There are two items on the agenda for today's meeting and each will be subject to discussion for one hour. Session one will take place between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. and session two will take place between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. I wish to advise that witnesses giving evidence from within the parliamentary precincts are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they give to the committee. This means a witness has a full defence in a defamation action or in regard to anything said at a committee meeting. However, witnesses are expected not to abuse this privilege and may be directed to cease giving evidence on an issue at the Chair's direction. Witnesses should follow the direction of the Chair in this regard and are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that, as is reasonable, no adverse commentary should be made against an identifiable third party or entity. Witnesses who are to give evidence from a location outside the parliamentary precincts are asked to note they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness giving evidence from within the parliamentary precincts, so they may consider it appropriate to take legal advice on this matter. Privilege against defamation does not apply to the publication by the witnesses, outside of the proceedings held by the committee, of any matters arising from the proceedings.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members that are only allowed to participate in this meeting if they are physically located on the Leinster House campus. In this regard, I ask all members to confirm this when they make their first contribution. If they are directed to cease giving evidence by the Chair in regard to a particular matter, they must respect that direction.
Our witnesses for the first session today are Mr. William Lavelle, head of the Irish Whiskey Association, Mr. Conor Mulvihill, director of Dairy Industry Ireland and Dr. Mike Johnston, chief executive of the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland. I welcome all our witnesses and thank them for giving their time to discuss a very important issue, one that is of particular interest to Senator Lombard. I was going to invite our witnesses to make their opening statements first but I understand they wish to take their opening statements as read and proceed directly to a question and answer session. Is that agreed? Agreed. Senator Lombard is first.