A Memorandum of Understanding has been formally agreed between the Departments of Health for the Republic and Northern Ireland to underpin and strengthen North South co-operation on the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The document, which can be found on the Department’s website at:
focuses on facilitating greater co-operation on areas such as: public health messaging, research, programmes of behavioural change, ethics, evidence base/ modelling, and public health and non-pharmaceutical measures. Other areas will be considered, such as procurement, where this is of mutual benefit.
It has been agreed by Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Minister for Health Robin Swann MLA and the two Chief Medical Officers Dr Tony Holohan and Dr Michael McBride.
The document has the support of the NI Executive and the Irish Government.
Minister Harris said: “There has been significant engagement between the Ministers, the Chief Medical Officers, and the Departments throughout this pandemic. This MOU will ensure timely and responsive communications and decisions in a fast-moving environment; that both Administrations will seek to adopt similar approaches, where it is appropriate to do so on the advice of respective Chief Medical Officers.
“I want to thank my colleagues in Northern Ireland for their co-operation to date. This is a global pandemic. It knows no borders and we are all in this together. It is essential we continue to do everything we can across the island to fight this pandemic.”
Minister Swann said: “I want to acknowledge the ongoing collaborative work between my Department, the Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board and their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland. This has been the case from day one and is a reflection of the long standing cooperation and relationships built up over many years. We face a common challenge, a challenge that will test us as never before. We will continue to do everything possible to work together for the best possible outcome.”
Dr Michael McBride said: “I welcome the MOU which reaffirms our commitment to work together for the benefit of the people we all serve. North-south co-operation on protecting the health and well-being of our citizens has been well established for many years. It is essential that we continue to work together as closely as possible at this time.”
Dr Tony Holohan said: “I am delighted that Dr Michael McBride and I have now finalised the MOU with the full engagement and assistance of respective Departments and Ministers. We have been working closely with our Northern Irish colleagues since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Today’s MOU will formalise the close ongoing co-operation that has been taking place.”
Sinn Féin Assembly Health spokesperson Colm Gildernew MLA said: “We welcome today’s Memorandum of Understanding agreement between the Executive and the Irish Government to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak and to protect the lives and welfare of everyone on our island.
“The agreement covers co-operation and action in a range of areas including procurement to support the response to Covid-19, and modelling to predict its likely impact and enable evidence-based decisions on how best to respond across the whole island.”
Sinn Féin Dáil health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD added: “This agreement commits both health services on our island to develop agreed public health measures. This deadly virus does not respect borders. Working together in common action is in everyone’s interests and is vital now and in the coming weeks to save lives.”