I welcome representatives from the Irish Farmers' Association national pig and pigmeat committee: Mr. Robert Malone and Mr. Shane McAuliffe, and Mr. Roy Gaille, chairman, who will join us remotely; also joining us remotely is Mr. David Ronan, a pig and dairy farmer.
Before we begin, I wish to give an important notice in regard to parliamentary privilege. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter to only qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of the proceedings is to be given. They should respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Witnesses participating in the committee meeting from a location outside the parliamentary precincts should note that the constitutional protection afforded to those participating within the parliamentary precincts does not extend to them. No clear guidance can be given as to whether, or the extent to which, this participation is covered by absolute privilege of a statutory nature.
We have received the witnesses' opening statements, which have been circulated to members. This issue has not got enough media attention and public knowledge is not up to standard. It was requested that we bring the witnesses before the committee to get a briefing on the dangers this presents to the industry. I invite Mr. Ronan to make his opening statement.