‘High price being paid for failure to regulate the meat industry’

The country is paying a high price for the failure of the government to regulate the meat industry, according to Social Democrats spokesperson for agriculture Holly Cairns.

The Cork TD called for an immediate plan to be put in place to prevent further outbreaks within the sector.

Commenting on the situation yesterday, Sunday, August 9, deputy Cairns said: “For some time I have been calling for the establishment of a taskforce for the industry to examine issues within the sector.

“These include poor working conditions, lack of sick pay and high-risk accommodation and transport arrangements, all of which create conditions where the virus can thrive.

This crisis speaks volumes about the powerful interests that control the meat processing industry and raises questions about some of their political connections.

Continuing, deputy Cairns said it is “completely unreasonable” to ask other businesses where there have been no outbreaks to close “while allowing meat plants, the main source of these clusters, to remain open”.

“People living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly are rightly angry at the imposition of the latest restrictions and deserve an explanation from the government as to why it has been so slow to act on problems identified at meat plants months ago.

“Today [Sunday] was the first time we have heard from the Minister for Agriculture since localised restrictions came into effect in three counties this weekend.

We have known of problems in the meat processing sector for a number of months – yet this latest outbreak seems to have taken the government by complete surprise.

“The Minister for Health said yesterday [Saturday] that he believes that meat plants in the affected areas should close but we cannot be expected to rely on the industry itself to make this call.

“We need to know if there is a plan in place to close plants and, if so, if there will be implications for the food supply chain.

“In addition to a comprehensive testing programme for all workers in this sector, the HSA [Health and Safety Authority] needs to carry out unannounced inspections of meat plants with immediate closure orders issued if there are any breaches found,” deputy Cairns concluded.