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Connacht Tribune

Government publishes list of ‘essential service providers’

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The Government has this evening published the list of essential service providers who are permitted to travel to and from work during the lockdown until April 12.

The following is the guidance issued:

 

What employers should do

  • refer to this guidance to decide whether your organisation is providing an essential service; it is not necessary to seek official authorisation
  • if you are providing an essential service, you should identify those employees (including sub-contractors etc) who are essential to the provision of that service and notify them (this can be done by category of employee or by individual; it could include all employees of the organisation)
  • if you are providing an essential service, latest public health guidance should be followed at all times

What employees should do

  • if your employer notifies you that you are an essential employee, or that you belong to a category of essential employees, you are permitted to travel to and from work
  • when travelling to and from work, you should at all times bring with you either a work identification or a letter from your employer indicating that you are an essential employee, as well as one other form of identification
  • If you are self-employed, a farmer or agricultural worker, or a member of the clergy, you should carry one form of identification with you at all times.

If you are a volunteer who is working as part of the national community response, you are permitted to travel for that purpose, eg if you are delivering food, supplies or medicine to a person who is cocooned or vulnerable. The Local Government emergency response teams will co-ordinate that response at local level.

Business Continuity and Resilience

All organisations who provide essential services should have business continuity and resilience plans in place. This should take account of the possibility that key workers or key facilities may be impacted by COVID-19.

Non Essential Services

If you are not engaged in the provision of essential services, then you are not permitted to travel to and from work until April 12th 2020.

There will be a grace period until 6pm on Monday March 30th for people who need to make necessary arrangements to wind down their activities in an orderly way. This should however be done in a way that minimises travel and personal interaction as much as possible.

In exceptional circumstances, it is accepted that some extra time will be needed for a wind down of activity, or necessary for a site to continue to operate at a reduced level of activity eg in complex manufacturing processes or very large construction projects.

Review

This Guidance will be kept under ongoing review, and will be updated as required.

Services provided in the following areas are considered to be essential:

Agriculture & Fishing

  • farmers
  • farm labourers
  • farm relief service workers,
  • others involved directly or indirectly in crop and animal production and related activities (including veterinary services), and workers involved in fishing

Manufacturing

  • the manufacture of food and beverage products
  • the manufacture of prepared animal feeds
  • the manufacture of work-wear apparel or footwear
  • the manufacture of pulp, paper and paperboard and wood;
  • the printing and reproduction of newspapers and other media services
  • the manufacturing of coke and refined petroleum products
  • the manufacturing of alumina; chemicals and chemical products
  • the manufacture of pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations
  • the manufacture of products necessary for the supply chain of essential services; computer, electronic and optical products including semi-conductors; electrical equipment, machinery and other equipment (including agricultural and forestry machinery); medical devices; and medical and dental equipment and supplies.

Repair and installation of Machinery and Equipment

  • the supply, repair and installation of machinery and equipment and industrial machinery and equipment for essential services

Electricity, Gas & Water

  • electric power generation, transmission and distribution
  • extraction and distribution of gas;
  • water collection, treatment and supply
  • sewerage; waste collection, remediation activities and other waste management treatment and disposal activities

Construction

  • essential health and related projects relevant to the COVID-19 crisis, and supplies necessary for such projects;
  • repair/construction of critical road and utility infrastructure
  • delivery of emergency services to businesses and homes on an emergency call-out basis in areas such as electrical, plumbing, glazing and roofing.

Wholesale and Retail Trade

  • retail services in accordance with the separate “Updated Essential Retail Outlets ” list;
  • wholesale and distribution services necessary for the sale of food, beverages, fuel, medicines, medical products and devices and essential household products; takeaways and food delivery services

Transport Storage and Communication

  • land transport (e.g. bus, rail and taxi services)
  • road, rail, sea and air freight
  • sea and air passenger services; ports and airports
  • warehousing and support activities for transportation including cargo-handling; postal and courier activities; network control and critical maintenance (including roads); and safety related functions

Accommodation and Food Services

  • hotels or similar providing essential accommodation (including homeless, direct provision and related services)
  • food and beverage service activities in accordance with the separate the essential retail outlets listlist or for supply to a business engaged in an essential service

Information and Communications

  • the publishing of newspapers, journals and periodicals as well as video, television programme production, sound recording, radio and television broadcasting; wired and satellite and telecommunications activities; internet and cloud providers; data centres and related services.

