Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Taoiseach): Statements
Michael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
The Ireland of today has totally changed, a change that will take us years to recover from. The small-time business will struggle to survive this crisis, which is far greater than anything we have ever faced before. People from business after business are contacting me daily, I assume they are contacting other Deputies too. They tell me they cannot see how they are going to survive, never mind reopen.
Tourism is a major employer throughout this island. The incoming Government must fully focus on a clear way forward. People throughout the country and in my constituency who own restaurants, pubs or hotels are in contact with me daily, including people from Kinsale, Bandon, Clonakilty and all the way down at Crookhaven and Mizen Head. They are asking me one question: when can they open? How can they reopen taking into account social distancing? Can they survive reopening a restaurant, pub, hotel or café with a handful of customers and still be expected to pay staff, rent, rates and every other overhead that can be thought of? The reality is that if the Government will not concentrate a serious focus on tourism and on Ireland's capacity, then the consequences will be devastating for many years to come.
Two weeks ago today in the Dáil, I urged the Taoiseach to set up urgently a public tourism task force. In fairness to the Taoiseach, he answered me positively by saying that he would support the task force being set up. The announcement of the setting up of this task force was made yesterday and I welcome it. Why, however, was there no board member from Cork announced?
In the name of God, what is the mindset when every county where tourism is a major sector is represented but Cork is not? It is right for these counties to be represented but Cork, a county that plays a massive role in tourism, has been dropped from the task force. I ask the Taoiseach and Deputy Micheál Martin to intervene and include a member from tourism sector in Cork on the task force. Why has no member from the Vintners Federation of Ireland, VFI, or the Licensed Vintners Association, LVA, which employ over 50,000 people, been put on this task force? What is wrong with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport that it has failed to include two of the biggest contributors to tourism in this task force?
Will the Taoiseach intervene and work with the Minister, Shane Ross, as well as the Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, to right this wrong? Let us all work together to rebuild tourism to its former glory in all sections of Ireland. I am getting a large number of questions about tourism in west Cork and, unfortunately, we are not able to get answers. I understand the pressure on Departments currently with respect to reopening, rules and directives but could Fáilte Ireland, an established tourism body, be put in charge of queries that are coming in daily from businesses that want to reopen? It can lay out the required answers.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, announced in the past week there will be no driving tests for the foreseeable future. This is terribly unfair to the young people in the country who want to attend jobs and college. The Minister simply slammed the door but why did he not look at a road map as to when people might be able to sit their driving test? Those who genuinely and urgently need to drive in rural communities, where there is no public transport, should be given a special emergency permit so they can drive to work or colleges until the end of the crisis.