A new bank holiday on St Brigid’s Day has not been ruled out for next year and frontline workers are set for a once-off pandemic bonus payment.
The saint’s feast day on February 1, which heralds the start of spring, is still the preferred option among ministers and is likely to become a permanent holiday.
However, senior government sources said an announcement during the current Covid surge would be viewed as “tone deaf”.
If the virus has not abated by St Brigid’s Day, they said a once-off holiday may be given on a different date later in the year. A bank holiday on St Brigid’s Day is likely to become a permanent fixture after that.
“A St Brigid’s Day bank holiday is not ruled out at all, but there’s no point in giving it when cases are really high and you have to give businesses a lead-in time,” said a source.
“There is consensus that it should be a bank holiday but they’ve pushed back the possibility of a date until things calm down.”
Another source said two ministers backed St Brigid’s Day for a bank holiday at a recent Labour Employer Economic Forum meeting, and the date was generally considered a good choice. However, there is concern that cases will spike at the end of this month.
“There is a long period between January 1 and St Patrick’s Day without a holiday,” they said.
“Obviously, the point was that it would be about remembrance and reflection and a time of rebirth, but that narrative doesn’t necessarily fit if the pandemic is still raging.
“But if things get better, it could be easy to introduce and doesn’t require major legislative change.”
Sources said a cash payment rather than a voucher is the most likely option for frontline staff. They said the definition of frontline will be “narrow”.
A Department of Enterprise spokesperson said no decision has been made regarding an additional bank holiday “in remembrance and appreciation of the contribution made by the Irish people”.