Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Impact of Peat Shortages on the Horticultural Industry: Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
The first session of today's meeting is on the impact of peat shortages on the horticultural industry. I welcome the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage and electoral reform at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Noonan. He is joining us from a witness room in Kildare House. He is joined from the Department by Mr. Brian Lucas, who is joining remotely. They are both very welcome to the meeting. We have received the Minister of State's opening statement which has been circulated to members and will be published on the Oireachtas website. The Minister of State will be given ten minutes to make his opening statement before we go into questions and answers.
Before we begin, I have an important notice on parliamentary privilege. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter in these proceedings is to be given. They are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that where possible they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
I now call on the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, to make his opening statement. On the previous occasion we discussed the peat issue and the problems the horticultural sector had, I and other committee members were very disappointed that a senior official at the Department said part of the solution to the peat shortage in this country was the importation of peat. I cannot see how that makes any environmental or economic sense. That statement took a lot of us very much aback at the previous meeting we had on this issue. I now ask the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, to address the committee.