Dáil debates

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Confidence in Government: Motion (resumed)

 

Debate resumed on the following motion:

That Dáil Éireann reaffirms its confidence in the Government.

- (The Taoiseach)

10:30 am

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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In resuming the debate, my first point is that the Taoiseach's response to Leaders' Questions is a very clear indication of the totally irresponsible decisions made, particularly with regard to the banks' guarantee, which clearly has left the entire country in a state of hock to a zombie bank.

Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle might protect me so that I can continue my contribution.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy O'Sullivan to hold for one moment. We must have silence while the Deputy is making her contribution. The lobbies must be cleared. We cannot have side-bar discussions. I have said as much several times.

11:00 am

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The replies given by the Taoiseach in response to Leaders' Questions are a very clear indication of the total inability of this Government to run the country. The fact is that €4 billion of taxpayers' money, probably an extra €3.5 billion and quite likely a great deal more money is now going into a completely zombie bank which has no customers apart from those that were there prior to last autumn. That money is provided at the expense of the taxpayer and there is no money for essential services that are needed. We are talking about €4 billion put into a zombie bank while €9.6 million is needed by Crumlin Children's Hospital to provide essential services for children and €16 million is needed for a vaccine to protect women from developing cervical cancer. I might add child and adolescent psychiatric teams and beds because children are now in adult psychiatric hospitals. There are 6,000 children at risk who do not have a social worker and 8,000 children are at risk who have not even had a preliminary assessment. Special needs teachers are gone. The numbers of children living in consistent poverty are increasing.

We clearly have a totally incompetent Government that should go now. This Government got its mandate under entirely false pretences. It was the Taoiseach, then the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, who turned around that election in the last week of its campaign because he argued that Fianna Fáil could run the economy better than anybody else. That has proved to be spectacularly untrue. That mandate was given by the people under false pretences and they clearly recognised as much by the result they gave in the local and European elections and in the by-elections last week.

It is clear this Government does not have a mandate. Since the general election it has been running the economy and there has been a haemorrhaging of jobs. From May 2008 to May 2009 the live register increased in numbers from 207,000 to 402,100. The Government stood back and watched that happen. It stood back as small firms went to the wall for lack of credit. It set up the bank guarantee which put taxpayers' money at the mercy of reckless speculators, incompetent and corrupt banks and lap-dog regulators. While all that was going on the real economy and the real society have suffered. Small sums of money, such as I have indicated, would have made all the difference while billions were advanced to bail out banks.

We watched this happen and 400,000 people are now on the live register. I have met many of them and have talked to the Dell workers who lost their jobs. There is still no application from Government in respect of the globalisation fund available from Europe. There is still no system in place whereby funding can be applied for which has been made available from Europe for small businesses. No bank is applying for it. The Government has put in place the bank guarantee, but we still have no mechanism for applying for that funding.

Accusations were made by Members on the Government side yesterday, including a display the like of which I have never seen by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy Martin Cullen. He showed a total lack of understanding of how the people feel. Suggestions were made that this side of the House had no policies. Clearly, the Government has not looked at the policies that have come from this side. The Labour Party has put forward a number of proposals, particularly proposals focused on the retention of jobs. We also put forward pre-budget proposals on how we would stem the fiscal problem, including having the courage to propose a higher rate of tax and a cap on the amount that can be earned in the public service.

We have also put forward proposals for the social economy. For example, in 2002, the Labour Party was the first party to propose universal health insurance. The estimated cost at that time for introducing a full universal health insurance system was £5 billion. When that is translated into euro and upgraded to current values, it amounts to far less than the €16 billion currently going into the health budget, which is clearly being misspent as can be seen from our malfunctioning system. The sooner the Opposition parties get into government and introduce a fair and equitable universal health insurance system, the better for the people. The sooner too that the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, leaves the Department, the better for the people. The Labour Party has also proposed reform of the HSE and its proposal shows courage by including removing layers of management and providing for voluntary redundancy and redeployment.

The Government has argued that the Opposition has not put forward realistic proposals, but that is not the truth. We are ready to go into government. We have alternative plans and a clear vision of how the country can, in time, be led out of the trouble it is in at present. We have seen no leadership or sense of direction from the Government. The mandate given by the people to Fianna Fáil in the general election on the basis that it was the best party to run the economy was turned around last week. We only have to look at the state of the economy today to see that banks are being bailed out with billions of euro while our children are being failed and cuts across the system are hurting children, the vulnerable, the weak and the sick. That demonstrates a failed Government. The people said this clearly in the recent local elections. It is time for the Government to go.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Will the Government admit the existence of a political, social and economic morass, at the bottom of which lies the Fianna Fáil Party? The culture created and nurtured over the past ten years has done much damage to this country's reputation abroad and has created a cynicism about politics and the political class. It will take years for any restoration of the notion of public service or for the notion that democracy is fundamentally good and should be cherished.

We are now in a situation where the rating agency, Standard & Poor's, has changed our designation from AA+ to AA. One may have certain views on the nature of rating agencies and their methodologies, but that rating sends a signal to the rest of the world that Ireland is not a place in which to do business or in which to invest, but a country where the political and economic circumstances are such that inherent or structural economic flaws mean it is not conducive to investment. The reason for this is that the political and economic situation is currently so negative that nobody wants to touch the country with a barge pole. Until there is a change of the guard and the political regime, we cannot hope to restore some semblance of confidence, internationally, economically and politically. That is the reason the Labour Party supports a vote of no confidence in the Government.

Will the Government admit that over the past decade the economy was built on a false edifice that has now come tumbling down like a ton of bricks? The architects of this false edifice were the Fianna Fáil Party. Ireland needs to recover economically and to recover faith in the political system. The people cast their votes in the local and European elections to send a message to Fianna Fáil that its regime and days are numbered. The people have registered their disgust with the Government not only because they feel that the Fianna Fáil model of governance has failed us, but because they now want a change of the guard. They want to see a restoration of a model of governance that is based on the fundamental principle of service to all of the people, not just the few.

It will take a new political reality to restore the notion of public service. The past ten years have seen the unhinging of economics from society. My colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, summed it up when he said the public had been reduced to the level of spectator as the economy is analysed as something separate from society. It will take a new, centre of left government to have a new discourse and make things different. That is the reason we support a vote of no confidence in the Government. We seek change and to inject a new positivism into the political sphere. The Government will, probably, defeat us with its motion, but it is vital that we in opposition lay down a marker on behalf of the people who voted in recent days to get the Government out. It is right that those people have their voices echoed by us on this motion.

The Labour Party leader, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, stated yesterday that the Fianna Fáil Government allowed our economy to become so reliant on the construction sector that in 2006 one in every four men in the labour force was working in it. Now, almost one in eight people in our labour force is on the dole, a massive rise in unemployment which has rippled out of the collapsing construction sector. The Fianna Fáil Government at best turned a blind eye, while the banks and big developers grew the property bubble to bursting point. The people have paid for this type of cynical politics. They will no longer continue down this path. They are sick of the current regime. It is an ailing and failed regime and we must restore a proper one.

By their actions this past weekend, the people have sent a message that the Fianna Fáil way is no longer the way to run a country. That way is no longer tenable and we can no longer afford it. Fianna Fáil has moved to a situation where it has almost bankrupted the country. It can no longer be trusted on the economy. It has not got a clue. With some €64 billion in deposits in Anglo Irish Bank, the Irish taxpayer, not the Government, is now the lender of last resort. That is the regime created by Fianna Fáil, but it has no shame about it. It comes out day in and out and defends its position. Those in the Fianna Fáil Party will no longer take responsibility for their actions. They will not confess to the fact that they could not run the economy properly and have run it into the ground. That has always been the Fianna Fáil way. They are interested in power for the sake of power and not in public service or the people. We want a changing of the guard so that we can inject positivity into politics once more, restore some degree of what it means to be a public servant and walk through these halls with pride, knowing the people outside know we are doing something good and performing a public service. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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With the permission of the House, I will share my time with Deputies John Moloney, Seán Haughey and Billy Kelleher.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed? Agreed. Each Deputy will have five minutes.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I support the Government's counter-motion. First, I will address some of the issues raised by Deputy Sherlock, as he leaves the Chamber. He says there has been an undermining of politics in the country. Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had a bad election. However, let us think about politics. People came out in record numbers, for various reasons and motivations.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Government provided them with an incentive.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I make this point to contradict the view the politics is undermined. Ireland had, probably, the highest turnout in Europe for the European and local elections.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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They came out to vote against the Government.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I challenge the view that politics is undermined. Outstanding candidates from all parties presented themselves on the ballot paper for the first time and endorsed, by their courage, the political system. What Deputy Sherlock said is nonsense.

Deputy Sherlock should also be careful when he interprets the outcome for the Labour Party. Support of 14% is not a massive endorsement, given that we are in the teeth of the worst economic storm the country has ever experienced.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Three MEPs. That is not bad.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Only 14% of the people voted for Deputy O'Sullivan's view of the world. She should not get carried away with the idea that this is a tidal wave of support and for the soothing words which provide balm for the obvious pain people are suffering.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Still in denial.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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People are suffering pain. We have said people's incomes will be affected by the changes that are occurring. The Labour Party may provide soothing words and present a false juxtaposition, criticising the Government for recapitalising the banks and complaining that social services are inadequate.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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We presented very clear polities.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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They should say that to President Obama or Prime Minister Browne, who are capitalising banks in the US and the UK-----

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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They did not guarantee like the Government did.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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-----or tell the European Central Bank about our inadequate social care services. It makes no sense. It is cheap and empty political rhetoric.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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That is untrue.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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That is why they have only 14% support.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Minister of State is still in denial.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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People are sophisticated enough to see through it. We accept that we had a bad election but the Labour Party does not understand that the people of Ireland know that the alternative Government, such as it is, is incoherent. There are two Oppositions in this Parliament, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. In the previous Dáil the Mullingar accord set general principles and approaches. That is gone and there are now two Oppositions. I suspect that Deputy Kenny, when he rashly decided to table this motion of no confidence, was afraid Deputy Gilmore would table one first. So, the debate on the Ryan commission report is delayed. It is naive and disingenuous to suggest it is the Government's fault that people are bringing a petition to the House today, knowing the promised debate on the Ryan report will not take place until tomorrow.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Government ordered this debate for today. It is disgraceful that the Minister of State with responsibility for children should mislead people on that issue.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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We have two Oppositions in a race to the bottom of Irish politics to find the lowest common denominator of political accountability.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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This is an example of the type of political morality which Fianna Fáil dabbles in.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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That is wrong. That is why there is a notorious incompatibility between these two parties.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State should show better judgment.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Their incompatibility is not only on nationalisation, where the Labour Party wants to create 40,000 extra public service workers by nationalising all the banks. Does anyone in Fine Gael think that could be done?

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Temporarily.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Even temporarily, no one in Fine Gael agrees with that. That is a fundamental question when we are talking about an alternative Government.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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We are two separate parties.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Young People, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Let us consider social partnership. A picture of the Labour Party leader is hanging from Liberty Hall on an 80 foot banner fluttering in the wind, while Fine Gael promises public sector reform. How will they square that circle? That is why people did not buy into the Labour Party's view of the world. That is why I warn them not to be so arrogant as to think the election result provides the political arithmetic to allow the Opposition to form a Government.

Who is Deputy Enda Kenny to tell the Government it does not have a mandate? Before the local and European elections he flirted with Sinn Féin. This is the same man who said releasing the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe would undermine the office of Taoiseach. Political expediency is one thing but blatant hypocrisy of that order is another.

It is not enough for the Government to say the alternative is inadequate. We are confident that we are doing the right things. Fine Gael is tired of hearing we are taking tough decisions, but we are doing so. While canvassing, I heard on the doorsteps that public sector workers think we are being hard on them while those in the private sector think we are not being hard enough on the public sector. That might indicate that we are taking the fairest decisions for the future of the economy.

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this counter-motion of confidence in the Government. There is no doubt that Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had a bad election. However, it would not be in the national interest for the Government to resign now. That would compound the problems facing the country at this time. It is the duty of the Government to take decisions and to govern and not to shirk its responsibilities. By resigning now, the Government would be reneging on its responsibilities.

Any alternative Government which would come to power after a general election would face the same problems which the current Government is facing. It is wishful thinking to say those problems would disappear with a general election.

We all remember the crisis in the public finances in the 1980s. It was not until 1987 that a Fianna Fáil Government came to power, dealt comprehensively with those problems and brought about measures to stimulate economic recovery. The time for action is now. Any undue delay in dealing with the problem in the public finances would be catastrophic. The lessons of the 1980s must be learned. Economic recovery will be delayed by many years if we do not take the necessary action to deal with the current crisis.

Even if the Opposition gets its way and an election is called, there is no guarantee of its outcome. It could produce the uncertainty of a hung Dáil. In the 1980s, there were three general elections in 18 months and no party received a mandate to govern. There is a real danger of a hung Dáil and a repeat of the political uncertainty we experienced then. The last thing the country needs is a general election.

Many of those who make the false claim that the current Taoiseach does not have a mandate belittle, undermine and demean the role of Dáil Éireann, which alone has the authority to elect a Taoiseach. An Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, is the duly elected Taoiseach of the country and has a mandate to govern. It is amusing to recall that many of those now making those spurious and false claims served in the Deputy John Bruton led Government in the 1990s, which took office mid-way through a Dáil term without recourse to a general election. On the formation of the first Inter-Party Government in 1948, Dáil Éireann elected a Taoiseach who was not leader of one of the contracting parties. If one were to follow the ridiculous reasoning of Deputies on the Opposition benches, one would ask where was the mandate from the people for that Taoiseach given that he did not fight the preceding election as a Taoiseach in waiting. I, like other Deputies, knocked on many doors in recent weeks. The issue raised on doorsteps was not the quality of leadership provided by the Fianna Fáil Party but the absence of real leadership from the Opposition.

I support the motion of confidence in the Government and reject the counter-motion of no confidence tabled by the Fine Gael Party. The Government is taking corrective measures. If Fine Gael and the Labour Party were able to cobble together a coalition Government, it would, by its very nature, be characterised by ideological conflict. Speaker after speaker on the Government side have noted how diametrically opposed are the Opposition parties on fundamental issues of concern, for example, the public finances, banking sector, public sector, health reform and so forth. An alternative Government led by Fine Gael and the Labour Party would not be able to produce a comprehensive programme for Government to address the serious issues facing the country.

I wholeheartedly support the motion of confidence in the Government and have no doubt a majority of Deputies will support it this evening.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome Deputies George Lee and Maureen O'Sullivan to the House and wish them well in their role as public representatives.

The decision to table a motion of no confidence was taken at a time of palpable excitement and joy in the Fine Gael Party following the election results it recorded on Friday last. Tabling such a motion on foot of a good election is akin to a man who has a good wedding night deciding to marry again on the following Tuesday. Unfortunately, the second night is never as good as the first.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State must lead a disappointing life.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The motion of no confidence is nothing more than theatrics arising from the results of the recent elections. Much of the debate in the House has been disingenuous. In recent times, the Dáil has held debates on the economy and serious challenges facing the country. The Government has not shirked from its responsibility to address these issues, nor has it denied Deputies an opportunity to speak about the challenges facing us or the Opposition an opportunity to make proposals or express ideas. We did this to ensure we could pick the best brains in the Dáil.

The motions before us give Deputies an opportunity to examine the proposals being made from the Opposition benches. It is evident that Fine Gael and the Labour Party take diametrically opposed positions on the fundamental issues facing the country in this time of crisis. The banking issue is only one such example. On 29 September 2008, the Government had to make a key decision on whether to provide a guarantee to the banks of systemic importance to the State. Having deliberated, it made its call. From the contributions of Labour Party and Fine Gael Deputies, it is clear that a Cabinet composed of members of these parties would have failed to reach an agreement on how to address the fundamental issue of providing a guarantee to the banks in the national interest.

Deputy Gilmore, in raising the banking issue again during Leaders' Questions this morning, put forward the simplistic argument that the Government is recapitalising the banks by taking money from other areas. Every Member of the House, including Deputy Gilmore, is aware of the fundamental importance of the banks. We cannot allow one bank to fail but decide to save others. As many people in the United States will now admit, the biggest mistake made in their country in recent times was to allow Lehman Brothers to fail. The reason was the domino effect the collapse of the bank had elsewhere. One cannot isolate one bank and allow it to fail in the belief that other banks will survive. Allowing Anglo Irish Bank to fail would have drawn on the bank guarantee.

Simplistic arguments have been made in the debate on the most fundamental issue facing the country, one which affects us on a number of fronts. While we all accept there was an over-reliance on the property market, we did not hear many Deputies complain at the time. The policy documents and manifestos published by the Opposition parties prior to the 2007 election show they proposed to spend all revenue raised from the property boom. The Opposition did not issue warnings about over-reliance on the property market and was instead happy to spend all the tax revenues expected from continued price increases in the property market.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Labour Party consistently called for the abolition of incentives for property development.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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To argue that the Opposition parties possessed a font of knowledge on this issue is factually incorrect because their predictions on growth were wide of the mark. The economic position has changed fundamentally. Ireland's vulnerable position is due to developments in the international economy and internal difficulties and dynamics with which we must contend.

The motions before the House provide an opportunity to express confidence in the Government. Last week, in their excitement, certain political parties appeared to believe they had won a general election. Opposition Deputies should read Bunreacht na hÉireann from time to time to learn how Governments are formed. The motion of no confidence besmirches the sovereignty of the House.

In 2007, the Government sought and received a mandate, which it will see through. We are honour bound to ensure that in these most challenging of times the country rides out the storm. The Government will not do so to cling to power but to ensure coherent policies are in place to enable the country to get through this difficult period.

It does not give me confidence to note the inadequacies of the Opposition. I would prefer a cohesive Opposition with genuinely coherent and compatible policies. At least then, we could have worthwhile debates. The problem, however, is that the Opposition parties have been moving further and further apart in recent months with every policy document to emerge. The Mullingar accord may have brought Fine Gael and the Labour Party closer together but this is no longer the case.

I have full confidence in the Taoiseach and Government's ability to fulfil its mandate and, more important, produce policies which will take us through these challenging times.

Photo of John MoloneyJohn Moloney (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I, too, extend a warm welcome to Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan and George Lee. I was not present in the Chamber when the Deputies received an official welcome, although I met Deputy Lee in a corridor.

I welcome the motions before the House as they afford the Government an opportunity to explain its position. While I will always campaign for the Fianna Fáil Party, I do not believe my party should be in government for the sake of it. I hope that over the remaining three years of this Dáil the Opposition parties will produce an alternative policy, rather than one based on opposing with the sole purpose of driving the Government from office.

Having campaigned in my locality in recent weeks, I know people are demanding that the Opposition produce a clear set of policies, comparable to that produced by the Government. This would allow people to arrive at a decision. One cannot expect them to buy in to the view that Fine Gael and the Labour Party offer an alternative when each party provides a distinct set of policy proposals. Until the main Opposition parties are able to show us a single, joint alternative policy, I will have no difficulty opposing motions of no confidence in the Government. The position adopted by the Opposition parties lacks integrity because their opinions and policies differ on areas ranging from banking nationalisation and reform of public bodies to the health services and many other issues.

If one is to have confidence in a person, one must know something about him or her. I have the privilege of having known the Taoiseach since our pre-teen years. In judging his political intent and purpose, one must accept that he faced the temptation, as the elections approached, to pursue popular policies. Not once, however, did he pursue popular choices to maintain our party's current level of representation. The Taoiseach is a person of integrity and ability who put the country rather than his party first. He has been accused of putting his party before country on many occasions but chose not to give into any temptation to do so.

It is also important to put on record in the debate on this confidence motion my feeling about the attacks on the Taoiseach's personality, and on the Government, for instance, the assertion by Deputy Sherlock that nobody would touch this State. We in this country are no longer living in a glasshouse. We are living in an international market where people are also watching the ability of this House to deal with its affairs.

Having listened to the debate this morning, I have great difficulty in seeing the political sense of making the allegation, for instance, that the Government is far more intent on diverting money towards developers and bankers, and forestalling on funding for hospitals. That is most disingenuous and is not true. It has been a ruse used in the campaign but is a charge that does not stand up. It does not tie up for people for whom I would have respect within the Opposition to try to convince the Irish people that we are purely in the business of supporting banks and not in the business of supporting health or other essential services. It is a falsehood to try to create the impression that this country alone is in economic recession. It does not wash either to try to put out the criticism that this country is exclusive in its difficulties of recession and to create the impression further that we do not know our way out of such recession. In that regard, I would rely on persons of a far greater economic mind than myself.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister of State is definitely out of time anyway.

Photo of John MoloneyJohn Moloney (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Rather than have any misunderstanding, I have absolute confidence in the Taoiseach and his Government to continue for a further three years.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share time with Deputy Shatter.

I welcome Fianna Fáil's emphasis on Opposition policies because that is really where the action is now at. The Government finds itself in a position where it is unable to address its own policies because the failures are too appalling to contemplate.

Photo of John MoloneyJohn Moloney (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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No.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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That is the tragedy in which we find ourselves. Catastrophic policy failures have put us in the hole we are in. Anyone who seeks to deny that is engaged in self-deception, my constituency colleague not least among them.

The truth is that far from containing the property bubble, the Government stoked it. The truth is that far from regulating the excesses in banking, the Government turned a blind eye. The truth is that far from protecting export competitiveness, which is vital to our long-term survival, the Government created inefficiency in wide ranges of the public sector. Ours became the highest costs for electricity, waste and virtually all other services delivered by government. The Government destroyed jobs. Far from ensuring sustainability in our public finances, the Government created, as it now admits, a structural deficit that is 8% to 10% of GNP. "Structural deficit" means it was created by Fianna Fáil. It was created by bad Government policy decisions that had nothing to do with the state of the economy. That is what the Government created.

These are policy problems to which the Government is unwilling to face up. Far from creating the sort of public service that would reform, deliver excellence and efficiency, the Government undermined our public service. The Government introduced benchmarking that had no regard to delivery of reform. It introduced decentralisation that had no regard to the capacity of the public services to be cost effective and deliver in a coherent way. It was all about political strokes.

The Government introduced the HSE, which was not about creating a lean and mean machine to deliver health services but which was involved in a huge, super command and control bureaucracy where the Government, led by the Taoiseach, decided that all administrators in place would stay in place. The primary rationale for a HSE, which was to strip out layers of bureaucracy, was abandoned by the Government on the first day.

If Fianna Fáil speakers came in and stated that the Government managed the property bubble well, managed the banking situation well, managed public service delivery well and managed the public finances well, there would be some sense in them saying the public had confidence in them, but they cannot make any of those statements. When the warnings that this is unsustainable came from international bodies from which the Government now seeks to find succour, the Government dismissed them contemptuously. The former Taoiseach stated those people should be thinking of committing suicide. That was the mindset that Fianna Fáil had created in government. It was a mindset that saw buying out problems instead of resolving them as the way to go. It meant that the powerful people were protected from scrutiny, whether in the banks, in high places in public utilities or wherever. It meant hot air strategies that failed such as the failed health strategy, the failed climate change strategy, the failed decentralisation strategy and the failed e-voting strategy. No one took responsibility for any of those failures. That is the culture Fianna Fáil created and that culture has created an unprecedented crisis in this economy. That is the legacy the Government brought to the electorate.

Fianna Fáil and Green Party speakers look around at the fallen warriors in the battlefield, the Fianna Fáil and Green Party councillors who have been devastated. Almost 100 of their number are gone, between the two parties. What does the Government see? It thinks these were tough decisions that the people did not understand. These great international authorities, the Taoiseach tells us, are now stating that Ireland is wonderful and is facing up to its problems. Yet, the Irish people, Fianna Fáil thinks, are so foolish they cannot understand this wonderful strategy that Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have adopted. Ministers should get real. If they think that the Irish people do not see what is going on, they are sadly disillusioned and inadequate in their response.

People understand what is happening out there. They get it. The Government does not get it. They see their jobs going up in smoke. They see their mortgages way beyond their house prices. They see their pensions having disappeared because the stock markets have collapsed in the economy mismanaged by the Government. That is what they see. They get it all right. They understand why we are in the hole we are in. Just as the ESRI stated a substantial part of this responsibility lies with the Government, it understands that these catastrophic policy failures were made on the Government's watch.

Minister after Minister comes in here and states that people do not understand the tough decisions the Government is taking. The Ministers should get real, wake up and smell the coffee. People understand. They get it and they want the Government gone because they know also that the Government does not understand. The Government does not get it. The Government does not get the change that must now happen in this community. That is what is wrong. That is why the Government parties were defeated. It was that legacy of policy ineptitude but also the denial in which the Government continues to be.

