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Taoiseach gives State apology to survivors of mother and baby homes

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin has apologised on behalf of the State to former residents of mother and baby homes for the way they were treated over decades.

In a statement in the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Martin said the report into the institutions highlights a “profound failure” of empathy, understanding and compassion over a long period.

“It is the duty of a republic to be willing to hold itself to account,” he said.

“To be willing to confront hard truths and accept parts of our history which are deeply uncomfortable.

“This detailed and highly painful report is a moment for us as a society to recognise a profound failure of empathy, understanding and basic humanity over a very lengthy period.

“Its production has been possible because of the depth of courage shown by all those who shared their personal experiences with the commission.”

The formal State apology follows the publication on Tuesday of the report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, which showed 9,000 children died in such institutions between 1922 and 1998.

In all, 15 per cent of the approximately 57,000 children who were in the 18 institutions investigated by the commission died during their time there.

Disperse responsibility

Earlier during Leaders’ Questions, Mr Martin had come under pressure over the report, with People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett saying it diminished the culpability of the institutions of the Church and State, and dispersed their responsibility.

Mr Martin insisted he in “no way” sought to diminish the role of the Church or the State in the treatment of women and their children in mother and baby homes.

He told the Dáil: “My remarks and my statement yesterday in no way sought to diminish the role of the churches or the State, and any reading of them would confirm that.

“I spoke of the perverse moral code overseen by the church that, in my view, was responsible for this in terms of its attitude to sexual morality which was at the heart of forcing women and mothers in particular into mother and baby homes.”

“I equally believe the State clearly failed,” he added.

He said he was “concerned” that some people were endeavouring to portray his statement in a “certain light”.

“What happened was shameful and shocking. The report itself, I would not describe it as a sham, an insult,” he added.

The Taoiseach said it was “wrong” to claim there was Government involvement in the report.

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Mother and baby homes report: Main findings

“There’s been no involvement between Government and commission. The commission is fully independent,” he said.

Mr Martin said the report and its recommendations are very clear that the mothers should not have ended up in these homes and said the Government’s response would be “survivor-led”.

“The commission was independent,” he added. “No politician had any hand, act or role in the deliberations of the commission itself.” – Additional reporting: PA

A new webpage with information specifically for former residents of mother and baby homes has been set up at hse.ie. Additional mental health supports provided by the HSE are also available to former residents. Details of these supports are available on yourmentalhealth.ie.

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Ireland

Two-thirds of intensive care patients have Covid, HSE chief says

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Two-thirds of all patients in intensive care are being treated for Covid-19, the head of the HSE has said.

In a tweet posted on Friday morning, Paul Reid said the health service had never seen such a number of people being treated “for the same illness”.

Some 211 Covid patients (66 per cent) are in intensive care units, Mr Reid said.

He also said there are 300 patients outside of intensive care receiving respiratory support.

“We’re battling hard to sustain safe levels of care but it’s getting harder,” Mr Reid said.

This comes as the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) warned on Thursday that the number of daily cases of coronavirus is 10 times higher than at the start of December.

Nphet said there will be “a large number” of deaths over the coming weeks.

“The number of deaths confirmed per day over the last seven days, 44, is the highest we have seen at any point during the pandemic,” said Philip Nolan, head of the Government’s Covid modelling unit.

The infection rate, however, has fallen sharply from a pandemic high registered earlier in January. There were an average of 2,430 new cases over the past five days, down from a five-day average of 4,473 reported a week ago.

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Ireland making ‘clear progress’ says CMO but Level…

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said clear progress was being made but “we still have a very large burden of disease”.

“It is evident that the population is working as one to reduce contacts and interrupt further transmission of the disease,” he said. “However, we are witnessing the effects of high levels of community transmission through our hospital and ICU admissions and reported deaths.”

A further 51 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by the team at its daily media briefing, 49 of which occurred in January.

Nphet also reported 2,608 further cases of the disease, bringing to 181,922 the total recorded to date.

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Gardaí examine complaint about Varadkar leaking GP contract

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Gardaí are examining an official complaint lodged about the leaking of a GP contract by then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

A statement to The Irish Examiner confirmed: “An Garda Síochána has received correspondence which is currently being assessed to determine what if any Garda action is required.

