Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he would happily receive the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine amid reassurance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that it is safe and effective and not associated with a higher blood clot risk.
Speaking in Cork the Taoiseach indicated that preparations are being made in terms of resuming the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout in Ireland.
The acting chief medical officer is due to issue an update the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Minister for Health after it was paused almost a week ago.
Mr Martin moved to reassure the general public about the safety of the vaccine.
“I would say if you look across Europe and the United Kingdom it has been used very extensively and very senior scientists and medical experts have confirmed its safety and its efficacy.
“The virus is killing a lot of people. It is creating a lot of illness. Without question this vaccine is very effective and the European Medicines Agency has said it is a very safe vaccine.
“They would have applied very significant due diligence in relation to that issue.”
Asked about a report that the US is to send four million AstraZeneca vaccines to Canada and Mexico and whether any could be expected in Ireland Mr Martin would only say that he had a “wide ranging discussion “ with US president Joe Biden on the issue of vaccines.
“He asked questions about AstraZeneca in Europe and decisions taken and we did discuss it widely.
“What he said and what he made clear to us was that he was waiting until the end of May to establish that they would have a sufficiency of supply for the entire American population before they would discuss the sharing of vaccines. He did reference Canada and Mexico. Obviously they are very close neighbours.”
The Taoiseach stressed that Ireland would not hear about any possibility of receiving excess vaccines from the US until the end of May.
M Martin said the key point he made to the US resident on St Patrick’s Day was the “absolute imperative” of keeping supply chains open.
“I have spoken to all the pharmaceutical companies and that is the key point. If you take for example the Pfizer vaccine alone you are looking at maybe 280 materials to make the vaccine. 86 suppliers all operating in 19 different countries.
“When I talk about integrated global supply chains that is what I am talking about and all countries need to be mindful about keeping those supply chains open.”
When asked if he would take AstraZeneca the Taoiseach said he “would indeed” and that preparations were ongoing re rolling out the vaccine following its brief suspension.
“There are further meetings in respect of certain aspects of that terms of information pertaining to the vaccine what would go on information leaflets. Those discussions are ongoing as we speak.”
When asked about any possibility of relaxations on the 5km restrictions Mr Martin said he understood that the public were “fed up.”
“I do understand and get it that the public are fed up. But I want to thank people. I think people have been remarkable. We brought numbers down from a very high level over Christmas to relatively low levels.
“Our big concern are the variants because they are more transmissible and more deadly.That said we understand where people are.
“It ( the restrictions) has taken pressure off the hospitals and the ICU and meanwhile we are vaccinating the more vulnerable.
“I am not going to speculate today (on the 5K) but we will give clear indications in advance of the 5th of April as to how we see April panning out.
“We are thinking and reflecting on the outdoor situation and outdoor activities and what be possible there because mental health is very important and the mental health of young people is very important. The good news is that the volume of vaccines will increase signficantly.”
When questioned about a warning from deputy chief medical officer , Dr Ronan Glynn, that tough Covid restrictions could last until June the Taoiseach said he would be meeting with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) prior to April 5th and decisions would be made at that point.
He emphasised the need for the public to observe the basics.
“It is important that people observe the basics in terms of social distancing. In terms of washing ones hands. Also in terms of the avoidance of congregation particularly indoor. This variant is very transmissible and much more dangerous.
We are not dealing with the same virus we had in phase one and two. One of our consistent points is that we have got numbers relatively down. We still have to keep the pressure on the virus. We don’t want to open things up and then have to close them.”
Remains found in Dublin adds intrigue to search for Robert Emmet’s grave
Skeletal remains have been found at one of the locations identified as a possible last resting place of Robert Emmet who was executed on this day in 1803.
The remains were found during an excavation at the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter in Dublin.
The disappearance of the body of Robert Emmet is one of the great mysteries of Irish history.
Emmet was tried and then hanged for instigating the ill-fated 1803 rebellion. He became a symbol of Irish martyrdom for his speech from the dock in which he concluded: “Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my name remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”
After he was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803, his head was displayed to the crowd by the hangman Thomas Galvin. The remains of Emmet’s body was taken to Bully’s Acre in the grounds of what is now the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and buried there.
When some of his friends went to reintern his remains from Bully’s Acre to St Michan’s Church in Church Street, a church associated with the United Irishmen, they found there was no body there, and so began a search which endures to this day.
