The Government’s plan for a new bank holiday to thank frontline workers for their efforts during the Covid pandemic may be a one-off event rather than an annual day off work.
There is increasing consensus around targeting Monday January 31 as the bank holiday to tie in with St Brigid’s Day which falls on Tuesday, February 1.
However, there is some resistance, especially from employer groups, to introducing a permanent new bank holiday. A final decision has not been taken on when the holiday should be held but senior Government figures yesterday indicated linking it to St Brigid’s Day is the most likely date.
However, there is some concern over whether the country will still be dealing with the threat of the global virus next February.
The Irish Independent has also learnt some consideration has been given to making St Patrick’s Day a four-day weekend.
St Patrick’s Day events have been cancelled for the last two years in a row due to the pandemic.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, while serving as taoiseach, made one of the most significant speeches of the pandemic on St Patrick’s Day in 2020.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin did not rule out the new bank holiday coinciding with St Brigid’s Day when speaking at an event commemorating Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone at an event in Bodenstown, Co Kildare.
Mr Martin, who was wearing a St Brigid’s cross pin, said Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O’Loughlin had been “very persuasive” in advocating for the bank holiday to be linked to one the country’s patron saints. “The last time I was in Kildare with Fiona, I was taken to various centres that were, how will I put it, very affirming of St Bridget’s role in this county,” Mr Martin said.
“But it remains to be seen how government will decide ultimately on that matter along with a range of other matters in that context,” he added.
Speaking in the Seanad recently, Senator O’Loughlin, who is from Kildare, compared St Brigid as “the Greta Thunberg for our generation”, referencing the young climate change campaigner.
“She was a keen environmentalist who nurtured the land and physicians. She was an incredible role model. She was really the first feminist we had,” she said.
“The messages of peace and justice that she brought forward 1,500 years ago are every bit as relevant today. As a proud Lilywhite, I know that Kildare people will join me in making that rallying cry for February 1 to be the new bank holiday,” she added.
The Government has been working with unions and employer groups in devising a way to thank and reward frontline workers for the role they played in the almost two-year long pandemic.
The minimum wage was increased by 30c to €10.10 in the Budget but no formal announcement was made on any pay bonus for workers or the introduction of a bank holiday.
Businesses have raised concerns about the cost of a permanent new bank holiday to employers still struggling after the pandemic.
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