Publicans in N Ireland ‘face Covid-19 catastrophe’

Bar owners in Northern Ireland face imminent “catastrophe” because of Covid-19, publicans’ representatives said.

Financial support must be given to businesses which are forced to close, Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster said.

He met Stormont first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill on Monday.

Mr Neill said: “The meeting was constructive and they are fully aware that the sector is facing catastrophe in the coming days and weeks.

“There is no doubt that they, and the wider Executive, understand just how grave this situation is, and that we simply don’t have time to see how things might pan out.”

The industry body chief executive said there was “unilateral” agreement that protecting staff was of paramount importance.

He added: “We have made it clear that if there is any decision by the government to close businesses in the hospitality sector, that it must be done with a financial package that allows our staff to put food on their tables and that they have jobs to return to.

“As a sector, we continue to play a responsible role and will ensure that we adhere to all government guidance and public health authority advice.”