MICHEAL MARTIN says that Ireland is on track to welcome the return of hairdressers and other nonessential retail from next month.
The Taoiseach offered up a positive projection of plans for the next few weeks as the country continues to move out of lockdown.
High street shops and other nonessential services will be allowed to resume trading, albeit with Covid-19 restrictions in place, while some construction will also resume.
Martin outlined the plans during the annual Fianna Fáil 1916 Easter Rising commemoration where he committed to reopening the economy “as fast as possible” from May.
Speaking at the virtual event, the Taoiseach said: : “The last year has been an incredibly tough one for Ireland and the world.
“A once-in-a-century pandemic has caused unprecedented harm. Getting Ireland through this pandemic is my absolute priority.
“There is no off-the-shelf handbook for dealing with such rapidly evolving and uniquely devastating virus. And there is no positive purpose served in looking for instant judgements everyday.
“When we are successfully through the pandemic, and we will be, we will have time to look back and evaluate. We will be able to look with a proper perspective at how Ireland and all countries have responded.
“However, for now there continues to be no time to waste. We must limit the impact of the virus and get our population vaccinated. Restrictions have been tough, but they are working.
“The commitment of the Irish people to respecting the restrictions has dramatically reduced the spread of a virus which is today dramatically more contagious than it was 12 months ago.”
His most significantly remark came later, however, when Martin appeared to commit to plans for the accelerated lifting of restrictions from next month.
It comes as Northern Ireland continues to reopen society with outdoor drinking and haircuts now both allowed north the border.
Martin said: “We have begun the gradual steps of lifting some restrictions.
“And if we can maintain control of the virus we will go as fast as possible in lifting more.
“And we will move ahead with an unprecedented vaccine programme.
“In this programme we are facing the twin challenges of obtaining supply of vaccines and reaching every adult in the country.
“The first phases of the programme are already saving lives and reducing the spread of the virus.
“A national registration system is now live, allowing thousands to book appointments every day.
“As the committed supplies are delivered we will radically alter our possibilities.
“The strategy I outlined in February is being implemented. Key milestones are being met – steps to reopen have been moving ahead while we have also reducing the spread of the virus.
“We will review progress in the days ahead and set out the steps which we can implement in May.
“We will look to get all construction activity reopened.
“We understand the major impact felt by small business and want to see a return of more commercial activity and personal services.
“We have begun our journey to the end of this pandemic.
“We will get there.”