Financial and legal activities

  • banking and financial services (including banks, credit unions and post offices)
  • accountancy, legal and insurance services necessary to support essential services and vulnerable people

Professional, Scientific and Technical activities

  • engineering, technical testing activities and analysis
  • scientific research and development activities
  • regulation, inspection and certification services necessary to support essential services

Rental and Leasing Activities

  • rental and lease of cars
  • light motor vehicles and trucks necessary to support the provision of essential services.

Administrative and Support Services

Where necessary to support other essential services:

  • employment placement and human resources associated with the recruitment and deployment of workers
  • security activities to assist in the delivery of essential services and the securing of premises closed to the public
  • cleaning of buildings and industrial cleaning activities; business support activities which are necessary to support essential services included on this list; payroll and payment services necessary for the operation of businesses; data processing, hosting and related activities.

Public Administration and Defence

Public administration activities necessary to support essential services and provision of social protection benefits (including Civil Service and Local Government);

  • An Garda Siochana, Garda Staff and the Garda Reserve
  • public order, safety, fire service and ambulance activities
  • the Defence Forces;
  • emergency call answering service to ensure administration of justice;
  • Prison services and Child Detention services
  • cyber-security
  • regulatory processes and certification required to ensure supply chains, food, medicine and general process safety
  • operation of botanical gardens, parks, forests and nature reserves
  • funeral services
  • religious personnel
  • office-holders and public representatives

Human health and social work activities

  • hospital services
  • paramedical and essential therapy activities
  • public health activities (including all those deployed to contract tracing and COVID-19 testing services)
  • laboratory services
  • drug treatment and addiction services
  • hospice services
  • pharmacy services
  • primary care, general and specialist medical practice activities provided by public and private providers
  • emergency dental practice activities
  • blood donation service
  • residential care activities (including nursing care, mental health and substance abuse, elderly and persons with disabilities, children’s residential services)
  • homecare home help and other community services
  • social work and social care activities (including disability services, mental health, child protection and welfare, domestic, sexual and gender based violence, homeless services including outreach)
  • ambulance/pre-hospital emergency care services
  • minor injury units
  • maternity services
  • health, social work, environmental, food safety regulatory activities

Community/Voluntary Services

  • community and voluntary workers, working in a publicly commissioned service, not otherwise included on the list, deployed to assist in the delivery of essential services *volunteer services operating under the local authority emergency management framework in accordance with public health guidance

Connacht Tribune

More than €200,000 worth of cannabis seized in East Galway

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More than €200,000 worth of cannabis was seized in during two separate search operations in East Galway on Saturday.

Gardai from the Divisional Drugs Unit conducted a search at a residence in Aughrim and seized cannabis plants with an estimated street value of €146,000 and €20,000 worth of cannabis herb which will now be sent for analysis.

Two men (both in their 30s) were arrested at the scene in connection with the investigation and are currently detained at Galway Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996.  Both men remain in custody.

A separate search was carried out at a residence in Ballinasloe yesterday afternoon and cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €35,000 was seized. Cannabis jellies and €7,510 in cash were also seized.

A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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Connacht Tribune

Joint move by Galway councils to Crown Square ruled out

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A senior Department of Housing official floated the idea of Galway County Council workers moving to Galway City Council’s newly-acquired Crown Square office building if a merger of the two local authorities was to proceed.

However, he was told the proposed merger of Galway’s two councils was not being pursued “at this stage”, and that it “should not be a consideration” when deliberating on the City Council’s application to the Department for a €45.5m loan approval to buy the offices in Mervue, on the eastern side of the city.

The discussion was contained in internal communications between officials in the Department of Housing and Local Government who were discussing Galway City Council’s loan sanction application. It was released to the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

Gary McGuinn, the Department’s Assistant Principal Officer for Local Government Governance and Elected Members – in a comprehensive memo about the Council’s loan application – raised the prospect of what would happen if a merger between the two councils proceeded.

“Over the years there have been merger proposals for Galway City Council and Galway County Council. These proposals ultimately never advanced but I believe that there has been incrementally closer coordination between both executives.

