10 Jun 2021, 17.29

The Dáil Business Committee having due regard to current health and safety advice has agreed to continue to hold sessions of Dáil Éireann in the Convention Centre Dublin for the remainder of this Dáil Session.

Speaking after the meeting the Ceann Comhairle said: “I wish to thank the members of the Business Committee for their continued support and work as we strive to keep everyone in the parliamentary community safe. The decision reached this morning follows many discussions over as many weeks and months and has not been taken lightly. Although we all wish to return to our normal workplace in Leinster House as soon as possible, the members of the Committee have agreed to accept the Health and Safety advice provided by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service and public health bodies.

“The Houses of the Oireachtas Service is focussed both on minimising the risk of introduction of the virus into the campus and on minimising the risk of transmission of the virus within the campus. It is clear that there are risks associated with all levels of activity in indoor settings where people are congregating in numbers, even with mitigating factors such as physical distancing, face coverings and sanitisation. The Leinster House campus is an indoor congregated setting and, critically from a health and safety perspective, it is not a controlled environment where the number of people on-site at any one time are counted and where their movements are managed and limited. A further issue of relevance is that Dáil sittings last from 8 to 12 hours. This means that Leinster House is not directly comparable to other indoor settings where people congregate but which are controlled, such as schools or retail settings. Therefore, management of activity levels is the only means by which the footfall level in Leinster House can be controlled and limited to a safe level. It is also the case that individual activities such as Dáil sittings can’t be looked at in isolation; the level of activity on-campus arising from all parliamentary activity which takes place on any one day must be factored in.

“Having regard to this and having considered public health guidelines, the Business Committee agreed that the resumption of sittings in Leinster House at the present time would result in an unacceptable risk to all in our parliamentary community. The key determinant of the resumption of sittings in Leinster House is the progress of the vaccination programme. With 70% – 80% of the population protected, there will be a high degree of confidence that Dáil sittings could safely resume in Leinster House. However, this level of protection will not be achieved until mid-August. However, I look forward to welcoming the full parliamentary community back to Leinster House for our Autumn session.”

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