Seanad debates

Friday, 30 April 2021

Business and Covid-19: Statements


10:00 am

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

One could almost use the two hours for this debate to talk individually on this subject, it is so vital. I welcome the Tánaiste to the House and thank him and his officials in the Department for the work they have done over the past year during Covid-19. I also thank all the local enterprise offices, LEOs, across the country for the role they played, in particular in Tipperary where it is led by Anthony Fitzgerald. The first thing I want to touch on is a local issue in Clonmel and the Ballingarrane business, science and technology campus, the first of its kind in the country. It is a partnership between IDA Ireland, the LEO and Tipperary County Council. It has been set up as a pilot project. There is a growing requirement for a modern, sustainable, commercial building in rural areas to attract businesses to come to rural Ireland, to give them the option of coming to Clonmel, Thurles or Nenagh rather than going to obvious locations of Cork and Dublin. The key attraction is that it saves 18 months for a business to set up because looking for premises can take quite a long time, but here it is up and running for them. It will play a key role in our strategy for our rural future. If we are going to attract people to live in rural Ireland and set their base there, it is important for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to play its role in bringing businesses to rural Ireland. I ask that the Tánaiste encourages IDA Ireland to continue supporting this project and to support more right across the country, as it will play a vital role.

He touched on remote working and its importance. More colleagues will speak on that. We will have a discussion on remote working in Tipperary in May and I thank him for agreeing to host that. It is for anyone in Tipperary who is interested in the subject and what the Government hopes to do. Anyone wanting to register for the meeting on 11 May at 8 p.m. can go to As we move out of the pandemic it will play a very significant role in business and quality of life.

I welcome the significant announcements made yesterday on the reopening of the country, particularly in respect of business and hospitality. It has been incredibly difficult over the past year but especially over the past four or five months for the hospitality industry. I welcome the Tánaiste saying there would not be a cliff-edge approach to reopening of hospitality. Last summer, we put investment in place for hospitality with the restart grant, the restart grant plus, and EWSS payments, which were all in place for reopening after phase 1. It would make sense that when they reopen after a longer time, there would be supports available for them. The sector is calling for initial supports but also long-term initiatives such as the 9% VAT rate, and if it was possible to maintain it for some years. It was hugely successful in 2009 and 2010, or maybe it was a little after that, when it was brought forward. The hit for the sector this year was even bigger than it was in the previous crash so the VAT rate will be really important.

I refer to the outdoor dining scheme.I met representatives from restaurants and traditional and food-serving pubs in Cahir last week. The Tánaiste has visited Cahir and he knows it is a beautiful small town of about 3,000 people. It is a perfect setting for a rural area which can accommodate outdoor dining or seating areas in a wonderful setting of a small town with a castle. It is a picturesque area and a prime example of how we can encourage the reimagining of rural towns. The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Humphreys, will be focusing on that aspect in the years to come. In supporting those industries, it is important that we have a scheme not just for dining and to extend it beyond that aspect. I would love to talk about a range of things, but I am conscious many people want to speak on this subject. I will be happy to work with the Tánaiste on a range of issues in future and I thank him for being here.


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