LEO VARADKAR has announced that "today is a day of freedom" in Ireland following the relaxation of a number of major lockdown restrictions.
The Tánaiste thanked the public, businesses and the HSE for their efforts in suppressing the virus over the past few weeks, making the restriction lifting possible.
People are now free to travel anywhere on the island of Ireland and meet up with family and friends outdoors, giving millions across the country the opportunity to reunite with their loved ones for the first time in over a year.
Speaking to RTÉ, Varadkar said that 12,000 businesses will reopen today, and 100,000 people are expected to go back to work as a result.
"This is a moment that businesses across Ireland have been waiting for as we see the return or reopening of around 12,000 businesses, the return of non-essential retail and personal services, and roughly 100,000 people expected to return to work this month," he said.
"As Minister for Enterprise I want to thank companies for their efforts and those of their stage in getting to this point. Thanks to you diligence in fighting this pandemic, and those of the general public, we can move on to the next phase of reopening.
"This has been the longest lockdown since the pandemic began. I am determined to do all we can to ensure that it is the last."
The former Taoiseach added that the Government will still be providing financial support for businesses until the end of June, and that for the time being, people were still being asked to work from home "wherever possible".
"The virus is still circulating, and around two thirds of the adult population have yet to receive the vaccine. Mixing in the workplace can allow the virus to spread, so we all need to continue playing our part in defeating this cruel virus," Varadkar said.