Galway TD says “systemic failure” caused hundreds of Covid-19 cases in meat plants

Galway daily news Galway TD condemns pause in COVID-19 screening at meat plants

Galway TD Denis Naughten has blamed “systemic failure” across multiple government departments for hundreds of Covid-19 cases at meat plants.

The HSE has identified 15 clusters of Covid-19 cases associated with meat plants, resulting in approximately 600 cases among staff.

Galway-Roscommon TD Denis Naughten says that there has been a “systemic failure across the Departments of Agriculture, Health, and Business to handle this issue.

The Independent TD secured the support of the members of the Dáil Business Committee to hold a specific debate about the clusters of Covid-19 cases in meat plants at the Dáil sitting on Thursday.

All three relevant Ministers Simon Harris, Michael Creed, and Heather Humphreys will be present to answer questions during the session scheduled to take place at midday on Thursday.

“Historically the only time multiple Ministers are held accountable in Dáil Éireann 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 Dáil Éireann,” Denis Naughten said.

“it clearly underlines how serious the members of the Dáil Business Committee, representing all groups & parties in Dáil Éireann, take the issue and the information that I presented to them in support of the call for such a debate.”

“Next Thursday evening will now see the Minister for Agriculture answer for the 250 veterinary and technical staff involved in supervising and regulating the operations of 56 slaughter plants; the Minister for Health will answer for the public health & HSE management of the clusters of infection; and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation will answer for the Health & Safety Authority which is responsible for the protection of workers.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week programme on Sunday, Minister Creed said that meat plants would be closed if it was required to manage an outbreak.

But he added that Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said that it is not a measure currently being considered, and there have been issues at less than a quarter of plants.

Earlier Deputy Naughten had said that delays in delivering the results of Covid-19 tests from workers at meat plants, and a failure to ask people to self-isolate while waiting, have undermined the efforts people have been making in recent weeks to limit the spread of the virus.

“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.”