A move to allow families to reunite over Christmas has balanced risks against the need to give people hope, Stormont’s deputy first minister has said.
Michelle O’Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster joined the UK Government and other devolved nations to agree a common approach to the festive period that will allow three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27.
Ms O’Neill acknowledged the relaxations would increase opportunities for coronavirus to spread, but she said it was important that people could look forward to the Christmas period after such a “desperate” year.
The Sinn Fein vice president also expressed hope that alignment could be achieved with the Irish Republic.
“There is risk involved here,” she said.
“We’re asking people to be responsible, we’re asking people to be safe, keep their family safe and remember that every action that we take as individuals can have an impact on those around us.
“So we’re just trying to get a balance and we’re trying to give people some hope because it’s been a desperate year all around.”
Ms O’Neill said she expected an announcement from the Irish Government later in the week.
“Everybody’s grasping for some wee bit of hope and wee bit of light and we want to be able to give them that, and the clearer the message can be across the two islands then that’s a better position for us all to be in,” she added.
DUP leader Mrs Foster welcomed the agreement. She said people from Northern Ireland living in Great Britain would want to return home at Christmas.
“We of course recognise how important Christmas time is for so many people in Northern Ireland,” she said.
“The fact we have been able to secure agreement across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom – is very strong because of course we know that people will want to come together from the four parts of the UK to be together at Christmas.”