Topical Issue Debate

Garda Recruitment

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for choosing this subject for the Topical Issue debate. A few days ago, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, announced that Garda recruitment would recommence towards the end of this year. It was a very welcome announcement not only for those who will apply and be successful, but also because it underlines the Government's commitment to maintain Garda numbers at a certain level.

What are the timelines involved? In other words, when will the training period commence in Templemore? In the past, the training model for gardaí took almost two years, but I understand that a different model will be used henceforth, which will last nine months. Perhaps the Minister of State could clarify that point.

According to the Minister's statement, some 27,000 applications have been made for Garda recruitment, which is a huge number. I expect that when the applications are processed, the figure may be even greater.

When will applications be accepted? Prior to the moratorium on recruitment a number of applicants, having passed their medicals, had been placed on a panel and were waiting to be called to attend Templemore for training. What recognition will be given to these people? It would be unfair if this were totally discounted and those applicants had to reapply. I understand some of them may have gone abroad or moved on to other careers. However, it is important those who have not are given some recognition for having been already on the panel. I understand 400 successful applicants had been placed on that panel, all of whom had a real expectation of recruitment. What is their position?

Also, there are currently 1,200 members of the Garda Reserve, who while doing a good job have a different status from that of gardaí. I assume many of them would also like to apply for recruitment to the Garda Síochána. Will recognition be given to their having volunteered as members of the Garda Reserve?

I thank Deputy O'Mahony for raising this matter, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, who is attending a Justice and Home Affairs ministerial meeting in Vilnius today.

The House will be aware that the Minister announced on Monday that he had received sanction from his colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, to hold a recruitment competition for An Garda Síochána. This is a very welcome development and the Minister is grateful to the Minister, Deputy Howlin, for his sanction to proceed with this competition. The Minister firmly believes that, despite the general public service moratorium on recruitment, and the continuing financial constraints, an organisation like An Garda Síochána should have an intake of new members, even if at a modest level, on a regular basis.

Given the procedures that need to be put in place in advance of recruitment commencing, the anticipated high number of applications, the selection process and the formation of a panel, it will be 2014 before students will enter the Garda College in Templemore to begin training. The competition will be run by the Public Appointments Service. As things stand, some 27,000 expressions of interest have been received from persons wishing to join the Garda Síochána. The Minister expects there will be a large number of applications once the recruitment process formally opens. It is too early at this stage to indicate how many persons might be recruited, as this will depend on a number of factors including the rate of retirements.

The student-probationer training programme upon which these students will be embarking has been radically restructured. The main difference between it and the earlier programme is that the new programme carries a greater emphasis on operational policing and focuses on real life scenarios which, in turn, prepare students better for the policing challenges they will face. The new programme will also instil a lifelong learning philosophy for members of the Garda Síochána, with a suite of mandatory and elective courses being made available. In the light of this revised training programme, and in view of the fact that the existing Garda recruitment panel is now approximately five years old, it will not be used in this or any future recruitment. Of course, people on the panel may reapply to join the Garda Síochána, once they meet the eligibility criteria.

In addition to the review of the training programme in the Garda College, the Commissioner has also considered whether some changes could be made in the area of educational requirements, to align them with the national framework of qualifications, while at the same time using the leaving certificate as an optional entry level requirement. The objective would be to align educational requirements with the official framework as well as open up access to those who may not have completed the leaving certificate but have completed another course which demonstrates their abilities, perhaps in a less academic environment. Such a change could also make it more straightforward to recognise qualifications achieved outside Ireland as the framework provides a comparative tool with qualifications gained outside the State. A decision will be taken on this as part of the preparations for the holding of a competition.

The Minister is determined that the resources of An Garda Síochána will be used in the best, most effective and efficient way possible. The House will be aware that the agreement reached with the Garda associations includes a provision for a review of the Garda Síochána and that this review includes the structure, organisation and staffing of An Garda Síochána. The review is due to start in September of this year and to be completed in June of next year. The Minister remains confident that the primary Garda objective of combating crime will continue to be achieved, and that, despite the pressure on the public finances, the force will continue, with this fresh impetus of new recruitment, its excellent work of preventing and detecting criminal behaviour.

