Simon Coveney spoke with more than 80 members of the New York Irish community about the ongoing efforts from his department throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Ireland’s Tánaiste (deputy head of government) Simon Coveney has thanked the Irish people both at home and abroad for their extraordinary efforts during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

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Coveney spoke via Zoom with a delegation of Irish and Irish Americans local to New York City on May 13. In the call, which was hosted by the Irish Consulate in New York and featured comments from Daniel Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to the US, Coveney praised Irish people in Ireland, the US, and elsewhere for their “extraordinary efforts."

“Coronavirus doesn’t respect boundaries, wealth, status, or anything,” the Tánaiste said, adding that he is overseeing an "international effort" to support vulnerable Irish people throughout the pandemic.

He said that people are going to have to “unfortunately” learn to live with the virus for a long time.

“At times like this, it’s really a reminder of how tight Irish communities are abroad and how they stick together in times of adversity and how they give an extraordinary amount of their time and emotion to people who need support,” Coveney said.

The Tánaiste took the time to give a special mention of thanks to the organizers, several of whom were on the call, of the New York-based financial assistance fund Sláinte 2020. Ambassador Mulhall later said that Sláinte 2020 has served as inspiration for Irish communities across the US in mobilizing to assist their more vulnerable populations.

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Coveney touched upon the ongoing government formation talks in Ireland, but says that despite the Irish government operating in a "caretaker" capacity since the General Election in February, he believes “we’ve done reasonably well in that challenge.”

He said Ireland has been “effectively running the country with 35 people” and that “that’s not sustainable for much longer” given the enormity of the decisions that will have to be made in the coming weeks.

Looking ahead, Ireland is set to launch its first phase of reopening from this Monday, May 18, pending a recommendation from Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team. Should the phase get the go-ahead, a decision which is expected by Friday, some restrictions in Ireland will be lifted.

Coveney said discussions will also commence this week in Ireland about potentially putting a “legal footing” on requirements for travelers coming to Ireland, including the two-week isolation period and the completion of forms indicating where travelers are arriving from and where they’re going.

Regarding the quarantine, Coveney said: “That, of course, has a consequence for everybody who visits Ireland and for Irish people who are coming home - we don’t make a distinction.”

Coveney went on to say:  “This is not a summer for travel, let me be clear on that." 

“The advice is no non-essential travel off the island,” the Tánaiste said. “If you need to get home, of course, we’ll help you get home, but you’ll need to self-isolate for two weeks upon your arrival.”

The Tánaiste acknowledged both the emotional toll of families being apart for an indefinite amount of time throughout the pandemic, as well as the economic toll on the tourism industry.

“We are making decisions primarily on protecting public health first, and we will continue to do that even though it’s costing the economy and causing a huge inconvenience for people."

Coveney concluded his comments with an earnest message: “I mean when I say - this isn’t just political speak - if you need something, ask.

“We also want to protect Irish people away from home, away from the island of Ireland. That’s what we’re there for. We have fantastic networks that allow us to do that.”

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