His great-nephew Dr Thomas Addis Emmet requested an archaeological dig at the family vault in St Peter’s Church in Aungier Street to mark the centenary of Emmet’s death in 1903, but that proved to be unsuccessful.
St Paul’s Church is another contender in the saga of Emmet’s remains. It was the parish church of Kilmainham Gaol’s doctor and effective governor Dr Edward Trevor.
In his book In the Footsteps of Robert Emmet, JJ Reynolds speculated that Trevor removed Emmet’s body and put it in an unmarked grave in the grounds of St Paul’s Church. This was to ensure that his grave would not become a shrine for Irish nationalism.
The church, which was the venue for the consecration of the philosopher George Berkeley as Bishop of Cloyne in 1734, has been converted into the Spade Enterprise Centre, a not-for-profit social enterprise unit.
The land where the skeletal remains were found is being turned into a shared kitchen for small business enterprises in the area.
Archaeologist Franc Miles said burials in the grounds were from 1702 to the 1860s. A extant set of burial records remain, but Emmet, if he really is buried there, would have no record.
Previous exhumations were carried out when the graveyard was closed in 1860s to make way for a school on the site.
“With all the evacuations, we were left with bits and pieces of body. There weren’t many full skeletons,” he said.
Mr Miles said it all the gravemarkers and stones were removed in the 1860s “so all you are left with really are bones.”
Mr Miles said it would be difficult if not impossible to identify Emmet’s remains even if they are buried in the grounds of St Paul’s Church.
His own “educated guess” is that Emmet’s body is still buried somewhere in Bully’s Acre.
As many of his supporters have said over the last two centuries: “Do not look for him. His grave is Ireland.”
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Officials pushed for State to buy direct provision centres from private firms
The Government should buy a number of privately-owned direct provision centres as a “priority” as it would be more “cost effective” for the State to run the facilities for asylum seekers, international protection officials have said.
The savings arising from owning the accommodation centres rather than paying private contractors to do so “could be considerable”, departmental briefing documents provided to Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman last year state.
The vast majority of direct provision centres are currently owned and run by private companies, with accommodation providers having received some €1.6 billion since 1999, including €183 million last year.
The latest figures show some 7,150 people are in the system of seven State-owned sites and 39 private centres. A further 24 commercially-owned premises are being used to provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers.
The briefing document, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, says that housing people seeking asylum in State-owned centres would provide the “best protection from the vulnerability of present market reliance”.
“They are also much more cost efficient to run, and the State owns the asset,” it notes.
The document suggested that State centres should aim to accommodate 5,000 people, and “allowing the private sector to supply the rest is regarded as an achievable and reasonable target”.
The purchase of existing centres from private providers “to immediately boost the State’s footprint in this area should be considered as a priority,” the internal document said.
“Some service providers may be open to this and the market appears to be favourable at present,” it said.
The internal briefing suggested the department could then seek private companies or NGOs to run the centres, which would be a “competitive cost option”.
Ongoing maintenance for centres owned by the State was also “badly needed,” as current pressures on the Office of Public Works (OPW) meant it was not possible “for immediate repairs to be done if required”.
“In exploring the model of more State centres, we need to agree and acquire a capital budget,” the briefing stated.
“State land does not require planning permission for new centres as the Minister has a power under the Acts, whereby the OPW can grant the planning permission and this is usually a three-month process. It is not subject to appeal.”
The document says that State centres “can also have a bigger footprint as it will be a permanent fixture in the locality”. In recent years a number of plans for private providers to open direct provision centres in regional towns have been met with protests from locals and anti-immigration activists.
Mr O’Gorman’s department has sought to reform the direct provision system and is seeking to replace the network of centres with a new system of accommodation and supports by the end of 2024.
A department spokesman confirmed the State has not bought any new centres since the briefing note was written. The spokesman said under the planned overhaul of direct provision, asylum-seekers who arrived into the country would initially be housed in a number of reception and integration centres.
Asylum-seekers will spend a maximum of four months in the reception centres before moving into housing secured through Approved Housing Bodies.
“These centres will be State-owned and purpose built to provide suitable accommodation for approximately 2,000 people at any one time, to cater for the flow-through of the 3,500 applicants over a 12-month period,” he said.
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