I thank the Minister of State for her response. I am disappointed to hear from the reply that a new panel is to be formed. While as I stated earlier, some of the 400 people on the previous panel may have gone abroad or moved on to different careers, I believe some recognition should be given to those on the current panel still interested in a career in the Garda Síochána. Obviously, as they had been placed on the panel they were deemed eligible for recruitment. Perhaps the Minister of State would raise with the Minister, Deputy Shatter, the possibility of these people being given some recognition in this regard.

My second question related to the Garda Reserve. Will the recruitment process take into account the service of members of the Garda Reserve who apply for recruitment to the Garda Síochána? If the process is to commence in 2014, it will be late 2014 or early 2015 before the new recruits will be out on the beat. What will be the Garda strength at that stage? Also, what are the projected garda retirements for 2013 and how many retired in 2012? I understand the Minister of State may not have that information today but I ask that she take note of my questions and ask the Minister to reply directly to me.

That the number of new gardaí to be recruited will depend on staffing issues, including retirements, is to our advantage. It means we are not confined to a particular number.

On the previous panel, this type of detail must be left to the Commissioner, who is more aware of the dedication required of a person in order to become a garda.

I raised the issue because it has been raised with me.

I will inform the Minister of the Deputy's concerns.

Hospital Services

The Minister of State may be aware that inflammatory bowel disease affects 15,000 to 20,000 people in this country. I am one of those people. Dr. Seamus Hussey, who is a specialist paediatric gastroenterologist based in Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, has stated that there are approximately 80 to 90 new diagnoses of children with IBD, including Crohn's disease and colitis, at that facility each year. There are many more across the State.

As stated, I come to this debate with some degree of personal experience, having been diagnosed with Crohn's disease at 14 years of age, which is 23 years ago. During my mid-teens I received ongoing treatment in cramped adult wards in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Through my work with organisations like Gutsy Kids, which represents young people with IBD and their families, the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's disease and doctors, such as Dr. Hussey, I have identified a clear need for the development of current services at Crumlin hospital, the de facto national centre for young people with Crohn's disease and colitis. The centre does not receive resources commensurate with its effective status.

Young people with inflammatory bowel disease, their families and the expert staff who care for them need designated wards to cater for their needs. Owing to the nature of the chronic debilitating conditions associated with the condition, they need ready and efficacious access to toilet facilities, rather than a 50:50 chance of a lavatory becoming available at the frequent times that patients with the condition require one.

Dedicated psychology professionals are required to work with young people with this dramatic and life changing condition, as are dedicated inflammatory bowel disease nurses. Welcome as they are from a pragmatic point of view, the nurses from the private sector who are supported by drug companies and often become available at present, are not sufficient. There are few, if any, inflammatory bowel disease specific resources in the public health service for either adults or children with the condition.

We need a clear focus on dealing with this growing, chronic, life changing and frequently limiting condition. We need a clear national clinical programme to ensure care pathways are developed in a planned and integrated as opposed to piecemeal manner. They often result from the commitment and focus of individual clinicians, rather than the vision or lack thereof of health administrators, notwithstanding the resource position in which we find ourselves. If we are to give children who will be diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease a sense that their condition and they, as patients, will be taken seriously, we should use the once in a lifetime opportunity presented to us by the decision to develop the national children's hospital to provide dedicated and specialised wards for such children and those who care for them. This is critical and we must start to plan for it now.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue, which is not the subject of many pub conversations. The number of people affected by inflammatory bowel disease is significant and I welcome the opportunity to address the issue. Currently, children with inflammatory bowel disease are cared for at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin. The condition is diagnosed by colonoscopy and children are managed by gastroenterology consultants with dietetic and social work resources working as part of a team. Shared care services have been developed with some paediatric services on a national basis and, where possible, children are managed locally with support from Crumlin hospital.

Currently, approximately 450 children with a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease are attending Crumlin hospital, some of whom require only infrequent support. I understand an increased incidence of the condition has been seen in children in recent years. In 2010, Crumlin hospital saw 53 patients diagnosed, with numbers averaging almost 70 new cases per annum since then. Given the increased numbers of children presenting, resources for this area are under review. I understand that a proposal has recently been agreed to appoint a nurse specialist to support a multidisciplinary approach to the service.

As with the other Dublin paediatric hospitals - Temple Street hospital and Tallaght hospital - all services at Crumlin hospital, including those for children with inflammatory bowel disease, will move to the new children's hospital when built. The new children's hospital is one of the most important projects to be undertaken by this Government. The hospital is a key commitment in the programme for Government and the largest project within the current capital plan.

