Treatment of meat plant workers should cause public outrage, TD says

ireland
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James Cox
Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns has called the treatment of workers at meat plants disgraceful.

The West Cork TD said opposition parties want to work with the Government on getting public health advice across, but that there needs to be more clarity on various issues for this to work.

Ms Cairns told BreakingNews.ie: "The issue of meat plants is confusing for people. It's been the source of so many clusters, we saw entire counties being closed and they are not the source of those clusters. It just feels like Meat Industry Ireland is getting special treatment.

"The treatment of workers should be causing massive public outrage, it's absolutely disgraceful. There's things they could be doing, closing plants with clusters in them to protect staff, providing sick pay so that staff feel comfortable to come forward and say if they have symptoms. That would help to prevent clusters. I know there's an argument that it's a food supply chain, an essential service, but we know that when some plants did close down due to public pressure, it didn't put a massive kink in the food supply chain."

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She also questioned why Dawn Meats Beef plant in Grannagh, Co Waterford, was not closed after a recent outbreak there.

"Why wasn't the plant in Waterford closed? We're wanting to get behind the Government with a clear message but last week the Dáil was closed down and we found out via a tweet from a journalist. If we're in the building where decisions are being made and not informed, how can we expect the general public to be informed?"

Ms Cairns has also been critical about the current restrictions on maternity hospitals and she feels there are mixed messages still there after raising the issue with the HSE and Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

"I asked Mary Butler, the Minister of State for Health, and she said it was her understanding that it was up to the individual hospital, I spoke to the Cork and Kerry HSE region and they said they would be reviewing the restrictions and it would be a regional decision. When I asked Micheál Martin, he said it should be a national approach. So has there even been a review of these restrictions?

"We have seen reviews and easing of restrictions across all society but not in this part of society. It begs the question, is it because people who are about to give birth or have given birth don't have a strong lobby?

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"You can go to a wedding with 49 people, or a pub, but you can't go to a prenatal scan with your partner. The Government needs to be transparent about the decision making so people can understand why, it's hard enough when everything goes well in terms of giving birth but when people receive bad news and they're alone, with their partner in the car park, the stories I'm hearing are absolutely heartbreaking."

It's unrealistic to think everyone watches The Week in Politics or listens to Drivetime.

She feels the Government has to reach more people, and be clearer, in the delivery of public health messages.

"In the early stages we all knew and it was very clear what the guidelines were, now it's different from county to county and a bit more confusing, we have to make sure we reach everybody instead of blaming them for not understanding. It's unrealistic to think everyone watches The Week in Politics or listens to Drivetime.

"If they bring opposition on board we can reach our voters and supporters. We need to be working together on this and that goes for Government and the opposition."

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