I remind members to ensure that their mobile phones are switched off and given that we are joining remotely, I ask that they mute their microphones when they are not speaking, please.
Are the draft minutes of the meetings on 1, 2 and 16 December 2020 and the actions agreed in the draft minutes of our private meetings of 13, 20 and 27 January 2021, relating to correspondence and the work programme agreed? Agreed.
Before we begin, 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 of the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members that they are only allowed to participate in this meeting if they are physically located on the Leinster House complex. I ask that all members, prior to making their contribution to the meeting, confirm that they are on the grounds of the Leinster House complex. Anyone outside of the Leinster House complex may remain at the meeting to observe. Should they have any questions, they may be directed through the clerk and we will have the questions asked on the members' behalf.
For the benefit of anyone watching the meeting online, Oireachtas Members and witnesses are accessing this meeting remotely. Only I, as Chair, and the necessary staff essential to the running of the meeting are physically present in the committee room. Due to these unprecedented circumstances and the large number of people attending the meeting remotely, I ask that everyone would bear with us should any technical issues arise, which they often do.
At the outset, arising from the reports coming from Belfast and Larne ports yesterday and this morning, on behalf of the committee I utterly condemn the intimidation of staff at those ports and wish the workers and their families well. We hope that they are safe and keeping well. We wish the members of the Assembly and the Executive well in dealing with this matter. Of course, they have our full support in tackling these issues which are extremely difficult for all concerned.
I welcome members to today's meeting. The only item correspondence for today's meeting is the Department of Foreign Affairs impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, which we will note. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome Mr. Colin McGrath and the members of the committee for the Executive Office of the Northern Ireland Assembly to today's meeting. As we are all aware, Brexit has huge implications for the entire islands, both North and South, and I would like to take this opportunity today to explore some of those implications.
I remind Mr. McGrath and other witnesses attending that they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter, and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with subject matter of the proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person or persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I call on Mr. McGrath to make his opening statement to the committee, and I thank him once again for being available to us this morning and for this engagement. We are very much looking forward to having this conversation with him and the other members.