Both British Army soldiers and Irish Defence Forces would be welcome to help Northern Ireland combat the COVID-19 outbreak, Stormont’s health minister has said.
Asked about soldiers potentially having to return to the streets of Northern Ireland, during an Assembly debate on state powers to handle the pandemic, Robin Swann said he would accept help from either force if it proved necessary.
"If we get to a stage where they can provide a service that we can’t, folks, I’ll use whoever’s at my disposal," said the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
"I’ll use whatever tool I have at my disposal to tackle this virus.
"If the Irish army want to come up and help us too, when they’ve it sorted down there, I’d be more than happy to welcome them."
Figures show at least 172 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Northern Ireland, with the number of deaths post-diagnosis standing at five.
Sinn Fein's Michelle O’Neill, Deputy First Minister, later insisted a "very strong civil contingency group" and community support networks would be enough to combat the spread.
"We don’t need to deploy the British military personnel," she said.