Seanad debates

Friday, 30 April 2021

Business and Covid-19: Statements


10:00 am

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Tánaiste to the House and wish him well with his portfolio. He holds a very important brief at this time. He told us:

Around this time next month, we will publish the national economic recovery plan. It will present our vision for what the post recovery economy will look like, and how we plan to support businesses and employees in the months ahead.

I believe he is the right man in the right job at this time, and is the man to lead us through what will be a rocky road at a vulnerable time. He has the experience of having gone through the recession ten years ago and I do not doubt that he will lead us to the very best of his ability.

The packages that were announced over the past 12 months have been greatly welcomed by the business and hospitality sectors. They are much needed but more needs to be done to get all those businesses up and running.Senator McDowell raised an important point. When he was a Minister and Member of the other House some years ago, I think he said this country should have café bars on the streets. He is getting his wish at this stage because of all the outdoor catering that will be going on during summer. I wish everybody involved in that well because it is not easy. Catering is one of the most difficult businesses from which to try to make a living.

Senator McDowell also said we should have an in-depth look at what we did right, what we did incorrectly and where we could make improvements. An audit should be carried out of what we could do better. As the Tánaiste has often said, this virus is more prevalent indoors than outdoors. I think more outdoor activities could have opened sooner, for example, hill-climbing, golf, tennis, walking, cycling and many more similar activities. The construction sector could also have been opened earlier perhaps. I am delighted that sector will back up and running next week. It is an important enterprise for the country and creates thousands of jobs. Houses are badly needed for all those people now looking for them.

The Tánaiste said there would be a rocky road ahead. There is no doubt about that. Small businesses have suffered greatly in recent times and the same small businesses suffered greatly during the recession. An issue I have raised several times, and which the Tánaiste might take up, is that of self-employed people having to pay two weeks' redundancy. No safeguards are in place for those people, unlike for limited companies and other companies which can go into liquidation or receivership. Without such safeguards, houses and family homes are at risk. I intend later to introduce a Private Members' Bill to protect the family home. It is an issue the Tánaiste, as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, should look at, because we will see the closure of many small businesses in the months to come. This is going to be an issue

The aviation industry is also important and has been mentioned by several speakers. Knock International Airport, or Ireland West Airport, is very important to our region. Nearly 1 million passengers use it each year. We are blessed to have two good, strong airlines in Aer Lingus and Ryanair. The airlines cannot understand why the Government pushed back against reopening aviation on 1 June and tried to push the date back to September. It now appears the sector will reopen in mid or late July. Having the aviation industry up and running is badly needed because it is so important, not alone for trade but also for tourism and many other areas. The sector needs Government attention.


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