Taoiseach rules out mandatory Covid-19 vaccination in Ireland

Taoiseach rules out mandatory Covid-19 vaccination in Ireland

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has ruled out introducing mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations in Ireland.

Speaking on Newstalk, the Taoiseach admitted the country was facing "a very challenging January" as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly.

However, he said the success of the vaccination programme, current restrictions and people modifying their behaviour has made Ireland better prepared for a new variant.

According to latest government figures, almost 7.5million vaccines have been administered and more than 90 per cent of the population over 12 are fully vaccinated.

'Voluntary approach achieved enormous amount'

"I'm personally of the view that we stick with the voluntary system," the Taoiseach told Newstalk.

"It's worked in Ireland, more than anywhere else in the world at 94 per cent fully vaccinated.

"You go across Europe and you're looking at 60 per cent vaccination in some places.

"Some of those countries are now talking about mandatory vaccination — there's no guarantee that will work, by the way, in itself.

"I was listening to one Prime Minister talking about fines of €600 every three months — that's what a mandatory regime looks like.

"In my view, we have to keep pushing the voluntary approach which has achieved an enormous amount."

The Taoiseach accepted that unvaccinated people had taken up a disproportionate amount of health services but said the government had increased efforts to target specific groups historically resistant to vaccination.

"On balance, I think we should keep going with the approach that we’ve adopted so far," added the Taoiseach.

'No guarantees'

Latest figures show there have been more than 1.6million booster vaccines administered in Ireland and the Taoiseach cited its success in managing the Omicron variant.

"The fact that we’ve a very robust booster campaign with a lot of momentum will give us significant protection, so I think we can get through this," he said.

"There's many twists and turns, there's no guarantees.

"One cannot be certain, but I think the combination of the booster campaign with modification in our behaviour and the restrictions that have been introduced, you combine all of that and I would like to think we will be in a better position compared to last year in the context of a new variant arising on the scene."

Martin said the booster campaign combined with a 20-30 per cent reduction in levels of socialisation would give Ireland a "very good chance" of managing Omicron.