Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.10 2 May 2021


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There was anger and frustration in Donegal about recent comments from Dr Tony Holohan and Dr Ronan Glynn about a spike in COVID-19 cases in the county, TDs say. 

However, politicians have now welcomed a "positive" meeting with senior health officials yesterday evening about the situation in Donegal.

On Friday, Dr Holohan warned even "the dogs on the street" could see there were examples of people not complying with the COVID-19 guidelines in the county.

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He warned things will need to turn around quickly in Donegal, as it currently has the highest incidence rate in the country.

In the wake of the remarks, Dr Holohan, Dr Glynn and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly last night met with local representatives from Donegal.

Ideas such as more walk-in test centres and antigen testing in schools were among the proposals discussed to help support authorities in tackling the high COVID-19 rates in the border county.

Two of the TDs who attended the meeting - Fine Gael's Joe McHugh and Sinn Féin's Pádraig Mac Lochlainn - spoke to Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “It was good to have the meeting, and good to have Tony Holohan and Ronan Glynn at the meeting.

"There was considerable anger in Donegal in terms of everybody, as it was perceived, being lumped in together. The vast majority of people in the county have made huge sacrifices."

That was echoed by Deputy McHugh, who said the comments from Dublin had "landed badly" with people in Donegal who've been following the rules.

However, he noted: “In fairness, Tony Holohan was quite frank - he wanted to get the message to Donegal. He’s concerned, and his team is concerned."

Deputy McHugh said he is happy with how yesterday evening's meeting went - but there's now a need to ensure any extra supports happen "really, really quickly" in order to turn the situation in Donegal around.

Border proximity "is an issue"

Dr Denis McCauley, GP & chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, said people's efforts in Donegal have been undermined by the county's proximity to the border.

Speaking on RTÉ on Friday, Dr McCauley had described some of Dr Holohan's comments as "disingenuous".

However, he believes some of those concerns are now "water under the bridge".

He observed: "There is a recognition that all of Donegal cannot be characterised such as that. I think that has been accepted by all parties.

“There’s a recognition that there are behavioural issues, but there’s also an issue with proximity to the border.

“There’s a problem in north Donegal, yes. Is it characterised by bad behaviour by all people in Donegal? No. The vast majority of people in Donegal are working hard.”

He noted the proximity to the border is a particular issue as pubs and restaurants have now reopened in the North - a month ahead of the planned reopening in the Republic.

Dr McCauley also said it's clear some people across the country - particularly young age groups - are mixing and socialising without masks, which "is just not a good idea".

He said having more walk-in testing centres for people without symptoms in areas with a high incidence of the virus is a good idea.

However, he said it's also important for everyone to be "very careful" and continue to follow the guidelines over the coming weeks.

Main image: File photo of Dr Tony Holohan and Dr Ronan Glynn. Photo: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

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Denis Mccauley Donegal Joe Mchugh Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Ronan Glynn Tony Holohan

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