Why do people say about bankers that those who led us into this banking crisis must go and cannot lead us out? It is partly because there should be accountability and responsibility, and those who have failed us should take the knock. There is another reason. It is because of the emotional attachment to the failed systems those who were in control when things went wrong continue to have. They are continually on the defensive trying to pretend that nothing really went wrong, that with a little tweaking here and there, everything would have been all right.

Everything will not be all right for Ireland if the Government continues in that mindset. Everything that I have heard, from the Taoiseach down, in this debate tells me that the Government still holds to that mindset and does not understand that this country is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions, the likes of which we have not seen in a generation. This crisis will rob our people of 500,000 jobs - which some would say is a conservative estimate if policies continue as they are - by the time it is over, leave pension funds in a shambles across the State, and leave many families unable to pay their mortgages and facing repossession. It is time for Ministers to face up honestly to their role in the creation of that problem and to how we get ourselves out of this.

Fine Gael has a good reason for seeking this debate. It is the very same reason Ministers say bankers should no longer continue to run the banks that brought us into this crisis. It is because those who have brought us in are not the ones to take us out. They do not understand what it takes. They do not understand, and are unwilling to face up to, the changes we as a community need to make.

What are the traits of a Government in which we could have confidence? First among them would be honesty and the willingness to accept when policy was dramatically wrong. Decentralisation, the creation of the Health Service Executive and the management of public finances and bank regulation were wrong. We must first understand that the system is broken. The House is broken, as no proper scrutiny of public expenditure is carried out within it, a position that the Government continues to defend. Honesty and the realisation that something is wrong comprise the first trait.

Second, there must be accountability so that, when something fails, a Minister must acknowledge it and accept responsibility. However, Ministers are not willing to do so. We also need courage if we are to face up to necessary change when inept Ministers must go. We need the courage to restructure agencies and to close non-performing programmes. We must face up to the fact that we need a different approach to the management of the public service. Managers who fail and cannot hack it must ship out. This type of thinking is foreign to Fianna Fáil. It must change in this respect, but it is unable to do so.

We need some sense of vision instead of Fianna Fáil's tribal response to this debate, that is, everything stated and proposed by Fine Gael and Labour is, ipso facto, nonsense and magic. We are in this hole because of such responses. We need radical change, but the Government has not discussed it. Nor has it discussed the concept of new politics or how the Dáil could change to confront the problems and crises that we face. There is no talk of a new social contract on helping workers who are going through this extraordinary maelstrom to manage the risks more effectively and to make the ordeal easier for them in terms of access to training, protecting pensions and workplace flexibility.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Bruton's time has expired.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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There is no talk of a new mandate for the public service so that people would take responsibility. There is no talk of a new budgeting system.

The problem is that, while the Government Members opposite want change and the country to exit the hole, they do not want to change any of the ingredients or failed policies that put us there. Until they get wise to this fact, there will be no public confidence in the Government. The sooner it goes, the better it will be for the country.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Listening to ministerial contributions to this debate has been astonishing. Ministers and Ministers of State do not seem to realise that last Friday's election was seen by the general public as a referendum on the Government. The public does not care if, for tribal reasons in the House, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party will vote confidence in themselves alongside the remnants of the Progressive Democrats and the odd Independent supporter. The public has lost confidence in the Government, for which reason Fine Gael tabled a motion of no confidence.

What Ministers and Ministers of State do not seem to recognise is something that the public has long since sussed, namely, that the Government is responsible for a catastrophic failure of political governance. The Government has perpetrated a disaster on the country. The Green Party may want to say that it is not responsible for any of this because it all preceded its time in office in 2007, but its Members are part of the problem, not the solution. Their Ministers are collectively responsible for the incompetence displayed by the Government in the past two years. The only priority that I can glean from the contributions made by Ministers and Ministers of State is that of Government survival. It is regarded as a greater priority than the country's survival.

Ministers are deluding themselves into believing they can perform a function. Given their wrong-headed approach to banking issues, there is widespread public concern that the economy will continue to collapse and jobs will continue to be lost because our banks are being turned into zombie banks. We have a zombie Government. Some of its long-standing members are so institutionalised and self-serving that they are incapable of original thought or of introducing change.

Yesterday evening, the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party held a post mortem of the election. The resultant words of wisdom were to the effect that Fianna Fáil's problems had nothing to do with the Government's incompetence or the public's view. Rather, the Chief Whip claimed that Fianna Fáil needed a better organisation, given its systems failure. That failure is at the heart of the Government and its component parties will continue to do damage to the State if they remain in government.

The Green Party expected the electorate to give it a fool's pardon in the election. It seems to be astonished that it has lost seats. However, it is as responsible for the attack on the vulnerable as is Fianna Fáil. In seeking to tackle major economic issues, small decisions have been made to save small sums of money by targeting people aged over 70 years and children with special needs and by curtailing the schools building programme and medical services across the board, including at a primary children's hospital in Dublin. Green Party Members believed that, since they had a greater interest in cabbages than hospitals, jobs and pay, they would be forgiven by the electorate. They now believe that they will visit their grassroots and have a conversation on what to do next. The Green Party might discover that its grassroots have shrivelled and died and that its Members are now consigned to the compost heap of political history. It is rotting at a faster rate than its predecessors in keeping Fianna Fáil in government, namely, the Progressive Democrats. As the sun sinks slowly in the west, the Green Party will enter the political twilight of its term in government.

The people want change. They are demanding that an incompetent, institutionalised and self-serving group that has been trying to hold onto the reins of power should leave Government. The public wants a different Government led by Deputy Kenny as Taoiseach. Government parties have no understanding of the concept of accountability to the people or the House. By holding onto power, the Government is giving the political two fingers to the electorate, which voted in great numbers, as the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, stated. He seemed to believe that politics in the context of governance was doing well because so many people voted. He missed the fact that so many voted because they wanted to remove the Government parties. They also voted because they realised the extent to which those parties, of which Fianna Fáil has been in government for 20 years of the past 22 years, have undermined the concepts of democratic accountability in the House and its functions.

In my remaining minutes, I will address an issue raised this morning. Concerns have been expressed about Government policy on Anglo Irish Bank. As a consequence of nationalisation, it is the people's bank. It was extraordinary that the Taoiseach was unable to tell the House this morning how many of the bank's senior managers had borrowed substantial amounts from it, including those who had done so to dabble in property developments and investments.

I wish to bring to the notice of the House something about which I have serious concerns. It is correct to say this bank is now barely trading, but it is trading in some respects. It is trying to seduce existing customers and business people into buying into property developments, at prices which are higher than are realistic, by offering them easy loans. There is now a conflict of interest in the manner in which this bank is trading.

I have particular concerns that those in senior management positions in Anglo Irish Bank, who have borrowed money from it to invest in property developments in conjunction with developers to whom this bank has lent money, are seeking purchasers for developments in which they may themselves have a personal interest. There is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed, namely, the extent to which those who are working in Anglo Irish Bank and have borrowed money from it can continue to deal with customers who seek borrowings for the purpose of buying some of the assets the bank has an interest in as a consequence of giving loans to developers and seeking loans from the bank themselves to purchase such assets. That is an issue I want investigated.

The truth is, as Deputy Bruton put it so well, that there are people outside this House who are in significant financial difficulties. Thousands and thousands of people have lost their jobs. The number of unemployed stands at more than 400,000 and is likely to be 500,000 before the end of this year. In my constituency, young couples and single persons in their late 20s and early 30s who, individually, own hundreds of apartments as their family homes and are now in substantial negative equity.

Many people are locked into borrowings on properties, the values of which have collapsed, and are in circumstances in which they cannot re-negotiate the loans they have obtained. This is a Government which has shown no ability to address the real problems being confronted by people outside this House as a consequence of its profligate spending and the structural deficit it has created. The Government should go. This House should vote no confidence in this Government. The Ministers within it should stop hanging onto office by their fingernails and staying for no reason other than their own personal benefit and gratification.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to share time with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dick Roche, and, possibly, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Dara Calleary.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Yesterday, the leader of Fine Gael told us tabling a motion of no confidence is not something one does every day. In that he is right, but it is the only right thing he said. It is, of course, the right of the Opposition to table a motion of no confidence when it believes it is truly warranted in the national interest, but it is not something to be done for mere narrow political advantage.

Let us be frank. What we are engaged in this week, and the sanctimonious posturing to which it gives rise, is a misuse of Dáil time. It is nothing more than a crude attempt by Fine Gael to showcase the electoral gains it made last weekend, rather than doing the peoples' business here in this Chamber.

That is not only my view. It is clear that was the view of many within the Labour Party. They see and recognise this week's charade for what it is. I saw Deputy Burton on television over the weekend expressing her concerns that Fine Gael's rush to table a motion of no confidence was only deflecting the House from doing what it should be doing. It is to be regretted that the wiser voices in the Labour Party were not listened to and that it meekly went along with Fine Gael. I hope for its sake that this is not an indication of how its relationship with Fine Gael will develop in the future.

While Fine Gael and the Labour Party may be at odds on what they should be doing this week, it is clear from their contributions that they are at idem on one issue. Deputy Kenny and Deputy Gilmore obviously believe we should tear up the Constitution and have a general election now. They believe this because it suits them. Their argument is that the Government has lost its mandate to govern, because of the bad results suffered by both the Fianna Fáil Party and the Green Party in the local and European elections.

The Deputies on the other side of the House are entitled to their own opinions and views - when they have them – but they are not entitled to their own facts. The Constitution is crystal clear. The people gave a mandate at the general election in 2007. All parties contesting those elections put forward programmes based on five year timeframes. None of the parties opposite included a proviso in their 2007 manifestos stating the ongoing implementation of their policies and programmes would be subject to their parties not losing European or council seats in 2009.

Back then, they were not proposing two-yearly electoral cycles, alternating between local and general elections. They know such a concept is a self-evident absurdity. They know general, and not local or European, elections decide who will govern. So too do the people. To come in here and try to assert otherwise only serves to debase politics at a time when all politicians on all sides of the House are held in fairly low esteem.

Whatever about coming in here tabling pointless motions of no confidence, the leaders of the Opposition are most certainly not entitled to assert that the Government is indifferent to the anger or hurt being felt by people. I require no lectures or speeches from anybody on any side of the House about how the people of this country feel. We know they are hurting. We know they are angry at how our economic fortunes have declined. They are frightened and worried deeply at the scale of the job losses and the prospect of more to come.

Parents are fearful that their sons and daughters may have to join the dole queues or emigrate, despite the huge moneys they have invested in their education. Families are worried about the prospect of losing an income and the significant difficulties they would face in meeting mortgage and other repayments. For the past months the public has been hearing the Opposition telling them that the Government does not care and is the cause of all that is wrong in the country today.

The Opposition forget to mention the fact that we recorded budget surpluses in ten of our 11 budgets. There is no mention of the fact that we invested 80% of our resources in health, education and welfare. There is no mention of the fact that we slashed our national debt by more than two thirds. There is no mention of the fact that we put 3,500 extra garda on the streets, 10,000 extra nurses and doctors in our hospitals and 7,000 more teachers in our schools, and created 10,000 SNA posts.

There is no mention of the fact that we have invested heavily in our schools and public transport infrastructure. There is no mention of the fact that we have cut direct taxes and protected the vulnerable with a generous and comprehensive social welfare system. There is no mention of the fact we put money aside for the future in the pension reserve fund, which is now proving invaluable in our current financial crisis.

Most importantly, there is no mention of the fact that Fine Gael and the Labour Party are on record as having policies advocating that we should spend some 50% more than we spent over the past ten years.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Government is running the economy.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The constant background noise from the Opposition and elements of the media has been one of doom and gloom, and even where there are hints of positive or constructive news, the Opposition rushes to assure people that there is a tunnel at the end of that particular light.

It spent the past four weeks, it has to be admitted, very effectively drowning out the Government's message. However, the Government will not allow these tactics to deflect us from doing what is right and doing what is in the best interests of the people. We will not, and cannot, allow the Opposition to portray us as uncaring or unsympathetic.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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We want the Government to do something constructive.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Every one of us who serves in Government and on these benches hears what the people are saying.

The people need reassurance that we are on the right path. We are. They want to know that the pain we are enduring will herald better times. It will. They want to know that the Government is sure and confident of the decisions it is taking and that it is taking them in the best interests of the people. It is. They want to know that the Government is committed to bringing us back to growth and recovery as soon as possible. It is. They want to know the Government will protect and help those most in need and the most vulnerable during the economic recession. It will. They want to know the Government is ensuring the banking systems starts to work again in the interests of the people, and that the scandals and abuses we have seen in the banking sector can never happen again. It is doing that.

Deputy Kenny said yesterday that we in Government are not prepared to listen to what the Opposition said and read the documents it has produced. The supreme irony is that we have read the documents. I have read every one of them from cover to cover and all they have done for me is highlight the blatant and irreconcilable differences in policy between the two parties who would seek to form a Government. Fine Gael calls for more spending cuts and a bigger reduction in the deficit, but resolutely refuses to identify the public services and public sector jobs it would cut. The Labour Party calls for increases in expenditure and for deficit spending, without saying where it will get the billions to do so.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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We have a list of documents, as the Minister well knows.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The Labour Party opposed the bank guarantee, bank recapitalisation and the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank, while Fine Gael supports the guarantee and rejects the Labour Party's call for nationalisation.

The pivotal moment was reached at the end of April when Fine Gael put forward a policy document on the floor of this House, Rebuilding Ireland, which encapsulates its fundamental philosophy and policy. What did its close and abiding potential comrades in the Labour Party do? They abstained. They did so because even Deputy Gilmore can see that the document is like Deputy Kenny himself, strong on padding and rhetoric but weak on substance. It typifies the paucity of specific and realistic proposals coming from the Opposition.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Who is the Minister's scriptwriter?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The ever-widening gaps between the parties are not confined to economic issues.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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Is it the script of Minister's sister?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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As Minister for Defence, I was interested to read what Fine Gael's Deputy Timmins had to say in his Ard-Fheis speech last April when he recommitted Fine Gael to abandoning our military neutrality and described the policies pursued by this and previous Governments as "a twilight zone". That is yet another vitally important area of policy where Fine Gael and the Labour parties are in polar opposition to each other. This Government has a huge job of work to do. It has the right policies-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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People expect something more than political slapstick.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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-----and the firm resolve to get the economy moving again.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This is the Minister for Defence.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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We will achieve this with or without hindrance from the Opposition.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is part of a Government that destroyed the economy.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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We will not get out of our current difficulties with Deputy Kenny's rehearsed outrage, any more than we will get out of them with Deputy Gilmore's soft options.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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A total of 300,000 people are unemployed, the banks have collapsed and people's savings have disappeared.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Telling the public that Fine Gael will cut spending-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Government got its answer last Friday.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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-----without telling them the areas in which it will make those cuts or telling them that it will spend more without identifying from where the money will come is dishonest politics.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The people of Limerick spoke last Friday.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister's solution is to engage in slapstick.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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That is not true. People do not believe the Government any more, as the Minister knows well from the election results in Limerick city and county.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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In return, the public has used Fine Gael, Labour and the Independents as a stick with which to beat the Government-----

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister's time is up.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister should give the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, a chance.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister must allow the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, to speak.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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-----but that is a very different proposition from electing the stick to govern the country.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, to contribute.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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As we are debating this motion, there are people-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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No one takes the Government seriously any more. That is the problem.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Groucho Marx of the Government.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Shatter should have some interest in this matter; people were systematically abused in institutions over many years and some of them are now broken adults. They are marching today in silent protest.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Minister should not use them for political purposes.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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They were led to believe, and they are entitled to expect, that the debate on the Ryan report would coincide with that march.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am going to meet them.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Is there any lower the Minister can stoop?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I hope for that reason, if for no other-----

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister must conclude.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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-----that every unwhipped Deputy will go into the lobbies tonight-----

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister must be allowed to speak without interruption and then he must conclude.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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-----to reject the amateur theatrics and the Punch and Judy politics to which Fine Gael has descended and let us get back to the business of governing this country.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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That is pathetic stuff.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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That is the worst contribution to the debate.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I will attempt to return the House to relative calm.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order-----

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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This will not be a point of order.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle will be familiar, from his legal practice many years ago, with the phrase res ipsa loquitur, which roughly translated means the thing speaks for itself.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is no mention of that in Standing Orders.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister has eloquently described and portrayed the reason-----

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not a point of order.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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-----those people should resign and be consigned to the history of government. They should just leave and give the people a chance.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter will have his opportunity. The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Ceann Comhairle should suspend the House.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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They should just leave and give the people a chance. They should not come into this House and demean it by engaging in political slapstick.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister eloquently displayed his incompetence and unsuitability for Government. We do not need to do the job, he did it all himself.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Captain Kirk.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I just want to say one thing.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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The Minister will be beamed up.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What tablets are you on today?

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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An incineration partner.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Did you take your tablets today?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Shatter should not abuse the time of the House to pursue his narrow interests.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I am not.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Shatter and the Minister, Deputy O'Dea, should continue their conversation somewhere else.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Shatter will not bluff in the general election.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That conversation is not continuing here. I call the Minister of State, Deputy Roche.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Thank you very much. I will attempt to return the House to relative calm. Deputy Shatter is aware of the realities and principles that are set out in Bunreacht na hÉireann. Those principles determine when a Government will go to the country and when it is elected.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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When the people have lost all confidence in the Government.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Kenny, who now wishes to have a general election-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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A former Taoiseach, the late Jack Lynch, stood up at a parliamentary party meeting and announced he would be going to the park. The Minister of State knows that.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State should have the courage of his convictions. If he thinks the people support the Government, he should have the courage to let them vote for him.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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As the Minister of State is aware, he was using his constitutional right.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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If the Opposition leaders wish to ignore the facts, they cannot also ignore the realities. It is worthwhile reminding ourselves of those facts because those who have spoken in this debate on behalf of Fine Gael and Labour have sought continuously-----

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am surprised at you, Deputy Kenny.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----and mendaciously to distract from the facts.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I mention the Acting Chairman's name with reverence. Deputy O'Flynn, should be on the Government Front Bench. He speaks the truth.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I ask the indulgence of the Cathaoirleach. This is not a brawl. This is intended to be a debate, yet we have had continuous filibustering for seven minutes.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy's talents have not been recognised by the Government. He does not mess around.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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If the Chair cannot protect us, who can?

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I have only just taken over the Chair to relieve the Ceann Comhairle. I ask Members-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am just making the point that the Acting Chairman never messes around with the truth. The Members opposite are denying it. The Acting Chairman has never deluded himself about the catastrophe that has befallen his party. He has always been able to speak up.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am in the Chair and my job for the next hour and a half is to seek the co-operation of all Members-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am only admiring the Acting Chairman for his talents.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----to facilitate the debate. The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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It is a strain to stay silent.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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As Deputy Kenny has said, it is worthwhile reminding ourselves of the truth.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Minister of State is attacking the Opposition.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The reality is that the unique-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I hope the Acting Chairman gets danger money for having to listen to these people.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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They must be calling another Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting if they asked Deputy O'Flynn to take the Chair.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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This has become a farce.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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You can sing that.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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There is no protection for speakers from the Chair.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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We should be debating the Ryan report.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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There is no protection from the Chair for speakers. That is outrageous.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption, please, if we want to continue the debate. Otherwise, we might have to suspend the House.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Acting Chairman should suspend the House because this is a farce. The debate has become an absolute farce.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil staying in Government is a greater farce.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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It is about time you realised it.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State, Deputy Roche, should continue.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I take it that I will have my full time.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Yes.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Thank you.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Continue.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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It is worth reminding ourselves of the facts. The reality is that there is a major economic crisis that is not unique to Ireland. Every major economy in the world has gone through this crisis, which requires specific and detailed handling. The United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and the entire eurozone face a crisis. As a small open economy we know we too have to deal with the crisis. The Opposition benches would have us believe that none of this is happening in the real world and that the international financial markets did not go through a period of unprecedented and dramatic decline. They would have us ignore the turmoil that occurred when companies such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, in effect, hit the wall. They are not willing to factor any of those realities into their analyses or contributions. As Deputy Bruton said, the first requirement in dealing with an economic crisis is to be aware of the facts and to deal with them, yet Fine Gael and Labour have been attempting to conjure up politically self-serving scenarios which they know are not truthful.

In previous debates I made it clear that we must act on four broad fronts to get ourselves out of the current economic tsunami. Whatever we think of the banks, we must stabilise their position. We must stabilise our public finances. In tandem with the stabilisation of the banking sector and of the public finances, we must protect as many jobs as we can. Finally, we must support those who are out of work and show solidarity with them. Hectoring each other in this House and twisting the facts will achieve none of those priorities.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State is a dab hand at that.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The purpose of this motion of confidence is to focus on the performance of the Government and to measure whether, having examined that performance, Dáil Éireann retains its confidence - as the Constitution requires - in the Taoiseach and his Ministers. It also gives us an opportunity to examine the alternatives and what they have to offer.

Last week we voted in town and county council elections. It was clear that the Opposition succeeded in expressing its views. I congratulate Members of the Opposition on their victories. Let us look at what it offers the people at national level.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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Every Government speaker has attacked the Opposition.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Labour and Fine Gael are expressing diametrically opposite positions-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State should tell us what the Government has to offer.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption, please.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----on stabilising the public finances-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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No one believes a word the Minister of State is saying about any of this.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Please, Deputy Shatter.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----and on dealing with the banking crisis. Deputy Shatter and his colleagues in the Labour Party are diametrically opposed.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is supposed to be voting confidence in his own Government and he cannot give one reason anyone should have confidence in it.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Let us look at a few of them. The two parties are putting forward-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State should give us two or three reasons someone should have confidence in the Government.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Shatter.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----alternative and divergent policies. Deputy Shatter knows that well. He will not shout me down. Let us look at some of the differences-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State cannot think of one reason, nor could the Minister, Deputy O'Dea.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The lack of an alternative.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Government has abdicated all responsibility.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Did the Minister of State give a single reason anyone should vote confidence in the Government?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The lack of an alternative.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Not a single reason.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Please.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----between Fine Gael and its friends in the Labour Party. A modern state requires a banking sector.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State should try to get off his script and give one reason we should have confidence in the Government.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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A modern state requires a functioning banking sector. Deputy Shatter knows that as well as I do.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Simon Carswell would not vote for the Minister.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Members should have respect for the House. I ask Members of the Opposition to have respect for the debate. They should let the Minister of State finish what he has to say. Members who have not spoken will have ample time to say what they want to say.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State has not said anything of substance yet.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Shatter has a habit of interrupting throughout his political career. I ask him to stop and to allow the Minister to finish. The Minister of State should be allowed to speak without interruption.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Thank you very much, a Chathaoirligh. As we all know, the Government's policies for the restructuring of the banking sector are vital. They are critically important policies. We are all agreed we must restructure the banking sector. There is an extraordinary divergence between the policies of the two main Opposition parties.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Minister of State should tell us what the Government is going to do.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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At least we have a policy.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The Labour Party wants to nationalise.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State is obsessed with the Opposition.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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It is proposing that we go the route of Iceland and that we make the taxpayers of this country responsible for everything.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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We know what we stand for. What does the Minister of State stand for?

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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What about the Green Party and Fianna Fáil before the last election?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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If anything, the policies on banking proposed by the Fine Gael Party are even more bizarre. They want us to effectively follow the Lehman route, to simply default. What would do that for this country?

The divergence becomes apparent when one examines the differences between the two parties on the issue of public finance.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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What does the Minister of State stand for?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Perhaps the Minister of State will give us one reason the Government is worthy of a vote of confidence.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael has put forward specific policies-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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What is the Minister of State talking about?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Can he come up with one reason?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----on public expenditure, every one of which the Labour Party disagrees with.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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That is not true either.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael is suggesting a cut in public service pay. Does the Labour Party agree with that? I do not believe it does. It has also suggested a freeze on public service increments. Does the Labour Party agree with that? No, it does not.

Photo of Jan O'SullivanJan O'Sullivan (Limerick East, Labour)
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The Minister of State should tell us what he stands for.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael has suggested that the national pay agreement for civil servants, teachers, nurses and council workers be suspended. Is that Labour Party policy? I suspect it is not.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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What is the Government's policy?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is robbery.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael suggests that we should cut 15,000 jobs in the Civil Service. Is that what Deputy O'Sullivan is proposing? I suspect it is not. It suggests we should have an embargo on the filling of vacancies and should cut overtime and certified sick leave. When I put these issues to a Fine Gael Deputy on my own local radio station yesterday he denied these were Fine Gael policies.

