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Special Committee on Covid-19 Response debate -
Tuesday, 23 Jun 2020

Business of Special Committee

We will wait for Deputy Carroll MacNeill.

The Chairman and Deputy Carroll MacNeill did very well this morning sorting out the problems of the world for the public.

I thank Deputy McGuinness. That is what we were elected to do. We have been notified that Deputies Rabbitte, Whitmore, Costello, Barry and Sherlock will substitute for their party colleagues today. Are the minutes from 16 and 18 June agreed? Agreed.

We have received 12 items of correspondence, which I will take as noted. Members will also have received written submissions for today's meeting. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Following the meeting of the committee's working group last Friday, a draft programme to the end of July will have been circulated to members. Our proposals for next week are with the Business Committee and we will have to look at alternative arrangements if the Chamber is no longer available to us. We will do that at next Friday's meeting. Is that agreed?

I ask that we conduct an additional risk assessment regarding the conduct of this committee. The advice has moved on, the country is reopening, there are many more people at work and there is a lot of flexibility in this area. I acknowledge that we are operating on the basis of a risk assessment. If the committee agrees to conduct another risk assessment and it is in order and feasible to do so, we might be able to get back to something that more closely resembles normal committee work. I am not saying that we are not doing normal committee work. I am just referring to the physical arrangements.

That is not an unreasonable proposal, but I suggest that we discuss it at Friday's working group meeting.

That is bang on.

I have arranged for Deputy Carroll MacNeill to chair a session later today. I would like to move on to welcoming our witnesses if there is nothing further to discuss.

Why was the Federation of Early Childcare Providers omitted from today's meeting? It is a huge organisation which represents a cross-section of the sector we are looking at today. I feel very strongly about this, especially as it represents a lot of rural childcare providers facing serious survival issues and it is not here before us today.

Indeed, I heard its representative in the media this morning. It is not a case of it being omitted; it is just a loaves and fishes operation because we are so confined with the number of sessions we can have and the number of people we can realistically bring in. It is not just from the point of view of what is safe but equally because a finite number of people can answer questions in two hours.

It was merely occasioned by that. We may look to bring them in at a later date if possible, but we are constrained in the number of sessions we can hold and the number of people we can bring in. If we bring in ten different people to a session to answer questions, all ten will feel disappointed that they did not get to answer the questions that were asked. It is solely to avoid that scenario.

Is that what happened in the case of Seas Suas?

I had indicated.

Deputy O'Reilly did indicate, in fairness.

I fully appreciate the constraints on us and all the rest of that. I am looking for an additional risk assessment. In the event that we have another session, we should also hear from representatives and childcare workers. That would be important. Everyone is cognisant of the fact that we are limited in terms of time and space. It would be helpful.

We will take all of those proposals for an additional session on this issue and people can come before us at the session of the working group on Friday. Is that okay with Deputy Michael Collins?

We would love to bring in a lot more people. It is to be hoped that once a Government is elected, whenever that will be, the normal sectoral committees will be established. A childcare committee will, by its nature, be able to devote a lot more time to this issue than we can, particularly given that we are looking at everything from crèches to slaughterhouses.

Will that organisation be included?

We can discuss that on Friday.