The character of Ireland and our people is a brand in itself and we must do all that we can to support those who attend to the needs of tourists on a daily basis. We must note the good work of Tourism Ireland in recognising this hard work. It was established as one of the “six areas of co-operation” under the framework of the Belfast Agreement of Good Friday 1998. Their remit is to increase tourism to the island of Ireland and to support the North of Ireland to realise its tourism potential. I would like to support the Sinn Féin motion that calls on the Irish Hotels Federation and Restaurants Association of Ireland to immediately engage with the State's wage-setting mechanism for low paid workers in industries with low levels of trade union representation.
While we all support any measures that will support the tourism sector, we should examine the proposal to retain the sector's unique 9% VAT rate on a multi-annual basis. This should be dependent on the employers addressing the fact that the hotel and hospitality sector continues to be characterised by a high incidence of low pay and non-compliance with labour regulations. It is important to take into account the view of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is strongly opposed to this measure and has repeatedly called on the Government to end this de
factosubsidy, which costs the taxpayer some €620 million per annum and well in excess of €2.1 billion to date, according to figures from Revenue. The subsidy to the tourism sector has to be based on evidence that the benefits have been passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices or to the thousands who work in the sector in the form of higher wages.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who work in the tourism sector. They are the people who help make Ireland a great brand and a great place to visit. On International Woman’s Day, I would like to recognise the contribution of the female workers in this sector and hope that their low pay and precarious work contracts are addressed as a matter of urgency. Long may they keep up the good work and be supported by this and any future Governments.