If one were to-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Wait until young Harris gets a hold of the Minister of State.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----as the puppet master Mr. Flannery suggests, add to the mix the Sinn Féin party-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Wait until Simon gets a hold of the Minister of State.

Deputies:

The Minister of State knows all about puppet masters.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----we would then have a real formula for absolute disaster.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The reality of this is that Deputy Kenny does not have a coherent alternative. As Gay Mitchell, MEP, said last weekend on radio-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I will dispute that with the Minister of State.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----there is much work to be done to bring the Labour and Fine Gael parties even remotely into coherence.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State has a great deal of time to listen to the radio.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It will be done.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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We can depend on the Minister of State for coherence.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I now want to refer to the debate yesterday during which a number of Deputies referred to the Lisbon treaty. This is a serious matter which I personally believe should be taken out of the maw of party politics.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Has the Taoiseach read it yet?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Here, we have it again.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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If ever there were an issue which should be ringfenced and taken away from narrow political party considerations-----

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Taken away from the Taoiseach.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----this is it.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Let Deputy Kenny run the campaign and let the Government disappear for a few weeks.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Last year, we had sniping on the campaign. I suggest to Deputies Shatter and Varadkar, both of whom participated in this last year, that they support the "Yes" vote and agree to work on our supporters.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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They are getting scarce.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Our first priority should be to show leadership to our supporters.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State, without interruption, please.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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We will have our supporters out. The question that arises is whether the Opposition will get its supporters out.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State's time is up.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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If and when a referendum takes place this year on the treaty, it will be of critical importance to this country.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will allow the Minister of State an extra minute because of all the interruptions.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Is the Minister of State in injury time?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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It will be of critical importance to this country. It would be in the national interest if all those people who purport to support ratification of the treaty by this country made the decision to ringfence the debate on Lisbon and put it outside party political considerations.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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What is Fianna Fáil doing?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I specifically ask Deputy Kenny to ensure that is done.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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We did that.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Analyses of speeches made by the Fine Gael Party - Members can see them on their own websites - between December and March last suggests a great deal of negativity.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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The Government did not even publish speeches. At least we did so.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I suggest that we all participated in that. I suggest to Deputy Kenny - I hope his answer will be in the affirmative - that we take the Lisbon treaty out of party political debate.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State need not worry, Declan Ganley is gone off the pitch.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I believe we should do that.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I met with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs last Christmas and was promised regular briefings on the matter. I have not, as Leader of the Opposition, had one iota of information from the Minister, the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We will lead the campaign on Lisbon the next time.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Kenny knows as well I do-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Government does not have a bill, a strategy or a plan.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Or a date.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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Whatever finger the Deputy may point, he knows as well as I that-----

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Name the date.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Tell us when it will be held. Will it be October, November or September?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I have told Deputy Kenny and his spokesperson that I will meet them at any time to discuss any issue.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Why then did the Minister of State not meet them?

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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With regard to the comments made here yesterday-----

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State must conclude.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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-----we should leave aside the partisan issues and work together on this issue.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil knows all about partnership.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State spoke about leadership. The negativity of which the Minister of State speaks was borne out of a lack of leadership on the part of Government, which failed miserably.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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That is nonsense.

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The best thing for Government is not to campaign.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Government continues to blame the Opposition-----

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Government should go on holidays a month before the referendum as it will only cost us votes.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I ask Members to have some respect for the Chair.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State abdicated his right to respect.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Flanagan.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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It is not up to Deputy Flanagan to make that determination.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State has no right to respect if he comes in here and blames the Opposition in the manner in which he has done.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I ask Deputy Flanagan to keep that type of behaviour for somewhere else. I now call Deputy George Lee to make his maiden speech. I ask members to respect the House and to allow the member to make his maiden speech without interruption. Is that possible?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes, it is.

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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There will be no interruption from this side of the House. We will listen with respect.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State is the only Member on that side.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Lee has already lost two minutes of his speaking time because of the interruptions. I welcome Deputy Lee to the House and invite him to make his maiden speech. I understand he wishes to share time with Deputy Michael Ring.

Photo of George LeeGeorge Lee (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I thank everybody for the warm welcome I received yesterday from all sides of the House. It is a privilege to be here, of which I am conscious. I am here on the basis of a strong mandate from the people of south Dublin to speak on their behalf and on behalf of other people whom they represent, a role which I take very seriously. The last couple of weeks have been a complete change of life for me. Given the outcome of the by-election, there is no going back now.

In speaking here today, I am struck by the coincidence between my motivations for getting involved in the political process and the motion before the House today, which are one and the same. The reason I am here, that I have taken politics on board and decided to go down this route is that I have no confidence in the Government's ability to deal with or get us out of the situation in which we find ourselves. I say that carefully as I am conscious there are very good Members on the other side of the House, many of whom I have had dealings with over many years. I have a great deal of regard and respect for the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, who, when Minister for Finance, I spent a great deal of time following and whose decisions I am aware were made following great care and thought. One decision that sticks out in my mind is that which he took in regard to the issue of child care costs resulting in his introducing the early child care supplement. It was an issue over which he mulled for quite a few days and nights before coming up with what be believed was a reasonable proposal to help deal with child care costs. I accept that the intentions of Members on the other side of the House are as good as those of any Member on this side.

In saying that I do not have confidence in the ability of those opposite, I do not wish that to be taken as a personal attack on any individual. It is, however, an attack on Government given the current situation in the country. It is in an appalling mess, economically and socially. We have had the best economy in the world and the most money available to any Government in the history of the Irish economy or in the wildest dreams of any Minister or politician to disburse in recent years. We have had a great opportunity and the Government has blown it, and there is no doubt about that.

Unemployment today stands at 402,000 people, a huge figure on its own which, when one considers how it has grown, becomes even bigger. In mid-2007 our unemployment total was 150,000 people. Since then it has increased to 400,000 people. It is currently rising at a rate of 1,000 per day on the Live Register. As I came in here yesterday bemused with regard to the antics in the Dáil - obviously I am on a learning curve and appreciate that - three Ministers on the opposite side of the House were asleep. At the time, the Taoiseach was speaking about leadership and getting quite impassioned about it. If that were an hour long, a further 152 people would have been on the dole. It is not good enough that the Members of this House can take that kind of attitude to the difficulties people are suffering. We face a phenomenal challenge.

We have heard a lot about rescuing banks and the public finances but we have not heard enough about the plight of people. The Taoiseach has stated that we must learn the lessons of the 1980s and that the prerequisite for the return of economic growth is to put the public finances in order. He also claimed that even after we increase the national debt in the next couple of years, we will still have the third lowest national debt rate in the European Union. I am not sure I agree we will be the third lowest but we will have to see how that pans out. The reality, however, is the lessons of the 1980s to which he pointed are not the ones we need to learn. In the 1980s, private sector debt was low but public debt was very high. Public debt stood at 130% of GDP whereas household debt was 48% of household disposable income. We started this process with a net debt level in the public sector of 25% of GDP and it appears this will increase to 100%. The Government tells us not to worry about that because other people are worse off. The problem, however, is that we will fix that debt on the back of ordinary individuals in the private sector, many of whom I have met in the past few months. These people are already heavily indebted in a manner which was never experienced in the 1980s. To dismiss the idea that we have bungled the public finances, to say it is not a big issue because we will continue to have a relatively low debt rate or to make comparisons with the 1980s is to miss the point.

Our world is different from the 1980s. We did not have the euro then. We had unemployment but there were opportunities in the rest of the world for our emigrants. Our property market had its ups and downs but for 30 years the average cost of a house in Ireland varied between four and six times average earnings. Lately, house prices have increased to somewhere in the order of 14 times average earnings. To take the 1980s as a blueprint for dealing with the consequences of the present economic crash is to miss the point. We cannot take the lessons of the 1980s as a policy prescription for today.

One issue in the 1980s which can, however, inform us about what we need to do today is unemployment. It is true that public debt was a huge issue, but it is equally true that we had to deal with the human consequences of the economic collapse of the 1980s for a long time afterwards. We had endemic unemployment which extended to second and third generations. My biggest fear for those who are going on the dole today is the experience of the 1980s for the people who suffered enormously when they were left on the dole. They found it impossible to get jobs when they became available. When economic growth returned, we went through a number of years of jobless growth. People were locked out of their society, community and families and there were all sorts of psychological and human effects. Unemployment destroys the soul, yet we are sitting here while unemployment doubles over 12 months.

I understand the need to fix the banks. We are also discussing our public finances. These will be fixed only on the backs of ordinary people who are already in debt. That is not fair. There has not been a close enough focus on the people who will be locked out of the labour market and the economy. They have nowhere to go and no hope at present in the Government's response. I understand the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, stated in a debate last week that it was wrong to suggest that each person on the dole cost the Exchequer €204 per week because the actual cost was €336. If that is true, why are we wasting so much money on locking people out of the labour market and out of our society?

We need to do so much more for them. They are the same as us. They are as middle class, as working class and as upper class as anybody in this Chamber. They are our friends, our brothers and sisters, our cousins and our parents. They sit and watch Ministers fall asleep while we debate the issue of leadership. The Government has failed enormously in that regard.

Yesterday the Taoiseach stated that the Government has a mandate to govern. I do not agree because I just received a mandate from the people of Dublin South that is equal to anybody's on the other side of the House. I was told to enter the Dáil and to speak. Every Member in this House has a mandate but nobody was given a mandate to govern from the people. The mandate for governing is an arrangement with the Members of this House according to a programme for Government based on a premise for the economy which turned out to be false. The Government has an agreement but not a mandate to govern. This agreement is based on false premises. The Government said the economy would boom and that income tax could be cut by 1% at the top rate and 2% at the bottom rate.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy's time has concluded for today. He is taking some of Deputy Ring's time and he does not like his time to be taken.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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If he wants five more minutes I am happy to share it.

Photo of George LeeGeorge Lee (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Thank you, Deputy Ring.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Ring is being very generous.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This man has a bright future and I do not mind giving way to talent.

Photo of George LeeGeorge Lee (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The mandate this Government claims for itself is not real. It has the same mandate as I to speak on the people's behalf and to work to make things better. I acknowledge it wants to do that as much as I do. Fianna Fáil has an agreement to govern with the Green Party and a group of Independent Deputies based on what people thought would be fair weather in terms of our economic performance. That is no longer the case, however. Since the programme for Government was published, 267,000 people have joined the dole queues. The tax system which the programme promised to make fairer is now up in the air. A promise was made to cut the PRSI rate by half but we now have income levies and increased health levies. As the landscape is completely different, the agreement is false and it does not focus on the core issue of the people who are in danger of being locked out of the labour market. It is our responsibility to do something for them first.

There is a great deal of truth in what the Government says about taking the time to fix the banks before fixing the economy, and I am not so arrogant as to claim I know exactly how to solve that problem. I am humble enough to be aware that no economist knows the answer to that. However, while we try to figure out the solution to the banking problem, the credit supply for the rest of the economy is drying up. Like the supply of blood to the extremities of the body, when the flow of credit dries up the extremities of an economy will fall off. Parts of our economy will have died by the time the Government has figured out how to restart the flow of credit. Nowhere near enough is being done. I do not imply that it is not worth focusing on the banks or on the public finances but we are not giving sufficient attention to unemployment and that is why I am here. I do not have faith in the Government's approach to this issue because it did nothing while unemployment was rising.

It is all about people. I fundamentally believe that if we fix the people we will fix the banks. If we focus on the people, the growth in the economy will be from the ground up. It is not the same as the 1980s because we cannot say now that the problem comes from the public finances. The banks in Ireland and internationally were not broken in the 1980s. We need a different approach. The Government needs a different agreement but it cannot have one because it has not lived up to its responsibility.

One of the things I said to so many people of the Dublin South constituency over recent weeks was that my difficulty with power is the issue of responsibility. When a person has something powerful like a gun it is about how they use that power; it is about the responsibility with which he or she uses it. I look at the Government and I know its Members understand they have a responsibility and they try to live up to it but they have failed to do so. They have taken very poor decisions throughout a number of years; they claimed there was no recession until last July and they looked at a completely mismanaged and unbalanced economy for a number of years, which was very obvious to anybody with two eyes in their head, and ultimately ignored it. Six out of ten of every male jobs created in the five years up to the crash were in the construction sector; it was completely unbalanced. In failing to deal with that imbalance the Government failed to live up to its responsibility and by doing so it has lost the trust of the people.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Five minutes remain in the slot for Deputy Ring.

Photo of George LeeGeorge Lee (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Nobody will follow somebody whom he or she does not trust, it is impossible to do so. That is why I believe it is so important to have a change of Government because we need leadership and we need to do the hard things. It is a fact that doing the hard things is what the Government thinks it is getting the blame for; I believe that doing the hard things is what the Government should have done and that it is not getting the blame for doing them but for not doing them. The public and private sectors have been set against each other because the Government failed to introduce reforms. People everywhere cannot understand why they are being blamed for an economic crash over which they had no control and for which they are not to blame.

The Government has no mandate to govern. It has an agreement and nothing more with two Independent Deputies who state they want to look after their constituents. I have been speaking to my constituents and it is not all about roads, bridges and drains; it is about national issues such as unemployment, falling living standards and taxes - they are the local issues. To the extent that Independent Deputies say they will support the Government because they want drains, bridges and whatever other facilities, they will let down their constituents in this environment. Their constituents are just as concerned about the national issues as anybody else; those national issues are the local issues. To the extent that they cling to them, they are clinging to 12 pieces of silver. The world has changed.

I got a message loud and clear from the people of Dublin South, which I know they want me to deliver to the Government of the 30th Dáil, and that message is, "Come in No. 30, your time is up". They are right. We need new leadership, we need to restore trust and we need a general election. I do not have much confidence in the Government's ability to get us out of where we are and that is why I am here.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will call on Deputy Ring who has only two minutes and 20 seconds.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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That is all he needs.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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To Deputy Lee I say that it is a very dangerous thing to take eight minutes from another person's slot without permission. As the Acting Chairman of this session I must also tell him that Members may be in meditation and they may have their eyes closed or their heads down but they are meditating and concentrating. I have never seen a Member on any side of the House deep in sleep. Deputy Lee will come to appreciate that and the work of all the Members over a period of time.

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Use the alarm clock.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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I ask the Acting Chairman to give Deputy Ring a little leeway.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I will not be asleep during Deputy Ring's speech.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I welcome our new Deputy and he made an excellent speech today and now I know why the country is in disarray; because the Cabinet has been asleep for the past ten years. They might have been meditating but if they were we know what they were meditating about, it was not about the country and the economy.

The reason Fine Gael tabled this motion was because the people spoke over the weekend. The people at the doorsteps asked us to bring back a message to the Dáil and that message is that they want a general election. The only people who do not want a general election are Fianna Fáil and the Green Party because afterwards they will fit in the corner of the House where the Independent Deputies sit because the people are waiting for them in the long grass. The Government has let down the country and the people. The people want to give their verdict and are awaiting that opportunity. People are concerned about their jobs, families and homes but all the Government is worried about is staying in power. They have lost touch with the people. They have been in Government for too long and they are so arrogant that they think the only place they should be is in Government.

What Fianna Fáil wants now is the list system and this morning I heard the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey, speak on this. That is the only way that some of its Deputies will get back because the people will not put them back. I want to say to the Minister of State, Deputy John Curran, and the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, that it is not enough to tell the people that everything is all right. The people are intelligent and know what is going on. Last weekend, they judged the Government, the Green Party and Fianna Fáil. The people are waiting also for the Independent Members who support the Government because they are propping up the Government when the people want it out.

What people want now is hope and new ideas. Deputy Kenny and Fine Gael have the ideas. We have the people to put the Government under pressure and create jobs in the country. We have the ideas and new thinking to ensure people get back into work and are not concerned about their homes being taken away and to have a bit of fair play in society, something we have not had for the past ten years because the rich got richer, the poor got poorer and the weak were trampled on by those in the tents in Galway.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach said here that he had a mandate. He does not. The first opportunity on which he was adjudicated was last Friday and Saturday and he failed that test. The Taoiseach and the Government should go to the country now and let us see what the people will say.

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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They want a new Government, new thinking and new ideas. We have the team to take the country out of the deep recession. The people got rid of the Progressive Democrats and they will get rid of the Green Party and Fianna Fáil. We will have a new bright lively Fine Gael team that will put the country first, will put people back to work and will give people security. The Government has lost its way. It is like a football team going for relegation; everything it does goes wrong and it is time to relegate it and put its Members in the backbenches.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I allowed some latitude and gave Deputy Ring two minutes extra.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The Acting Chairman was not in a deep sleep.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I understand the next speaker, the Minister of State, Deputy John Curran, will share time.

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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I will share time with Deputies Sean Power, Michael McGrath and Michael Mulcahy.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Ring spoke about the new Members being lively and he may not be listening to me but somebody might relate to him that some of the old Members are still quite lively given his own performance. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate and I wish to use the opportunity to clarify a number of issues that have arisen under which I call "false circumstances".

It has often been said that the financial and economic situation in which we find ourselves could and should have been foreseen. I remind Members on the opposite side of the House that two years ago their policy manifestos for the general election made no reference to and had no foresight or vision of what was coming down the tracks. Their policy documents, similar to many others, showed growth for the period from 2008-11 at a rate of 4%. To predict the future was not possible and nobody saw it coming. It is easy with hindsight to say that we saw it.

People asked where are all the good times gone but regarding the myth that the boom has been squandered, nothing could be further from the truth. The income generated during the good times was spent wisely and that has afforded us particular opportunities now. Specifically, we reduced our national debt to among the lowest in Europe and built up a pensions reserve fund. It is because we made those strategic moves in good times that these options are available to us now in challenging times.

Another criticism of the Government is that it did not know what it was doing. That is a spin and a load of rubbish. The reality is that the Government acted in a timely fashion on numerous occasions to deal with the problem and ensure that the finances of the State were kept in check. Last July, it dealt with spending adjustments to Departments. It brought forward the budget to October and a supplementary budget in April of this year. That was done not because we got it wrong but in response to a changing position. We moved in a timely fashion. Others would have sat on the fence and considered how we might deal with it years into the future.

Opposition Members have been lacking and dishonest in what they say they would do. We have made tough decisions and paid a political price for that. We have cut expenditure across a range of issues. We have increased taxes, and they are not popular. We did not do that by choice but out of necessity to balance and bring stability to the public finances. I have yet to hear somebody on the Opposition benches say where they would raise the money and the taxes they would have increased.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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That is not true. We agreed-----

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State, without interruption.

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should stand up during the course of this debate and nail his colours to the mast.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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It has been done. The Minister of State has not bothered reading it.

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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He should outline precisely the taxes-----

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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He has not listened.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State, without interruption.

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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That is because they do not add up.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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We presented it in public. The Minister has not bothered reading it.

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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I defy you to put your figures before the House that will match what we did.

(Interruptions).

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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You did not do that. The reality is-----

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State should address his remarks through the Chair. He knows the procedure better than anybody. Deputies know the procedures in this House. They should give the Minister his opportunity to speak.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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What he is saying is inaccurate.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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When it is Deputy Ó Snodaigh's time to address the House-----

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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He is misleading the Dáil.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----he can do so and if he wants to correct or change any figure-----

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I am taking the opportunity to correct the record.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Ó Snodaigh knows the rules better than anybody in this House. The Minister of State, without interruption.

Photo of John CurranJohn Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
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My comment to the Members on the opposite side is that we made tough decisions. We had a deficit to make up and we did it. The challenge for them is to show clearly during the course of this debate the taxes they would raise and the expenditure they would cut to match the figure we achieved, not a different figure. They have been making different statements on different occasions.

I want to make one or two comments on the banks. One afternoon last year I was travelling across the country listening to Joe Duffy's radio programme. People were ringing in saying they were scared that their cash deposits were vulnerable and that they intended to withdraw them. Again, the Government acted in a timely fashion to secure and guarantee those deposits. A recapitalisation of the banks is not for banking per se but to keep business in this country functioning. It is worth pointing out that even in these very difficult times, with massive unemployment, businesses are succeeding and 1.8 million people are working. It is the function of Government to make the tough decisions but there is no use making them some time in the future. We have been making them constantly in a timely and responsive way to allow the Government correct the deficit that has occurred.

Deputy George Lee said he has an equal mandate. He has, but all of us who have been elected to this House have the same mandate. That mandate and the authority of the Government will be determined later today when Members walk through the lobbies. We were elected two years ago to govern in good times and in bad times. That will be put to the test later this evening with all of us expressing our mandate when we walk through the lobbies. I have absolute confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government to take the tough decisions necessary in a cohesive, timely and responsive manner.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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At the outset I would like to welcome the two new Members, Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and Deputy George Lee, to the House. In fairness to Deputy O'Sullivan, she has had a long association with the late Deputy Tony Gregory and while we differed on many issues, nobody would argue that he supported people who had been neglected in the past or who did not get the attention they deserved. It will give people some hope in human nature that much of that good work has been acknowledged. I wish Deputy O'Sullivan well in the House.

Deputy Lee has got a great deal of publicity and in fairness to him his maiden speech was quite constructive, although I would disagree with a number of aspects of it, particularly regarding the mandate. We were all given a mandate but when we come into this House and elect a Taoiseach, that is done by the 166 Members in the House. The Taoiseach's mandate is the same as that which Deputy Bertie Ahern, Albert Reynolds, John Bruton, Garret FitzGerald and Charles Haughey had previously. It is no different in that regard.

Regarding the confidence motion before the House, Fine Gael has been doing a great deal of gloating in recent days, perhaps with good reason. It has had success, which it has been starved of for many years. It is important, however, that we examine the way we do our business in the House. Some people might regard the debate on the motion as being a waste of time in that the result is probably a foregone conclusion but in the past we attempted to change the way we do business here. I would say this about all parties but we must approach our business here in a much more mature manner. There are enormous challenges facing this country, ones that none of us could have foreseen when we were first elected to this House. The people want us to take a mature approach and not divide constantly on issues or taking different approaches. That is what has happened here. The Government propose something and the Opposition will immediately knock it.

Equally, from a Government point of view, we do not give Opposition proposals the type of scrutiny they deserve. As Deputy George Lee said earlier, no economist has a single solution to how the problems in the banking system can be resolved. We all bring certain talents to the House. People should show respect to one another in that regard and act a little more wisely when we are trying to deal with the serious challenges facing us.

The major problem we face is taking control of the public finances. That is a priority for any Government, and we must act responsibly in that regard. If we have only €35 billion coming in through taxes in a year, it is impossible to spend much more than that. That is where parties will have to make the difficult decisions and not try to deceive the public. We cannot be all things to all people. Difficult decisions will have to be made. We must make a number of cutbacks in different areas to restore the public finances to an acceptable level.

While canvassing in recent weeks I met a number of people who expressed the view that they were prepared to make sacrifices but they did not see any fairness in it. I read in the newspaper this morning the list of tax defaulters and the late Joe Dolan is included on it. What purpose does that serve? Where is the fairness in that? What purpose does it serve publishing in a newspaper the name of a person who is dead who had a difficulty with tax which apparently has now been resolved? We always had a tradition of not speaking ill of the dead. I see no purpose in changing that and I hope we can deal with that area in the future.

I believe we could have acted differently in the past but we did not. We are all that much wiser now when we see the way the recession has gone, but not one person in Ireland predicted the enormity of the shortfall we are currently experiencing. In attempting to address that major challenge the Government is dealing with it in an honest way.

Photo of Arthur MorganArthur Morgan (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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We warned the Government about it.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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I have no difficulty supporting the motion and voting confidence in the Government later this evening.

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion of confidence in the Government. I join with my colleague, Deputy Seán Power, in congratulating the two new Deputies - Deputies George Lee and Maureen O'Sullivan - and I wish them the best of luck in the important work they have ahead.

The backdrop to the motion from the Opposition is the European and local election results which emerged following the vote last Friday. They represented a devastating result for the Fianna Fáil party and for our partners in Government, the Green Party. Fianna Fáil lost outstanding public representatives throughout the country, many of whom are from Cork, and their work must be acknowledged in the House today.

It is important to state that the Government has made mistakes. Every Government in the history of the State has made some mistakes. It would be incredible if a party could be in Government for 12 years and not have made some mistakes. However, in my view and by any objective analysis, the benefits of Government policy since Fianna Fáil came to office in 1997 have far outweighed the negative aspects of any decision made. That must be accepted across the board. If the Opposition believes the Government has made mistakes it must acknowledge that there must be honesty on all sides of the House.

