they would do next.

"And you can't negotiate with this stuff, this is a virus.

"You have to have public health decisions taken for the right reason, not because you're trying to give a bit here and give a bit back over there".

Donegal and Derry

He said he has particular concerns for Northern Ireland, as shops have been allowed to remain open.

"My big worry is that what we have been trying to do is try to get this situation where we can get in and out quickly, where you can have some level of normality for Christmas time.

"And I just worry that we didn't go far enough this week".

Asked about the possibility of a zero-COVID island, he said: "It goes back to this notion that we have to negotiate everything, which makes no sense.

"If people could leave their politics at the door a bit more often, I think we'd get a lot further.

"I'd love to see zero-COVID, I'm just not sure how practical it is given the difficulties that we've seen up to now to get things done properly".

"Just look at Derry and Donegal: the spike here was very, very similar to what was going on in Donegal - it was the same outbreak.

"It didn't recognise the Constitutional position - we ended up almost accidentally doing the same thing.

"But it wasn't coordinated and it wasn't done in a way that you would like it to be done.

"I think the difficulty is that is the political reality in which we find ourselves, and we have to try to live with it and try to get the right responses now.

"But the most important thing, I believe, is that we act quickly".

Appeal to 'leave politics at the door' for all-Ireland approach to COVID

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: Leader of Northern Ireland's SDLP, Colum Eastwood, speaking during a press conference outside the Guildhall in Derry in August 2020. Picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images

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All-Ireland Approach COVID-19 Stormont Colum Eastwood Coronavirus Ireland Northern Ireland On The Record SDLP

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