Business of Special Committee

We have been notified that Deputies Boyd Barrett, Paul Murphy, Nash, Munster, Catherine Murphy, Noonan and Mathews will substitute for their party colleagues today. I will take it that the minutes of the meeting of 2 June are agreed? Agreed. I will take the 14 items of correspondence received as noted, unless anyone has any issues?

I refer to correspondence from the Department of Health concerning nursing homes, analysis by HIQA and risk management, as published in its document. I request that the organising committee arrange to have representatives from HIQA back here as soon as possible, as well as representatives from Nursing Homes Ireland, NHI, to discuss the serious issue that 67% of nursing homes were not fully compliant and were not able to deal effectively with this challenge, that their competencies were not commensurate with what was required to deal with Covid-19. The majority-----

I agree with the Deputy, but I suggest we discuss this matter in the working group on Friday morning, including the exact date we get them back.

I have no issue with that and I welcome it. I only raise this matter because I am not on that working group. I appreciate the Chairman's suggestion.

That is fine. Deputy O'Dowd is welcome to join us on Friday morning.

Most of our deaths, sadly, have occurred in nursing homes and it is very important that we go into that matter in great detail so there is a fundamental change in our care of older people.

I thank Deputy O'Dowd. I call Deputy Cullinane and then Deputy Carthy.

I have two quick points. A letter was sent to the committee from Colm Gildernew, MLA, the chairperson of the committee for health in the North, seeking some interaction between that committee and ours. We should progress that if we can.

The Association of Childhood Professionals, ACP, has also written to all of the committee members, I think, but certainly to us, seeking to be one of the groups that would come before us. We are holding three sessions on childcare and I propose the ACP be one of those groups that will come before us. It was an oversight on our part not to have included it, but if we can accommodate the ACP, then I think we should.

I spoke briefly with Mr. Gildernew and I agree in principle that we should certainly look into that, given the Governments here and in Stormont are adopting a cross-Border approach. We can discuss the detail of that, and who is going to come in for the childcare sessions, on Friday morning. I call Deputy Carthy.

We received correspondence from Mr. Jim Breslin regarding this committee's request concerning oversight of secondary legislation. I am disappointed in what Mr. Breslin has written. He states that he has consulted with the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris and essentially tells this committee that he is not going to engage with us regarding pre-scrutiny. Mr. Breslin points to the fact that under Oireachtas oversight that either House of the Oireachtas can annul secondary legislation. One of the Houses of the Oireachtas cannot sit at the moment, however, and that reduces the scope for scrutiny.

We are in unprecedented times. There is no health committee to examine this secondary legislation. I think we should write back to the Minister for Health and Mr. Breslin and ask for a review of that position. This is not about catching anybody out. It is about ensuring that all of this legislation is the right legislation at the right time with the right focus in mind. It would benefit the Minister and the Department of Health if this committee had oversight of the legislation before it is enacted.

I note that position. Can we discuss this matter at the working group on Friday morning and reply accordingly?

If that is everything, we can move on to the work programme. There was a meeting of the committee’s working group last Friday and members have been circulated with a draft programme to 23 June. We have secured a meeting with representatives of the World Health Organisation, WHO, for this Thursday and I am advised that is possible technologically, which is good news.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ECDC, has agreed to answer questions and members will have an opportunity to provide any questions they wish to ask to the secretariat and they will be conveyed for reply by the ECDC.

The following meetings have been agreed in principle. Next week we will deal with issues concerning the impact of Covid-19 on the fiscal position and also social protection expenditure. In the week of 23 June, we will examine the testing and tracing capabilities and issues relating to childcare. Is that agreed? That is agreed.

Regarding the chairing of meetings, Deputy Butler will chair session 2 today, Deputy Cullinane will chair session 3 and I will chair the session on Thursday morning. If that is everything, I invite our witnesses to join us.

What is the order of questioning in the first round?

We will try to rotate it from the previous order. We will go with Fianna Fáil first for ten minutes and then Sinn Féin with ten minutes. That will be Deputy Carthy.

That is correct.

Then the first Fine Gael speaker will have ten minutes. I think that is Deputy Colm Burke.

It will then be the normal progression from there, with the Green Party, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats.