Dáil Éireann debate –
Thursday, 7 May 2020
I have a few quick comments to make. In the context of both Brexit and Covid-19, we need maximum co-operation on an all-Ireland basis. I again appeal to the Government, as I did some weeks ago, to amend the recent regulations and enable gardaí to restrict the movements of people where necessary and regardless of whether they are resident outside State. I am concerned that my own Border county of Cavan continues to have the highest incidence of Covid-19 in the country and that the neighbouring county, Monaghan, which is also part of my constituency, has the third highest incidence. Some time ago, I appealed to the Minister for Health to have this high incidence in the two counties investigated as a matter of urgency and, if necessary, provide the additional resources to both our public and private healthcare providers to tackle any identified deficiency in local health provision. I highly commend the inspirational work of our healthcare personnel at local level.
As the Tánaiste knows well, there has been excellent co-operation on an all-Ireland basis over many years in dealing with serious animal disease issues. We need that level of co-operation and sharing of information to fight Covid-19. That would in some way ease the stress and worry endured by the people I represent on this side of the Border and the people I know and speak with every day of the week on both sides of the Border. Covid-19 recognises neither border nor identity.
I understand that contact tracing applications are being developed here by the HSE and by the NHS in Northern Ireland on the basis of different models. We will have the added problem of data transfers to and from Britain after its departure from the EU on 31 December. If there is no extension to the transition period, Britain will then become a third country in the context of data protection rules.
Under the general data protection regulation, the transfer of personal data will be prohibited once Britain becomes a third country. That includes personal health data. The North and the South are very interdependent and need key health tools, such as those applications, to speak to each other in the best interests of the citizens on all of this island. Let tracing applications do what they are supposed to do, namely, help members of the public to protect themselves.