Monday, 22 February 2021
Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad
I concur with the need to examine and address the two issues raised by my colleague, Senator Gallagher. The development regarding Ulster Bank is worrying, and I would welcome an early opportunity for a debate with the Minister for Finance on this important issue. I am thinking of the staff of the bank. I am also thinking about its mortgage holders and other customers, whose status quocontinues, which is very welcome. However, the long-term future of Ulster Bank and its branches, which are prevalent in so many rural towns, is an issue.
We are nearly two months into this lockdown and the figures concerning Covid-19 are still too high. They are stubbornly so, unfortunately, which may be evidence of increased transmissibility of these new variants.This is even before the schools reopen. I wish the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid well in its very important deliberations as we move towards some relaxation and some reopening of the country in the midst of figures that are still very high.
I acknowledge the welcome and encouraging news on Covid vaccines and the increased ramping up of vaccination, which give hope to everybody. It is wonderful to see the photos and video footage of people aged over 80 or 85 receiving their vaccines. It gives encouragement to everybody that the end of this horrible pandemic is in sight. That we will have over 100,000 people vaccinated in the coming week and more than 250,000 people vaccinated next month and in April gives hope that there will be a return to normalisation.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on people's mental health. One way to protect our mental health is to exercise and get out and about in the fresh air. We have seen large numbers of people arriving in various parts of the country. I wish to discuss the two areas of sea swimming and golfing. Playing golf is important, particularly for retirees. If one is not lucky enough to live within 5 km of a golf course or one's local golf course, it creates difficulties. I hope the Cabinet sub-committee will consider this matter because many people, particularly retirees, like to play a round of golf in pairs.
Sea swimming has created a buzz in Salthill and Galway in general. If people who are used to swimming in the sea, perhaps early in the morning, suddenly find they can no longer do so because the coast is beyond their 5 km limit, that has an impact. Perhaps consideration can be given to allowing people to drive to the sea and get in for a swim in a safe manner without meeting or engaging with other people. I ask that those two issues be raised with the Cabinet sub-committee.