I thank Mr. Joe Sweeney, district president, Mr. Martin Mulligan, executive member, and Ms Deirdre Drennan of the development executive of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents for their attendance at the committee and thank them for giving of their time to be here. The format for the meeting is that I will invite the representatives to make brief opening remarks for five or six minutes, followed by a question and answer session with Members on the issues raised.
Before we begin, I draw the attention of all witnesses to the position in regard to privilege. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if witnesses are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence concerned with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
I remind members that under the salient rules of the Chair, they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I invite Mr. Sweeney to make the opening statement.