The Minister of State, Deputy Curran, referred to the Fine Gael and Labour joint manifesto of two years ago. From listening to some of the comments and contributions to the debate thus far, one would think there was a complete monopoly on wisdom from the Opposition, that it saw this coming and that Fianna Fáil has done nothing right since 1997. As Deputy Curran stated, it was only two years ago that Fine Gael and Labour went to the people with a joint policy platform, which I have before me, forecasting growth in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Fine Gael and Labour stated as much two years ago. There is no credibility to the Opposition suggestion that we got it wrong all the time since 1997. The greatest economic brains of the Opposition concluded, based on all the available public data two years ago, that the economy would grow for a successive number of years. That has not transpired and the fact is no one saw this coming, no one foresaw the extent of the collapse in the global financial system and no one foresaw the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other major financial institutions overnight.

It is important to have a mature debate because there is no monopoly on wisdom, no one has all the answers and there are no easy answers to working the country through what is the most difficult and deep recession since the great depression of the 1930s. It must be put on record that the Government has taken tangible steps several times in recent months, including the budget last October and the supplementary budget in April, the decision in respect on the pension levy and so on. Every tangible decision and step proposed by Government has been opposed by the Opposition. The Opposition parties have effectively stated that we got it wrong every time. If they are elected at some point will they reverse any of these decisions? I suspect they would not. Would they reverse the decision on the pension levy, the increase in the income levies or the medical card decisions? No Opposition party leader has stated that they would reverse these decisions. Their criticisms of the Government have no credibility.

Earlier, the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, stated that if people were to elect Fine Gael and Labour, they would not know what policies would result. Fine Gael would go into an election with one set of policies and Labour with a completely different set. If they were to form a Government, their policies would have to be merged. We would end up with a mishmash of some description and, ultimately, people would not know which policies would be pursued. There are fundamental differences of policy on the banks, on public expenditure, on whether to spend more or less, on the future of the public sector, on the need for reform, whether increments should be paid and whether to support benchmarking. Labour has been in bed with SIPTU and other trade unions but Fine Gael has a far more lukewarm attitude to social partnership. These are fundamental issues that would lie at the heart of the future of any Government. If people were to support those parties in a general election, they would not know the final outcome in terms of Government policy.

Our policies must focus on jobs, promoting an enterprise culture, bringing stability to the public finances, sorting out the issues in the banking system and restoring competitiveness. We must face up to some very important issues in the House, including the NAMA legislation. Public sector reform must be dealt with and we must all work together to ensure the Government can bring the country through the recession. I believe the Taoiseach and the Government have the capacity to make those decisions and to get the country back to work in the quickest possible timeframe.

Photo of Michael MulcahyMichael Mulcahy (Dublin South Central, Fianna Fail)
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This Administration is approximately one year old.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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What?

1:00 am

Photo of Michael MulcahyMichael Mulcahy (Dublin South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Since it came into office it has faced, in chronological order, a downturn in world economic activity, the Lisbon referendum and its aftermath, the pork food scare, a stock market crash and a banking crisis. In determining whether we should have confidence in the Government it is only fair to examine how it has reacted and fared in respect of several of these key policy issues. Most reasonable economic commentators agree a downturn in world economic activity has occurred but this seems to be missing from the speeches of every Fine Gael and Labour Party contributor to the debate. They seem to believe Ireland is the only country in the world suffering from an economic downturn. Since June, July, August and September of last year, worldwide activity has declined very significantly in all industrialised countries. Certain commentators appear to be in denial about this. However, the sooner they come clean and accept this basic fact, the sooner we can have some mature discussion on where we stand in Ireland today.

The Taoiseach was very clear in his leadership on the Lisbon treaty referendum but the people did not agree. The Government has embarked on a process of consultation and on the basis of that, on the basis of market research and on future changes which are being negotiated as we speak there may well be a second Lisbon treaty referendum this year. By any analysis, the pork food scare was very well handled and confidence was restored to that sector of the agriculture industry in a very short period.

I refer to the stock market crash and the banking crisis. I remind people of the very difficult night of 30 September of last year when it was clear by that Monday evening that there would be a run on all the banks in the country on the following Tuesday morning. If fairness to Fine Gael it had the wisdom and the courage to support the Government in its timely intervention and its introduction of the bank guarantee scheme. However, to its eternal discredit, the Labour Party, as usual, funked the hard decisions. If the Labour Party had its way on the morning after 30 September 2008 there would have been a run on the banks in Ireland. Every bank would have become insolvent and, in economic terms, Ireland would have gone back to the ice age. Let us deal with the facts and the solutions to certain undeniable facts. I note from my 17 or 18 years on Dublin City Council that when it comes to the hard decisions, the Labour Party talks the talk but it cannot walk the walk. Never was this more in evidence than during the banking crisis.

I welcome Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan and George Lee to the Chamber. It is a great honour for them to be elected and it is a great honour to represent people from any constituency. Yesterday was their day and I wish them the best of luck in representing their constituents in the Dáil. I refer to the earlier comments of Deputy George Lee, who made a very fine and impassioned speech. He criticised the Taoiseach and the Government and stated that he had no confidence in them. I was very surprised because Deputy Lee is supposed to be an economist. However, in his contribution he did not address the fact that there is a deficit of some €20 billion per year. He did not address how he or the Fine Gael Party proposes to reduce that deficit.

I put it to Deputy Lee, now that he has finally joined us, that it is not good enough or honest enough to come to the Chamber and state that one side or the other is wrong or is not up to the job. He should get off the sidelines and say what he would do. Let the House hear his solutions because Fianna Fáil is prepared to take the action and the Taoiseach is prepared to take the action to reduce that deficit, to stabilise the finances, to stabilise the banking system and to support enterprise. We are doing it. I was not particularly surprised that Deputy Lee did not come up with any solutions because he was not particularly accurate either in that infamous programme, "How We Blew the Boom". He did not mention in that programme the huge investment made by the previous Government in roads, schools, special needs teachers and transport facilities. He did not mention the reduction of our national debt or the money accrued in the pensions reserve fund or in foreign aid. He did not do all these things. It is about time that commentators in RTE or elsewhere began to become a little more balanced, a little more honest. I wish Deputy Lee the very best and I hope that in his next contribution he has the courage to come in here and put on the line and on the record what he says he would do to reduce the public deficit of €20 billion. We can then examine his proposals and the public can examine his proposals.

I have confidence in this Government in so far as it is courageously tackling the major issues of the day. I will not have confidence in this Government if I ever believe it lacks the courage or the initiative to tackle those problems head-on. However, it is tackling these major issues at the moment.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I call on Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan who is sharing time with Deputies Behan and Finian McGrath. I welcome Deputy O'Sullivan to the House. This is her maiden speech and as is the custom I do not expect there will be any sabre-rattling from this side of the House. I am sure the other Members will respect the dignity and decorum of the House and allow the Member to address the House without interruption.

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh, toisc gur thug tú spás cainte dom inniu. I am sharing my time with Deputies Behan and Finian McGrath.

I truly wish I was not standing here today because the reason I am doing so is the untimely and sad death of my good friend and colleague, Tony Gregory. Tony was dedicated to the people he represented in Dublin Central and he brought that dedication here into the Dáil and he brought it into Dublin City Council. He served the people and the issues they presented to him and he did so in a very genuine and honest way. It is relevant, therefore, that I speak today.

I am not an economist nor do I have a variety of statistics to hand or reports from which I can quote but I wonder what those statistics and reports mean in the real world and what these debates mean and what help and consolation they are bringing to the man or woman who has lost a job and who is now facing losing his or her home. I wonder what they mean to the bright, wonderful young people whom I have been teaching for over 35 years and who do not have the same prospects today that others had years ago. I wonder how much value those statistics and reports have for the preschool in Dorset Street opposite the Dorset Street flats which is facing closure; to Gaelscoil Bharra in Cabra which is still in prefabs many years later; to the people on FÁS training schemes who are losing those spaces; and particularly to people on FÁS schemes who have lost their six hours literacy programme. That six hours literacy programme was for people who had missed out on basic education the first time around.

What do the statistics, reports and economic jargon mean to people on community, youth and drugs projects who are losing places and funding? What do they mean for children with special needs, those in need of learning support and those who have been abused? Are they filled with confidence and hope that the Members of this House and particularly those in government, will do the right thing for them? These are all victims of the mismanagement of the economy and they are waiting for action to be taken.

It was the policies, the incompetence and the irresponsibility of Governments that wasted the fruits of the economic good times and we now face these serious economic and social problems. For me it is immoral and evil that millions of euro can be found to compensate and to cover the mistakes of those in industry, banking, property and in the political world, who should have been guided by a social moral conscience instead of, as they were, by profit, greed and selfishness.

The endorsement I received as an Independent candidate and as the heir of Tony Gregory from the people of Dublin Central, from East Wall to the Navan Road, from Ballybough to Drumcondra, from Smithfield to Cabra, from Sheriff Street to Glasnevin and Phibsboro, a wide variety of areas, was not just in part an anti-Government vote but also a vote for what Tony Gregory stood for and for what I too am standing for.

I am leaving a job as a teacher in St. Mary's secondary school in Baldoyle which I have done for over 35 years and some people are saying to me I might not be out of it for too long. I worked there with the support of colleagues and wonderful young people and it was a place where there was no room for platitudes, clichés or bombast. It was a place where a job had to be done and it could be done in a nice, honest, caring way. I was told to look on the Dáil as just a bigger classroom so I hope to bring those qualities here which would mean putting people and communities first, especially those who are marginalised, vulnerable and needy.

The most fitting tribute to commemorate Tony Gregory would be to stay true to his beliefs, to his principles and to ensure that social justice and fairness are at the core of any political agenda. The only Government I can support is the one which puts social justice and fairness at the core of its principles and policies.

Photo of Joe BehanJoe Behan (Wicklow, Independent)
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I join with the Acting Chairman and all the Members of the House in welcoming and congratulating Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and Deputy George Lee and I wish them both every success in their careers here in Dáil Éireann.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to respond to the Government's motion of confidence in itself which will be decided by this House at 5.30 p.m. This Government is dealing with unprecedented financial difficulties, some of which it has caused itself and some of which are outside its control. There is no doubt that any Government facing these difficulties would have to take unpopular measures and the people are aware that this is so. However, there is an obligation on any Government contemplating such measures, to ensure that they are just and equitable. Measures such as: increasing class sizes; cutting school book grants to disadvantaged pupils; suppression of special needs classes; taxing or means testing of child benefit; ending universal entitlement to medical cards for people over 70; cancellation of the Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients; and penalising low-paid public servants with pension levies while allowing well paid members of the Judiciary to opt in or out of this levy on a strictly confidential basis, are all examples of fundamentally unjust and inequitable decisions made and being implemented by this Government. I, for one, cannot and will not support them. Accordingly, I will be opposing the Government motion.

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
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I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to speak on this important motion of confidence in the Government. Before I go into the details of my own political perspective on the economic issues, I wish to congratulate Deputy George Lee and warmly welcome Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan to the Oireachtas. From a personal point of view, it is a very sad day when we all remember Tony Gregory but the important point to remember is that his tradition continues with Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan in the House. The people in need, disadvantaged communities, children with special needs, children with disabilities, people on housing lists, people coming from severely disadvantaged backgrounds, have a voice in Dáil Éireann with Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan. I will work very closely with her and with Deputy Joe Behan and other people in the House who have the same political agenda.

We must not play politics with this national economic crisis as we need ideas and suggestions to resolve this very serious economic mess. I will give an independent view and just as in the past, I will set out my stall to resolve these issues. There are three ways of tackling the current issue. We have to deal with the public finances and with the taxation issue and we must respond to the jobs crisis. Sensible spending on the weaker sections of society is always top of my political agenda. They should never be made to pay for the sins of the reckless over the past five or six years. Sadly, that is what is happening now. Our people have lost confidence. I do not say this in a personal way but the Government must accept responsibility for the substantial mistakes and some of the recent decisions. As Deputy Behan said, attacking elderly people and children with special needs is never an option. If we have to fund these services, by all means let us increase taxation and go for it but we must not attack elderly senior citizens, children with disabilities and people on medical cards.

I welcome some of the comments made by Deputy George Lee, who spoke as an economist. He said that economists do not have all the solutions. I welcome that because we must all work together to resolve the financial and employment issues. Deputy Lee also said that people should not be so arrogant as to believe they have all the solutions. That is an important statement. In recent weeks I have talked to many people, so-called experts, and have heard different views, visions and solutions from them. I remind the Minister of State, Deputy John Curran, that there have been times in this House when I voted on issues, not by voting against the Government but by looking at the national issues in the national interest. There were many other times when I voted against the Government because I was very annoyed and felt let down by what was happening.

This is an important time for our country and our economy and is a very important time for our citizens. People are worried and fearful and need confidence and trust. Politicians, from the backbencher to the most senior spokesperson to the Taoiseach must lead. To start with, all Deputies and Senators should have taken a voluntary 10% pay cut. Ministers and some Ministers of State have done so but everybody should have taken the hit. The rest of us must do it also. It is all very well giving lectures in the House on the economic cuts but it is time for all Deputies to put up or shut up and this is where we start.

It is wrong for people to say that those of us in Opposition did not put forward suggestions. Before I talk about this in more detail, I challenge those who call for more patriotism. My patriotism does not include hammering low-paid workers, the elderly, the sick and the disabled and young children. That is part of my agenda and that is why I was elected in Dublin North Central in 2007.

There are always creative ways to fund matters. In recent months people have taken difficult decisions in the interests of the country and have put forward ways to resolve the issues in question. Many sensible points have been made by Members of the House in respect of taxation. If it is necessary, we must go for this option and increase taxes. There have been positive suggestions also with regard to creating jobs and dealing with the banking and financial issues. This is very important. The Commission on Taxation is sitting at present but we should not bottle out of putting a tax on people who have a second house. I do not say "home" because everybody has one home but some people have second houses and I would slap €600 per house on these as a way of funding services for people with disabilities or to deal with other issues.

The matter of tax shelters and exiles must be confronted but we must also examine tax on profits and investments and must be brave enough to broaden the tax base. Everybody should contribute in the economic downturn, no matter how small the contribution. I told the Taoiseach we must get the social partners back on board and support positive proposals in the social solidarity pact from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. I welcome recent developments whereby people are sitting down and discussing this.

There is a pool of talent in this country that wants to serve our nation in difficult times and I have met these people in recent months. My clinics have been full to the door with people who have been laid off, small business people with creative ideas on business, rates, taxation and developing this economy. Ministers, particularly Ministers of State who might have extra time, should meet such people and not turn their backs on them. Many of them have fantastic ideas. They might employ only between 16 and 23 people but that is a very important step in any local community and so it is important that we listen to them.

Unemployment will average approximately 12% in 2009 and our exports will decline by 6%. I told the Taoiseach he must be straight with the people because then they will rally, which is important. The Taoiseach should have given a national address to the people. It is all very well making the odd good speech in the House but the Taoiseach should have gone on national television and made a statement, laying out his stall with the facts and some solutions. He would have had some sensible reactions to this.

It is important that we get the balance right between cuts, taxation and capital projects. I say this to all Ministers and to the Minister for Energy, Communications and Natural Resources, Deputy Ryan in particular, because in the past we both shared much of our political vision. If necessary, we must look at some capital projects that are costing billions. We must focus also on jobs as a way out of the crisis. In recent months, for example, the SR Technics issue was appalling. It was aviation vandalism. We lost a jewel in the crown because of €20 million. Ultimately this will cost the taxpayer approximately €40 million in redundancies, unemployment benefits and supporting families in crisis.

SR Technics goes off to Zurich. What will it do when it gets there? It will increase its prices for servicing aeroplanes. I raised this matter in the House many times. SR Technics is a major loss to the country. Even at this late hour, I call on the Government, the IDA and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to support the proposal to invest €20 million, save the 1,135 jobs and protect a vital national industry. Ireland is an island and we need aeroplanes for our economy, for exports and for our people. Let us wake up and look at the reality. We need people to service these aeroplanes and we need the service to be in Dublin. How dare anybody let it fall away and go to Zurich. In addition, Fingal County Council will lose €1.5 million in rates when SR Technics closes. It is another local council that deserves a break. It is economic madness to put quality people such as these on the dole. The company has already had numbers of expressions of interest. It is important that we take action.

We must also face reality and support small businesses and their people. With regard to small businesses, everybody in the State should do their best to support businesses in their own community. By doing so, they support people in jobs in their own area and increased VAT goes into the Exchequer. I will not take lectures on this from any political party. Recently, for example, some political parties had their posters published abroad to save a few extra euro when they could have had them printed in Dublin or with small businesses who do this work. I will not take lectures from any party that speaks about jobs but turns its back on the small businesses that need such work. It is important too to deal with this matter.

Deputies Behan and O'Sullivan mentioned education and special needs. At present we are training hundreds of young student teachers to go into classrooms. They are finishing up in coming weeks and will be unemployed, will not pay any tax and will not be in the tax system. If we had them working with children with special needs and in our large classrooms they would generate a spin-off effect into their communities. That would be money well spent, beyond the value of the service they would provide.

We should also look at some of the ideas that come from people in areas outside politics, whether in business or the trade union sector. The former president of the INTO, my own union, put forward a sensible idea with regard to people working together to create jobs, investment, education and support these issues. We should have a broader sense of community. These are the issues that must be resolved. It is wrong for Ministers to state in this House that people have not proposed sensible suggestions.

We must look seriously at one issue in particular, namely, debt. There has been much comment recently about the debt levels of Irish households and the difficulty faced by firms in getting credit from the banks. In this context we must look at debt levels since 2007. At the end of April 2009, Irish households and firms owed almost €393.5 billion. This includes €148 billion for mortgages, €2,896.2 million on credit cards, €168 billion owed to firms and €29 billion for non-mortgage debts to households. Private sector credit fell in April for the second month in a row. It has fallen by approximately €11 billion since November 2008. In contrast, mortgage lending continued to grow until 2009, when it fell by €100 million in March. This fall was the first time that mortgage lending was recorded as falling since the series started in 1990.

I wished to raise the issue of unemployment which is a major issue, but do not have the time to do so now. People are losing faith and confidence in the Government. Over the past couple of months people on the doorsteps told me they want to see new ideas.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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I support the Government on this motion because I have confidence in the three fundamental policy areas with which any government must be concerned at present. The Government is doing the right thing.

I challenge Members to imagine themselves in the position of being in government last September, shortly after Lehman Brothers collapsed and the whole international banking system came to a grinding halt. If they had been approached by the Central Bank, the treasury management agencies and the other banks and told our banking system was about to freeze up and collapse and money was about to flood out of the country, would they have taken a different decision? Would they have said, as the Labour Party seems to suggest, "All right, let it go."? The lesson that had been learned in the previous weeks of just letting the banks go had been calamitous. Think what the consequences would have been for this country. Deputies should put themselves in the position of making that call. Would they be willing to risk it and see if the whole banking system would collapse or survive? It they take that perspective, they will understand what the Government has been trying to do in the banking area. It is not something the Government would choose to do, it is not bailing out the banks or doing it for its friends in the banks. It is doing it for the country, to try to recover from the mistakes that have been made in our banking system and put them right. It is not an easy or popular decision, but it is right.

In terms of the budget, I listened with interest to Deputy George Lee earlier. It is true our biggest issue is our private debt. Our public debt is only a fraction of our private debt, which has built up over the past 20 years. Inexorably, year on year we have increased our level of indebtedness. That is probably the biggest challenge we all face, including everybody outside this House. In order to help us manage our private debt, we need to get a handle on our public debt. That is what the Government has been doing over the past year. This is being done with difficulty, hardship and pain, but this is an unavoidable action that is the right thing for the Government, or any government, to do. The job is not finished. We have a four or five year plan that has been accepted by the European Union and European Central Bank. We need their acceptance because they are assisting us in our banking solution. Therefore, we must adhere to that plan.

Deputy Lee's speech showed soul and he made many valid points, but he provided no substance on how we would bridge the gap that exists. I have not heard that substance from any of the Opposition. Take, for example, the approaching budget where a further adjustment of €4 billion is required.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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That is ridiculous. The Minister knows that is not true.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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There has been no honesty from the Opposition. It has provided no details of proposals, nor has not even asked questions about it. When one listens to the 9 o'clock news all we hear are comments from the Opposition that we have been bailing out the banks and that we should not make cuts or increase taxes. That three-way equation does not bring a solution. It is not right. What is right is that we try to deal with the issue because of the lessons we have learned from the past, not just the lessons of the 1980s, but also those of the 1950s. We have learned that we should not allow such budget situations fester for ten years, as we did in the 1950s until T.K. Whitaker and others, like Seán Lemass, opened up our economy and set it on a different path, or as we did in the 1980s, from early 1982 until 1988, until eventually, Alan Dukes and members of the Government at the time started to take some of the necessary hard decisions.

I have not heard constructive proposals from the Opposition. I have heard the phrase "public service reform". Public service reform must be part of everything we do, but it is not an easy, magic bullet for raising €4 billion. Public service reform involves real cuts and difficult decisions, but the Opposition has never outlined how these decisions will be taken.

The Government is doing a hard thing, but it is the right thing. It is not easy and mistakes have been made. We could look back on some cuts that have been made and ask whether we could have done things differently. There is an argument for that. I accept the position stated by Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan. I welcome her contribution, which is a credit to her and former Deputy, Tony Gregory, who is missed.

I would like to deal with the issue of where the Government is getting things right, namely, the recovery aspect of its responsibility. The smart economy document set out by the Government before Christmas, turning the country to a higher technological economy and a green clean economy is the right approach. It is based on solid foundations that are now bearing fruit from our investment in Science Foundation Ireland and other research work. The green economy development within that recovery plan will be the crucial way for us to create new jobs. It builds on our huge renewable energy resources. The Opposition talks about doubling the amount of renewable energy in use, but it is the biggest obstacle to us developing our renewable systems through the opposition it leads against some of the power transmission systems we need to build.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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What about the legislation?

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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That is the reality of what Fine Gael does. It talks the talk, but it blocks and impedes the country's development on a systematic basis for political gain and not in the wider national interest.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Pathetic.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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I will comment on what Fine Gael, for all its talk, is doing in terms of a green energy future for the country.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister should speak through the Chair. We have only a few minutes left and do not want any argument.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Will the Minister give way?

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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Let me highlight for the Chair the inconsistencies of the Fine Gael Party and the lack of concern for sustainability in its agenda. It is now saying "No" to major public transport projects in this city that are desperately needed and has prevented the spending of money on these for years. The Fine Gael members on local councils talk about how the bus service is not good enough, but they fail to vote through the sort of changes that would, overnight, improve those bus services.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party has nobody on the local authorities in Dublin now. It has been wiped out in Dublin.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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I will take no lectures or comments from the party opposite about confidence because my confidence in its ability to deliver the green agenda is at zero. Fine Gael does not get it, it is not doing it and would not do it if it was in government. However, we will.

There is a huge opportunity for Ireland, particularly in the integration of information communication technologies and energy technologies. These are at the heart of our new smart economy proposals. I see clearly how we can deliver this in Government and thereby deliver jobs and build on the expertise we have.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I agree with that.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
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We are a location of real skill, with large international companies here where leading research is being carried out and supported by our research institutions. We can combine that with what the likes of our energy companies are doing, such as what the ESB is doing in terms of a smart grid and electric vehicles. We can combine it with our software companies and build up a centre of excellence in the country around energy efficiency technologies and then sell this to the rest of the world. This is happening. That is the reason I have confidence in our ability in Government to deliver the jobs needed to provide the social services mentioned by Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and others.

It is for these reasons that I will support the Government rather than the Opposition. The Opposition can say nothing except repeat the clichés that drive fear into the people. It repeats that we are bailing out the banks, but does not say what it would do. It says on the one hand that we cannot make cuts and on the other that we cannot impose further taxes. The country can have no confidence in those solutions or that Fine Gael would do the right thing in these most difficult times to lead Ireland out of its difficulties and pay off the debts we have built up over the past 20 years. We must set ourselves on a green sustainable future. That is the best future for our country.

Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Photo of Martin ManserghMartin Mansergh (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Arts, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Department of Finance; Tipperary South, Fianna Fail)
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Any exercise in democracy in which there is keen public interest and participation should be a cause of satisfaction. The results of elections on different occasions to different bodies and for different purposes should be equally respected. There are still many parts of the world where, unfortunately, this is not the case.

