Ulster Unionist councillor and former Belfast Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers says he had planned to fly to Puerto Pollensa in northern Majorca, as he does every year, but it has been cancelled.
Majorca is a favourite of Jim Rodgers
“We’ve gone there during the month of July for the last 25 years, I really love Majorca,” he says.
“It’s easy to get to, it’s just under three hours’ flight time and another hour-and-a-half to go up to Puerto Pollensa from the airport. It’s a really lovely seaside resort, very peaceful.
“We go there virtually every year, but our holiday was cancelled, not by us, but by the tour operators, understandably because of Covid-19. Basically, I am just holidaying at home but not travelling very far.
“It’s been disappointing, but I’m one of the lucky ones to have survived. It’s nice to have a holiday but your health is much more important.”
Councillor Rodgers says he hasn’t planned any staycation either.
“I am just more or less doing constituency work and going into the City Hall, but not travelling to Bangor or Newcastle or Portrush, even though I love those places. I’m switching off completely from any staycation.”
Commenting on the headlines about Ms Bradshaw’s holiday, he says: “I am not going to interfere in anyone else’s holidays, whether they’re in politics or sport or industry.
“No matter what you do, there’s always someone who will criticise you. People are entitled to breaks. But this year holidaying outside Northern Ireland is a thing of the past.”
Alliance MLA for Strangford Kellie Armstrong says she had no holiday plans for the summer.
“To be honest, I don’t know what we are doing, I didn’t even think we were going to have a recess. It would be lovely to go away, but I’ve no idea what’s going on with schools going back and exam results coming in the middle of August. It would be lovely to get away but we’ve nothing booked at this stage.
“Things have been busy morning, noon and night and I’m probably busier than I was in previous years. We haven’t had a chance to breathe. My only break away has been driving up to Stormont on Tuesdays.”
Ms Armstrong says that like party colleague Ms Bradshaw, many parents have been left stuck because holiday companies have stalled on cancelling bookings.
“She’s exactly the same as half the countryside. I’ve been getting calls from parents whose children have left school and the holiday companies aren’t cancelling their holidays. They keep saying: ‘Let’s wait and see’,” she says.
“If you look at the guidance from Northern Ireland and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, they say two different things. It’s confusing, but the Executive can meet this week and decide something else.
“Paula is not going away now because the guidance is that we’re strongly being advised no foreign travel abroad.”
She says people are almost having to wait until they’re in the airport before their holiday is cancelled. “It’s not a nice situation for anybody to be in.”
Sinn Fein Fermanagh and Omagh councillor Bernice Swift says she is normally in Malta at this time of year to coincide with the annual festivals and celebrations in the sun.
Rain or sun (usually the former) the Erne County is great spot to visit, insists Bernice Swift
“This year we are very concerned about the ongoing global pandemic and the seriousness of adhering to health guidelines, and therefore have opted for a hotel staycation booked for five nights in the west of Ireland (left). We have already checked with our accommodation that all satisfactory safety measures have been put in place,” she says.
“We are acutely aware of the health and scientific evidence, and particularly our own safety, that of our families and the wider community, therefore at this time taking holidays abroad is not an option.
“Given the fact that the R-rate has increased largely due to complacency, I feel strongly that individuals can manage to make the necessary sacrifices for this year and opt for staycations, or indeed, hopefully if the sun continues to shine, definitely our own beautiful counties are the place to explore and enjoy.
“Fermanagh, even on a wet day, is the perfect place to be with the beautiful lakelands and world recognised Global Geopark.
“While some countries do not pose a high risk, the fact that there is even any risk should be guideline enough for people to opt to stay at home, particularly as quarantine has not been enforced for entry yet, an issue I hope to see addressed as soon as possible.”
DUP MP for Strangford Jim Shannon says he has nothing planned at present.
“At the most I will probably be going to the north coast. I’m thinking about the Bush Hotel. My mother was there and it’s all been refurbished, so I expect that’s where I’ll be, probably for three or four days,” he says.
“I think anywhere out of the country would be impossible at this moment in time. First of all because of the uncertainty, and secondly because you just want to stay at home, really. It doesn’t matter whether it is raining or not, home will be the place to be.” Mr Shannon says the family normally goes away with his son and grandchildren, but his wife had recently suggested the two of them go away together.
“It’s interesting that after 33 years of always going away with my son and the grandchildren, I was quite pleased that my wife still wants me to go on holiday!”
Claire Hanna has deep family roots in Galway
SDLP MP for South Belfast Claire Hanna says she and her family were planning to holiday in Galway this summer.
“My family lived there until I was four and we still have our house, so that’s what we usually do anyway,” she explains.
Her party colleague, Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly, says she had been hoping to go to Portugal but the holiday has been called off.
“I’ve nothing planned at the minute. We had booked a family holiday with my daughter and her children to Portugal, with me doing some childminding, but it was cancelled. It was due to happen around Easter – I think it was April or May – but we got our money back, though.
Dolores Kelly was planning trip to Portugal
“The whole guidelines at the time were that nobody was going anywhere and that was just it. It was very clear that nobody was going anywhere at any time.
