A LEADING publican and county councillor has claimed that flagrant breaches of Covid-19 regulations are happening in pubs across Donegal.
Martin Harley, a Fine Gael Councillor and the treasurer of the Donegal branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, was speaking after a meeting of local vintners and Oireachtas members in Letterkenny on Tuesday afternoon.
Harley referenced video footage that emerged from the Berlin D2 bar in Dublin at the weekend, shown a barman dancing on a table and pouring drink into the mouths of customers.
Former Health Minister Simon Harris said the footage served as ‘a right kick in the gut’ to those who had sacrificed since the Covid-19 lockdown.
“There are Berlins D2s happening all over Donegal,” Harley told Donegal Daily.
“This is a reality. Publicans are trying to keep communities safe and there are all sorts of stories coming back from different places.
“People can talk away about what happened in Dublin on Saturday night, but it’s happening throughout our own county. There is no point saying any different. You can sense the anger from members about this.
“There is frustration and anger out there among our members.
“Publicans want some kind of clarity and there is a big issue about these so-called ‘wet pubs’.
“The licence for a pub doing food is the same kind of licence as the pub not doing food. There is no such thing as a ‘wet’ pub or a ‘dry’ pub. This is an angry point from vintners. When the licences were given out, they were just pub licenses. They are public houses, public bars and they all have the same licence.”
Local vintners met with TDs Joe McHugh, Thomas Pringle and Padraig Mac Lochlainn as well as Senator Eileen Flynn. Harley praised the work of Alice Lynch and Martina Barrett for their endeavours in arranging the meeting.
The vintners have called for the government to come to the assistance of publicans whose doors have been shut for over five months now.
Harley said: “The Government needs to come up with a rescue package for the publicans. On September 15, we’ll have been closed for six months.
“We have been told August 31 for opening, but no-one in that room felt that that will happen. It’s just not going to happen, there isn’t a chance we’ll get August 31.
“In fairness to all the publicans there, they said schools have to open first. If pubs opened first and then schools didn’t open, pubs would be blamed.
“There is a fear there among members. The Government has to look at a rescue package for publicans. Even say to them, there is no point opening until February or March and hopefully by that stage we will either have a vaccine or it will be safer to come out and open again.
“The re-start grants were a big positive; we have to recognise that and the Covid-19 payments. A lot of members, though, are over 66 and are still running pubs. They weren’t entitled to anything and that was also a big bone of contention.”
Harley outlined the financial plight experienced by some members. One publican, whose premises is an old building, has had to keep the heating on over the closed period while another’s ESB bill is nearing €5,000. Other overheads like public liability insurance and professional fees have added to the angst of the publicans.
Harley said: “You could be looking at a couple of thousand euro worth of stock in a smaller bar. The bars closed two days before St Patrick’s Day when there would have been a lot of excess stock because of the busy period.
“Take Ballybofey as an example: We should have had the Donegal-Tyrone match on the Saturday, a Finn Harps match on the Monday and then St Patrick’s Day, with a parade, on the Tuesday.
“Clonmany have a festival that keeps the town going for six months, Bundoran have lost the Sea Sessions and Ballyshannon lost the Rory Gallagher festival, Ballybofey missed a Championship game and all the seaside and tourists places missed their busiest times.”Tags: