At the outset, I remind members, staff, witnesses and those in the Public Gallery to turn off their mobile phones. Mobile phones interfere with the sound system and make it difficult to report the meeting, and interfere with broadcasting on television and radio, web-streaming, etc. I ask all to take a moment to check their mobile telephones are switched off. I draw the attention of members and witnesses to the microphones in front of them to ensure that nothing is obstructing them.
I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise 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.
The committee decided to hold a hearing on the question of indemnity and participants in various State and EU-funded schemes. The committee is aware that this is a complex issue for many State and local bodies and for those involved in running and taking part in various schemes. Any activity carries within it an inherent risk. We can mitigate risks with proper training and health and safety measures, including signage, high-visibility jackets and protective clothing etc., we can transfer the risk by taking out insurance cover or we can accept the risk. There is a need for a national volunteerism strategy but in the meantime, it is important that we avoid the chilling effects that exposure to risk and liability could have on encouraging volunteerism. The same applies to various schemes supported by the State.
On behalf of the committee, I welcome the following witnesses to the committee meeting: from the State Claims Agency, Mr. Pat Kirwan, deputy director and head of enterprise risk, and Mr. Brian Larkin, senior enterprise risk manager; representatives from IPB Insurance, Mr. Michael Garvey, chief executive officer, Mr. Matt Rafferty, director of underwriting and Mr. Michael Whelehan, head of claims; and the representative from the County and City Management Association, CCMA, Mr. Tom McHugh, deputy chief executive and director of municipal services in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. It is proposed that any opening statements, submissions or other documents supplied by the witnesses or other bodies to the committee relating to the topic of this meeting be published on the committee's website. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I call on Mr. Pat Kirwan, deputy director and head of enterprise risk at the State Claims Agency, to make his opening statement.