As the Deputy will be aware, the new children's hospital will be co-located with St. James's Hospital on its campus. Co-location with a leading adult academic hospital was recommended in 2006 by the McKinsey report, Children's Health First. A significant number of consultants in paediatrics treat both children and adults. In addition, for some children with conditions that are more commonly seen in adults, they may be better managed by an adult specialist with a special interest in children who has particular expertise in dealing with these conditions. I understand that, for instance, one example is bowel perforation in inflammatory bowel disease.

In addition, some patients need to be managed across a lifespan, from childhood to adulthood, including children with gastroenterology conditions. These children will need to experience a smooth transition to adult services in due course. Where possible, those from within the Dublin catchment area can transition to the co-located hospital. For these patients, co-location enables the development of a more structured transition programme from paediatric to adult services.

The specific design and infrastructural requirements for the new hospital will be developed and finalised as the project proceeds. In this regard, the children's hospital group board has a key role, as end user and client for the project, in helping to ensure that the new facility is optimally designed for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease or any other condition. Specific care is required for children.

I welcome the Minister of State's response and the commitment she has shown to this issue. I too am committed to this issue and I intend to remain in contact with the Minister, Department and Health Service Executive to try to convince decision makers of the necessity to provide dedicated ward space and services for young people with inflammatory bowel disease. This condition is becoming much more prevalent in the western world, with the numbers involved having grown exponentially in recent years. The State must acknowledge this increase by providing the resources required to meet the challenge.

Children with this debilitating condition and their families have an acute need for privacy, given the personal and often embarrassing nature of some of the symptoms associated with it. The Minister of State and her colleagues will be mindful of this and I expect the children's hospital group board will also be mindful of it when it makes decisions on the provision of services at the national children's hospital. In the meantime, it is extremely important that we focus our attention on the needs of the young people who are using the service provided by Dr. Seamus Hussey and his team, for example, in Crumlin hospital. They are a dedicated group who are working with dedicated parents to secure the best possible outcomes for the children in question.

The Deputy has raised this issue at an opportune time. The planning process for the new national children's hospital is ongoing and the design team is in place. Many people are not aware of inflammatory bowel disease. Given the nature of the condition, privacy and ease of access to infrastructure is extremely important. A linked service is needed to regional areas to enable children to be attended to more easily and stay closer to their families. Not everyone should be required to come to Dublin for treatment.

Thalidomide Victims Compensation

I am aware the Acting Chairman, Deputy Jack Wall, has an interest in this issue and I am pleased the Minister of State, who has also demonstrated a keen interest in it over many years, is present for this discussion.

I view the 32 victims of the thalidomide drug in the context of two other important groups, namely, the victims of symphysiotomy and the women survivors of the Magdalen laundries. I am ashamed that my political party did not resolve these issues while in government. I have paid tribute in the House to the Taoiseach who got off to a rocky start on the Magdalen laundries when he failed to offer an immediate apology. We are informed from media reports that members of the Labour Party jumped up and down and the result was the completion by Mr. Justice Quirke of a comprehensive report which makes a significant offer to the Magdalen women, albeit one that does not satisfy all of them.

The issue of symphysiotomy has been raised again in recent days, including on Leaders' Questions this morning. People are wondering what action will be taken on the issue and victims of the practice are afraid the Government will make an announcement during the recess period which will not be to their satisfaction.

The survivors of thalidomide do not appear to receive the attention they deserve. Last Tuesday, the Taoiseach indicated in response to my party leader, Deputy Martin, that the Minister for Health had been in discussions with thalidomide victims who are, unfortunately, represented by two groups.

In fairness to the Taoiseach when I put it to him on the following Thursday he corrected the record by stating that senior departmental officials had been in touch with thalidomide victims. One of those organisations has advised me that it has had no contact from senior departmental officials and so frustrated is it that in the past two to three weeks it has issued legal proceedings.
In appealing to the Minister of State I know I am appealing to somebody with understanding of and sensitivity to the issue. Given that only 32 people are affected the amount of money involved to resolve this is small. However, it is not just about money but also about the State apologising for having done the victims a serious wrong. It is about putting in place a proper social-care plan for these people, many of whom are very seriously debilitated. Their disabilities are being exacerbated by their increasing age and their careers are being affected by virtue of trying to look after them. They will report, as I know they have reported to the Acting Chairman, Deputy Wall, that everything is a struggle for them. It is a struggle to extract from the State what should be clear and direct supports given what the State ultimately did to them when they were born just over 50 years ago.
We can point to what is happening in Germany and the increased compensation from the manufacturer of the drugs, which is fair enough. While it might be too little too late, at least it is happening. However, what might be happening in Germany does not absolve this State of its responsibility.
I again appeal to the Minister of State to prioritise this small group of people to ensure they are not made wait any longer for justice.

