Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Ar dtús báire, ba mhaith liom mo leithscéal a ghabháil leis as a óráid tosaigh a chailleadh ní ba luaithe. The Minister of State is very welcome to the Seanad. I apologise for missing his opening remarks. I was at a meeting of the Seanad Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight. Because I have come straight from that meeting to the Chamber, I am going to read my notes from my phone. I do not like doing that. Excuse me, but I did not have the opportunity to print them off.
Like other colleagues, Sinn Féin supports the motion. Put simply, it is about trying to live as normal a life as possible in the middle of a pandemic. It is about trying to ensure businesses that rely on customers survive in the middle of the pandemic. It is also about achieving both of those objectives sensibly and in a legal context.
The motion has a particular poignancy, given we are in the middle of another surge of the virus, the implications of which are not yet clear for us all. In this context, it is a worrying time for the business community, given the expectation that a positive corner was being turned, however slowly, in the plan to return to a normal, or at least more manageable, life. On my behalf and that of Sinn Féin, I thank all those who provide a business service and who take personal and financial risks to keep their doors open in the best and most difficult of times. I commend the workers in the private sector. Both business owners and staff have been through a lot of difficulty over the past two years and continue to face uncertainty at this time.
The motion extends for a six-month period the special circumstances arising from the pandemic which legally permit the lawful sale and consumption of alcohol in outdoor seating areas. It correctly identifies the outdoor seating areas which have been permitted by local authorities on public land or outdoor areas on private land next to licensed premises and why these regulations need to be renewed.
Accompanying these designations is the important clause obliging the owners of licensed premises to maintain good order in the areas identified. Understandably, the special circumstances arising from the pandemic required careful consideration and legal clarity for businesses, local authorities and An Garda Síochána. This motion provides all three parties with the knowledge and authority to act for the common good and, in doing so, assist the ongoing opening of a vital sector in the economy and the enjoyment and opportunity to relax for those availing of outside socialising.
The motion also has to have a weather eye on the level of threat from the virus for the general population and I believe it is in keeping with the public health advice on Covid-19. We are all on a learning curve when it comes to understanding the behaviour of the virus and its ability to adapt and change tack.
I will speak to the population the law serves in its contribution to normalise society while the medical experts advise and protect us. Flexibility and diligence are required to keep ahead of the virus and the extension for six months of the provisions in the motion we are speaking about will further the objective we all share, namely, the eradication of the virus and the restoration of unrestricted life we had a few short years ago, which I am confident we are steadily making progress towards.
The flexibility in the motion and in the virus must also be seen in the Government's approach to the latest surge. It is important the various support measures, such as the CRSS and the EWSS are implemented again in full for workers and businesses across the live entertainment, late night sector who are seriously impacted by these latest restrictions. Workers in the live entertainment hospitality, nightlife and tourism industry have been left high and dry. The PUP should be reinstated for those workers who need it. Restrictions on restaurants, bars and night clubs came as a bitter disappointment for many across the sector. The Government must continue to resource and support businesses. Much progress has been made curtailing the pandemic and protecting people's lives but, as we see from the latest surge, it is far from over. Until it is, those most in need have to be helped out by the Government.
I support the motion to extend and, like other colleagues, I acknowledge, in the midst of all this, the key priority to keep people safe and well, as well as to provide them with the opportunity to avail of the social outlets we all need at times, in the most appropriate, safe and legally compliant way possible.