Councillors from the Social Democrats in Kildare and Offaly participated in an online council meeting today to discuss the implications of the regional restrictions imposed across three counties last week.

Birr Councillor Clare Claffey said:

“More nuance should be applied to lockdowns in response to future outbreaks. The community is distressed and we need to work together.

“Offaly is paying a high price for the Government’s failure to regulate the meat industry. For some time, the Social Democrats have been calling for the establishment of a taskforce for the industry to examine issues within the sector. The main issues that are reported are poor working conditions, lack of sick pay and high-risk accommodation and transport arrangements, all of which create conditions where the virus can thrive.

“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.”

Cllr Nuala Killeen said:

“The news emerging about the conditions faced by workers in our region is something we need to eradicate in our counties. An essential step to learn from the outbreaks in meat plants is to make Covid-19 a notifiable disease in workplaces in the interest of workers’ safety. Consideration should also be given to providing more testing facilities in North Kildare.”

Cllr Aidan Farrelly said:

“I’m disappointed the HSE and the Department of Agriculture turned down the opportunity to speak with members of Kildare County Council today. I accept they are extremely busy, but when the bulk of the questions raised can only be answered by them, it was very frustrating.

“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.

“While we welcome the announcement of financial supports for businesses and tourism in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, for many this won’t be enough to allow them to reopen. We need to do all we can to support our communities and businesses in the tri-county area over the next couple of months and beyond.”

Cllr Chris Pender said:

“I’ve been speaking to numerous businesses people who are worried about the possibility of reopening, especially with the financial implications of the sudden closure. This has resulted in them having to dispose of produce and product they had ordered for the weekend. The sudden closure has exacerbated the financial impact on our small businesses, especially those in the hospitality sector, from hotels right the way down to small local coffee shops.”

Cllr Bill Clear said:

“The Social Democrats group wrote to the nine meat processing factories in Kildare. As we had been receiving a number of calls from concerned constituents, we felt it was our duty to try and allay their fears.

“We asked if the factories had engaged in a proactive testing regime for workers in their plants. I am concerned that the focus is on keeping the production lines as fast and as lean as possible. The model in this sector is to work people as hard as they can for as little as they can for as long as they can.

“Given the fact that the top meat company had a turnover of €2.3 billion in 2019, it beggars belief that they are not taking care of their employees’ health and safety by testing them themselves at their own cost instead of getting the HSE to do this for free.”

August 14, 2020

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