Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Aire Stáit as teacht isteach agus éisteacht liom tráthnóna. At the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, the Government took immediate action and for that I give credit. Very early on, the issue of seasonal workers came to the fore, particularly in those areas of the country and the sectors of the economy that are traditionally seasonal in nature. We can look in particular at hospitality and tourism, where in many parts of the country the season runs from St. Patrick's Day or even Easter in cases through the summer to various points in the autumn, perhaps finishing in late September or Hallowe'en, with some going to Christmas. There are large parts of the industry that do not function for the full length of the year.
In addition, the events industry and other sectors would be in a lull in January or February, as very few festivals take place then and there would not be as many events. Much of the industry in these areas starts on St. Patrick's Day. Under the rules of the temporary wage subsidy scheme, if a person was not employed in January, February and March, there is no entitlement to support through the scheme for workers who had never worked in those months but rather worked in later months of the year and earned their living that way.
As well as a sectoral effect, this has caused a major geographic effect, where a disproportionate piece of the economy in places on the west coast of Ireland depend on this seasonal tourism. These are places like Daingean or Killarney even up the west coast through County Clare, into County Galway through Clifden. Connemara and the islands would be very familiar to the Acting Chairman. We can then go up through County Mayo to Donegal. The reality is that unless immediate action is taken, many of these industries and businesses in the hospitality sectors and all the spin-off enterprise supplying them might not survive. That is not through any fault of their own but through a lack of support.
This afternoon, we debated at length the issue of microfinance. The latter is useful in its own right but which does not fill this gap. For many of these businesses, borrowing money is not a solution. We need to hear that the temporary wage subsidy scheme will first be extended for at least a year for those industries that will not recover for at least that time. It should be available to those who can demonstrate a pattern of seasonal employment every year; in other words, businesses should be eligible for the scheme where they hire people in the spring but do not have them in January, February or March. Within the hospitality sector, we need the cap on the restart grant to be eliminated as this is an equivalent to three and a half bedrooms in a hotel, and no such hotel exists in the country.
My time is short and I hope the Minister of State will be able to tell me that the Government, even at this belated stage, will make an announcement and will not leave these vital industries high and dry. I hope it will not leave us in such a position that when tourism returns, we will find that some of our best assets are no longer functioning.