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Rural Irish pubs will pay 'high price' over capital's antics - TDs

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Labour leader Alan Kelly

Labour leader Alan Kelly

Labour leader Alan Kelly

An urban-rural divide is opening up in the debate over the reopening of pubs from coronavirus restrictions as TDs say businesses in the countryside should not suffer due to the behaviour of revellers in the capital.

Pubs in rural Ireland and tourist destinations should not be punished and prevented from reopening due to the behaviour of a small number of people, Labour Party leader Alan Kelly has said.

Kerry Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said rural publicans are "genuinely afraid" they'll pay a "high price" due to people gathering outside pubs in Dublin who were "nearly up on top of each other's backs".

Pubs that sell food were allowed to reopen last week but the remainder of licensed premises cannot reopen until phase four of the Government's "roadmap" begins on July 20.

The wider reopening of pubs from coronavirus restrictions is at risk over concerns about social distancing outside bars.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said the Government was unhappy about incidents at some locations over the weekend and warned plans for the next phase of reopening remain "under review".

Major concern has been sparked by videos that emerged on social media over the weekend showing hundreds of young people congregating to drink on Dame Lane in Dublin city centre.

Mr Kelly was asked if the wider reopening of pubs should take place on July 20 given the scenes at the weekend.

He said there are communities and tourist areas that are "very much dependent on public houses opening on July 20".

He pointed to the Wild Atlantic Way and Hidden Heartlands tourist areas and how there had been campaigns to encourage people to holiday at home in Ireland.

"I think it would be wrong for those areas to be treated like that with a further closure because of the behaviour of a small number of people," he said.

Mr Kelly suggested that the Government look at ways to deal with the kinds of incidents seen at the weekend and that it's "more an enforcement issue rather than changing the July 20 date".

Takeaway

"I don't think it would be correct to punish those who are trying to make a living and people who are trying to get back into employment in tourist areas all over the country because of the behaviour of a small few," he added.

Some of the crowding has been blamed on pubs selling takeaway pints.

Mr Kelly said he did not think a ban on this practice would be enforceable as people could just go to an off licence.

Mr Healy-Rae told Newstalk Radio that he had visited pubs and restaurants in the "tourism capital of the world", Killarney, and they were all "operating 100pc in compliance" with public health rules. He said he wasn't blaming publicans.