“Galway is now something of a holdout given that mergers have taken place in Limerick and Waterford, while the boundary issue was settled in Cork by extending it to encompass the city suburbs and outlying districts.

“Both Galway City Council and Galway County Council have office premises in Galway city centre. On a purely speculative note, one could ponder what would happen to the new City Hall building that they want to borrow to fund if there is an eventual merger?

“Possibly it would become the HQ for a ‘Galway Metropolitan District’ structure within a single ‘City and County’ type local authority. As there is no such proposal at this time though it’s probably not something that can be asked about or planned for,” Mr McGuinn said to his colleague, Tim Nuttall, an official in the Department’s Local Government Finance section.

His views were forwarded to another section within the Department of Housing last September, just before Minister Darragh O’Brien sanctioned the loan application last September.

In response, another civil servant in the Department of Housing, Áinle Ní Bhriain, said: “I can confirm there are no plans to pursue a merger of Galway City Council and Galway County Council, which was approved by Government in 2018, at this stage, and therefore should not be a consideration in relation to this loan.”

Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, confirmed two days before Christmas Eve last year, that the deal to buy the property from JJ Rhatigan was complete.

City Council workers are due to move to the new building by the end of this year.

In its loan application, the City Council said its College Road site, built 40 years ago, and refurbished and extended in the 2000s, had a number of “challenges”.

These included “limited capacity for additional headcount, lack of facilities within current infrastructure, building standard compliance and meeting our existing building climate targets for 2030”.

It pointed out to the Department that it leases two buildings in the city centre, to accommodate staff as well as City Hall, and buying Crown Square “will address the challenges outlined in the most efficient and cost-effective way and release our current City Hall, city centre site for regeneration”.

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Connacht Tribune

Hotel sector’s plea to retain lower VAT rate

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With overseas visitors down more than a quarter and increases of 300% in energy bills compared to before the pandemic, now is not the time to hike VAT rates for hospitality.

That is the plea from the chairperson of the Galway branch of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), John Ryan, who is urging the Government to keep the 9% VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sectors indefinitely.

The Government delayed the introduction of a 13.5% rate until March 1 at a cost of €250 million to help the sector get back on its feet after Covid.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohue referred to price gouging in hotels over the summer as one of the key reasons he was upping the rate.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin last week stated that it was no secret she had sought the retention of the 9% rate in negotiations for the 2023 Budget and “will continue to seek it”.

The lobby group for small to medium business, ISME, has called for the reduced VAT rate to be brought in for the entire services sector.

The owner of the Ardilaun Hotel in Taylor’s Hill said the average price of a hotel room was €167 last year. With 4,000 rooms in Dublin booked out to accommodate refugees, the price of the remaining stock was at a premium.

“You could find a couple of examples all over the country where people were charging unfair prices and were wrong. There were a few serious spikes – maybe 1% of overall accommodation stock in Dublin did that. If I was a customer I wouldn’t pay it,” Mr Ryan said.

“But they shouldn’t penalise the entire sector because of that 1%. The 9% is the right one. We would be the same as other countries where tourism is a key industry. If we went up to 13.5%, we’d be the second highest after Denmark.

“We couldn’t absorb that. We have already contracted our foreign business for 2024/25 – we’d have to go out and tell suppliers we are putting up rates. That’s just not on.”

With almost all key tourism markets experiencing a cost-of-living crisis, the last thing the industry can cope with is a tax jump.

Of 27 EU countries, the VAT rate on accommodation is 9% or lower in 16 countries.

Tourism supports 22,000 jobs throughout Galway, generating €910 million in tourism revenues annually for the local economy.

Last year the average room occupancy levels were 69% for the West, just 1% lower than national rates. Over the same period in 2019, however, room occupancy was at 78% nationally.

This is largely due to a shortfall in overseas visitors to Ireland, with numbers still down more than 25% last year compared to 2019.

A recent survey found that hotels and guesthouses were reporting reduced levels of forward bookings compared to the same time in 2019.

Some 57% report reduced bookings from Great Britain, 48% say bookings are down from Northern Ireland, while 37% record fewer bookings from the rest of Europe. US bookings are down 41%.

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