Efforts were made behind the scenes to resolve the issue. I will read the reply, but it is not all in the reply.

I am pleased to take this opportunity to outline the current position on Irish survivors of thalidomide. The programme for Government includes a commitment to reopen discussions with Irish survivors of thalidomide. Given the challenges that persist for each individual, the Government's aim is to address the health and personal social care needs of thalidomide survivors living in Ireland.

Senior officials from the Department of Health recently met both representative organisations - the Irish Thalidomide Association and the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Society. I am sure the Deputy will have something to say about that once I conclude. The Department became aware that the German foundation is set to substantially increase its monthly payments to thalidomide survivors, including Irish survivors, with effect from 1 August 2013 backdated to 1 January 2013.

The Department was also advised of a significant condition applying to the payments by the German foundation which required to be clarified with the German Ministry. The State did not wish to take any action which would jeopardise current or future payments to Irish survivors of thalidomide by the German foundation. Therefore, the Department requested the State Claims Agency, as it is managing the personal injury claims against the State relating to thalidomide, to meet with the German Ministry and report back on the conditions applying to the new payments for Irish survivors of thalidomide. This meeting took place two weeks ago. I can confirm it took place.

The new German law provides for an increase of between 140% and 500%. From 1 August, Irish survivors of thalidomide will receive tax-free payments of up to €6,912 per month with the majority receiving over €4,000 per month. This increase will be backdated to 1 January 2013. In addition the German foundation pays the majority of Irish survivors of thalidomide an annual special payment of €3,680.

As I stated previously, the new German law attaches a condition to the increased payments to be made by the foundation. All monetary benefits paid by other governments will be offset against benefits paid by the German foundation, with the exception of the annual special payments. Significantly, this will result in any payment made by the Government to Irish survivors of thalidomide being offset against the increased payments to be paid by the German foundation. The Government currently pays most Irish survivors €1,109 per month. In addition the German foundation has been provided with an annual sum of €30 million for a fund for special benefits for survivors of thalidomide including Irish survivors. This is new funding and we understand is available for additional medical requirements including rehabilitation services, aids and appliances and dental surgery.

We will be in contact with all Irish survivors of thalidomide and their legal advisers in the near future with proposals to progress issues having regard to the fact that the Minister has been served with personal injury claims in respect of a number of Irish survivors of thalidomide.

I seek clarification. The Minister of State is effectively saying that any financial compensation paid by the State now would be offset by the German authorities, which seems to be very unfair. While on the one hand there is a German responsibility, there is also an Irish responsibility. Obviously that matter remains to be further debated.

Will the Minister for Health meet the two groups and intervene directly? I believe some months ago the Taoiseach indicated that he would but it has not happened. At the end of the day this is not all about money. It is about care and the State accepting its responsibility. Notwithstanding what the Germans are doing I do not believe there is any reason the State cannot move now to ensure a proper social-care package is put in place for these 32 people. They may not all need it, but many of them do.

Will the Minister for Health meet the organisations and can we do something immediately about the social care packages?

I will give some additional pieces that may be of interest because I am very conscious we are not the only people listening to this debate.

Both groups and their legal advisers have been informed of the Department's position. The Department does not take credit for the increase in payments by the German foundation but needed to clarify issues on the new proposals. As the Deputy rightly said it is unfair but it was worth doing to find out exactly where it was at. The Government's aim is to address the health and personal social care needs of thalidomide survivors living in Ireland. I agree with the Deputy that this is not all about money but is about an overall care package that we need to put in place. Proposals will be put to Irish survivors of thalidomide to progress matters in the very near future.

I cannot answer as to whether the Minister for Health will meet a representative group or any individual from either group. Once the position is clearer I could not see any difficulty in that happening. However, I cannot answer for him and I hope the Deputy accepts that.

