We are back in public session. I welcome our witnesses who are physically present in Leinster House, albeit in committee room 2. They are: Professor Anthony Staines from the school of nursing, psychotherapy and community health at Dublin City University, DCU; and Professor Patricia Kearney, professor of epidemiology at the school of public health in University College Cork, UCC. Joining us from London on a link is Professor Susan Michie, professor of health psychology and director of the centre for behavioural change, University College London. Is the link up and running? We live in hope. Also present in committee room 2 is Mr. Dan O'Brien, chief economist at the Institute of International and European Affairs. I welcome Mr. O'Brien and thank him very much for joining us. We also hope to be joined presently on a Microsoft Teams link by Professor Carl Heneghan, to whom I spoke to a moment ago. Professor Heneghan is director of the centre for evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford.
I apologise to all for this session starting slightly later than anticipated. We went over with previous sessions and we have to take time to clean the room and take a breath.
I advise the witnesses 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 this committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of your 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 nor make charges against any person(s) or entity, by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. For the benefit of Professor Heneghan, if he can join us, and Professor Michie, I have to add that the constitutional protections afforded to witnesses attending to give evidence before the committee may not extend to those giving evidence from locations outside of Leinster House.
Without further ado, I ask Professor Staines to make his opening statement and to confine it to five minutes or less.