Friday, 18 December 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I will start with the Christmas message. It might calm me down a bit before I get into the substance of what I want to say today. It has been a difficult year for everybody. With regard to the House, I take this opportunity to wish a happy Christmas to the cleaning staff who knock quietly on our doors and clean the handles and all the surfaces we use, the catering staff, the ushers, the administration and, indeed, the Cathaoirleach.
This is not a happy Christmas for the hospitality sector. The news emanating since last night has been annoying, to say the least. Today, we are opening our doors to residents from outside the county for the first time in months. We were told last night that, possibly, people will not even get to New Year's Eve before they are locked down again. I cannot express the words at the moment about the way the hospitality sector has been treated. These are people's livelihoods and families are being affected. This yo-yo effect is driving us insane and crazy. It is all about personal responsibility. Senator Craughwell might have been in a packed gastropub but he did the right thing; he walked out.That is taking personal responsibility. I was in a shopping centre the other day and while the shop staff were behaving correctly, the open space in that centre was packed with people so I left. It is about taking personal responsibility but my frustration is that we, as a sector, have not been given that opportunity. The hospitality sector, whether it is a wet pub, a dry pub or a hotel, cannot be blamed for this pandemic or the exponential factor that has caused the increase in the number of cases but our businesses are going down the Swanee every additional day this action is being taken. Our survival is in question.
Last night's news was the last straw for me as a person in the hospitality sector. Even before we opened up to allow travel outside one's county we were told we will have to close and we might not even get New Year's Eve out of it. What are we at? Proof has not been given by the leader of my party, the Taoiseach. I have asked him for proof. I have also asked the Minister for Health. Where is the evidence that shows the hospitality sector is the cause of this pandemic? It does not exist. We are not any different from any other sector but we are being victimised. We are now going into recess, which means that Ministers will not be answerable to anybody here, and our own elected organisation will be leading the charge.
With all due respect to the Leader, I am totally frustrated and annoyed. My family business is being jeopardised again, not because of what we have done. We did everything we were asked to do. The sector has done everything it was asked to do yet information was put out last night that we will not even get to New Year's Eve before we are shut down. As I said, we are only opening today to visitors from outside the county. I wish everyone a happy Christmas.