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21/09/2021

BREAKING: Health Minister believes Electric Picnic 'unlikely' to happen

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly with HSE staff at the vaccination centre in Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise on Tuesday, July 27. Photo: Leinster Express

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he believes that the staging of Electric Picnic for 70,000 people in eight weeks time is "unlikely".

The Minister visited a Laois vaccination centre this Tuesday evening at Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise, where he got a tour by the HSE staff who last week passed the milestone of delivering 50,000 vaccines.

He spoke afterwards about the difficulties surrounding the organisation of an Electric Picnic festival in nearby Stradbally.

“The difficulty is it’s impossible to say now what the conditions are going to be like in mid to late September. Which puts the local community and the organisers in an awful position. I know the local councillors and the TDs they want this, they want to support the community. The problem is the lead time required to give the public health advice is shorter than I imagine the lead time required to organise these events.”

The Leinster Express told him that a day before, all the Laois councillors spoke in unison against the event at Monday’s council meeting, with Cllr Paschal McEvoy stating that many local people are afraid for their lives if it goes ahead.

Minister Donnelly said he was not aware that local people did not want the event this year.

“Not on this individual event, no,” he said.

Asked if the HSE and NPHET will give guidance to Laois Council Council, as requested by the CEO John Mulholland, in making their decision whether to grant an event licence in the next four weeks, the Minister said this will not happen.

“We will take any such letter seriously from a chief executive but NPHET doesn’t provide planning advice to local authorities on individual events. NPHET advises me and Government on national policy and sometimes regional policy." 

Asked if he feels himself if it is possible for 70,000 people to gather together for such an event in eight weeks time, he said it is unlikely. 

“I think it’s unlikely. The problem is we won’t know until the first week in September what’s likely to be happening in the third or fourth week, so it’s very difficult to say. Is it possible that the virus curve bends back down? Yes it is. Is it possible we will have very high vaccination rates? Yes it is, that’s exactly what we are working towards. I can’t speak to 70,000 or 10,000 or any particular amount but is it possible you can have a very well organised outdoor events with appropriate safety measures?  That is possible. 

"Is it possible to say in July or August that that will be the case, unfortunately it’s not and that’s the problem," the Minister said. 

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