Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has slammed the decision of the Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, to refuse to attend tomorrow’s meeting of the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19.
Teachta Carthy last Friday called for the Committee to be recalled during the Dáil recess in response to the outbreak of Covid-19 clusters in meat plants in the midlands, and the resulting lockdown of those counties.
Teachta Carthy said:
“We know that the government have failed to seriously confront the particular issues within the Meat Industry during the Pandemic. In fact, several Ministers have been evasive and dismissive when TDs raised the specific concerns with them on numerous occasions since March.
“When Meat Industry Ireland were before the Committee on 10th July, we learned that there hadn’t been a single unannounced HSA inspection of a meat plant. We learned that the process of mass testing had ceased, and we learned that the industry had refused to engage with workers’ representatives.
“Nothing was done in response to this information and assurances received in recent days need to be taken in that context.
“Three counties have seen re-introduced restrictions due to this failure to act. This is the reason why the committee has agreed to meet in emergency session.
“Considering recent developments and the fact that this is the only forum for democratic oversight within a six week period, it is unacceptable that the Minister and senior officials have refused to attend.
“It is five months since the first Covid-19 case was identified in a meat plant yet numerous questions remain as to how the situation is being managed and monitored within the sector.
“At the Committee tomorrow, we will hear from the representatives of Meat Industry Ireland, the Trade Union movement, and the HSA. This will be an important opportunity to elicit further answers and information on behalf of citizens who are livid by the revelations of the past week.
“However, the failure of the Minister to appear will be a missed opportunity on his part. He has an obligation to be publicly accountable. This decision will be, I believe, met with disbelief by communities that have been affected by recent events.”