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Pints of Guinness served on June 29 2020 as Ireland allows some pubs to reopen after almost 4 months closure due to coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)
Pints of Guinness served on June 29 2020 as Ireland allows some pubs to reopen after almost 4 months closure due to coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

CASTLEBAR — Another spat about coronavirus curbs has erupted in Ireland, less than a week afrer Phil Hogan was forced to resign as the European Union’s trade chief after seeming to flout rules while visiting his homeland.

Revellers seen drinking on the streets of Killarney, a tourist-draw town in Ireland’s south-west, were branded “disgraceful” by Mayor Brendan Cronin after footage was posted online.

Health official Paul Reid said the scenes were “unfortunate,” while Simon Harris, a former health minister, said “there will always be people who do stupid things.”

The weekend hedonism in Killarney could have been avoided, said Michael Healy-Rae, an independent parliamentarian from the area, if Ireland’s coronavirus curbs were relaxed to allow pubs resume business.

“If our public houses are open, people will get alcohol in a measured and sensible way,” Healy-Rae told public broadcaster RTÉ.

While some pubs reopened on June 29 on condition they serve a “substantial” meal to drinkers, reopening of all bars has been postponed three times, with the latest hold-up flagged last week.

The uncertainty has angered owners who say the delays are disproportionate to the impact of the virus and leave Ireland looking like ana outlier, as pubs have mostly reopened elsewhere in Europe

While Ireland’s daily numbers of coronavirus cases increased during August, only 35 people are in hospital after testing positive for the virus.

Acknowledging “a really difficult few months for pub owners,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Friday announced 16 million euros (19 million dollars) in financial support.

The amount was described as “paltry” by the Vinters’ Federation of Ireland, an industry body, which warned that two-thirds of pubs could be forced out of business by the end of the year.

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