Northern Ireland reports over one thousand virus cases in new daily record – dpa international

Social distancing markers on floor of Dublin supermarket (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Northern Ireland confirmed an unprecedented 1,080 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, breaking not only the region’s previous highest daily tally, but also that of the bigger Irish Republic recorded at the height of the pandemic in April. “The situation is grave and getting more so,” said Robin Swann, the region’s health minister. Northern Ireland’s record was based on 6,447 tests, suggesting the virus is widespread. Almost one-third of the region’s roughly 18,000 cases have been diagnosed over the past week. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and has a population of 1.8 million, while the population of the Republic, usually referred to as Ireland, is a shade under 5 million. Ireland’s caseload topped 40,000 on Thursday after 506 new infections were reported, out of over 19,500 tests. Ireland’s daily record of 936 infections, recorded on April 23, was based on fewer than 5,000 tests.

Pandemic boosts Ireland’s exports but restrictions hammer local commerce – dpa international

Some retailers open, some not, along central Dublin street in June (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s small businesses were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic while sectors dominated by foreign investors grew, according to official estimates. The Central Statistics Office reported on Thursday that gross value added in “non-MNE [multinational enterprise] dominated sectors” decreased by 19.8 per cent in the second quarter. The CSO estimated that the “foreign-owned MNE dominated sector increased by 1.1 per cent over the same period.” The state-funded Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) described Ireland’s experience in lockdown as “a tale of two economies.” This “duality in performance” is down to “a concentration of Irish exports in lockdown-resistant sectors” such as computer services and pharmaceuticals.

Ryanair loses court challenge to Ireland’s pandemic travel rules – dpa international

Irish tourism destination such as this beach on Achill, an Atlantic coast island, are mostly empty (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN —  Ryanair has endorsed a Friday ruling by Ireland’s High Court that the government’s pandemic-related travel measures are advisory rather than mandatory. Despite losing the case, the said airline it “welcomes” the decision as it “confirms there is no legal requirement for the current travel restrictions.” Backed by Aer Lingus, formerly Ireland’s state carrier, Ryanair sued the government in July over the guidelines, which it claimed were presented as “mandatory” and were imposed without parliamentary oversight. Opining that the measures are neither compulsory nor an abuse of power, Justice Garrett Simons said on Friday that “advice to avoid non-essential travel and to restrict movement on entry to the state is just that: advice.”

Ireland tightens pandemic-related curbs in capital Dublin – dpa international

Social distancing guidelines in St. Stephen's Green, a park in central Dublin (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s capital Dublin faces three weeks of tougher coronavirus-related restrictions than the rest the country, the government said on Friday, with indoor dining banned in restaurants and religious services prohibited. Announcing the measures, which take effect from midnight, Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheál Martin said they are needed as otherwise “Dublin could return to the worst stages of this crisis.” After conducting almost as many tests over the past two months as the preceding five, Ireland has since August seen a similar resurgence as elsewhere in Europe of new daily case numbers of the novel coronavirus. The Department of Health announced 253 new cases on Friday, almost half of them in Dublin, which is home to 1.4 million of the country’s 4.9 million people. Friday’s announcement means that Dublin follows cities such as Madrid and Reykjavik into tighter restrictions relative to elsewhere in their countries, with one of Europe’s longest pub shutdowns to be extended in the capital ahead of the rest of Ireland’s pubs reopening on Monday.

Ryanair to cut capacity by 20 per cent, blames pandemic travel rules – dpa international

Bleak midwinter at Dublin Airport (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ryanair said on Friday that it will slash capacity by 20 per cent in October, blaming coronavirus travel curbs introduced at short notice. The Dublin-based airline said that “EU government travel restrictions and policies” aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus “undermine consumers’ willingness to make forward bookings.” Announcing its second 20 per cent capacity reduction since August, Ryanair accused the Irish government of keeping the country “locked up like North Korea” and of operating “a defective” quarantine system that means arrivals from most countries, some with lower infection rates than Ireland, are expected to self-isolate for 14 days. Supported by Aer Lingus, Ireland’s flag carrier airline, Ryanair has taken the government to court over the curbs, which will not be aligned with EU guidelines until mid-October.

