I am happy to accept the amendment to the Order of Business to take No. 19 before No. 1. I thank the two Senators and wish them every success. I hope they receive a widespread support and get their legislation passed.
Other colleagues have asked me to organise statements on the national economic development plan, which includes the recovery and resilience strategy's financing from the European Union. I will do so and I will also organise a debate on the fishing industry.
Senator Crowe spoke about something that most of us took for granted before it stopped, namely, the noise most of us who live in villages and towns hear from our local soccer, GAA or rugby club as young women and men train on a Saturday, Sunday or, indeed, any night of the week. I concur with the Senator that we all very much look forward to returning to sporting events as spectators.
Senator Cassells talked about Turmec, a company that is local to where he and I live. It goes to show that Irish companies are world leaders in excellent new technologies. As the Senator pointed out this morning, it is an awful pity that we are selling that technology to foreign countries without taking advantage of it ourselves. I commend the Minister of State for visiting yesterday. I wish the company continued success.
Senator Boylan brought up the announcement that was made after the Cabinet meeting yesterday. The extension of the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, until the autumn will be formally announced today. It is interesting that the Sinn Féin leader, Deputy McDonald, called for an extension to the PUP until autumn and Sinn Féin now seems to be giving out about the extension. That is a bit ironic but there you go.
Senator Maria Byrne talked about two very important dates. This ties in to the plans for the PUP in the coming months. Between 200,000 and 250,000 people are expected to go back to work in the next number of weeks. That will take a significant chunk of the 309,000 people who remain on the PUP. By Jove, they want to go back to work. The employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, will continue long after the PUP has tapered off to ensure we support those businesses to keep those jobs. Nobody in this House should want to see anybody left on a PUP, regardless of its value. Every single person whose job has been suspended because of, or affected by, Covid-19 over the past 14 to 16 months should be supported by the State to go back to that job, not to languish on the PUP or to be moved to a social welfare payment. That should be our aim.
Senators Dooley and Ahearn asked for a debate on the aviation industry. I will certainly organise that, probably for the week after next. We should not be putting barriers in front of businesses when we allow them to reopen, and aviation, as we are all aware, is going to reopen on 19 July. We seem to have taken two steps forward with the relatively quick adoption of the digital green certificate. I thank the Government, the Department of Health and the Minister for Transport for supporting that. However, we are going to take four steps backwards by putting in obstacles to stop people from travelling. The European Union allows for the use of antigen tests and we in this country have not been given a valid or scientific reason for not using them. That is an absolute disgrace. It needs to be clarified and put on the table. What scientific evidence is being supported by our scientific advisors that has arrived at the conclusion that we should not be supporting the use of antigen tests, like every other European country and other international countries? Antigen tests would allow people to travel for the essential purpose of reunification of a family or, indeed, to allow people who have been cocooning and locked in their houses for the past 14 to 16 months to go to a European city or a beach if that is what they want to do. We should not be putting obstacles in those people's way. I will arrange that debate as soon as I can after next week.
Senator Ahearn also mentioned something that is very important. Not only do we need an international investigation into the actions by the Belarusian Government in the past couple of weeks, we also need to know why Ryanair acted as it did. I would go one step further and say that we need to bring representatives of the Commission for Aviation Regulation before the relevant Oireachtas committee to have a conversation about the events of that night and, in particular, how we are going to use satellite phones to make sure that the advantage that was used by the Belarusian Government is never again afforded the opportunity to be advanced.
Senator Wall talked about sports and youth clubs. We must ensure that those clubs recover quickly from the financial restraints they have been under for the past 14 to 16 months. That will involve State support.
Senator Ardagh talked about the Chinese-made vaccine the WHO has approved. I am not sure what is causing the delay with the European Medicines Agency but I will try to find out today and come back to the Senator. She and Senator Clifford-Lee also raised the topic of the Department of Justice and its public consultation. It is welcome. We need a new national domestic and gender-based violence policy, particularly because the past 14 months have highlighted just how prevalent an issue it is and how silent an operation it has been in many people's lives. That needs to be brought out and talked about in public.
Senator Seery Kearney asked for statements on the national recovery plan which, as I said, I will arrange. Senator Craughwell talked about a debate on Irish neutrality which I will also try to arrange.
Senator Ruane will introduce her Bill this morning and I have accepted her proposed amendment to the Order of Business. Senator Warfield welcomed the passing of Senator Boylan's Bill and the support of the housing assistance payment last night. It is not up to the Opposition to force the Government's hands. Representatives of the Opposition are here to provide opposition but also to bring forward their own legislation. That is welcome and I look forward to the passage of the legislation.
Senators Pauline O'Reilly and O'Loughlin talked about childcare facilities. I agree with Senator O'Loughlin when she calls for an audit to be done by the Minister. That audit should be conducted in every single town and village where we have a responsibility to provide outdoor play facilities for our children. I would go one step further and say that we should have minimum requirements by population in law through guidelines from our local authorities to ensure that when local authorities develop towns and the population grows suddenly from 800 to 8,000, all of the amenities that are required for those children, young adults and, indeed, adults are developed. I welcome that debate. We will come back to it.
Senator Sherlock asked for statements on the economic recovery plan, which I will organise. She also asked me to write a letter to the Minister with regard to a local school building in her area. I would suggest that submitting a Commencement matter on the topic would probably get a response much more quickly, but I will write that letter today.
Senator Cummins raised a matter that is incredibly important. Most of our appeals for applications for Government services have a 21-day deadline. That has been affected by the cyberattack on the HSE in recent weeks. The very least that we can do and expect is for Departments with those 21-day deadlines to extend them. I will write to the Minister for Social Protection today and ask her to address that immediately. I will also organise a debate on social welfare in the next couple of weeks.
The outdoor strategy has been a considerable part of the advice that the Government and its agencies have been marketing for the past couple of weeks. That came in for a stark critique over the weekend. Without wanting to add to the argument, there is a responsibility on State agencies. When we have decided that the safest place for our people to be is outdoors, State agencies must provide the services to ensure that the outdoor activity can occur. Those agencies should not state that if those services are provided it will create a bigger problem because more people will come. That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard from any official from Dublin City Council and he should be admonished for it. I feel strongly about this matter. Our officials are there to provide advice to the Government. Nobody in this country is responsible for lecturing the Irish people as to how they behave. If one has a problem or an issue with how people are behaving, then one advises again through the normal channels. If one thinks people are not listening, one comes together with a campaign to support the activities one is encouraging and educates people as to the activities they should not be doing. The lecturing tones in which the Irish people have repeatedly been admonished for what they have been doing lately leaves an awful lot to be desired. All they have been doing is what they have been asked to do, that is, to meet each other safely outside. We all need to check ourselves, whether we are Government advisors, health advisors, members of the Garda or politicians. We all need to be incredibly cautious about how we talk to our Irish citizens because we certainly should not be talking down to anybody.