Dáil to question 3 ministers on meat plants in ‘historic move’

The Dáil will take the “unprecedented step” of questioning three cabinet ministers in a single Dáil session on the scale of Covid-19 infection in the meat processing industry.

Independent TD Denis Naughten said that he has secured the support of the members of the Dáil Business Committee to hold a specific debate on how several meat processors across the country have seen a large proportion of their employees contract Covid-19.

The three ministers to be questioned will be Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Simon Harris, the Minister for Health; and Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Historically the only time multiple ministers are held accountable in the Dáil at the same time is when a motion of no confidence is tabled in a government.

“I don’t recall any situation where three ministers were held jointly accountable for an issue on the floor of the Dáil and it clearly underlines how serious the Dáil Business Committee, representing all groups and parties in Dáil Éireann, takes the issue,” the Roscommon-Galway TD said.

“Next Thursday evening [May 21] will see Minister Creed answer for the 250 veterinary and technical staff involved in supervising and regulating the operations of 56 slaughter plants; Minister Harris will answer for the public health and HSE [Health Service Executive] management of the clusters of infection; and Minister Humphreys will answer for the Health and Safety Authority [HSA], which is responsible for the protection of workers,” Naughten explained.

I believe there has been a systemic failure across all three Government departments which has resulted in over 600 staff, including up to half of the workforce in at least one meat plant, who have become infected.

“This is now resulting in a jump of Covid-19 cases in communities which had very few positive cases to date and this is undermining the great efforts made to date by every citizen in the state to stop the spread of this virus,” he stressed.

Naughten concluded: “I firmly believe that if we do not learn from the mistakes made in our nursing homes and in our meat plants then we risk a second wave of Covid-19 infection which will be disastrous for the health of our people and our economic recovery.”

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