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17th Mar 2020

Simon Harris: Banks need to show “cop-on, common sense and compassion” during Covid-19 crisis

Dave Hanratty

simon harris covid

“The people in this country were very good to the banks. We were really good to the banks in difficult times.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris has called on Ireland’s banks to play their part in easing financial stress as the spread of Covid-19 increases.

Speaking on Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ One on Monday evening, Harris called for “cop-on, common sense and compassion” from the financial institutions, noting that goodwill shown in their direction by the public ought to be reflected now.

“We’re going to do our part in terms of, we’ll publish a social welfare bill and try to increase the supports, but we need other people to do their part as well,” said Harris, responding to the question of how long the state can support Irish people during this time.

“The people in this country were very good to the banks. We were really good to the banks in very difficult times. They need to now come to the table and they need to show cop-on, common sense and compassion when it comes to things like mortgage payments and debt servicing.

“Paschal Donohoe has already met them on this and will continue to engage with them but we expect the banks to show decency in this regard and we’ll keep everything on the table in terms of making sure that happens,” Harris continued.

“The other thing we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to make sure that when we get through this – and we will get through this – when we get through it, that we are ready to support those industries. God-willing, many of those businesses will be well able to re-open. They are viable businesses right across our country in tens of villages and we’ll be ready to support them in re-opening.”

Harris noted that while the government “won’t be found wanting” in terms of support for businesses, this stance doesn’t take away from the stresses and worries that individuals are feeling.

“We are truly all in this together,” he said.

“We’ve got to show this and we’ve got to prove that. Also, we’ve got to support these local businesses when they do get back and running, particularly the ones that have acted so responsibly in the interests of public health.”

Prior to his appearance on the show, the Minister advised all Irish citizens to avoid non-essential travel overseas following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

“We need a whole of society effort,” said Harris, who is asking retired healthcare workers to consider coming forward to assist with ongoing efforts as part of an emergency national recruitment plan set to come into focus this week.

“We need a national effort. This pandemic can not be wished away.”

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