The publicans of County Kerry are preparing to make their way to Dublin to demand the right to reopen their doors.
The publicans are planning to protest outside the Dáil next Wednesday afternoon.
Kerry Councillor Niall ‘Botty’ O'Callaghan announced the plan on Lunchtime Live with Andrea Gilligan this afternoon.
“The publicans of Kerry are coming up with their Kerry jerseys and we are going to the Dáil next Wednesday - and any publican around the country who is worth their salt is welcome to join us,” he said.
“We are going to Dublin and we are going to stand up for ourselves. We are going to respect social distancing. We will stay two metres away, we will be in a public place and we will wear our masks and our Kerry jerseys.”
Councillor O’Callaghan, the owner of the Fáilte Hotel in Killarney, said it “beggars belief” that the 3,500 Irish pubs that don’t serve food are still not open.
He said publicans must be trusted to run their premises safely and responsibly.
“You have to trust them,” he said. “You can’t live in your bubble above in Dublin and think that every pub is to blame for this COVID – it is not.
“I really sympathise with the people who really suffered with COVID and I would like to thank the front-line staff - but, at some stage, the publicans need to be given a chance to trade.”
He was speaking after the Health Protection Surveillance Centre confirmed that just five COVID-19 outbreaks have been traced back to pubs since the pandemic began.
That is compared to the 2,736 outbreaks in other settings like nursing homes, workplaces and private houses.
Councillor O’Callaghan said the €16m support package announced for the industry last week was an “absolute insult to publicans all over the country.”
“It sounds great but it’s not," he said. “It works out at €64 a day and most of the pubs that are closed don’t get any of it.
“Then they reduce the vat from 23% to 21% - it is like insult after insult after insult. The likes of Leo and Paschal and Micheál Martin, they are living up in some sort of an ivory tower and they don’t want to listen.”
He said the hospitality industry, “seems to be getting slapped in the face left, right and centre,” and insisted publicans now have no choice but to protest.
“I understand that people might say we might turn the public against us – but maybe the people might understand that this is our last straw,” he said.
He said a time for the protest will be announced later this week and organisers will ensure the demonstration fully conforms with public health guidelines.
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