Three sets of elections took place last Friday. There were two by-elections to this House, and I join in congratulating and welcoming Deputies George Lee and Maureen O'Sullivan. I particularly welcome Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, who carries on the tradition of the late Deputy Tony Gregory. One of my earliest tasks, as a political aid to Mr. Charles Haughey, was to research and collate the text of the Gregory deal in 1982, which focused on the badly needed renewal of very run-down areas of Dublin's inner city, a task I undertook with enthusiasm and which ever since has been a source of pride, even though my role was a modest one. A certain unconscious snobbery underlies the suggestion that such deals are the equivalent of accepting 12 pieces of silver. On the contrary, they are democracy at work.

Only Dublin South was previously a Government seat and no Government has won a by-election since the Galway East by-election of July 1982. I acknowledge and pay tribute to the virtually unprecedented scale of Deputy George Lee's victory, but it would be doing both Deputies a service and a kindness to allow them time to find their feet in the Dáil and as politicians, and not to ask them to go out on the campaign trail immediately again.

The second set of elections was for the European Parliament. Apart from the loss of the Dublin seat and an excellent MEP, Mr. Eoin Ryan, I regard the results with some satisfaction, both from a party and a national point of view. The real line of division was not so much between the main parties as between those who are for or against Ireland's fully committed participation at the heart of the European Union. In the North West constituency, Fianna Fáil Ministers explicitly called for vote transfers to other pro-Lisbon candidates, that is Fine Gael, Labour and Ms Marian Harkin - a gesture not reciprocated in Dublin by Fine Gael. Although it likes to project itself as Ireland's most pro-European party, on this occasion Fine Gael put party before country and failed to reverse what was interpreted as a call to transfer to Sinn Féin rather than Fianna Fáil by its national handler. Former Taoiseach, Mr. Garret FitzGerald had a rather different attitude.

The overall result saw the failure of Libertas to make any breakthrough, marked by its almost complete failure across Europe. The election of 11 out of 12 MEPs committed to Europe is a significant step forward in the context of the vitally important second Lisbon referendum which, as a country, we simply cannot afford to lose. Those whom the cap fits resent the tag of euroscepticism but in most cases are unable, when invited, to list any European treaty they have supported. An EU ambassador I was talking to yesterday also objected to the term on the grounds that it was too mild, and felt that term europhobe more accurately represented the position. The political and electoral price Sinn Féin is paying in the South for its opposition to the Lisbon treaty, part ideological and part opportunistic, should not be underestimated.

The third elections on Friday were to local councils. They saw Fine Gael, Labour and, in some cases, independents make substantial seat gains at the expense of the Government parties, for whom the overall result represented, undoubtedly, a severe rebuff. As the Taoiseach has said, the Government respects the results, the effects of which will be seen in changes in control of many councils. More than would normally be the case, the results were heavily influenced by reaction to the deep economic recession, the Government's handling of it and, partly as a result of relentless Opposition propaganda, perceived responsibility for it. In Ireland and many European countries, mid-term elections often go badly against the Government of the day. In 1985, Fianna Fáil, in Opposition, swept the boards, taking control of 23 out of 27 councils but the result did not precipitate a general election.

The Fine Gael decision to table a motion of no confidence was not well judged in its timing or its justification. I am not surprised at the anger of the victims of abuse groups that the debate on the Ryan commission report was pushed back two days to make way for a petty display of political triumphalism, the only effect of which has been to close ranks quickly among the parties and other supporting the Government.

The rules laid down in the Constitution governing this representative democracy are quite clear. The adult citizens of the State elect the Members of Dáil Éireann and Dáil Éireann elects the Taoiseach, who chooses the members of the Government to be appointed by the President. The Taoiseach resigns from office along with members of the Government upon ceasing to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann. The motion before the House is a test of that support.

The argument put forward from the Opposition benches would have us believe that last week's local elections should be treated as an exercise in direct democracy. It would be wholly undesirable if mid-term local elections were to be treated as a proxy for a general election, as it would mean that Governments might only expect to serve for about two years and, also, it would be a subversion of local democracy. Governments, particularly in times of international or domestic crisis, need to be in a position to take the right difficult and unpopular decisions in the long-term public interest. Subject to retaining a majority in the Dáil, Governments are elected with a five-year mandate. With three years still to run, this Government is well able to take the decisions that are necessary, its members have the advantage of experience in dealing with the current situation and have a common agreed policy platform which will now be reviewed and updated. In terms of immediate preparedness and ability to act, the parties in Government are far ahead of the parties in opposition.

All Governments have the mandate to deal with the unexpected crises and emergencies that arise during their term in office. If the people continue to disapprove of what they have done they have the opportunity to choose a new Government at the next general election by sending back a different membership of the Dáil. Prior to the 2007 general election, it was clearly indicated to the people that the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, would not stay the full term and it was well known that his most likely successor would be the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen. In December 1994, Deputy John Bruton became Taoiseach without seeking a new mandate from the people and current opposition leaders served under him. The argument that the Government has lost the consent of the governed is wholly spurious. The institutions of the State are functioning as well today and with the same consent as they did last week.

In most democracies, as part of political alternation, the leading position among the main parties changes from time to time. It is highly unusual that for almost 80 years one party has always been dominant. It is not a great boast for Fine Gael that it has taken that long to break back into the lead, albeit for the moment, on local councils, after achieving the same in the European Parliament context as 2004. Even with a 25% result in the local elections, Fianna Fáil retains critical mass, and it is far too early to judge how much long term significance this result has, accepting that the traditional loyalties of all parties have tended to diminish over time.

I find it ironic that parties opposite which during the long years of prosperity denied that the Government deserved any particular credit for the boom should now seek to saddle it with all the blame for the recession. The degree to which any Government is responsible for the state of the economy at any given time is a point on which there is little clarity or consistency in political debate. Between 1987 and 2007, Ireland enjoyed the best years of its history. We had a successful peace process; we joined the euro; huge advances were made in levels of employment, standards of living, infrastructure and social provision; and we brought ourselves up in that period from two thirds of the average European standard of living to 100% or more. Only someone who believes the State is the provider of everything would credit this all to the Government. The Government created many of the conditions which allowed the country to prosper, but so did the European and global economic environment, as did the social partners.

While the national debt was lowered and money providentially put aside in the National Pensions Reserve Fund as well as SSIAs, we all underestimated the vulnerability of our economy and no one could have foreseen the combination of circumstances that hit, not just Ireland but the entire world economy. In 2007, apart from minor proposed variations in taxation and expenditure, parties opposite had broadly the same approach and assumptions to economic policy as the Government. Society as a whole wanted better services but without paying more taxes. Even Deputy George Lee, as well as the Labour Party, kept repeating that the country was awash with money.

When things go wrong people look for someone else to blame, such as over-extended developers, banks and the Government. A case can be made that it is incumbent on some players, including the regulatory authorities and Government, to display superior wisdom, foresight and prudence. The reality, nonetheless, is that a large swath of the better paid members of society bought to a greater or lesser extent into the myth and illusions of the Celtic tiger. This has left Ireland somewhat worse affected by recession than the average among European countries.

If we are wise, we will accept that the need to adjust fairly drastically is a collective responsibility. The lesson for the future is clear, namely, we should be wary of any recurrence of runaway growth and try to smooth out strong swings in the economic cycle. There are also solid environmental reasons for taking the same stance.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share time with Deputies Timmins and Noonan.

The Government does not have and never had a mandate because at no time was a coalition of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats Party and Independent Deputies put to the people. I did not see one poster on a lamp post or a single statement from the parties in question putting forward this collection of failed political entities as an option for government in 2007. The Green Party explicitly stated it would not enter government with the Fianna Fáil Party and its supporters and members voted in the general election on that basis. Moreover, the party received a substantial number of transfers from other parties on the basis of that position.

Last week's elections were the first electoral judgment pronounced on the coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. The result was that a massive 73% of people voted against the Government, the Green Party's tally of city and county council seats was reduced from 18 to three and the party ended up without seats on the four local authorities in Dublin where it holds five Dáil seats. The party has been wiped out as a result of its association with the Fianna Fáil Party.

All talk from the benches opposite of continuing to fulfil the Government's mandate, as granted by the people, is nonsense. The electorate never granted this rag-tag coalition a mandate. A political mandate is sought to govern and can be given only by the people. The perverse collection of political parties in government never asked the people for permission to form a Government and the people firmly rejected it last Friday. The Green Party wishes to live in denial, to ignore the wishes of the people and to carry on business as usual. It has paid a heavy price for its deception, one which will not compare to the electorate's verdict at the next election if it continues to pretend it has a mandate to govern. The electorate delivered its motion of no confidence in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party last weekend.

The causes of Ireland's devastating economic problems lie firmly at the feet of the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen. The Economic and Social Research Institute has proven that Ireland's shrinking economy was partly caused by bad Government decisions stretching back to the early years of the decade.

As bad as the Fianna Fáil Party's record is, it does not come close to that of its partner in government, the Green Party. Ultimately, the latter's record will probably relegate it, like the Progressive Democrats Party before it, to the history books. Prior to the 2007 general election, the Green Party was in some senses radical. Having stood for the promotion of policies which would drive radical change, the party failed to deliver in the programme for Government and during its period in office in combination with the Fianna Fáil Party.

The Green Party's record in government has been anything but radical. It has decided to toe the Fianna Fáil Party line and the party's two Cabinet Ministers have chosen to hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. They are part of a cabinet that has botched three separate budgets and presided over the collapse of many key sectors. They debated and ultimately approved decisions to increase unfair taxes which will impact most on the lower paid and vulnerable; to impose new income levies to bail out Anglo Irish Bank; to remove medical cards from those aged over 70 years; to proceed with deep and indiscriminate cuts in the provision of many important social and health services for the most vulnerable; and to impose savage cuts in education which will increase class sizes and remove special needs teachers. The party was also complicit in the emasculation of the Equality Authority and Combat Poverty Agency, two bodies that are central to the protection of people on the margins of society, and for whom the Green Party thought it had stood up in the budget Estimates of 2009.

Statements by the leader of the Green Party, Deputy John Gormley, suggest the party is content to provide a political crutch to the Fianna Fáil Party and limp on in government until the next crisis. It appears content to stand by Fianna Fáil on these issues by relying on the mantra that it is in government to get Green Party policies implemented. It is a one-track political party which is incapable of seeing the bigger picture provided its Fianna Fáil masters allows Green Party Ministers to issue press releases announcing their latest policies, which merely tinker at the edge of the major environmental challenges the country faces. The people of Ireland last Friday delivered their verdict on that defence of Green Party participation in government.

The Green Party has become too redundant to justify keeping the Fianna Fáil Party in government. It has failed to deliver on its promises in the programme for Government, which I propose to examine. The party is effectively the cling-on party of politics, prepared to hang on to and protect Fianna Fáil for as long as possible. A promise to establish a new bio-fuel industry has fallen flat as a result of botched Government policy. The Government gives substantial subsidies for the importation from the United States of inferior bio-fuel rather than promoting indigenous plant operators and farming communities to grow crops. As a result, no one will invest in new facilities in Ireland.

The Green Party also failed to move the entire Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann fleets to bio-fuel blends. Government plans to ban old light bulbs have been abandoned in favour of European Union legislation to do its dirty work. Targets to improve energy efficiency in public buildings have been missed. The greatest public relations exercise of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, was first snubbed by the then Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and later by his successor, Deputy Brian Lenihan, both of whom refused to deliver a carbon budget, leaving the Minister, Deputy Gormley, to try to pass off a glorified press release outlining Green Party policies and targets as a substantial document. The Green Party has some record. It is truly redundant and people have treated it in the same way they treated the most recent redundant political party, the Progressive Democrats, by pushing it to the verge of electoral extinction.

The Fine Gael Party, on the other hand, has in recent months developed a series of radical policies to which members of the public are responding positively. Our rebuilding Ireland strategy is primarily a green stimulus package that will secure both short-term and long-term jobs. Its implementation would cause the most profound change in the economy, transforming Ireland into a low carbon society. Our €11 billion investment programme would deliver significant State intervention to rapidly promote more sustainable energy and transport sectors, while bringing telecommunications into the 21st century.

The Fine Gael Party's plan to create new renewable energy companies will drive serious investment in emerging technologies such as ocean energy and increase market share in developing technologies such as wind. My party has also proposed that energy storage play a much greater role in renewable energy generation. Dealing with the dual challenges of climate change and economic recession will require new ideas, dynamic change and policies delivered by a party with a mandate from the electorate.

The Minister, Deputy Gormley, has a policy on political reform which can be summed up in one sentence, namely, to establish a directly elected mayor in Dublin without any idea of the powers or remit of the new office. In contrast, the Fine Gael Party has published a radical and detailed approach for local government reform and how we do our business in the Oireachtas.

Deputies can argue all day about whether the Green Party is radical or redundant but people made up their minds when they cast their vote of no confidence in the party last Friday. It is time for a fresh start under a new Government with a real as opposed to imaginary mandate to get the country and economy back on their feet. The Government does not have a mandate, as the electorate indicated to it last Friday, but refuses to listen. It is time to have a general election and accept the motion of no confidence in Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Independent Deputies which support the Government.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Friday was a bad day for the Fianna Fáil Party but a good day for the country. In the not too distant future, the party will have worse days and the country will have better days. What we are witnessing in the first decade of the 21st century is the demise of the Fianna Fáil Party as a political entity.

Photo of Martin ManserghMartin Mansergh (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Arts, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Department of Finance; Tipperary South, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy wishes it were thus.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State may well smile to himself but history will show that Fianna Fáil will, for good reason, go the way of the Liberal Party and Irish Nationalist Party. Recent Fianna Fáil-led Governments have done to Ireland what Osama Bin Laden has tried to do to the western world for the past decade, namely, they have destroyed it.

It is governments rather than financial regulators or central banks which are responsible for countries. Fianna Fáil-led Governments assisted in destroying this country in recent years. The Government was punished on Friday last, not for taking the hard decisions but for the failure to take any decision until recent times and then for taking incorrect decisions. I am confident history will bear me out.

The Government has had many failures which have been outlined by many speakers. I will mention a few, the first of which is early intervention in education. This Government, at a time of unprecedented wealth, has not improved the literacy standards in primary education. It has not sought to address the many difficulties of children in primary education which ultimately lead to a cohort of people who are outside the system, which leads to juvenile delinquency and an increase in the crime level. We have a curriculum that cannot be implemented by teachers. I note the presence of the former Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Mary Hanafin. Many teachers cannot identify reading difficulties of children and nothing has been done. For ten years I have articulated this view. There are children who suffer from dyslexia who go in one end of the system and come out the other having got no assistance.

This Government also failed in the proper provision of child care facilities. Around this country there are hundreds of white elephants being constructed on open ground for child care facilities to take the children of people who are going out to work but who no longer have jobs. These facilities are being constructed as stand-alone facilities. At the time, I pleaded with the Minister to have them as add-ons to local community centres and to education facilities. When Mr. Mike Malott and his "Prime Time" team get on the road on this topic there will be a great display of facilities empty like the old western towns of the mid-west, with no control structure in place and no one knowing who is responsible for them.

On basic facilities, I saw a survey recently on Bray. The new swimming pool, which is very welcome, is used by in the region of 18% of the people once every three months and the promenade is used by 90% of the people. The money put into many of our facilities went into very specialised areas. I pleaded with the previous Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a great deal of funding was being given out to sporting facilities that there should be a running track or walking track where parents or children could walk in the evening time, but this also was not done.

In the next few years there will be hundreds of houses demolished in counties such as Laois, Roscommon, Leitrim and Longford. They were built without there being any demand for them, purely on speculation, and on an economy built on sand because the constructor of the economy was a Fianna Fáil-led Government that did not put in place a foundation.

It is not today or yesterday that the Opposition has been wise. I have listened to my colleague, Deputy Richard Bruton, speak on several budgets about the unsustainability of the economy and about the fall in competitiveness. While this was happening, what was the Government doing? Ministers such as the Minister of Defence, Deputy Dea, were standing on Shannon Bridge greeting the morning traffic and waving good-bye to the evening traffic, putting their entire energies into re-election rather than doing the job. The Irish people did not elect Ministers such as Deputy O'Dea. The Taoiseach should not have appointed Ministers to go down the country to cut ribbons or to open off-licences in Leitrim. That is not what people were elected to do and it is about time a generation of politicians took on this task and did the job for which they are elected. We must examine such matters.

I heard one of the new junior Ministers speak this morning about the work-fare concept rather than welfare. The greatest possessions a person can have are a job and his or her self-esteem. There are 500,000 people out of work at present.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Four hundred thousand.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Whatever the figure, people must be given an opportunity to stay in employment, and that is within the remit of the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Hanafin. There is need for a radical re-think. Most of these people would prefer to remain in employment than to draw welfare payment. The Government should find productive work for them to protect their self-esteem. There are many things that could be done in this regard. In the last budget there was not one provision to assist employers. There was no PRSI incentive. It was a budget without hope. The people want hope; they want action.

3:00 am

Photo of Michael NoonanMichael Noonan (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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It is very difficult for this House to have confidence in the Government. The election manifestos which Fianna Fáil and the Green Party put to the electorate in 2007 are redundant. The Progressive Democrats, as a party, are redundant. The Programme for Government is equally redundant because the economic circumstances have changed. The agreement made between the parties in Government when Deputy Cowen was elected Taoiseach is also redundant because the premise on which the present Government was established no longer pertains. More importantly, the conventional wisdom that no one could have foreseen the fiscal crisis until the summer of 2008 is untrue. It was clear immediately after the 2007 election that the 2007 budget was off the rails. This was pointed out by many commentators and I want to outline one personal example.

In June 2007, three weeks after Deputy Bertie Ahern's Government was formed, the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Cowen, introduced a Bill to make minor amendments to stamp duty. In the course of the debate I read into the record the monthly housing start statistics from January 2007 to May 2007, which had just been published by the CSO. The decline in housing starts was dramatic and indicated that about 40,000 new houses would be completed in 2008 in contrast with the 90,000 new houses completed in 2006. The rule of thumb on tax yield from housing is that every 10,000 houses completed yield €1 billion in tax. I pointed out to Deputy Cowen, then the Minister for Finance, that the Exchequer in 2007 was facing a shortfall of at least €5 billion, and I asked him to bring forward proposals to close the deficit. I asked him to publish a White Paper in order that all parties in the House could contribute ideas because at that stage, three weeks after the 2007 election, it was evident that we were facing a fiscal crisis. The Minister did nothing.

I do not think he did nothing out of ignorance. I believe the Taoiseach in June 2007 knew exactly how bad the situation was and how it was progressing, but was afraid it would destroy his chance of succeeding Deputy Ahern if he took the necessary tough fiscal action that was required. Therefore, he waited until he was elected Taoiseach and he did not act until July 2008, 13 months after anyone who was keeping an eye on the figures knew that budget was off the rails. In the meantime, he introduced a bogus budget in December 2007 and relied on borrowing to carry him through 2008. I believe he knew how bad it was, and did not act. This first attempt at corrective action was 13 months too late, and all subsequent Government decisions have been too late. How could this House have confidence in this Government or in this Taoiseach?

In the nine months between July 2008 and April 2009 the Government has made four attempts at fiscal correction - expenditure cuts in July 2008, the annual budget brought forward to October 2008, the pension levy in January 2009 and the emergency budget of April 2009. The Government has not yet caught up with events and the country is facing the mother of all budgets at the end of this year. Against that background of failed attempts to correct the national finances, how could the House have confidence in this Government or this Taoiseach?

The Government is less culpable in not foreseeing the banking crisis, but is totally culpable in its handling of it. It introduced the deposit guarantee scheme without consulting its euro zone colleagues. It nationalised Anglo Irish Bank without knowing the potential exposure to the taxpayer. It re-capitalised Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland without knowing the level of bad debts in either. It took a decision to establish NAMA without publishing the Bacon report, which is the foundation stone of the initiative, and it did not consult Mr. Michael Somers of the NTMA who is required to establish NAMA. How could the House have confidence in a Government or a Taoiseach acting in such a manner in correcting the banking crisis?

The banking crisis must be addressed, first and foremost. It is sapping the life-blood out of the economy. People cannot get credit. It is destroying viable companies. It is destroying viable jobs. Unless that is addressed first, properly and quickly, we will never fix this economy.

We have a broken economy, a fiscal crisis, a shattered banking system, a national credit rating at the bottom of the euro league and sleep-walking, zombie, talentless Ministers. The figure for unemployment is more than 400,000 and will be 500,000 by the end of the year, according to Government estimates. The Government has taken no action to protect or create jobs. How could the House have confidence in it or the Taoiseach? For the people's sake, let us have an election.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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May I share time with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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In 2007, the House mandated the Government by electing it and the then Taoiseach. This was on foot of a mandate from the people in the 2007 election. I welcome this opportunity to have a mid-term vote of confidence, as it will enable the House to reiterate its confidence that we will be able to steer the ship of State through the most difficult times experienced in many years.

At the last general election, the people not only voted for us on the basis of our prior record, but also because of their confidence that, if the economy turned, Fianna Fáil would be best placed to deal with it. This was a clear fact presented throughout the election campaign, the press briefings and our dealings with people. On foot of this, our programme for Government set out our targets, but we must accept that the international economic situation has changed drastically.

In the years prior to the 2007 election, we spent and the Opposition shouted for us to spend more. As we reduced class sizes, the call was for more to be done. As we put more resource teachers into schools than was ever the case previously, the call was for more. As we targeted finances on children in disadvantaged areas, the call was for more children to be included, which would only have dissipated the available money. As we invested in schools and undertook 3,000 schools building projects, the call was always for more to be done. No one ever told us that we should not be spending so much money. Constantly, the Opposition shouted at all Departments to spend more and more. In fairness, that was also the demand from the public and the unions, since a great deal of money was available. There is not much point in turning around now and telling us that we should not have spent all of that money when those on the Opposition benches were the very people who shouted for us to spend more.

One can see the benefits of the money spent around the country. It is nonsense to claim that we blew the boom, given the infrastructure, schools, health facilities, child care facilities, major road developments, public transport, broadband and other advances evident in every corner of the country. Of course, there is more to do.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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A lot more.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Every Department has areas where more can and will be done. However, it is wrong to say that we should have spent more while simultaneously saying that we did nothing at all. There are significant contradictions between what the Opposition said at the time and what it is saying now.

We must acknowledge that the programme for Government must be reviewed because of the changed economic circumstances. Our plans for what we had hoped to do over the coming years must also be modified because of the change in the world's situation. The Government is fully cognisant of this fact. For this reason, we needed to make changes during the past year. There were changes in July, October and February and further changes will be made in the next budget.

Which of us who watched the fall of Lehman Brothers on the news last September could have anticipated its impact on the world, not just on Ireland? Sometimes, we might be too closeted in examining what is occurring in this country alone when the same occurrence is to be found in France, Belgium, Germany, the United States of America and elsewhere. The situation necessitated Government action on a number of fronts, namely, stabilising the banks and the country's finances, creating a situation in which employment can be regenerated while recognising the fact that many have lost their jobs, and protecting the vulnerable. All of the above required tough decisions.

From canvassing people on their doorsteps in recent years, I can understand how aggrieved, hurt and upset they are about how the situation has impacted upon them. I have met people who lost their bank shares and, consequently, their extra pension funds or their guaranteed futures. We have met people who showed us their bank statements and information on how the income levy comes out of their pay packets. Public servants are particularly aggrieved that they must pay into a pension. People have lost their jobs and young, well-educated people have lost hope. In any mid-term test, they would express their feelings in the best way possible, namely, on the doorstep and in the ballot box, which is precisely what people did last week. We accept this fact, which has impacted upon our party, councillors, candidates and canvassers. We will take it on the chin.

While we acknowledge that people are hurt, we must ensure that we do what we have set out to do in the general sense. As Deputy Noonan mentioned a few moments ago, we must create a banking system that is able to serve the country's needs now. We must ensure that we restore order to the public finances. We have tried to do so while protecting the most vulnerable as far as possible, namely, those who are benefiting from a €21 billion social welfare budget, an extraordinary amount of money.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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It will be more.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I do not claim that any one individual is getting a significant amount of money, but spending so much is a considerable commitment on the part of the State.

In recent weeks, we heard of many negatives, but no notice was given to the fact that 55,000 carers got a €1,700 respite grant.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Why would they not get it?

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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That we could continue to recognise their valuable role in society was important, but it was given no notice. Little attention was also given to recent announcements on the increased allocation to counselling grants, supports for people experiencing marriage difficulties and grants to family support agencies. It may be the case that we are not giving enough attention to good news.