“Nothing has been put in place at the minute. I haven’t given it much thought. Where can you go, really, if you are at home? I wouldn’t mind trying to get away, my daughter and son live in the south so I could end up visiting family for a few days.
“If you go to a hotel there isn’t much to do now – you can’t go out for meals. I’ve absolutely nothing planned, except childminding at home to give my daughter a break.”
Mrs Kelly says there is a problem with clarity over the guidance, especially now that the Government has lifted a lot of the restrictions.
“Over the last number of weeks things have been changing so rapidly that it’s hard for anybody to make a best guess,” she says.
“There needs to be greater clarity, but at the end of the day people have to make up their own minds. A couple of weeks ago there was a huge campaign by travel companies, so you can see how people find it confusing. But I will be on this island. I could even be right where I am now.”
DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots says he has nothing planned.
“At this moment in time it’s just a day here and a day there. I’ve travelled extensively around the coast of Northern Ireland, but that’s it,” he says.
“If Paula follows the rules, she’s entitled to go wherever she wishes.
“I’ve no plans for anything at home or abroad this year as things stand. I haven’t booked anywhere to stay. I’ve quite a lot to do at the minute so I’m getting on with it.
“I’ve a grandchild due in January, who will be born on the other side of the world, and I may want to go and see my grandchild as opposed to worrying about holidays this year.”
Green Party MLA for Ards and North Down Rachel Woods says she is hoping to travel to the wilds of Co Donegal for a few days with her family.
“We will stay in a remote house that we have been using for over 40 years,” she explains.
Rachel Woods adores Donegal
“It’s far from glamorous but perfect for us to enjoy as a family with no internet or television.
“I love the chance to reconnect with nature, swim in the rock pools, eat lots of food and enjoy a few drinks.”
Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim Roy Beggs says he had booked a trip to Canada to see his son this month, but had to cancel it.
“Traditionally, we would have holidayed in Benone and Castlerock when we had a touring caravan, and then subsequently to that we would have taken a break for a few days when we dropped the kids at university or collected them from it. I would have probably once every five years had a sun holiday or something like that,” he says.
“But for the first time ever, in September last year, I booked a holiday to Canada because my young fellow was working there for four years, and we’d booked to go out in July. The rest of the family were to join us for a bit of a trip to British Columbia and finish up in Calgary, where my son was working, but all that has been cancelled.”
Roy Beggs had to cancel trip to Canada to visit his son
Mr Beggs says he has been doing some work on his father’s farm, but he and his wife were considering taking a break at the Radisson Roe Hotel in the north west.
“No sooner had we booked it than the outbreak in Limavady was announced, so we cancelled it. But last week we walked the Ulster Way from Ballyboley to Cairncastle, a four-hour walk. We saw only two people and were able to safely distance, so it was a great day.” He says he was surprised that Italy would have been chosen as a destination for Ms Bradshaw, as it has been a Covid hotspot.
“I personally would be uncomfortable travelling, not least because of the risk in travelling to and from the airports themselves. Undoubtedly there would be a risk factor involved in keeping social distancing through airports,” he says.
“Going through airports in any case would be a risk factor, and I would try to avoid any destination where there is high risk of transmission.”
Mr Beggs says the guidelines have been changing in different places and can be confusing.
“This is a moving area and I wouldn’t be booking a foreign holiday until there is greater clarity. I would have grave concerns about foreign travel at this stage,” he adds.
Roy Beggs did manage to walk part of the Ulster Way from Ballyboley to Cairncastle
People Before Profit MLA for West Belfast Gerry Carroll said he will be staycationing this summer.
“Staycation is my plan, hopefully Donegal, but I’m having a bit of difficulty trying to find somewhere. If I am not going to Donegal, it will probably be somewhere up the Antrim Coast,” he says.
“I don’t imagine I’ll be taking any big breaks this summer, with being an MLA and having an important scrutiny role to play during this crisis, such as I do on the health committee, as well as constituency duties. But if I am lucky enough to take some time off to relax and unwind, I’ll be staying as close to home as possible. This virus is very much still a danger and I certainly wouldn’t consider getting on a flight any time soon.”
East Londonderry Independent MLA Claire Sugden normally goes abroad but always booked last minute, so has nothing planned.
“We usually go from around now to the end of August. I was conscious that the Assembly might not have broken up for recess, so we just hadn’t planned anything. I hope to take a weekend off in August and will just chill out, probably around the house. I’ll be happy to be at home, with a couple of phone and laptop-free days and maybe a road trip or walk somewhere.
“We live on the beautiful north coast, so we’re spoiled most of the year anyway; maybe this year is a good opportunity to appreciate what’s on our doorstep.”
She said she wouldn’t have considered a holiday abroad this year.
“We are a year married and we were due to have family round but we made the decision to cancel, certainly from personal responsibility because people have made so many sacrifices and it was the least we could do.
“I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to go away on holiday because politics can be an all-consuming job.
“Paula has reflected on that and maybe decided this isn’t the right time to go, which is fair enough.
“I think the communications around all the regulations are very poor, I think everybody’s confused. People are jetting away thinking it’s fine and I know a number of people who have made the decision to continue their travels. It’s hard to know.”
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