I have regular and ongoing engagement with business representative groups and all relevant stakeholders, particularly in the context of the evolving effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of our people.
I have met a full range of business representative groups since the Government decision on the move to level 5. Specifically, on the evening of 19 October, following the Government announcement of the move to level 5, I convened a meeting with some 14 business representative bodies including Chambers Ireland, ISME, IBEC, the Small Firms Association, SFA, and the Irish Exporters Association. My Department and I are in ongoing engagement with these groups and their sectors.
In addition, in advance of level 5 coming into effect on 21 October, I convened a meeting of the Department's retail forum, which is chaired by the Minister of State, Deputy English, although I was present. The membership of the forum comprises the key retail representative bodies including RGDATA, CSNA, Retail Ireland, Retail Excellence and pharmacy and hardware associations.
Retail is the largest private sector employer in the country and supports jobs in every city, town and village. I am acutely aware that the sector has suffered a significant shock due to the impact of Covid-19 and the period of closure of non-essential retail. My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy English, is continuing to engage with the retail sector, with two further meetings of the forum at the end of October and last week. These meetings are an opportunity to listen to stakeholder concerns and to ensure they understand and continue to abide by the requirements of the restrictions.
On 21 October 2020, I convened a public consultation on the national economic plan with some 200 stakeholders from business representative groups, social partners, environment groups and non-governmental bodies. This was a virtual event to exchange ideas on the national economic plan, which will set out the Government’s guiding priorities and policy objectives for a sustainable recovery. The event was opened by the Taoiseach and was structured around three breakout sessions, each with a number of related issues to be considered. Further information, including a summary report of the discussions and footage from the event, can be found on my Department’s website.
I also met some of the business representative groups at a meeting of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, LEEF, on 28 October. That is a long, convoluted response but I engage with business organisations regularly whether it is through LEEF, the retail forum, the hospitality forum or one to one.