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17th April 2020 | Coronavirus, Health, Press Releases

Greens ask for State recognition of frontline Covid-19 victims and protection for their families

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Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Green Party TD for Dublin Fingal Joe O’Brien asked the Taoiseach about the prospect of the State giving formal recognition to frontline Covid-19 victims, and requested measures to ensure that families of such victims would be looked after financially.

In the Dáil Deputy O’Brien stated: “Taoiseach, will you consider some formal mechanism whereby frontline and essential workers who have died due to Covid-19 will be formally acknowledged by the State, and a mechanism whereby the families of such workers are not left in a worse financial position after their death? These are people who knowingly and willing risked and lost their lives for the good of the country. I think the Irish people would like the State to give special recognition to these frontline casualties that would stand the test of time, I think there is a role for the Office of the President here aswell, and I think we all have a duty to ensure that the families they leave behind are looked after.”

Speaking after the Dáil session, Deputy O’Brien confirmed that the Taoiseach agreed to explore the proposal and to ask the HSE to review its death in service provisions to see if they could be strengthened.

On the issue of formal recognition by the State of frontline Covid-19 victims, Deputy O’Brien stated: “There is some precedent to be looked at here but I think considering the uniqueness of the pandemic challenge there needs to be a dedicated State recognition for frontline workers.

“In 2012, the government announced the Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad and said it would ‘consider proposals for a similar mechanism for recognising the distinguished service of those resident within Ireland’. In 2015 a private member’s bill was introduced to establish an award called ‘Gradam an Uachtaráin’, to be bestowed by the President on the nomination of an Awarding Council subject to the veto of the Government. The bill lapsed after the 2016 dissolution and election.”

Emphasising the importance of ensuring that families of deceased frontline workers are not left in financial difficulty, Deputy O’Brien concluded: “The very least the State can do for the families of frontline workers who have died in the battle against Covid-19 is to ensure that they are not left in a worse financial position by the death of the family member. This will likely involved setting up a new financial mechanism.”