Company Takeovers

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me the opportunity to raise a serious matter on C&C Group and its existing operations in Tipperary and Dublin. Since the takeover of M&J Gleeson, I have made efforts to seek clarification from C&C on its future intentions. Its responses were particularly guarded and rather coy, leading me to be suspicious of its forward planning and the implications thereof. My publicly expressed concerns at the time are now unfortunately proving well founded. In recent weeks several employees of M&J Gleeson in Borrisoleigh and Bulmers in Clonmel have contacted me directly expressing frustration at the lack of information and mixed messages coming from a so-called consultative process. Employees are understandably worried, anxious and fearful for their future. The company is hiding behind the review process and keeping most of its staff in the dark.

M&J Gleeson was taken over by C&C in late November 2012. This was approved by the Competition Authority and sanctioned on 6 March of this year. A new CEO of Bulmers and M&J Gleeson was appointed.

In May it was announced that Bulmers was to be subsumed into M&J Gleeson. Critically, it was indicated that this would include proposals to introduce all-Ireland structures. In recent months there have been a large number of redundancies in Bulmers in Clonmel. It was announced internally that the C&C Group intends to move the administration, accountancy and marketing functions to Belfast. This represents a carving up of administrative functions and will mean the loss of 50 jobs, including ten administrative jobs in Borrisoleigh, 15 administrative jobs in Clonmel and 25 administrative jobs in Dublin. The C&C Group rationale for this move is that it would make a cost saving of 20% by moving these functions to Belfast. I find it staggering that administration costs could be run 20% cheaper from a small office in Belfast. I question the motivation for the move to Belfast given that the C&C Group has significant corporate bases at Park West and Cherry Orchard in Dublin as well as a headquarters at Borrisoleigh, County Tipperary. The company has also stated that it will announce the results of its manufacturing review in April next year and that it is reviewing the requirements for its depots in southern Ireland. The company is engaged in a crude cost-cutting exercise which has a major human impact.

The Minister of State and the Department should note that pay and general terms and conditions are far more favourable at Bulmers than at M&J Gleeson in Borrisoleigh. For example, the redundancy terms for M&J Gleeson employees stands at two weeks per year of service in contrast to six and a half weeks at Bulmers. Instead of actively trying to force lesser pay and redundancy terms on Bulmers workers, the C&C Group should agree to equalise redundancy terms for the Gleeson employees at the higher rate of six and a half weeks.

Due to a combination of these actions, there is widespread trepidation about the future potential impact on the existing operations and its employees. The Gleeson Group in Tipperary is a steadfast, major employer and a major contributor to the local economy. It is vital that its current operations are protected to the maximum extent. There are consequences for employment should the C&C Group employ a policy to centralise any element of its manufacturing. The C&C Group has a duty to its workforce to be open and transparent in respect of its decisions. It is fair and reasonable to demand that the C&C Group should explain the motivation behind its commercial strategy and decisions.

I thank Deputy Lowry for raising this matter. I am mindful of the anxiety that possible redundancies in the group's operations in County Tipperary would create for the workers involved and their families as well as the local communities.

The rationalisation plan of the company concerned is a commercial matter for that company. I understand that the C&C Group completed the acquisition of the Gleeson Group in March 2013. The acquisition demonstrates the group's commitment to invest in Ireland. The Gleeson business is now being combined with the group's existing cider and beer business and will provide the company with a platform to drive growth throughout the market.

I understand from Enterprise Ireland that the company concerned is not an Enterprise Ireland client because its activities are mainly in the distribution of drinks. In addition, Enterprise Ireland has not grant aided the company's mineral water bottling operations in Borrisoleigh because it does not export. Enterprise Ireland does, however, have an active relationship with other companies in the group, mainly on research and development support programmes. Redundancies were announced in one of these companies recently relating to the sales and administration functions in Dublin. This company is a key client for Enterprise Ireland and has been provided with research and development and other supports. Enterprise Ireland continues to have ongoing discussions with this company.

I understand that the company concerned has initiated a consultation process, under the Protection of Employment Acts 1977 to 2007, with its employees and their representatives who are affected by the associated rationalisation plan that the Deputy referred to at the plants in Borrisoleigh and Clonmel. In this regard, I should point out that the services of the Labour Relations Commission are available to assist the parties concerned, if requested.

