Thursday, 21 May 2020
Outbreaks of Covid-19 in Meat Processing Plants: Statements
Michael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
It will come as a surprise to many Deputies present that notwithstanding complaints to the HSA, no visits were made to meat factories. The HSE did make visits but the chair of the HSA confirmed it made no visits. The visits by the HSE were only in the context of dealing with an outbreak. There were complaints but there were no visits whatsoever up to that point. It came as a surprise to many Deputies to learn that the HSE gave results of people's tests to the meat factory bosses before it gave them to the workers themselves. However, none of these factors will come as a surprise to the ordinary farmers of Ireland, who are well aware of the clout of meat factories and the beef barons in this State. I am not suggesting that the Minister's Government is the first to have genuflected before the altar of the beef barons; it is just the latest Government to do so.
There is a long history of tribunals and abuses of power by that sector. That will continue for a long period. This is simply emblematic of it.
We have regulations in place. We have strict separation of church and State in this country. People are free to engage in public worship. Public health is not a reason to confine that or limit it under the Constitution, yet we do so. We say that a person can go to the funeral of a friend only if no one else is going. How a person is supposed to know who else is going to a funeral before going himself, I do not know. It seems a slightly unusual regulation, but that is what we do. We have even closed the churches but we certainly will not interfere with the power of the beef barons in this State.
I would not like to encroach upon the time of Deputy Fitzmaurice, who has eight minutes.