In latest tweak to coronavirus rules, Ireland to allow small crowds at sporting events – dpa international

Mayo gaelic football goalkeeper David Clarke and team mates at McHale Park in Castlebar ahead of a clash with Monaghan in March 2019 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s government said on Tuesday that “limited crowds” will be permitted to attend sporting events in the country as part of the latest adjustment to the country’s coronavirus-related rules. Attendances will be capped at 200 people where stadium capacity exceeds 5,000, with 100 the limit at smaller facilities. Some of the bigger grounds, such as the 82,000-capacity Croke Park and the 51,700-seat Aviva Stadium, will have tailored limits to be set at a later date. Among the main events coming up are the Republic of Ireland’s Nations League football ties against Wales and Finland and Ireland’s rescheduled Six Nations rugby clash with Italy on October 24. Gaelic football and hurling tournaments, which usually are held during the summer and draw crowds of over 80,000, will start in October and end before Christmas.

Belfast terrorism probe hears of murky ‘agent provocateur – dpa international

The Free Derry Corner, marking the entrance to the Bogside, an Irish nationalist stronghold in the city (Simon Roughneen)

GALWAY — Defence lawyers representing six people charged with terrorism in Northern Ireland told a Belfast court on Monday that a British security forces “agent provocateur” played a role in the suspects’ arrests. The six, who appeared on video from a nearby police station due to concerns about spread of the novel coronavirus, are accused of membership of the “New” Irish Republican Army (IRA) and of planning terrorist attacks. “Did an MI5 agent organize and finance these meetings?” one of the lawyers asked, referring to a British spy agency.

Irish minister quits but EU commissioner defiant after apparent breach of virus curbs – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland’s agriculture minister resigned on Friday after seemingly flouting anti-coronavirus measures introduced earlier in the week by the government. Prime Minister Micheál Martin said former minister Dara Calleary’s appearance at a Wednesday golf event and dinner was “wrong and an error of judgement.” In a Friday statement, Martin said the event “should not have gone ahead in the manner it did given the government decision of last Tuesday.” Calleary told Mid West Radio, a local broadcaster in his Mayo constituency, that Martin was “entitled to be angry and disappointed.” Ireland’s police said that they were investigating the event over “alleged breaches” of health laws.

Irish government reimposes some virus curbs on midlands region – dpa international

Hand sanitiser near the entrance of a church in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A resurgence of coronavirus cases in parts of Ireland has prompted the government to stop residents of three adjoining counties from travelling elsewhere in the country for two weeks. Prime Minister Micheál Martin announced the curbs in a Friday evening press conference, saying that “over the past week, there have been a number of localised clusters, which are of serious concern.” The restrictions affect counties Laois and Offaly, as well as Kildare – a densely-populated county that is part of the commuter belt ringing capital Dublin. The almost 400,000 people living in three counties can only travel elsewhere in Ireland – which recorded a population of 4.76 million in the 2016 census – for work or “essential” purposes such as medical treatment. 

Under-fire Chinese app TikTok to set up European hub in Ireland – dpa international

DUBLIN — Video-sharing app TikTok will invest 420 million euros (500 million dollars) in a European data storage centre in Ireland, the company announced on Thursday. The proposed hub will house European user data, according to Roland Cloutier, TikTok’s global chief information security officer, who said the move will strengthen “safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data” in a “state of the art physical and network security defence system.” Cloutier said “hundreds” of jobs will be created – an announcement welcomed by IDA Ireland, the state investment promotion agency, as “good news.” IDA Ireland Chief Executive Officer Martin Shanahan said IikTok’s statement “postions Ireland as an important location in the company’s global operations.” Banned in China, US online giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have substantial operations in low-tax Ireland.