The past month saw two other announcements. The first was on the financial services and the main banking institutions that comprise the Irish Banking Federation, IBF. It related to a protocol between the Money Advice and Budgetary Service, MABS, and the IBF on a repayment plan for people with extreme personal debts so that, if one follows the plan and MABS negotiates with the financial services on one's behalf, the IBF will accept the plan as a payment and will not resort to legal action. This protocol was signed and announced last week, but there was not a dicky bird about it anywhere.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Hard luck.

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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However, it is a significant protocol. The announcement was made at the IBF's buildings. We discuss the need to support people facing financial crises owing to personal indebtedness, but the protocol is one way of doing so.

Another positive support related to a placement service to provide work experience to young graduates and people who had never been able to find work. The announcement was good news because people will be able to hold on to social welfare payments while participating in their work placements, which will give them an opportunity to gain enough experience to enter the workplace. However, the announcement was not noticed.

The Government has taken valuable initiatives while recognising the difficulties in which we find ourselves. In view of this, the House needs to vote confidence in this Government, not because of what has done over a long number of years, but because we are getting to grips with the problems as they are there now and are setting out the policies to support the vulnerable and encourage people back into work and, more particularly, to get the wider economic and financial system in this country back in operation.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I join my colleague in participating in this debate. There is no doubt as to my confidence in this Government. As my colleague has said, just two years ago the people of Ireland, in the only poll relevant as to who runs this country, looked at the alternatives, and stark alternatives they were. It is accepted, even by the most ardent and objective observer, that the people chose, conclusively, a Fianna Fáil-led Government. That is our mandate, and anyone who suggests otherwise is being opportunistic and, in particular, undemocratic because the Opposition knows full well that is the mandate given by the people two years ago

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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That was then.

Deputies:

The Minister climbed the tree.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The parties opposite seek to run our country like "The X-Factor", changing Governments with every local opinion poll, telephone poll or even text poll. We will see through our five year mandate. We do not change our party leader because of the latest poll, as the party opposite did, very unfairly, a number of years ago.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Hang on for a few months.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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It got rid of a very good man, former Deputy John Bruton, because of an opinion poll, and it rues the day. We will not run away from tough decisions.

In the area of crime, I have an unprecedented agenda, as has been seen in recent times. I have issued some 10 Bills on gangland crime, surveillance and gun control. I call on the party opposite to publically support the initiative I have taken on gun control in order to make sure this country does not have a gun culture. Apart from one or two comments, there has been a deafening silence from the parties opposite, particularly Fine Gael.

I have also moved on the issue of knife crime. I launched the Criminal Procedure Bill in the Seanad today, which looks after the victims of crime and aims to re-balance our criminal justice system in the direction of victims. It is a commitment I gave a year ago. I chose not to, as was the case, plagiarise a Bill from another jurisdiction. I decided to take my time and look at the issue, and did so.

We also have initiatives in the area of arbitration and will introduce an Arbitration Bill, which is the centrepiece of our plan to make Ireland a global centre for international arbitration. We have published the Multi-Units Developments Bill, something the parties opposite criticised us for. We will also introduce the Civil Partnership Bill, among others, particularly in the area of criminal justice.

This Government has a very good story to tell. We have been accused, unfairly, of squandering the boom. If squandering the boom means thousands of extra gardaí, teachers, nurses, doctors-----

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister should open his eyes.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I will give the Deputy the figures. There have been 3,500 extra gardaí recruited in the last four years, 7,000 teachers and 11,000 nurses and doctors. If we squandered the boom in that respect, then we are guilty.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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What about the pensioners?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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We gave the largest social welfare increases in the history of the State. I remind the Deputies opposite that the last time their party was in Government, the famous Proinsias De Rossa, who received a very good vote recently-----

Deputies:

He got more than the Minister will ever get.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----was part of Government. The people of Dublin forgot when he was Minister for Social Welfare, in his last budget in 1997, he gave an increase of £1 per month child benefit. I became a Minister immediately after him, in a Fianna Fáil-led Government, and two years in a row-----

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Christmas bonus is gone.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----we gave an increase in child benefit of €32 per month year on year.

We gave the highest increases in old age pensions and, again, shamed people like Proinsias De Rossa, the so-called socialist, in the increases that we gave. The party opposite manufactured a surplus in the year it left office to make the situation look good, but the reality is it ran deficits and gave very little when it was in Government. It gave very little to the poor people of this country and the less well-off, and its record stands for itself.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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We did not take away their Christmas bonus.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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We would be guilty of squandering the boom if one looked at the type of social welfare increases we gave, and we are unfairly criticised.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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What about the Christmas bonus?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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We brought in the lowest tax wedge. Do not take my word for it. The OECD said over the last ten to 12 years we had the lowest tax wedge. In other words, our people paid the lowest amount of tax of any other country in the OECD. If we are guilty of anything, that is what we should be given credit for.

Again, we have the highest standard of living in the EU. Even to this day, despite the cutbacks in recent times, we still have the highest standard of living. That is the record we stand over.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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Tell that to someone living on €200 per week.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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For ten years, until this year, we had full employment and turned around the issue of emigration. Again, we deserve credit for that. One third of all homes built since the foundation of the State were built in the last ten years.

Deputies:

There was a property bubble.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Again our record, which we can stand over.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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People are laden with debt.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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We have spent a significant amount on infrastructure in the past ten years, which was twice the EU average. The money was spent on schools, roads, rail, health and, in my own area, courthouses. Every time I go to open a new courthouse or garda barracks-----

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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The Minister closed the one in Granard.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----Members opposite are there claiming credit for it.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Allow the Minister to make his contribution.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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We re-started the prison building programme. When Fine Gael was in power, it closed it down and did not build one prison cell. We came into Government in 1997 and since then we have put in place 1,300 prison spaces. This summer we will open another 400. Again, we stand by our record.

We also have, I remind the House, despite our current difficulties, the lowest national debt in the EU. When Fine Gael was last in Government, it was 133%. Today it is 20%.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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It is changing very fast. It has doubled over the last year. It will go higher.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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It will go a bit higher, but that was the investment we made during the good years. Another measure this Government and its predecessors should be given credit for is that we put money aside for a rainy day. We put money into the National Pensions Reserve Fund-----

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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It is gone. It will be gone shortly.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----something Fine Gael did nothing about when it was in Government.

There are 400,000 people unemployed, including our friends, neighbours and family members. We owe them. We are all used to the criticising each other across the House.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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They are good at it.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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When we knew of the difficulties which were ahead of us, we appealed for some understanding of the job that had to be done and said people should pull together. That is what the public want.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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It does not want you.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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It wants all of us in this House to pull together. That is why we have to make tough decisions.

We are advancing concrete plans to restore the public finances and the credit system, as people in the House accept we have to do as a prerequisite for our national recovery. We also have to try, as much as possible, to keep people in jobs and assist those who are unemployed. We will continue to do that.

In opposing our efforts, the parties opposite advance shallow and untenable strategies. I heard Deputy Varadkar say on a programme recently that the Government was doing it all wrong and taxing people, and that Fine Gael would make cuts. Would it please tell the people what it would cut?

The reality is it takes €60 billion to run the country. We have taxes of €40 billion coming in, of which-----

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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â'¬30 billion is coming in.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----€22.8 billion is allocated for social welfare, 20% is spent on public sector pay and the balance on services. Do not cod the people. What will Fine Gael cut? We spent eight days around the Cabinet table, endeavouring to look at the estimates in the run-up to most recent supplementary budget and take savings into the system. It was an extremely difficult process. We started by hoping to make as many cuts as possible and not tax the people, but ultimately we found when we were looking at savings and cuts, we were cutting to the bone. That is the reality.

The Opposition has come up with policies and has borrowed some from us, but it has not come up with anything to suggest where it will get the type of money that is required in order to bridge the gap between the €60 billion and the €40 billion.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Go raibh maith agat, a Aire.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Local and European elections are not the forum for debating that. A general election is.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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They were the issues people were talking about.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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We did very well in the previous general election. The people looked at the two alternatives. They saw a Government led by Deputy Bertie Ahern of Fianna Fáil-----

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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He is gone.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----and they saw the alternative - Deputy Enda Kenny.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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What about the most recent election?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Will he be gone soon?

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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We have a good team in place.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I know some Members opposite were hoping-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Very good, Minister. Go raibh maith agat, a Aire.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----to a certain extent that they might do badly in the most recent election in order to get rid of Deputy Kenny.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Go raibh maith agat, a Aire. I must call the next speaker.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I know their game. People such as Deputy Brian Hayes-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I call Deputy Brian Hayes.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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-----are looking very jealously at that seat over there.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Brian Hayes.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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They will be waiting a long time.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Hayes should be allowed to make his contribution. Time is very limited.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share my time with Deputies Connaughton, Breen, Bannon and O'Donnell.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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How does one follow that? The problem is that the more people such as the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern and the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, speak, the bigger the hole they dig for themselves. The Minister does not understand but people are laughing at the Government all over the country. In his performance today, the Minister made no apology nor gave any hint of eating humble pie. No mention was made of a new plan or a reshuffle. That is another example of the extraordinary arrogance he brings to politics.

People are sick of the Government, as is evident from the result it got last week. The Minister's arrogance was typified in remarks he made in a recent magazine interview. When he was asked about being Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which I would consider a rather prestigious job, he replied "It's only a job". If ever arrogance was personified in Irish politics, it is personified in the Minister opposite, Deputy Dermot Ahern. The more the people hear from the Government, without the sounds of the Opposition, the more they laugh at it and reject it. That is what happened last Friday. The sooner the Minister realises that, the sooner he can retire from that job he believes to be an ordinary job.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I have not been rejected by my people in County Louth.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Allow Deputy Hayes to continue without interruption.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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A good few of the Minister's colleagues were.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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The problem is that the Minister does not get it.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I have not-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Hayes should be allowed to speak by the Minister.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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I did not interrupt the Minister even once. He does not get it. According to the Minister, Deputy Hanafin, it is the fault of the people. They should be more gracious and understanding of the great initiatives that have been taken. It is the fault of the media for not telling us about these great initiatives.

The Government does not get it. The public will not be ruled by the Government much longer. The people know exactly the hole the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party has dug for them with their extraordinary waste and duplication over the past decade of soft-option politics by Deputy Bertie Ahern. People will not be led by the Government because it has put us into a hole and they have no confidence in the Minister or his party to deliver us from it. That was the message from the ballot box last Friday. People are not fools. They know exactly the tough medicine that is required but they will not take it from the Government because of the soft option politics it peddled in this country for the past decade.

It was my party that had the courage to say that benchmarking was wrong and that had the courage to put flesh on the need for public sector reform in this country over the past decade when the Government arrogantly rejected it. Now the Minister is telling us that Fianna Fáil is the party to lead us out of the hole it has put us into. People are laughing at the Minister. The more he comes to realise that, the more he will realise his own way forward.

The Taoiseach says he has a mandate in parliamentary terms until whenever the next election takes place. We should refer to another aspect of the Constitution, namely, the sovereign wish of the people. The people are sovereign and they have spoken, not in some mid-term blues but in the context of an election with more than 50% participation. They want Fianna Fáil and the Green Party out of Government as soon as possible. That is what this motion is about.

I appeal to the members of the Green Party who spoke about their mandate. Going into the previous general election they told us their mandate was about standing up for education services and delivering an additional €350 million year-on-year for those services. What did we get in response? A total of 128 special needs classes affecting the most vulnerable children in our education system are being abolished from this September. If the Green Party cannot support them, what can it stand for?

The Taoiseach is a two-time loser. He lost the referendum on the first Lisbon treaty. He lost again last Friday. Unless he is removed between now and next September or October when we have the second referendum on the Lisbon treaty I suspect we could lose again. The latest poll data shows not a huge difference between the "Yes" vote and the "No" vote. The Taoiseach has no authority to lead the people in the most important decision that affects the country, namely, whether we are in the new European Union entity. That is why it is so crucial that we have a general election between now and then and that we put this issue to the test. Even if he wants to lead them, the Taoiseach has neither the authority nor the ability to lead the people towards a positive "Yes" vote, which is so required for the country if we are to get back on our feet.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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I wish to make three points in the few minutes at my disposal. I never heard such arrogance as I heard in the Dáil today from two senior Ministers. The chief exponent of arrogance is the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern. He is the captain of that team. He takes the biscuit altogether. What is even worse than their arrogance is the denial that they have made a hames of the country and the assumption that somehow or another the people will believe in them again. We are all involved in politics and we all do the best we can for the people we represent. Surely after what took place last Friday the Government has no moral authority whatsoever to sit on the Government side of the House? As Deputy George Lee stated, Fianna Fáil has an agreement with the Green Party and neither party should be in Government.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Is that the RTE George Lee or the Fine Gael George Lee?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Minister should allow the Deputy to make his contribution.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Minister should give it a short time and he will be driving himself home to Louth. I assure the Minister that it will go very hard with him.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Does he have a driver's licence?

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach was asked a question in connection with Anglo Irish Bank. I always believed that there was a counter in most banks and that the staff were inside and the clients were outside. There was no counter in Anglo Irish Bank. Everyone was inside.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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In Galway.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Can the Minister imagine a group like Anglo Irish Bank trying to get back a loan from its own staff to whom it gave it inside the counter? Can one believe that the people would accept that sort of ráiméis? While the Minister was in Government he stood back.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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What party had the most representatives on the boards of the banks? The Fine Gael Party.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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It was the Minister's people who were inside the counter. Every speculator and builder Fianna Fáil had in the tent in Galway was inside the counter.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The Deputy should refer his remarks through the Chair. The Minister should allow him to do that.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry. The biggest single mistake the Government ever made was in the budget last October. The Government believed it was fair to charge 1% of the special levy on a person earning €18,000 and on one that was earning €99,000. That emphasises where the Government lost touch with reality. Ministers could see no difference between a person earning €99,000 and €18,000.

One thing the people always seek in the political leaders they elect is fair play. People want to believe there will be fairness in the system. There is no fairness in what the Government was doing because it had gone beyond that realm. The Government is removed from reality because it was used to the money coming in in bundles from the building industry and the Government thought it would never see a poor day again.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael wanted to reduce stamp duty.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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The Government was daft enough to believe that the model would continue forever. Now the Government finds it has let down the people who put it in power.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael wanted to reduce stamp duty.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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It will be a very short time before the Minister will be over here doing what he was great at one time, namely, badgering everyone. Many people will be delighted to see that happen, including me.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy has a good memory.

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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I have.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Time is very tight.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Currently students are doing examinations. On Friday last the Government took its mid-term test and we saw the result it got last week. The Government took its mid-term test and failed miserably. It failed the Irish people and no longer has a mandate to continue in office. I suggest to the Minister that he and his Government pack their bags and go. On Friday last, people came out in their droves looking for change. It was an historic day for our party and an historic day in County Clare where for the first time ever, Fine Gael became the largest party and the dominance of Fianna Fáil came to an end. In County Clare, once known as de Valera's county, we had nine councillors elected.

I have never encountered as much anger on the doorsteps as I did when canvassing during the past three weeks. There is huge anger out there. People were speaking not about local issues but about national issues, as reflected in the vote against the Government by three quarters of the population last Friday. Unemployment is soaring. We now have the second highest level of unemployment in the European Union. In my own county, 9,688 people are currently signing on, an increase of 94% over a 12-month period. Our public finances have deteriorated more than those of any other member of the European Union. Our health services are in crisis. The Government was forced to make a U-turn in respect of cystic fibrosis, CF, facilities when young and brave CF patients and their families spoke out against them.

The Government forced the people of County Clare to accept a second-hand health service through the removal of 24-hour accident and emergency services resulting in patients having to travel longer distances to access basic life saving services. It has axed special needs assistants in our schools and threatened to close down special needs classes at St. Senan's national school, Kilrush, without any thought of consequences for the children and their parents. The Government has turned its back on every business person in the country, with small businesses closing every day of the week. The hike in the VAT rate to 21.5% has driven shoppers over the Border and there has been a €2.2 billion cut in infrastructure projects in 2009.

The Government introduced a €10 air travel tax when every airline in the world, including in Ireland, is struggling to survive. It has axed the Christmas bonus, hitting the most vulnerable of our society. It has taken an average of €5,000 from every family in this country through increases in taxes and levies. Thousands of people are trapped in negative equity, afraid they are going to lose their homes. Ordinary men and women in the street have become the sacrificial lambs for this Government's cronies who have walked away, many of them with golden handshakes.

I say to the Minister that it is time the Government took off its rose tinted glasses. The people of Ireland no longer trust this Government. They want a fresh approach. They know this Government has brought the country to its knees and they do not trust it to get this country back on its feet. Fine Gael has a plan and ideas and it wants to govern. The people spoke on Friday last. The verdict has been delivered, namely, that this Government serve its sentence in opposition for the next few years.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I call Deputy Bannon. I remind members that there are four minutes remaining in this slot and only three minutes remaining in the final slot.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Currently, the Irish people are witness to and victims of the ludicrous political situation in which Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are giving to each other a mandate to continue in government to replace the one the people took from them last Friday. Despite the wishes of the majority of the people, the Taoiseach and his Government are clinging to power like ticks to a cow's hide. It was interesting to hear the Government Chief Whip claim that Fianna Fáil will embark on a process of reorganisation to make the party "fit for purpose". This, surely, is the first acknowledgement by a senior Government member that his party is unfit for the job in hand.

The overwhelming withdrawal of the mandate from the current Government by voters in the local, European and by-elections last Friday has left the country at the mercy of a Government in which it has no confidence. It is a Government that is clinging to power in the short term by the weight of numbers. Local elections are close to the heart of the people and the recent results have shown that voters can no longer endorse the Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government. The people have lost confidence in the leadership and members of the Government and have used the ballot boxes to give vent to their anger.

The Taoiseach and his Ministers are refusing to take responsibility for the state of the country. Who could have confidence in a Taoiseach who defends his Government's drubbing at the hands of the electorate as being the unavoidable result of taking unpopular decisions? The Government was defeated because it caused the problem and then expected the country to bail it out.

Broken Government promises set the scene for an Ireland that was ill-equipped to deal with rather than well placed to withstand a global recession, as it was in the boom years. Many of the people in the Galway tent were responsible for this but they are not the ones paying the price. The dodgy bankers and builders should be imprisoned rather than receive the treatment they are receiving from the Government. The burden has been firmly placed on the backs of lower and middle-income workers. Did these workers ever see any reward for their hard work? They did not. Did they benefit from large bonuses, Government bail-outs or the rewards of cronyism? They did not. This is the same cronyism that has destroyed the competitive, high-productivity the Government inherited from the previous rainbow Government.

What did Irish taxpayers expect in return for hard work? They expected that the elected Government would safeguard the wealth of the Celtic tiger, the benefits of which would in time filter down to them in terms of infrastructure, jobs, pensions, health, education and preschool facilities, carers allowances, support for our farmers and business. The reality is very different. The very people who had their money squandered are now being savagely forced to replace it. Are the Government's cronies and cowboys who mismanaged and abused public funds suffering? I tell you they are not and never will under a Fianna Fáil-led Government. Fine Gael will take action against those people who wrecked our economy.

Longford-Westmeath is urgently in need of a balanced comprehensive job creation programme. We are now at crisis point with live register figures for Longford rising by 88.4% from May 2008 to May 2009 and Westmeath figures rising by 91% in the same 12-month period. It is horrifying to think that the national unemployment figures have topped 400,000 and will reach half a million by the end of the year. It is time for this Government to go. I support the motion of no confidence in this Government. The Taoiseach should go to the park this evening and dissolve this Dáil. If he has any respect for the people he will give a mandate to Fine Gael and Labour to govern.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I call Deputy Kieran O'Donnell who has approximately three minutes.

Photo of James BannonJames Bannon (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Perhaps I should continue. We are a very tolerant nation to allow this Government remain in office.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy is as good as Deputies Michael Ring or George Lee.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputies, please. Time is very tight. I call Deputy O'Donnell who has two minutes remaining.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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I want to support this motion.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The motion before the House is a Government motion of confidence.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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I want to support the Fine Gael motion of no confidence.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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There is one motion before the House and it is a Government motion of confidence.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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To be technically accurate, I want to support the Fine Gael motion of no confidence in this Government.

Photo of Brian HayesBrian Hayes (Dublin South West, Fine Gael)
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Correct.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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This is an issue on which I have strong feelings. We have all been canvassing for the past three or four weeks. The big issue on the doorsteps is the public's loss of trust in the Taoiseach and his Government. The Taoiseach, when Minister for Finance, stated on the airwaves in the last few days before the general election that the economy was fine and that we should continue to spend even though he knew that was not the case. He then assumed the role of Taoiseach. He has again since taking up the position of Taoiseach continued to tell the people all is fine. People do not believe him. The Taoiseach has lost moral authority. The people do not believe what he is saying. The Government shows a lack of vision and innovation. The most important issue in Ireland today is jobs. The way this Government is going, by the end of this year there will be approximately 500,000 people on the live register.

It did not include a single measure to address job creation in the recent supplementary budget. The proposals made by Fine Gael in its New Era document will create 100,000 jobs. We are seeking a reduction in the standard rate of VAT from 21.5% to 21% and in the lower rate, which is particularly important for labour, from 13.5% to 10%. We also want to impose an effective moratorium on employers' PRSI for a period of two years. These measures will ensure that jobs are retained and created.

The public does not believe the Government has the capacity to take us out of this recessionary wilderness. The executives of our banks have acknowledged they must be replaced and the Government should do likewise because it cannot preach that we must get rid of the bankers who brought us into this mess without admitting its own responsibility. The public expect an election and they are entitled to one.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to share my time with Deputies Kirk and Peter Power.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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This country is facing an unprecedented economic challenge. The global and financial crisis has impacted on all areas of economic activity. Irish agriculture and the agrifood sector are not immune from the economic challenges and circumstances have changed significantly in the past year. The rapid decline in certain commodity prices could not have been foreseen and the appreciation of the euro, particularly relative to sterling, has placed additional pressures on export markets.

The Government is acutely aware of the challenges facing the industry and our commitment to the agrifood sector remains absolute. Listening to some commentaries, one would be excused for thinking we had stopped funding agriculture. In the recently published Revised Estimates, the Government provided almost €2 billion for agriculture, fisheries, food and forestry. Within the constraints of the public finances, we continue to support the agrifood, fisheries and food sector to the fullest extent possible and when combined with EU funding of €1.4 billion total public expenditure in support of the sector in 2009 will amount to over €3.3 billion.

We are all conscious of the particular difficulties being experienced by the Irish dairy sector, with dairy prices which are considerably lower than the record highs achieved in 2007. Certain people continue to perpetuate the flawed argument that EU quota increases are the cause of the current low prices for milk. The fact is, however, that milk production is below the level that existed before the quota increase took effect in 2008. Furthermore, if EU production was constrained by quotas, Ireland would not be able to benefit from future upturns in dairy markets. The only winners in such a scenario would be our global competitors, of which there are many.

Since the conclusion of the CAP health check, in respect of which I argued strongly and ultimately successfully for the retention of dairy market management measures, I have repeatedly pressed the Commission for the early introduction of supports to restore confidence and put a floor under prices. Following my consistent interventions, the private storage scheme for butter was brought forward, export refunds for dairy products were reintroduced and intervention schemes for butter, milk and skimmed milk powder were opened. The importance of these measures cannot be overstated because they play a vital role in stabilising the market. Only last month, I urged the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development to intervene more aggressively in taking product permanently off the market by supporting exports, maintaining the intervention process at levels which would enable the maximum quantities to be temporarily removed from the market and giving the commercial markets breathing space to rebound. Significantly, export refunds for butter, skimmed milk powder and whole milk powder were increased last week and all quantities of butter and skimmed milk powder offered were accepted into intervention while intervention purchase prices were maintained.

It is critical that market management mechanisms are expanded to deal with the difficult dairy market situation we are experiencing. Dairy producers can be assured that I will continue, as I have done consistently for the past six months, to maintain the strongest political pressure on the EU to ensure it plays its full part in restoring the dairy sector to a sound trading position.

Beef and sheepmeat processing are important indigenous industries and vital components of the Irish agrifood sector. Their annual turnover is approximately €3 billion and their €2 billion in exports account for over 20% of Irish food and drink exports. The beef industry has changed from dependence on intervention in the early 1990s to a situation in which 98% of output is sold on European markets. This has required investment in quality, standards, market development and promotion. The Taoiseach's recent announcement of Government grant assistance of over €69 million for 15 capital investment projects under my Department's beef and sheepmeat investment fund is an important statement of support for this sector. The Government's investment will stimulate further investment by the industry of €100 million and will ensure its long-term competitiveness, as well as increasing net sales and exports by €400 million. This will ensure a net expansion in employment, with over 800 additional jobs to be provided by 2012.

