I remind members and witnesses to turn off their mobile phones as they can interfere with the sound system, can make it difficult for parliamentary reporters to report the meeting and can adversely affect the television coverage and web streaming,
This session will consider the apparent shortage of substitute teachers throughout the State and issues related to the recruitment and retention of teachers. We shall resume the engagement that the committee has had. On behalf of the committee I welcome from the Department of Education and Skills Ms Deirdre McDonnell, assistant secretary, Mr. Eddie Ward, principal officer, and Mr. Conor McCourt, assistant principal officer. I thank them for joining us today. We have had a number of engagements with different organisations on this matter, and I am sure the witnesses have followed the debate with interest, as we have.
I will invite Ms McDonnell to make a brief opening statement and we will then follow with engagement by the committee when members will have the opportunity to ask questions. The witnesses will have the opportunity to come back in then.
By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, 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 in relation to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. Witnesses are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. The opening statements made by witnesses will be available on the Oireachtas website following this meeting. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I now invite Ms Deirdre McDonnell, assistant secretary at the Department of Education and Skills, to make her opening statement.