Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 30 June 2020
Special Committee on Covid-19 Response
Business of Special Committee
The committee has been notified that Deputies Ó Cuív, Niamh Smyth, Catherine Murphy, Gannon, O'Rourke, Munster, Ó Snodaigh, Clarke, Boyd Barrett, Paul Murphy and Matthews will substitute for party colleagues today.
I congratulate Deputies Stephen Donnelly and Norma Foley on their appointments to the Government. Both Deputies were active members of this committee and we wish them well, as we do every other Member who will be a part of the Government in the coming days and weeks.
I will take it that the minutes of the meetings of 23 June and 25 June are agreed if nobody has anything to say about them.
Last week, conflicting evidence was given by two people. A representative from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, told the committee about the number of healthcare workers who are still out sick and the evidence from Dr. Colm Henry on Thursday was the total opposite. The committee should write to both those witnesses to seek clarification on how they arrived at their figures because we have heard two different stories. One story is that 60% of healthcare workers who had been infected remain on sick leave and the other story is that 90% have fully recovered. It is important that the committee establishes the facts on this issue because it is relevant.
I thank Deputies. I will take the 19 items of correspondence received as noted. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Following the meeting of the working group last Friday, and based on advice, the Dáil will be meeting in the Chamber as normal from next week. It was agreed that the committee will meet for two sessions on Tuesday mornings and three sessions on Fridays from next week.
I wish to raise an issue about that. We need to establish clarity on schedules for this committee and the Dáil as soon as possible. We have a situation where we are about to start a session and Deputies have been notified that should be present for a potential vote in the National Convention Centre at midday. That would run a coach-and-four through the middle of this session.
Perhaps Deputy Boyd Barrett is able to pull off bilocation. What are we going to do about this situation?
Are we as a committee going to request some automatic full pairing? Are we going to just let it happen? We need to deal proactively with the Whip's office in this regard.
While the 12 noon vote today is not an issue, we will have to participate in the votes after we finish here. We were notified just now that it is okay. I agree with the Chair for the future that we need to get sorted.
I am on the Business Committee, as is Deputy Boyd Barrett. This was discussed yesterday. If there is a vote called, it will simply be deferred until later on. It is not going to be an issue for today but there is an issue in respect of the availability of this Chamber on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in future and what arrangements might be made for the Covid committee or indeed other committees, and a transition period as well. That is something the committee will need to consider.
We have agreed that we will meet on Tuesday mornings and Fridays because the Chamber will be in use by the plenary Dáil as normal on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There is also the Seanad Chamber and the possibility of sitting there in the short term before it is possible to sit as normal.
We all got that text last night to say there will be a vote at 12 noon. I rang the Chief Whip just before I came in here and he said the 12 noon vote is not an issue but there might be votes later on this evening.
I was wondering when that will come back to us as a full committee, out of a working group discussion, to look at the proposals and make decisions. What is the thinking of the Chair and the working group? While I gather it is progressing quite a bit, I am not sure of the status of that Friday working group. Will the committee as a whole decide what reports we produce, when we produce them and so on?