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TDs underline 'danger to democracy' with extension of 'draconian' emergency powers – Irish Examiner

The government is seeking an extension to Covid-19  emergency measures, such as the continued requirement for wearing face coverings in certain settings, the use of the Covid pass and other protective measures in the hospitality and events sectors until February 2022. File photo: Denis Minihane
TDs have told the Dáil that democracy is under threat as the government extends Covid-19 emergency powers.
It comes as health officials today confirmed 3,726 new cases of coronavirus, the largest single-day figure since January.
The government is seeking an extension to emergency measures, such as the continued requirement for wearing face coverings in certain settings, the use of the Covid pass and other protective measures in the hospitality and events sectors until February 2022.
The Health Minister said that those who opposed the extension were “reckless” and accused some TDs of spreading misinformation around vaccines.
“We are in a place where we have to be concerned about the burden and impact that this level of disease is having, and could have, on our health services,” Stephen Donnelly said.
“We are already seeing the cancellation of procedures and operations and we have to be concerned that things will deteriorate further.

“In its most recent advice to me, the National Public Health Emergency Team advised that ‘the epidemiological situation in Ireland indicates a worsening disease profile with the future trajectory very uncertain’.
“This means we do need to extend these pieces of legislation.”
Mr Donnelly said the Government commits to use the “exceptional powers” in a proportionate way. However, a number of opposition TDs said the powers were undemocratic.
Independent TD Catherine Connolly said she could not support the bill in a fraught statement to the Minister.
“We’re being asked to extend draconian legislation without the slightest explanation of the contradictions,” she said.
What I would like to underline here is the utter danger to our democracy in this pandemic, we are not all in this together, and it frightens me, almost as much as the pandemic.
“What I am absolutely dispirited about is the demonisation of others, and failure to build up our public health system, the failure of government to clarify the improvements made or take responsibility for the damning situation in our hospitals.”
Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane said his party were opposed to continuing emergency powers almost two years into a pandemic. 
He said: “These are powers which are and were rightly seen as draconian that should be in place only for as long as they are necessary. The time has come when they are no longer necessary.”

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Independent TD Verona Murphy told Stephen Donnelly that it’s “stupidity” that unvaccinated people can go to a wedding without a vaccine pass but can’t eat inside a restaurant the following day and added some people can genuinely not get a vaccine and are being labelled as “unvaccinated”.
Ms Murphy took exception to the labelling of some of her comments as anti-vaccine as did Independent TD Michael McNamara and a row broke out at the end of the debate between the two TDs and Mr Donnelly.
The vote to extend the powers will take place tomorrow night. Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and the Social Democrats will oppose the bill. The Labour Party will vote in support.

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