UPDATE 1-Ireland raises prospect of earlier return to foreign travel

* Ireland may not necessarily wait until late July

* Airlines warn of lost connectivity, long recovery

* Facebook Ireland chief criticises hotel quarantine (Adds Facebook Ireland CEO comments)

DUBLIN, May 21 (Reuters) - Ireland may adopt a COVID-19 certificate to help citizens move more freely across the European Union earlier than late July, as previously flagged, amid mounting pressure from airlines and employers to reopen foreign travel.

Ireland has the strictest travel restrictions in the 27-nation bloc. It advises citizens against non-essential travel, imposing fines on people heading to airports to go on holiday and a two-week mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from a number of countries.

While Irish ministers have said it will be late July or early August before they put the EU’s so-called “green certificate” into operation, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said on Friday that it could be earlier.

“The finalised date is being worked on and will be announced next week. The government’s view is that we want to participate in this as early as possible,” Donnelly told RTE as EU leaders look to finalise discussions to enable the certificate to be operational by June 21.

The head of global industry group IATA, Irishman Willie Walsh, said on Wednesday Ireland’s air connectivity was likely to shrink by 30% and may need five years to recover from Europe’s most “repressive” travel restrictions.

International Airlines Group-owned Aer Lingus shut its cabin crew base at one of Ireland’s largest airports this week, while Ryanair has said it will give priority to other European markets in the coming months and base fewer planes in Ireland.

The Irish chief of Facebook said on Friday that mandatory hotel quarantine had created a difficult environment for Ireland’s big multinational employers.

The United States is one of 56 countries from which people arriving in Ireland must pay almost 2,000 euros each to quarantine for up to 14 days in a secure hotel.

“Many felt, especially at the beginning when it was applied to people even if they were fully vaccinated, that it was excessive and potentially even a little discriminatory,” Gareth Lambe told an American Chamber of Commerce Ireland event

“That was definitely a bit of a hiccup so it’s really, really important that we have a clear roadmap on how we’re going to open up travel again,” said Lambe, currently the chamber’s president. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Gareth Jones)