“An Garda Síochána has no further comment at this time.”

It is believed the complaint about Mr Varadkar was made before Christmas and interviews have been carried out to assess its validity.

A spokesman for the Tánaiste told The Examiner that Mr Varadkar had not been contacted by gardaí and his office was not aware of any investigation.

Mr Varadkar admitted last year that he posted a copy of a contract negotiated between the then-government and the Irish Medical Organisation to rival GP group, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), headed by his friend Maitiú Ó Tuathail.

Mr Varadkar apologised for his actions in the Dáil in November after he was accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act and breaking the law.

“There was nothing selfish, corrupt, dishonest or illegal in what I did,” he said.

Correspondence released this week by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that then-minister for health Simon Harris, who was responsible for the negotiations, was unable to obtain the document at the time due to its sensitivity.

In response, Mr Varadkar said the document shared with Dr Ó Tuathail was an earlier version of the agreement that had been publicly referenced and not the updated copy that Mr Harris was seeking at a later date.

Explanation ‘in tatters’

During testy exchanges in the Dáil on Thursday, Mr Doherty accused Mr Varadkar of changing his story about the leak, claiming that his explanation for his actions was now “in tatters”.

Mr Varadkar insisted that all the important details of the agreement were already known when he sent the document to Dr Ó Tuathail.

He said his motivation was to convince the NAGP to back the deal, which it did.

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Varadkar leaked GP contract while minister for hea…

“The office of an Taoiseach was used to pull a stroke for a friend,” Mr Doherty said.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said that the leak had been an “act of corruption and abuse” of office.

He said that the details of the emails published in recent days “rebut the defence mustered by Varadkar, and show his answers in the Dáil were dishonest and disingenuous”.

Meanwhile, Rise TD Paul Murphy said he would press the standards watchdog on a complaint he made about Mr Varadkar before Christmas.

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Arrivals into Ireland without negative Covid test could face quarantine

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The Government will consider proposals to introduce mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving into the Republic who do not have a valid PCR test showing they are Covid negative.

The Cabinet is coming under increasing pressure to introduce tougher restrictions as the EU mulls a ban on non-essential travel between member states.

Ministers will meet on Tuesday and move to extend Level 5 restrictions until late February at least as the virus continues to spread and hospitals are under severe pressure.

A Government source told The Irish Times that “nothing is being ruled out” in relation to tightening the rules on incoming travel.

Among the explored options are regulations that will require a passenger without a negative PCR test to go into compulsory quarantine in a designated location, such as a hotel, for 14 days or until they can show a clear PCR test.

There are growing concerns around the spread of three new variants of Covid-19 through travel, as figures show more than 3,000 people from South Africa and Brazil, and 37,000 from the UK flew into the State in the five weeks to January 11th.

“There’s a lot of concern about the variants across the member states, people are really worried about it,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin told The Irish Times following a video conference of EU leaders.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Thursday night said the UK variant accounted for more than 60 per cent of samples recently tested. It reported 51 more deaths and 2608 new cases of the disease.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Thursday raised the risk of new variants to high to very high and warned that the greater infectiousness of the UK variant was likely to lead to “higher hospitalisation and death rates”.

EU travel ban

There is mounting pressure for a ban on non-essential travel between EU members.

The European Commission proposed to EU leaders on Thursday identifying “dark red” coronavirus hot spots from which all but essential travel would be discouraged after a meeting to discuss the mounting challenge from more infectious virus variants.

EU leaders also agreed during a video conference that it should be possible to agree on common standards for vaccine certificates for medical purposes. However, they left for later a debate on whether they could be used to enable travel, as Greece and Spain want.

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Mutant Covid variants pose very high risk in Europ…

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference after the meeting that the health situation in Europe was “very serious”, with new variants and an increase in infections.

She stressed that countries should not close their borders, to ensure the functioning of the single market, including the flow of goods and travel for cross-border workers.

However, she said the Commission would add a new “dark red” category to its traffic light indications of risk, for regions where the virus was circulating at a very high rate. Today, almost all of Europe is red.

“Persons travelling from dark red areas could be required to do a test before departure, as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival,” she said, adding all non-essential travel should be discouraged from these areas. – Additional reporting: Reuters

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