After a four-week “circuit breaker” lockdown, the divided government of Northern Ireland voted narrowly to extend COVID restrictions.
Cafes, hairdressing and beauty salons will be closed for another week; Pubs and licensed restaurants for another two weeks.
The decision comes after four days of heated exchanges, especially between the two major parties: DUP and Sinn Fin.
Ministers found that Thursday was the wrong time and that the restrictions on expiration on Friday were not Thursday.
In a video posted on the way to the Northern Ireland football match, DUP leader Arlene Foster confirmed that they had made the decision.
The first minister said: “In the last four days, the days that I certainly did not inquire into, did the election turn out to be a quick and wrong decision or actually fight and lead us to a better and more balanced decision.”
“Sometimes you know compromise is not easy and you have to fight to make it safe,” she added.
The DUP has twice instituted cross-community voting to veto the Stormont Health Minister’s recommendations to extend the restrictions, as it has failed to gain support for partial lifting.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said Sinn Fൻin, who voted against the plan, would continue to lead on health advice.
I am disappointed that the DUP misused a voting system designed to protect minorities to prevent the implementation of public health measures during this global epidemic.
Both Unionist parties and the Cross-Community Alliance Party supported the compromise, with Sinn Fin voting against it and the nationalist SDLP leaving.
SDLP leader Kolam Eastwood, DUP and Sinn Fin call the issue “shambolic”.
He said: “Without a shadow of a doubt, the actions and inaction of the DUP and Sinn Fin in the executive this week are disgraceful.
“They let down people, businesses, patients, doctors and nurses. They’m a shame.”
The fact that it took four days for the parties to reach this stage and that it was not a unanimous decision is not good for the divided government.
While Northern Ireland is still reeling from the lockdown and tough decisions on Brexit, old tensions are pushing for a new approach deal that re-established power-sharing.
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