Thursday, 21 May 2020
Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants: Statements
Michael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
Deputy Stanley has categorised all of this as a mess but it is easy to be a hurler on the ditch commenting on everybody else's best endeavours. With every individual who contracts the virus and every industry grappling with the consequences, there is a challenge. Everybody is doing their best, including those workers deemed to be essential by this House when it approved the regulations. It should be acknowledged that these people have done fantastic work in keeping food supply chains going. My Department has had ongoing engagement with meat plants and there were 11 engagements since early March, with four involving me, and the rest involving Department officials. Since the end of February, there has been ongoing engagement with representative bodies and executives. It has always been about ensuring that in keeping the food supply chain going, the welfare of the employees is put front and centre. If somebody is involved in running a business and wants to keep it functioning, it is clearly in that person's interest to keep those employees safe. To argue there is some kind of conspiracy with employers to damn their workers with Covid-19 would surely be counter-intuitive.
Deputy Carthy railed against the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, for not being here tonight but I heard the Deputy speak today when the Minister was present. He walked out of the Chamber and refused to ask the Minister a question.