We have seen some moments of chaos during the lifetime of the Government but yesterday was a new peak. The Taoiseach says the advice given to him by the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, came as a bolt out of the blue. That advice was not to reopen indoor hospitality and that when hospitality would be reopened, to make it available to vaccinated persons only. The Taoiseach says he was caught unawares by that.
That is an extraordinary situation given the Taoiseach heads the Government and it is incumbent on him to put in place plans and contingency measures in light of the very real danger posed by the Delta variant. However, the Taoiseach did not do that. Once again, he marched the hospitality sector to the top of the hill, only to march it back down again and he now pursues a plan which gives zero consideration to young people.
I ask the Taoiseach to consider the situation of a 19-year-old, a 25-year-old or a 30-year-old in Ireland this morning. Many of them have held and hold the line on the front line, while working in retail and in schools and hospitals. Others have lost jobs. Many have not seen a day's work in a year and a half. Others had their time at college but they were not on campus; they were in their bedrooms. All have had their opportunities to travel severely curtailed, taken from them at that time of their lives when it is natural to wish to explore the world. Tógadh gach rud ó dhaoine óga, fágadh ar leataobh iad le linn na paindéime seo agus níl sé seo maith go leor.
On top of all the pandemic disruption, consider their prospects for an affordable or a secure home. They can forget about that on the Taoiseach's watch. If they are relying on the PUP because their job disappeared, it is going to be slashed. If they find themselves on jobseeker's allowance, the message to young people is they are less deserving than people who are older than them. We now find ourselves in the summer months, after an extraordinary year and in a time when our young people deserve a break. It is perfectly legitimate for young people to want to socialise together and meet up with their friends. They were told they would have an outdoor summer and to prepare for that, and they did. They socialise outdoors and most behave themselves perfectly well. A small element, not all of whom are young people by the way, misbehaves yet all young people are then treated as a nuisance, a threat and a problem. They are told essentially to get off the streets and wait for the pubs to reopen.
Yesterday, the Government told young people they can work in pubs and restaurants and serve their elders but they should forget about having a drink after work in the same establishment or a meal in the establishment next door. The Taoiseach cannot do that. The time has come to stop paying lip service to young people and to listen to them and meet their needs. I am asking the Taoiseach to give young people a chance to benefit from the reopening of our society and from the very hard work they have invested in protecting everyone else in society. In other words, I am asking the Taoiseach to treat young people fairly.
So far, the Government has disregarded the obvious solutions in this regard. We have talked about antigen testing for what seems like forever, yet the Government stubbornly refuses to pursue widespread antigen testing. People now ask why Ireland is the last place in Europe where people cannot eat or drink indoors. The answer is that elsewhere antigen testing is being used. We need to get our young people vaccinated. We need to ensure people in the 60 to 69 age group get their second vaccine and that happens quickly. We still have no clarity as to when the changes to the vaccine programme, which are woefully late, will take effect. The Government is only now engaging with the hospitality industry. It is truly a mess. This must be sorted and the Government must now deliver a plan of action that is fair to the hospitality industry but also to the younger generation.