As well as the dairy sector, I have for some time been conscious of the particular difficulties being experienced by the sheep sector and in recognition of those difficulties I have allocated €7 million from the single farm payment national reserve to 14,000 hill sheep farmers this year. This money was the only additional funding to which I have access this year. I have also confirmed that sheep farmers will be the substantial beneficiaries from the allocation of some €25 million in unused CAP funds next year.

In all, €75 million will be available in unspent CAP funds between 2010 and 2012. Additional modulation worth €17 million will be available from next year, alongside funding from the European economic recovery package, EERP. My Department is currently preparing a new rural development programme incorporating the additional modulated moneys and the new funding from the EERP which will be submitted to the European Commission by 15 July. I am currently considering a range of proposals which might form part of a revised RDP.

Last December, following the recall of all Irish pork and bacon products, the Government reacted swiftly and proportionately. From the outset we were determined to take such actions as were necessary to protect an integral element of the Irish agrifood sector which is worth €1.1 billion per annum and employs 6,500 people. Approximately 500 farm families are involved in pig production and exports are worth €368 million annually. Conscious of the threat to the viability of pig production and processing in Ireland, the Government put in place funding of up to €180 million for a product recall scheme to facilitate the immediate recommencement of slaughtering and a further €20 million for those farmers whose herds were slaughtered. This investment has effectively secured the future of an industry.

The farm waste management scheme introduced by this Government is the largest on-farm investment scheme in the history of the State, funding of €1.1 billion being provided to some 34,000 farmers, 90% of which will have been paid by next January. This investment has to be viewed against an initial Government commitment for on-farm investment of €350 million over the period 2007-13, of which €200 million was committed to the farm waste management scheme. This outstandingly successful scheme is clear evidence of Fianna Fail's ongoing commitment to the Irish agricultural sector. The €1.1 billion grant aid, all of which is from our Exchequer, will be paid over a few short years. While it has been necessary, given the pressures on the public finances, to phase payments to more than 17,000 applicants over three years, I have ensured that a special ex gratia payment will be made to those farmers whose payments are being phased to ensure that no farmer will suffer a financial loss as a result of the deferred payment arrangements. The level of on-farm investment made by the Government is testament to our commitment to assisting farmers who want to improve their on-farm infrastructure, capacity, efficiency and effectiveness and is in stark contrast to the support offered by previous Fine Gael-led Governments.

At the time of the supplementary budget in April, I announced that I would be carrying out a review of the rural environmental protection scheme in the context of the overall level of participation, the funding available to me and the flexibility provided by the additional funding which I negotiated in the recent CAP health check. As part of the forthcoming review, details of which I intend to announce presently, and particularly in the context of available funding I will have regard to the submissions received on the possible use of modulation funds. A number of these are concerned with REPS-like measures.

The Irish agri-food sector is Ireland's most important indigenous sector, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout every county in the country at producer and processor level. The sector was never more important to the Irish economy than it is now. We are justifiably proud of our reputation as "Ireland the food island" and, notwithstanding the current economic difficulties, the Government is continuing to invest hundreds of millions at both farm and processor levels.

As a food producing country, it is essential that we have a robust food industry that provides an outlet for our producers and adds value to the primary product. While we all acknowledge the importance of identifying and building new export markets for our food and beverages, it is critical that we maintain a strong domestic market for Irish food and drink. A strong domestic presence is an essential factor in developing export markets. In that regard, we must have an Irish retail sector that maintains a strong commitment to sourcing and providing a comprehensive range of familiar Irish products and brands.

The issue of retail margins on food products has become a point of heated public debate in recent times, as reflected at last month's EU Agriculture Council meeting. I commend my colleague the Minister of State with responsibility for food and horticulture, Deputy Trevor Sargent, on the efforts he has made to highlight the difficulties facing many producers and processors in this area. While the recent concentration of retail power in the hands of a few large supermarket chains is an international phenomenon, it has fundamentally changed the balance of market negotiating power in the food chain and is a significant factor in the declining share of retail prices which is passed back to the producers.

I do not have much time but I want to take this opportunity to commend the work of the Minister of State, Deputy Trevor Sargent, and that of the Minister of State with responsibility for fisheries and forestry, Deputy Tony Killeen, at the Department on behalf of the agriculture, fisheries, food and forestry sectors.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I am glad to have the opportunity to speak today on behalf of the Government.

The Opposition speaks about the economic crisis this country is undergoing as if we were facing it alone. The truth is that the world is undergoing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Despite what Members of the Opposition believe, this economic crisis is not unique to Ireland. The US, Japan, the EU and many other countries and regions are in unprecedented recessions. Britain's budget deficit is its worst since the Second World War. Just last month, the UK Chancellor, Alistair Darling, said that it will take eight years to reduce its deficit by 6.5% of GDP. Likewise, the White House has just revised its budget deficit predictions by $89 billion, meaning that this year its deficit is expected to reach $1.84 trillion - a truly unimaginable figure. In this country, we face a deficit of almost €21 billion, which is unsustainable. We introduced a very tough budget that set out to bridge this gap. It balances tax increases, spending cuts and borrowing. Neither Fine Gael nor the Labour Party have presented viable solutions to the crisis. Fine Gael has proposed €2.4 billion in cuts, which would have a drastic effect on services, and the Labour Party seems to be proposing that we just go on borrowing.

No one predicated this economic tsunami. In 2007, the joint spending plans of Fine Gael and the Labour Party predicted average annual growth rates of 4.2% between 2008 and 2012. They criticised us at the time for being too conservative and called for increased expenditure on health and education. The reality is that in more prosperous times huge strides were made in this country. We invested in our people, our services and our infrastructure. We invested in more than 3,500 extra gardaí, 11,000 more nurses and doctors, and 7,000 extra teachers in our schools. We dramatically increased the state pension and social welfare increases far exceeded inflation. We have invested in public transport and an excellent motorway system throughout the country.

It is clear the economic situation has changed dramatically. The Government has faced unparalleled challenges. In more than 25 years in the Dáil, I cannot remember a time when events developed so rapidly. When circumstances change rapidly, one must respond quickly. That is what the Government has done. Thousands of people are living daily with the hardship of this economic recession, trying to support their families and get by. I realise they are disappointed and angry. However, accusations that we have no plan are simply incorrect. We have a plan and I believe we are making the right decisions to put back this country on the road to recovery.

Our plan consists of four parts. First, we must stabilise the public finances - this is why we introduced the pension levy and the supplementary budget; second, we need to sort out the banking system - this is why we are creating NAMA; third, we need to get Irish banks lending again; and, finally, we are working to protect and create jobs as well as supporting those who are out of work. To date, the number of FÁS places has doubled to 128,000 and we have introduced new courses on green energy technology. We are creating 7,000 third level places including an extra 1,500 PLC places. We are also providing work experience training programmes that graduates can access while holding onto their benefits. We are supporting small and medium sized enterprises through the creation of the enterprise stabilisation fund.

Our plan for economic recovery has been appreciated by expert commentators at home and abroad. In May, Jean Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister and finance Minister of Luxembourg said, "I do think that the Irish Government, with great courage and a deep sense of responsibility, are on the way to taking the right step in a very difficult situation". John Fitzgerald of ESRI said the Government had got it right in the supplementary budget and that the country was on the right track. The ESRI predicted that the economy could grow quite rapidly during the 2011-15 period if international competitiveness is restored. Peter Sutherland commented that we have great strengths and that the position is not quite as bad as it is being painted.

I am conscious of time constraints and I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to contribute.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I congratulate the new Deputies, Maureen O'Sullivan and George Lee, and I wish them well in their important work.

I listened very intently to Deputy George Lee this morning. He spoke at great length about the difference between the current economic situation and the situation we were in during the 1980s. He is right in many respects, for example, in what he said about the difference between Government debt and private debt. However, while I respect the large mandate he received last week, I fundamentally disagree with his analysis of the situation. I also lived through the 1980s - I am approximately the same age as Deputy Lee - but my memory of the causes of young people not being able to get jobs and of the country being in a period of great economic stagnation differs greatly from Deputy Lee's analysis.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It should not.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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My analysis is-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It was the election of 1977 that caused it when Fianna Fáil bought the people-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Time is very tight, Deputy Durkan.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It should not have.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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My analysis is that the economic stagnation that was caused in that five year period was solely and simply down to the inability of the two parties during that time to agree on practically anything.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Free car tax in 1977 and the abolition of rates.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I ask the Minister of State to yield for one second and I will give him injury time.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Durkan does not want to hear the truth.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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This is hypocrisy.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Durkan-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I apologise.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Durkan will resume his seat or leave the House.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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This is rubbish.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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That Government could not agree on taxation-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Durkan will have an opportunity to speak, as will all Deputies.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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People should be allowed to speak in the House - it is a Chamber of debate.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Durkan should control himself.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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He did not want to hear what I had to say.

That Government did not agree on taxation, spending, issues of privatisation or banking. Due to its inaction and the singular inability of that Government in the 1980s to agree on practically anything, our country stagnated for five years. That is not my view, it is the common historical economic consensus of what happened in the 1980s.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That is why we are where we are.

4:00 am

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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That differs very greatly from Deputy Lee's analysis. What I have heard in the past 24 hours suggests to me that there is very little difference between the 1980s and what is happening now. He says there is, but I say there is not. I have listened to the colleagues of Deputies Durkan and Burton and on practically every major economic issue of the day the two parties are diametrically opposed. That is foursquare with what happened in the 1980s and I suggest it is-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister of State will find out.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Minister of State is not that tight with the Minister, Deputy Willie O'Dea.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I have got a limited amount of time, Deputy Burton.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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They are close colleagues and friends.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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There is very little the Deputy and the Minister, Deputy Willie O'Dea, agree on.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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They are very close friends.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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He should not take the analogies too far.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Burton was starting out in her career - it was interrupted subsequently half way through - but it is no coincidence that on six separate occasions since then the public, at its invitation, have not returned that Government to power because they know that when they last elected Labour and Fine Gael, this country stagnated.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister will find out soon enough what they are going to do.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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My prediction is that they will do that again. The contradictions between Fine Gael and Labour are glaring.

Deputy George Lee is a former member of the media but it is a singular failure by Deputy Lee and his colleagues in RTE-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The media is to blame. RTE again.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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-----to point out the glaring inconsistencies between the parties opposite. The media should reflect on that.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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There are massive inconsistencies on that side of the House.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister of State has one minute remaining.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The Leas-Cheann Comhairle said I would be indulged because of the constant interruptions and that I will be allowed to continue.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I am indulging the Minister.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I listened carefully yesterday to what Deputy Kenny said, and Deputy Lee lectured us today on responsibility. Rarely have I heard a more irresponsible contribution from anybody in this House than that given by Deputy Kenny yesterday.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister is not very long in the House himself.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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He lectured us that we cannot tax our way out of recession. Two minutes later he said we cannot repeat the mistakes of the 1980s, that we cannot have cutbacks and cannot restrict ourselves in terms of infrastructure. In the space of two minutes in his contribution he set out two diametrically opposed policy positions that are irreconcilable.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Who is in Government?

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The people will cop on to that. The people will look to see who is best able to get them out of this problem.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Who is in Government?

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The parties opposite might try to do it on their own but they will not do it again.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The people know well that the parties opposite are incapable.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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We hear time and again from our colleagues opposite about how Fine Gael is the party of law and order and that it is the traditional defenders of the Constitution, but when it suits its political needs it will throw the Constitution out of the window. The constitutional position is clear. Governments in this country are elected for a period of five years, not for two years or after every local election. That is the fact of the matter. I believe the Opposition is hell bent on calling for an election now-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Is the Minister of State saying the Opposition caused the problem?

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy, please.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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-----because it suspects that in two or three years' time, when the fruits of the very difficult and unpopular decisions begin to become apparent to the people, they will take a much different and more maligned view of the Opposition parties and the contradictions in all of its policies.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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They will, at the next opportunity.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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It is called wishful thinking.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It is called whistling in the dark.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I call Deputy Burton who has 20 minutes, and I will do my best to protect her.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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I thank the Chair. I always look forward to his protection. He is a perfect gentleman.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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There is no provocation from this side of the House.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I was talking about the other side.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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They hate to hear the truth. That is the problem.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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I was unable to be here all the time during the debate because, like many other Deputies, I spent the last three or four hours in Molesworth Street listening to the people on the march who were giving their take on the way the Government has dealt with the issue of redress and people who were in institutions. While we will get an opportunity to discuss that important issue tomorrow and on Friday, I would prefer if we were discussing it today and tomorrow, and had discussed it yesterday also.

With all due respects to the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Power, there is a fatal conundrum at the heart of this particular period in Fianna Fáil history. In regard to redress, to give one example, many skilful political actions were taken and a great deal of money committed and spent - €1.2 billion - but in the end it was not a job well done. That is part of the problem with the legacy of the Minister's Government for 12 years.

I realise the Minister of State, Deputy Power, acknowledged psychologically in his contribution that it is more than likely that in the next election the people will look to the Opposition parties, whatever their limitations, and I do not claim the Labour Party is perfect - Fine Gael can speak for itself but we do our best - to form the next Government and not the Green Party and Fianna Fáil because they have been in power for 12 years, which is too long.

If shares in this Government's reputation were traded on the stock exchange, what value does the Minister of State believe they would have? I would say it would be just about the same as shares in Anglo Irish Bank. Not even a Government guarantee would prompt an investor to take a punt on the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and even fewer on the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

On 29 September last, the Irish banking system was a few hours away from complete meltdown. The Government that went into panic mode that night is in much the same state of meltdown now. It is past the point of rescue, with a reputation that went bust months ago and is now irrecoverable. Everyone knows there is mutiny in the ranks. The Members will all obey the Minister of State, Deputy Carey's whip later but the mutinous atmosphere will linger on and erode even further the capacity of the Government to do the nation's business properly.

No Government in such a state of disarray can hope to motivate the country for the hard road ahead. There are deep-seated structural problems that require imaginative action from a Government with political capital and a moral authority to guide the economy to recovery. This Government has no such authority and has no reserves of trust or capital on which it can call. That is the reason the national interest requires action quickly, sooner rather than later.

This is not the usual mid-term rebuff that is so common in democratic societies. Voters should and do like to show who is boss. It happens all the time and in many countries. It happened here in 2004, but what happened here last week was fundamentally different. Every Government Deputy, Fianna Fáil or Green Party, knows the score. They know the reception they got in recent weeks and they are aware it represented a quantum leap in hatred over the mild rebuke Fianna Fáil got in 2004. It was bigger in scale and deeper in character than a routine wake-up call in mid-term. It was a clear message to the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, and to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, to get out now.

We need a new Government with a mandate to deliver real long-term recovery because that will involve a major rebalancing of the economy away from construction to production for exports, away from financial services that no longer command credibility and away from an energy policy based on hydrocarbons to one based on renewable sources. We need sound judgment from a Taoiseach and a Minister for Finance who can recognise the difference between genuine green shoots and politically motivated claims that have no underlying substance.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, made a wild claim to his party's delegates in City West some months ago. He stated that as Ireland was the first country into recession, he promised it would be the first out of recession. Could the Minister seriously repeat that in this House in the light of the ever rising loss of employment - the one true signal of recovery or continued recession? The Wall Street Journal is forever referring to a so-called sucker's rally, the triumph of hope over common sense in reading stock market results for signs of recovery. There are still very significant hurdles to clear before the genuine production of wealth resumes in full. False dawns and green shoots, products of political desperation, only make the situation worse and could usher in a second phase of an already dreadful recession.

The Taoiseach has consistently displayed flawed judgement. He wildly predicted the economy would have a soft landing. In the early stages of the crisis he used to boast about how well placed Ireland was to ride out the coming storm. Let us recall all the references to soft landings to which he adverted endlessly.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That is right. Hear, hear.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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No interruptions, please.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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If anyone disagreed or made any critique it was almost as though one was accused of patriotic disloyalty. The Taoiseach was fatally wrong.

A United Kingdom commentator has listed four things a country needs like a hole in the head, namely, a boom based on a property bubble; a boom based on a credit bubble; an economy with excessive dependence on financial services; and a Government on a spending spree. As Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen gave Ireland all of these with no regard for the consequences so long as it gave his party another election win. He promoted a boom based on a property bubble, a boom based on a credit bubble, an economy with excessive dependence on financial services based on the construction and credit bubbles. He also promoted a Government on a spending spree. I was in the shed built by the former Minister, Mr. Charlie McCreevy, in Punchestown for the count for the European elections. It is a lovely shed and, as sheds go, I was very impressed.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Does Deputy Durkan believe the shed was a waste?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It was a competitive job.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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I could understood if the shed cost €3 million or €10 million. However, given the nature of the economy these people ran, it cost €30 million. The shed is lovely, but how and why did we spend €30 million on it? It was a spending spree and money was no object. The attitude was if there was a problem, throw money at it and do not address the underlying problem.

Political priorities took precedence over economic reality at crucial points. For this alone the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, must take responsibility for the state of our country and for this alone he deserves to be shown the door. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, have only one agenda, that is, to escape the fate that has befallen Mr. FitzPatrick, Mr. Sheehy and the others who have had to walk the plank for their capricious errors. The purpose of the debate is to demand that they too deserve the same ignominy of dismissal and public shame.

I refer to two specific issues that demonstrate the incapacity of this bunch of Ministers to make sound judgements. Last October the UK Government decided to reduce its rate of VAT to 15%. At the same time the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, did exactly the opposite. He raised the standard rate here by a half point, an amount infinitesimal such that in the total scheme of the budget it made no difference. However by that action he dealt a hammer blow to the retail industry in Ireland. He destroyed thousands of jobs in retail and services. He was warned of dire consequences from this side of the Dáil and by the representatives of the retail sector. He pressed on regardless, oblivious and even indifferent to the damage he was about to cause. He knows better now and has admitted his error but the damage cannot now be easily undone. This example illustrates his profound lack of judgment and his stubborn refusal to take advice.

The Anglo Irish Bank debacle is another case in point, of much greater importance and the cause of much greater lasting damage. I repeat what I stated on 30 September last. The blanket guarantee was issued in the hours before Anglo Irish Bank's accounting year-end for the sole purpose of protecting that well connected entity from collapse. Today we must find billions of euro, some €4 billion now and possibly a further €3 billion later this year, for no other purpose than to sustain the delusion and the pretence that the bank has some chance of a viable future. We are saddled with the guarantee and the chickens are now coming home to roost with shocking consequences.

It could have been different. Of course depositors were entitled to a guarantee and I stated as much on the record of the Dáil some weeks before the guarantee was introduced. They still are so entitled, but what was given that fateful day went far beyond that. Bank debts, including those to bond holders, became sovereign debts, solemnly guaranteed by the State. Now we must pay truly sizable sums for that failure of policy with no confidence that the situation of the potentially viable banks could improve.

The sorry state of Anglo Irish Bank today is not an argument against nationalisation but an argument against an ill-advised blanket guarantee in respect of the banks. The overhang of the guaranteed bonds has the State in a bind now and is causing us real pain in renegotiating our genuinely sovereign debt requirements.

Now we face the NAMA horror and I appeal to the Minister, Deputy Lenihan, to think afresh because he must be aware that the public is frightened at the prospect that comes with NAMA. Yesterday, at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service, the Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Mr. O'Connor, stated it has more than €17 billion in impaired loans which will go directly to NAMA and an unspecified amount, which may be of the same order, in associated and potentially impaired loans. That is the case of only one bank which, for reasons we have never been able to fathom, Fianna Fáil has described as systemically important. The only systemic importance of Anglo Irish Bank is to Fianna Fáil, because it was the Fianna Fáil developers' bank. That is the only reason that Fianna Fáil was unable and unwilling to address the Anglo Irish Bank issue.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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That is below the belt.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The prospect of over-paying for the transfer of impaired loans from the banks, including Anglo Irish Bank, is appalling for most taxpayers. One can dress it up in highfaluting phrases, such as long-term economic value, and wrap the consent of the European Commission around it to give a legitimate veneer, but one cannot hide the true meaning of what is proposed, that is, to force the taxpayer to pay greater than the odds for properties that could never command those prices on the market.

How can the Government judge long term value? It recruited Jones Lang LaSalle to value impaired loans as part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers process. Yesterday, the bank chairman, Mr. O'Connor, referred to the PwC process on which the Government has been briefed several times since last summer. At that stage Fianna Fáil, or The Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan, were fully aware of what was taking place in Anglo Irish Bank. They were aware that it was a bank, like the Titanic, heading towards an iceberg and disaster. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance were moving might and main to keep the Titanic away from the iceberg but they could not so they decided to bring the other ships and allow them to hit the iceberg as well, a case of one in, all in; in for a penny, in for a pound.

The Government paid millions to PwC for a report that is not worth the paper it is printed on. Anglo Irish Bank paid huge fees to Ernst and Young for an audit that did not spot Mr. FitzPatrick's dodgy loan exchanges. Jones La Salle valuations were useless and did not reflect the true state of the market. We saw the deterioration that happened since last September and these multiple reports. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan first of all said that Anglo Irish Bank would not cost the Irish taxpayer a penny, which he has repeated from time to time. Deputy Lenihan is a qualified barrister and a person of some intellectual eminence who has been to Cambridge so I presume that is just political cant.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy should be able to recognise that.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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He said it was not going to cost us a penny, then it was going to cost us €1.5 billion. It was announced on the bank holiday weekend when it was hoped people would be at the beach and would not have time to take in the information that it would cost €4,000 million. Another €3.6 billion later, we had €17.9 billion of impaired loans to be transferred over and the same or up to the same in associated impaired loans. The cost to the taxpayer is unbelievable. The experts can only operate where there is a market. The so-called long-term economic value idea of the Government is actually utterly fraudulent and will saddle us, our children and even our grandchildren with debts that could cripple our country's future for decades. The Government cannot proceed on that basis; the public will not stand for it. An asset management strategy will certainly be part of any solution but nationalisation is the better option and that is what the Labour Party has said repeatedly.

Fianna Fáil would have us believe that the ESRI has somehow or other given Fianna Fáil a positive mark for economic management. The ESRI report, the recovery scenario document, states very clearly that of Ireland's €21 billion deficit of this year, one third is due to global factors and two thirds - a total of €14 billion - is due to inappropriate fiscal policies, what the ESRI describes as the structural deficit, which is the legacy of unwise fiscal policies of recent years. This is the opinion of the ESRI on the Government's economic management. Those guys on the Government benches are the masters of spin, the masters of denial, the masters of false claims.

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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That is the pot calling the kettle black.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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Shake the foundations of the State.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The ESRI says of this year's fiscal deficit that the Government is responsible for €14 billion.-----

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy is the mistress of spin.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Last Friday, the people of this country said at the ballot box: "We have found out Fianna Fáil and the Greens; we are worried about our children's future; we are worried about our jobs; we want you guys to leave." As Churchill said when referring to Neville Chamberlain - "In the name of God, go and go now." That is what the people of Ireland want.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Actually it was Leo Amery MP who said it. The Deputy should get it right.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I call the next speaker who is the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to share time with my good friend and colleague, Deputy Mary O'Rourke.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Churchill used the quote as well.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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It was Leo Amery MP.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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My advice is the Minister is also sharing with Deputy Michael Kennedy.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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Am I? If I am, so be it.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Churchill also used that phrase.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Leo Amery MP said it.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister, without interruption.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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I am very amused at Deputy Burton's contribution where she talked about Fianna Fáil being masters of spin and half-truths and all the rest of it. If she cares to look back over her own contribution over the past 20 minutes she will see not just half-truths but absolute and total non-truths. Deputy Burton also refuses to tell the Irish taxpayer where, if we go down the route she wants us to go down, we will get the €64 billion of taxpayers' money to pay for her solution. The Labour Party solution to all of this is the Icelandic solution. I will not say anymore than that because people know what happened in Iceland when they took the route which the Labour Party-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Which the Government has been following closely.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Durkan is supposed to agree with me because Fine Gael does not even agree with the Labour Party.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I have it here.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister without interruption and through the Chair so that I may protect him.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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Through the Chair, even Deputy Durkan does not agree with Deputy Burton.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I can tell the Minister one thing, we have a lot more in common than with the Minister.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy will get his chance.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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At last Friday's elections the people chose to vote against a number of Fianna Fáil candidates in the local elections-----

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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A big number.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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In 2012 the people will be deciding on the formation of a new Government-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It will be long before that.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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The results of last Friday's election reflect the rupture that has ocurred in Irish society over the past year. People's lives have been greatly upset by the recession caused by global economic downturn but also caused by difficulties within our own economy. Despite what has been said by Opposition speakers, this Government has taken rapid measures to try to help people out of the effects of the downturn, to try to protect the vulnerable in society, to ensure that we maintain and secure as much employment as possible and to try to lead the country back to growth. This is what the people will base their decision on when the election is held in 2012.

