Business of Special Committee

We have a quorum so we will go straight into public session. I apologise for being slightly late. I thought we were sitting in the Dáil Chamber but it became apparent that we were not.

We have been notified that Deputies Holly Cairns, Cormac Devlin, Paul McAuliffe, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Padraig O'Sullivan, Carol Nolan, Bernard Durkan and James Lawless will be substituting for colleagues today.

I take the items of correspondence received as noted with the exception of that from the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly. The Minister has indicated that he and the acting CMO, Dr. Ronan Glynn, are not in a position to attend today's meeting. However, the Minister has indicated to me privately that they are in a position to make themselves available to the committee next week. Does the committee wish to discuss this at the end of today's meeting? I asked the Minister if he was available the following week but I did not receive a reply. Will we discuss this at the end of today's meeting or will we instruct the secretariat to at least ascertain, perhaps before close of business today, what day he would be available next week or whether he is available the following week?

It may well be that he is not available the following week. I do not know. In fairness to the Minister and to the acting CMO in particular, they are entitled to some downtime and family time.

I do not think anyone is trying to take that from them.

As the Chairman knows, Sinn Féin's preference is for a meeting the week after. It is fair enough if that cannot be facilitated, but it is our preference.

If the secretariat could seek-----

On that subject, I have noticed media reports which suggest that it is intended to call other Ministers before the committee in August. I believe the Social Democrats wished to call the Minister for Education and Skills. Is it intended that the committee meet weekly throughout August? What other Ministers are to be called? It would be good to co-ordinate the committee's different activities during August.

I have not seen the media reports and the Social Democrats have not contacted me to tell me that they wish the Minister to be called before the committee. Personally, I hope there will not be a need to meet the Minister and that the schools will open as anticipated, as I expect and hope they will. Can we discuss this matter in private session? I was not aware of these issues and I thank Deputy McAuliffe for bringing them to my attention. Perhaps we will discuss the matter this evening. It is not intended to meet weekly but, given the circumstances that arose last weekend, it is good that we are meeting now to discuss the issue of the meat plants.

I do not propose that the committee meet every week. If there are witnesses Deputies wish to call for a meeting, we should try to condense those meetings with the intention of dealing with them all in one week, if possible. Clearly, everyone is entitled to time off. I refer not only to ourselves but to the staff of the secretariat and so on. Perhaps we could condense all meetings into a given week so as not to sit throughout the month.

That is fine. We tried to do that by holding three sessions today.

As it is August, it is important that everyone be given adequate notice.

Absolutely.

I am not sure people would be able to attend a meeting next week. A meeting in two weeks' time may be better but we should decide today whether it will be held then or in three weeks' time so that everyone will have adequate notice.

I accept that. We will also be sitting in September so that might be an opportune time to bring in witnesses other than the Minister for Health and the deputy chief medical officer.

It might be too late.

The acting thinks it might be too late. In fairness to the Minister for Health, he said that he and the acting chief medical officer would be available next week. We can discuss other witnesses later rather than taking up time now. I agree, however, that we must give people adequate notice, particularly at this time. On that, I thank the secretariat for organising today's meeting at very short notice. I particularly thank Mr Tom Malone and Ms Éilis Fallon. It is greatly appreciated. We will move on to our witnesses, if that is okay with members.