I thank Deputy Joe Carey for stepping in as temporary Chair in my absence last week. I am grateful to members for the sympathies expressed on the passing of my dad and my uncle. Thank you.
We are dealing with issues affecting the aviation sector. I welcome Dr. Chris Horn, former chair of the aviation task force; and Mr. Pat Dawson, chief executive officer, and Mr. Paul Hackett, board member, of the Irish Travel Agents Association, ITAA.
Before we begin, members are reminded that this meeting must have concluded and we must have vacated the room by 1.30 p.m., so I will call everyone to order at 1.25 p.m. While I am as frustrated as everyone else by Covid, we have to abide by these criteria on public health grounds.
I draw witnesses' attention to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, they 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.
I wish to advise witnesses giving evidence from a location outside the parliamentary precincts that the constitutional protection afforded to witnesses attending to give evidence before committees may not extend to them. No clear guidance can be given as to whether, or the extent to which, the evidence given is covered by absolute privilege of a statutory nature. Persons giving evidence from another jurisdiction should be mindful of their domestic statutory regime. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter, they must respect that direction. I presume Dr. Horn understands this.
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.
I invite Dr. Horn to make his opening statement.