Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this particularly important debate and I congratulate the Tánaiste and his fellow Ministers on the work they have done in addressing the issues that have arisen in the context of Covid. A number of issues have been raised by others, which I do not intend to go through in detail, whereby some of the employment sectors have fallen between the cracks and will require another look. The important time that will come in this will be later. This will be when we see the possibility of the economy opening up again. It is at that time that particular attention will have to be paid to those entrepreneurs and business people who were in business before, had flourishing businesses and know the ropes. They know how to set up a business and run it. They know what the risks are and will be in a position to be able to proceed at short notice. They will also have to rely on the availability of various lending from the banks, which it is hoped will be forthcoming, and I expect this will be a crucial issue in terms of the recovery of the economy.
The Kerry Group has already been mentioned and I acknowledge that it has a huge investment in County Kildare. It gives tremendous employment to the county, the country and globally. I have no doubt that the minimal losses in terms of jobs will be restored at the earliest opportunity.
We have spent considerable time in the finance committee dealing with the issue of Ulster Bank. There is a huge network of Ulster Bank branches across the midlands, much more so than in any other part of the country. Across the midlands in particular it is hugely important for supplying credit to businesses, mortgage holders and a plethora of people who are very important in the creation of opportunities in the economy. The bank would not meet the committee. It refused to do so. We did not want to indulge in the exposure of any state secrets but it would have been an opportunity for the committee and the Houses of the Oireachtas to advise the bank as to the importance of maintaining a strong presence. As the Acting Chairman knows, I could go on for quite a long time but we have to leave space for others.