Employment retention and creation continues to be our primary objective and we have been working hard to create the improved economic conditions which will support the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new ones. A robust economy capable of capturing new opportunities and sustaining jobs requires a medium to long-term vision. Action Plan for Jobs is a key pillar in the delivery of that goal. This year's action plan for jobs will build on the success of the 2012 action plan. It includes 333 actions for delivery throughout all Departments and 46 agencies or offices. The enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my Department have been to the fore in delivering on the commitments set out in Action Plan for Jobs and continue to ensure businesses can maximise their contribution to economic recovery and employment growth.

I assure the House that we consider it important that the impact of redundancies from any source on employment in Clonmel and Borrisoleigh is minimised and the State enterprise agencies and the county enterprise boards will continue to make every effort to develop new employment opportunities for County Tipperary.

Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through continuing to work with established companies in its portfolio. The agency is also supporting entrepreneurs in manufacturing and internationally trading services companies that are setting up high-potential start­up companies. The agency works toward enhancing the innovation capability in its client companies through the support of research both in companies and through continuing work to assist commercialisation of research in third level establishments.

The county enterprise boards have responsibility for the delivery of State support to the indigenous micro enterprise sector. The current priorities for the CEBs include assisting owner-managers to enhance the survival and sustainability of their businesses in these difficult economic times and to assist people wishing to start their own businesses, including those who have been made redundant. The CEBs provide a valuable resource for those starting a business. Anyone who has been made redundant or who is facing redundancy in Borrisoleigh or Clonmel and who is interested in exploring options for setting up their own business should contact the appropriate enterprise board, either Tipperary South Riding County Enterprise Board or Tipperary North Riding County Enterprise Board, for advice and assistance.

In addition to marketing County Tipperary for new investment, IDA Ireland works with its existing client companies in the county with a view to encouraging them to grow and embed their business in the county. The primary opportunity for regional locations is in respect of the existing client base and potential further investment opportunities from that base. In this context, it is notable that approximately 70% of all foreign direct investment won by IDA Ireland are from its existing client base.

My colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, is determined to ensure Ireland can continue to compete globally for foreign direct investment. In winning such investments, we are mindful of the need to address the concerns that have been expressed by Deputies on all sides of the House about the relatively low level of site visits to certain regional locations. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, has accordingly requested IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to work with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to explore what further initiatives we can take to ensure a better approach to enterprise development in regional locations. This exercise will complement the in-depth analysis of our foreign direct investment strategy currently being undertaken. The analysis will take account of factors, including key trends emerging in foreign direct investment, best practice internationally, Ireland's strengths in attracting foreign direct investment and changes to the EU's state aid rules that will be introduced in 2014. Our approach to regional development will inform the formulation of an appropriate foreign direct investment strategy for the period post 2014.

I am confident the measures outlined in Action Plan for Jobs, together with other policies and initiatives being pursued by the State agencies and the county enterprise boards in County Tipperary, will continue to support enterprise development and provide employment opportunities. The State agencies will continue to work closely with each other and with local interests to support an integrated approach to job creation in Borrisoleigh and Clonmel.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I call on him and his Department to convey our genuine concerns and fears to the C&C Group and its head personnel. The C&C Group management should be told to be upfront and honest with its loyal and dedicated workforce. The management should participate in meaningful dialogue and share information with the people working for them. The C&C Group needs to understand that rather than simply number crunching, it is dealing with real people who have jobs and careers.

It is dealing with the livelihood of families and their futures. Staff at Borrisoleigh and Clonmel must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve and have earned over the years of service. The Minister and all State agencies must convey Members' concerns at the highest level. One aspect of this development about which the Minister of State's Department should be concerned and of which it should be conscious is that a private corporation, C&C Group, is stating it is easier and cheaper to provide administrative services from Belfast and that it proposes to move administrative jobs from Borrisoleigh, Clonmel and Dublin to Belfast. This surely must set alarm bells ringing throughout the Department and, if nothing else, should raise a serious question about the motivation behind this move by C&C Group.

I appreciate fully Deputy Lowry's remarks and I believe it is very important that the due diligence being carried out by C&C Group will be open and upfront. The Labour Relations Commission is available for consultations on this issue and it is all about livelihood as for every action, there is a reaction. It is important for the livelihood of everyone concerned that meaningful negotiations are taking place. The Department is very much aware of this issue and the availability of the Labour Relations Commission for consultations means I am confident that meaningful negotiations will take place in the interests of integrity and transparency, as the Deputy noted.