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Local representatives in Clare are calling for an easing of COVID-19 restrictions citing the impact on businesses and mental health in their arguments.

Two separate motions were tabled before Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council on the topic of Level Five restrictions in what marked the first sitting of the local authority where several councillors questioned and criticised the reasoning for prolonged measures.

Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) sought evidence from the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly (FF) necessitating the closures of gyms. “We heard from numerous experts and mental health service providers how these restrictions affect people’s well being. We note that during earlier restrictions we had good weather so people took to exercising outdoors but unfortunately now the fine weather has gone and the dark, wet nights are the reality”.

Regimental structures were put in place by gym owners to make the facilities safe, the Shannon representative stated. She referenced a petition which has over 40,000 signatures urging the Government to reconsider the decision. “I use the gym myself, I know physical and mental health go hand in hand. If you’re going into the gym, you are looking after your health. The gyms have put in their precautions. For this time of year, people need to be able to go to the gym,” McGettigan said.

Agreement was voiced by Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF). “It is a great outlet to be able to go the gym, meet people, you can go to the swim, the sauna and have a chat with people. Especially on the winter nights it is needed”. He flagged that booking systems were utilised to cater for social distancing prior to the closures. “Whatever about pubs and restaurants, for mental health the gym is a great outlet”.

As she added her support, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) expressed her hope that the restrictions would be lifted in the near future but felt the motion “will be needed if the unsustainable open and closed lockdown continues”.

A separate motion from Cllr Pat Daly (FF), Cllr Pat McMahon (FF), Cllr Michael Begley (IND) and Cllr John Crowe (FG) asked the Government to consider easing restrictions under a weekly review with COVID-19 cases dropping “with a view to allowing some additional sectors to trade and giving more small businesses hope into the future”.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Daly believed now was the time to lift restrictions that prohibit businesses, restaurants and gyms from opening their doors. “Businesses are strangled, they are being used as an example,” Cllr McMahon commented. He added, “The lockdown, golf, tennis and table tennis, it is crazy that they can’t continue in the open air. There is a whole area that should have been looked at, open the outdoors to have some bit of economic activity”.

Referencing a discussion about Botox on Liveline, Cllr Begley admitted that he couldn’t profess to know much about it but highlighted it as “an example of the unfairness of the lockdown” with fringe outfits providing Botox procedures and claiming it is for medical benefits. “It is not possible for the Government to define everything in the country. We’re halfway through this, it could be revised to some degree to allow some variations”.

“When you see golf being knocked, it is crazy. I can’t understand the reasoning given how responsible different businesses were,” Cllr Crowe stated. Cllr McGettigan also voiced her support, “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, some of them are specialised for online shopping, others may not open again”.

Aspects surrounding the sale of animals must be taken into account, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) outlined. He called for measures on equestrian sports to be revised and felt the marts needed to revert to their traditional system, “it is sad that the primary producer of the meal is losing out”. Competition in the farming market was “critically important,” Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) noted as he lambasted the fact that “you can have thousands in the Dunnes’ and the Aldi’s” but farmers couldn’t see animals in the flesh at the Mart.

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