"Lessons need to be learned" by meat plants over the clusters of Covid-19 that emerged at factories during the health pandemic, according to Galway West Sinn Féin TD, Mairéad Farrell.
Speaking at a meeting of the Special Dáil Committee on Covid-19 Response, Teachta Farrell stated that the Government was “well aware” of the issue as far back as early March.
According to Dep Farrell, SIPTU wrote to the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, on April 3 warning him of its concerns for this sector if health and safety was not correctly implemented.
'It is vital the industry is held to account at Dáil level to ensure proper protections are put in place to prevent further spread of this virus in coming months' - Dep Mairead Farrell
SIPTU also contacted the HSA on April 28 to ask for inspections. Sinn Féin also wrote to the then Minister on April 30 to highlight concerns. "Given all of these sections knew of the potential dangers to those who work in meat processing factories," said Dep Farrell, "I find it baffling that this was allowed to happen both on a Government level and on a HSA level."
The Galway West TD raised these issues with directors from Meat Industry Ireland in relation to temperature checks, data breaches, and measures taken to ensure measures to halt the spread of the virus were being taken.
According to Dep Farrell, the industry’s response was that measures were "not perfect". She was also told that "by and large temperature checking is now a feature of the industry", but that the directors "do not think every single plant has temperature checking".
"To say that substantial measures were taken from early on and that it was not perfect does not cover the gravity of the situation for the people who work in this sector," she said. "It is vital the industry is held to account at Dáil level to ensure proper protections are put in place to prevent further spread of this virus in coming months.”