However, the Government decisions have resulted in some very difficult measures being implemented and this has been a painful adjustment for people all over the country. Those adjustments needed to be made because when the Government examined the extent of our economic problems and when that global downturn occurred it became apparent that everybody would have to contribute to our recovery, even those who believed they had not contributed in any way to the economic crisis. The truth of the matter is that everyone would have to feel some pain otherwise we will not generate-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Everyone has to be punished.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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-----the revenue to pay for our day to day bills. The Government wishes the situation could be different. The decisions taken by us were not easy and we did not like taking them but we had to act and will continue to act in the national interest not for short-term electoral purposes.

This national effort we are making is beginning to have an impact on Ireland's international reputation and our ability to borrow money which is necessary not just for economic recovery but also for day to day expenditure. The measures we are taking will not immediately alleviate the current hardships of the recession for the man or woman in the street as this will take a good while longer.

Our decisions have contributed to the Government's unpopularity. When we took these measures we understood that the people would be angry but we believe that they are the right and necessary decisions. We heard from the electorate last Friday. We have to work harder and more effectively to lead Ireland to recovery. We must explain better to people what the strategy is, every day. As a result, these elections were the first that radically impacted on local candidates' chances of being elected.

I agree with the Opposition in one respect. It is true the electorate returned a clear and loud protest against the economic situation our nation currently faces. Why would it not do so? We understand that. It is not easy. Unfortunately for the electorate and all of us, despite what the Opposition might say and wish people to believe, there is no painless way to guide us through this economic recession. The Opposition sought to benefit - and largely succeeded - from the current economic problems that face the Government and the country. It has benefited from a protest vote but has not received any mandate to lead, no matter what it claims. My Opposition colleagues are around the House long enough to know that these local election results would not transfer directly in a general election.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Minister hopes so.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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They are being highly selective about the underlying message the electorate has sent. Political scientists tell us that local elections and referenda are often used by the electorate as a protest and as protest votes.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That is reassuring.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Please, Deputy Durkan.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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It is very reassuring. It is just a little bit-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It is also delusional.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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-----disconcerting to see Members of the Opposition quoting from one Charles J. Haughey, who, following the 1985 general election-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Yes. Wait for it, this will be good.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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-----suggested that the then discredited Government should leave office when it was not in any hurry to leave at that time. Deputies Kenny and Gilmore are recycling C. J.'s lines from 1985-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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What happened after he left office?

Photo of Peter PowerPeter Power (Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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He never got back in again. That is what happened.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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That is about to happen now.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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It clearly underlines the lack of any new or original thinking on the benches opposite. As the Taoiseach and others stated, the Government has a clear mandate from the people to run the country.

The Acting Chairman might tell me when ten minutes has passed.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister has reached 12 minutes and is sharing with two colleagues.

Photo of Noel DempseyNoel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Transport; Meath West, Fianna Fail)
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I shall release the speech so that my friends opposite can have the opportunity to read it.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Please do not.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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The next speaker is Deputy Mary O'Rourke and just under 12 minutes remain of the total slot. The Deputy is sharing with Deputy Michael Kennedy.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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That will be six minutes each. Will the Acting Chairman please tell me when the time is up?

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I shall and I thank the Minister for Transport, Deputy Dempsey.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Before I begin, may I say to a previous speaker, Deputy Joan Burton, that when she chooses, she seems to tip her toe in history quite a bit. On three separate occasions I have heard her bring up this famous line spoken in the House of Commons and have told her that the person who spoke was Leo Amery M.P. She provides some convoluted arrangement in that respect but that was his name. One might ask why it matters in this debate. I taught history for years and it jars me every time I hear the Deputy say this. Somebody gave the quote to her and she keeps on dragging it out of a recess in her high-up shrill mind.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Ouch.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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It was Leo Amery M.P. in any event.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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That was catty.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in this debate. I speak as one who canvassed, day and night, for days and weeks in a county that recorded an increase in our vote. It is true that 1% is small but in the light of what happened around the country a percentage increase county-wide was amazing and we were very pleased.

What I encountered on the doorsteps was what I would call "tabloid politics". I say this with due respect to the empty seats in the Press Gallery or to whomsoever is behind them. It is not quite empty. There is an eminent writer present who is not from the tabloid press. However, I would term this "tabloid politics" because if the person at the door said to the candidate or the canvasser for Fine Gael or the Labour Party, "Oh, look what has happened with the levies," they replied that it was dreadful and appalling and they were horrified. They said,"Trust us and we will not do any of those things". Where then will they get the money to run the country? It is an amazing story.

Deputy George Lee may be sitting in a little hut above somewhere but wherever he is and whatever floor his office is on, I imagine it will not be as nice as his office in RTE. Wherever he is and whatever he is doing, there is a great chance for Deputy Lee, whom I welcome to the House, to return to RTE and ask that organisation why nobody is investigating what the Labour Party and Fine Gael are saying.

Last Monday's "Questions and Answers" should have been compulsory viewing for every Member of this House and every member of the public. Deputy Richard Bruton was present, trying to fend off Mary Lou McDonald who was trying to make overtures to him to become part of her leftish cover. However, she did not really want him either. Sensibly, he stayed very quiet and took little part in that debate.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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He was wasting his sweetness on the desert air.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Please allow me finish. He took little part in that debate because the two are diametrically opposed.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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He is a gentleman. This is appalling.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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The Labour Party's cry is, "Let's spend it, let's have a stimulus". We are not told what the stimulus is. Stimuli can take many forms. "Let us have a stimulus and that will get everybody happy again. Let us have many more cutbacks and that will make everybody happy again". However, nobody spells it out. They do not want to.

Members will know the old tale of the child watching the king go by who said, "The emperor has no clothes".

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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We have enough fairytales. There are a fair few naked people in the House.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Deputies Bruton and Burton are individual emperors who have no clothes because they have no new policies and those they have are markedly divergent. Can one imagine the fun?

I say to Deputy Lee in his little hidey hole, wherever he is, that he is welcome to the House. He has fertile ground now and let him tease out what is his party's economic policy and then let him tease it out again with the Labour Party. I repeat that I call this tabloid politics.

It is funny that one can go anywhere in this land, be in any type of social or political gathering and the question will come up about Deputy Kenny. As Members know, people will say that they cannot envisage what they term "that man" as Taoiseach of this country.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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That is a typical Fianna Fáil slur.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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It is typical sleaze.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy O'Rourke, without interruption, please. The Deputies will get their chance.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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They will not say anything outside the House.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Colleagues, you will get your chance and I will protect you at the time. Deputy O'Rourke, please proceed.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I cannot proceed because the Deputies are shouting.

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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They have tried sleazy character assassination on Alan Dukes, Deputy Richard Bruton, every Fine Gael Deputy-----

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputies, you will get your chance.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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What about Deputy Michael Woods?

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I am so happy. Thank you. The Acting Chairman is a great sort of guardian angel for all of us.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Please. The Deputy will get me into more trouble.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I will spare the Acting Chairman's blushes because I am about to end. There is an air of incredibility about. Concerning that threadbare, mar-dheá Mullingar accord which was signed up and cemented I do not know how many years ago, we do not want another such accord-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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I am not surprised.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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-----because the people will not believe in it. Cleverly, Deputy Gilmore will not go down that road. However, trying to force this belief is so undemocratic. Together, the media and Opposition politicians are saying that we must have an election because the people have spoken. I know full well the people have spoken. I watched and have read the results from all over the country. I am very thankful that in our constituency they spoke very wisely and well because they increased the Fianna Fáil vote. That says something, does it not? By and large, however, they spoke and in some constituencies we got a bloody nose. As time goes on, the incredulous posture and silly policies of the would be government allies will be shown up for what they are, tabloid, disreputable politics.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Deputy O'Rourke for sharing time with me and welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue. The one thing on which we are all agreed is that we have a deficit of €20 billion in our public finances.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Government caused it.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael may think it has the solutions, but we have not heard them yet.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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We left a surplus.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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We have a deficit of €20 billion which represents €70 million a day and the need to borrow €3 million per hour for current expenses.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Who caused that?

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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I would like to hear from any member of the Opposition who considers that sustainable. We have not heard their proposal. We need honesty from the Opposition on the economic issue.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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We need honesty from the Government side. Fine Gael and Labour are not in Government.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael and Labour must come out with honest statements rather than statements that try to confuse the public. Like all other Members, I spent the past five months canvassing and I am delighted to report that Fianna Fáil did not lose any seats in my area. I feel I played some part in that, just as Deputy O'Rourke did in her area.

The one thing I found galling during the campaign was hearing Fine Gael and Labour supporters say we were doing nothing about the banks. It came through clearly that the two parties tried to perpetuate the myth that nothing was happening with regard to fraud investigations into Anglo Irish Bank. The Director of Corporate Enforcement and the fraud squad are currently working on at least four separate investigations. They have removed millions of copies of documents from Anglo Irish Bank to their offices in Harcourt Street.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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After more billions have been spent by taxpayers on the bank.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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Fine Gael and Labour are perpetuating the myth that the Government is doing nothing.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Government is the cause of the economic crisis.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Durkan should allow Deputy Kennedy to proceed.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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Reference was made to the former leader of Fine Gael, Alan Dukes. If Fine Gael had listened to what he had to say yesterday at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service and if it had listened to him on radio this morning, they would have heard him say he fully supports the Government's actions on Anglo Irish Bank and does not believe, as Fine Gael suggests - a suggestion that would not surprise me if it came from the Labour Party - that Anglo Irish Bank should be wound down. That would cost the State at least €60 billion to cover depositors and create a run on our banks. It is ridiculous that Fine Gael uses the good name of Alan Dukes on the one hand, but will not listen to his sound financial judgment as a director of Anglo Irish Bank. I believe Anglo Irish Bank should be given the opportunity to trade out of its difficulties because to wind it down would send the wrong signal to the banking fraternity around the world.

With regard to the action the Government is taking on the banking issue, the European Central Bank has endorsed the Government's plan. Its president, Jean-Claude Trichet, who has visited Ireland on a number of occasions, has repeated ad nauseam that he fully supports the actions of the Government with regard to our banking difficulties. These difficulties are not just common to us, but are a worldwide phenomenon.

I call on Fine Gael to give us its solutions. Can it tell us where we will get €20 billion?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Speak to the Government. Ask it who caused the difficulty.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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We heard from our new Deputy, George Lee. I congratulate him and Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan on their election to the Dáil. Deputy Lee spoke for 20 minutes earlier today, but did not offer any solution to the problem. He had plenty of criticisms to make, which is not unusual for him. We have been hearing that from him for years on RTE. He did not offer even one solution as to how to get out of our difficulties. If that is the best he has to offer, his term here may be short lived, like that of many other celebrities. If he has the expertise as an economist, which I do not doubt, he should come up with ideas on how we can resolve our difficulties.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Let us have a general election. Let the people decide.

Photo of Michael KennedyMichael Kennedy (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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The people elected us for five years. They elected the Government for five years and that is what we will have. I have full confidence in the Government.

Photo of Deirdre CluneDeirdre Clune (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share my time with Deputies Bernard Durkan, Joe Carey, Bernard Allen and Lucinda Creighton.

Photo of Charlie O'ConnorCharlie O'Connor (Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Deirdre CluneDeirdre Clune (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I have no confidence in the Government. Last Friday, the people gave their verdict on the Government and regardless of whether it likes it, the local elections were a referendum on its stewardship of our economy. Over the past nine years, the Government has presided over an economy for which the people are now paying the price.

I have listened to the contributions of many Deputies on this debate. It seems to me that the theme coming from the Government benches is that the Fine Gael and Labour Party policies do not knit. I have news for the Government. The debate is not about our policies, but about how the Government has presided over the economy and the mess it has made of it. The people are realistic. They know there is a gaping hole in the public finances and that it will not disappear overnight. They recognise that hard choices must be made, but would have preferred if the choices took another direction. They are disgusted by how the country has been led to the point it is at today.

The Government failed to address the wastage in our public services. The Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, who is present, presides week after week over an abysmal litany of waste. The Government failed to focus on energy costs and failed to reform public services. Over the years it has let public services grow out of control. We are now faced with a situation where, rather than focus on reform of the public service, it has decided taxpayers must fund the deficit.

The vote last Friday was a vote of no confidence in the Government, but the Government just does not get it. We read in this morning's papers about the meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. Fianna Fáil has said it intends to change and become a campaigning organisation that will revitalise the Fianna Fáil Party. They do not get it. That is not what the people voted on. They were not concerned that the Fianna Fáil was not a campaigning organisation or that it needed revitalisation. The people in my constituency spoke by voting out three Fianna Fáil councillors. These were long-serving councillors whose names have long been associated with the Fianna Fáil Party. There was nothing wrong with their campaign or with their work over the past five years, but the people did not vote for them. The people were registering their objections to the failed policies of the Government.

With regard to the Green Party, its members will tell the party exactly where they think it should go. I am confident the Green Party will be told to pull out of the Government and go to the people and let them give a government a mandate. The Government we have currently does not have a mandate from the people. Let us have a general election. Let Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Labour Party, Sinn Féin, Independents and Fine Gael go out and put their policies to the people. Let the people make a decision. The current Government is on its last legs and the sooner we have a general election, the sooner we will have a government in place that has the confidence of the people. The Government does not have the people's confidence currently. I do not have confidence in the Government and the people who voted in my constituency last Friday do not have confidence in it. I am here to deliver that voice. I hope the Government will recognise the fact that they have lost the confidence of the people and failed the country.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Like my colleagues, I do not have confidence in the Government and neither have the people who voted last week. They have no confidence because they are scared of what the Government has done, what it is about to do and what it has threatened to do. They are scared of the punishment that has been meted out already and of the punishment the Government has promised them in the future. People who are watching this debate see Government Deputies in denial, blaming the Opposition and calling on the Opposition to spell out what it would do. The Government has been in office for 12 years and it has not spelled anything out. The Government has brought the country into a swamp and has led it astray. They are now punishing the people who followed them into that morass.

I listened to the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Power, in total disbelief as he talked about the 1980s, when a Government tidied up the economy when the country had been led astray. In 1977, Fianna Fáil, and subsequently the Progressive Democrats, led the country astray by abolishing car tax and rates and promising the people easy times. The economy lasted only two years until it came to a halt. When a new Government took over in 1981, there was no money to pay civil servants, gardaí, nurses, doctors or teachers. The kitty was empty. I know because I was here debating the difficulty.

This morning in reply to Deputy Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach said the following:

What is clear is that on 29 May the bank published its half-yearly accounts for the period to the end of March of this year. These showed a pre-tax loss of over €4 billion, mainly due to a write-off of some of the loan book. That represented a significant deterioration in the bank's position since it was nationalised in January and its assessment has been confirmed by PricewaterhouseCoopers and subject to stress-testing similar to the exercise carried out on Bank of Ireland and AIB.

Why was that information not known in January or on 29 September last? Why was an assessment not carried out before the State committed itself? This is why the people are scared. They do not trust the Government to assess and deliver on the basis of a strict assessment and stress test.

The people have no confidence in the Government's ability to deliver a health service and neither does the Opposition. The public have lost all confidence in the ability of the Minister for Health and Children to deliver a health service. Anyone who was canvassing in the past couple of weeks knows that. The people have no confidence in the Government's ability to deliver an education service, particularly to children with special needs. They have no confidence in the Government's ability to deliver services to elderly people or to those seeking respite care or access to hospitals and various health services.

The job of the Opposition is to articulate that lack of confidence, as expressed by the people in their vote last week. The public have no confidence in the Government's ability to deliver on the housing situation. As many as 100,000 people on local authority housing lists must remain in rented accommodation for which they are paying through the nose. They have no chance of being housed. Meanwhile, 100,000 houses are locked up in the private sector, due to the effects of the housing bubble. I could go on and on.

The people have no confidence in the Government's ability to deliver anything. They said so last week. Need I mention the Ryan report in which many sections were blacked out? Could the public have confidence in that kind of nonsense? I have no confidence either.

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
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I have no confidence in the Government and the people I represent in County Clare have no confidence in it.

Yesterday, at the beginning of this debate, the Taoiseach, in explaining the context of the decisions his Government has made over the past 12 months said: "We do that not because we are aligned to any particular economic ideological philosophy..." It is very clear to me, and to the people of the country, that since 1997 one very specific economic ideological philosophy was followed. This ideological philosophy was shared by the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and the former Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy. Both these men, as Ministers for Finance, through their budgetary decisions poured petrol on the flames of this country's independent economic growth. This was done simply in order to ensure re-election in 2002 and 2007.

Where do we now find ourselves today? We are pumping money to the tune of €7.5 billion, with more to come, into banking institutions that are of, so called, systemic importance, yet we hear they have not loaned a cent since last September. The Taoiseach yesterday described his Government's actions in relation to the banking crisis as "structured and considered". They are anything but. They merely accept the status quo and commit future generations of Irish people to picking up the tab.

The Taoiseach, some months ago, stated that our children will not enjoy the same prosperity as we have up to now. That is some indictment and some political legacy. The figures released last week show unemployment just marginally under 400,000 and expected to reach 500,000 by the end of the year. The figures for County Clare show a 12 month increase from 5,036 to 9,688, or a 92.4% increase. Our current rate of unemployment and its consequential multiplier effect on long-term unemployment is a serious threat to our potential for a proper viable recovery, yet the Government seems paralysed by inaction on this issue.

The debacle experienced in my constituency during the latter part of 2007 in relation to the Aer Lingus service to Heathrow is another example of Government inaction. I know Government Deputies will now say these services are back in place, but think of the destruction and erosion of confidence in the region, the loss of business and the fact that so much energy was expended unnecessarily. Pieces of national infrastructure such as the Heathrow slots should be in the possession of the State and not a plc. This option was not considered by Government. Indeed, it chose not to exercise the influence of its 25% shareholding. I call on Aer Lingus to reinstate all the Shannon to Heathrow services.

There are elements of our economy which the Government seems hell-bent on ignoring, some of which have traditionally provided us with growth and a positive image around the world. The most significant of these is agriculture. We are an ideally located country. We are a green island with a tradition of food production. We have the natural resources of milk and beef and a processing industry that has established itself around the world, yet, in an ego driven pursuit of the vague concept of a "knowledge economy", the Government seems determined to ignore a firmly rooted and resilient industry. This is a perfect example of the Government's tunnel vision.

The Government likes to dress up old ideas and present them as new. It is jaded and tired. It is time for the Government to get out of office. It is time for a new start. It is time to call a general election.

5:00 am

Photo of Bernard AllenBernard Allen (Cork North Central, Fine Gael)
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The incredible arrogance at the heart of this Government is demonstrated by the tabling of a counter-motion of confidence in itself. It may be common Dáil procedure but it represents a two-finger insult to the public which gave the Government parties a hammering on Friday last. The Green Party was also sent a council seat message for supporting Fianna Fáil with blind obedience as the economy slumped. There is huge contempt within Fianna Fáil for the electorate, who dared to give them a hiding. That is why the Taoiseach talks about communication and organisation when there is real anger at their recent actions.

They can spin all they like but they cannot fool the people. Deputy O'Rourke quoted nursery rhymes. While it may be a cliché, the adage that one can fool some of the people some of the time but one cannot fool all of the people all of the time is appropriate. Fianna Fáil will be found out. How out of touch is the Fianna Fáil Party? In the weeks of the election campaign its party members were afraid to knock on doors in my local area and instead dropped leaflets through letter boxes. At national level, its leader, the Taoiseach, was afraid to meet people and chose instead to fly over their heads and surround himself in a cocoon of supporters who told him what he wanted to hear. He is so wrapped up in Fianna Fáil events, he is beginning to believe his own spin.

There is something rotten to the core in the Office of the Financial Regulator which allowed recent developments to take place. However, these events occurred under the jurisdiction of the Taoiseach. He dropped the ball and for that failure alone he should offer his resignation.

I used to have respect for the Green Party. It entered government in 2007 with a good reputation for doing the right thing, sometimes when it was not popular to do so. Having become unpopular, far from doing the right thing, the party has done the wrong thing on the economy. It supported the big builders' party, even when it was bailing out the builders in the Galway tent, and continues to support Fianna Fáil when it is bailing out the builders' banks. Instead of investing billions of euro in next generation broadband or renewable technologies, the Government must bail out the banks which gave the Fianna Fáil Galway tent set loans to inflate the property balloon even further.

The Green Party remained with the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, when he contradicted his former personal secretary and it remains loyal to Deputy Ahern's party which has led the country headlong into economic disaster. When will the Green Party do the right thing and refuse to put short-term political gains before long-term progress? The party appears set to leave the promotion of the green agenda to Fine Gael and the Labour Party. This may be the best course of action available to it given that it has become so badly tainted by its presence in government that it lacks all credibility. The Green Party can no longer ignore its culpability in supporting the same party that got us into the current mess, even if it pretends collective Cabinet responsibility does not exist.

Where once the Progressive Democrats tail wagged the Fianna Fáil dog, the Green Party has become the fresh coat of paint over a banged up, polluting Fianna Fáil SUV, a sad looking remnant of the Celtic tiger. The Fianna Fáil Party is responsible for the worst aspects of the recession that is hurting the people of Ireland. The soft touch regulation to which I referred has damaged our international reputation. The former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, who attacked economic commentators by asking the reason they had not committed suicide, and the current Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, were the architects of the building bubble and tailored Government policy to benefit the Fianna Fáil Galway tent set. The Green Party has subscribed to this approach. What a turnabout for a once proud party? The people have spoken. When will the Government listen?

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the motion. I have no doubt a general election is needed. Despite the claims made by Ministers in recent days, there is an appetite for a general election. This message was driven home loud and clear in recent weeks as we campaigned and canvassed in our constituencies and, more important, last Friday when people went to the polling stations and cast their votes resoundingly against the Government. Looking across the city of Dublin it is clear the Government no longer enjoys the confidence or trust of people. The Green Party has been left without councillors across the city, while the Fianna Fáil Party on the south side of the city has been left with a single councillor to represent the party on Dublin City Council. It is clear the Government does not have a mandate for the actions it has taken over the past 12 months and has lost the confidence of the electorate.

It is said that delay is the deadliest form of denial. Delay has become the cornerstone of this Government's activity in the past 12 months. To date, we have had four attempts to sort out the public finances, none of which has been successful. We will face into an autumn of discontent which will probably precipitate another early budget and may well lead to a general election, regardless of whether the Government wants one.

It is interesting that Government Deputies have made little attempt to defend the Government or its record during this debate. The focus of their contributions has been almost exclusively on attacking the Opposition. The Government clearly realises its number is up and the only course of action available to it is to try to create factions and sow divisions among the Opposition parties. The Fine Gael Party is a distinctive party with its own values and policies and will fight the next election on that basis. The Opposition parties are united, however, on the need to have the Fianna Fáil Party removed from office on the basis that it has mishandled and abused political office for much too long. I will not bother to comment on the Green Party and the remnants of the Progressive Democrats Party as they are not relevant. It is high time Fianna Fáil was removed from office. In that, Fine Gael and the Labour Party are united.

While speakers from the Government side have made a number of claims during this debate, the claim trotted out and repeated ad nauseam by Cabinet Ministers and others on the Government benches is that the national economic crisis is simply and solely due to the international recession. We all know this is not the case and the Government, through the pursuit of flawed policies for at least 12 years, first allowed a property bubble to develop and inflate and then fuelled it with further tax breaks for developers, pumping it up further and further until it burst. It then tried to wash its hands of the problem by blaming it on an international recession, which is a fallacy.

On the Government's approach to the public finances in recent years, I have repeatedly stated that the benchmarking process has been nothing short of a national fraud. Its outcome was arrived at illegitimately and the process was conducted behind closed doors and was not subject to freedom of information legislation. In addition, the chairman of the commission examining benchmarking was forced to resign in exasperation. Instead of tackling the crisis in the public sector and having the backbone and courage to reform the public sector, the Government simply threw more and more hard-earned taxpayers' money at the problem. It was this approach that caused the immense hole in our public finances.

Unfortunately, I am running out of time. I hope I will have an opportunity to raise many other issues I wish to address during the Private Members' debate this evening.

Photo of Mary HarneyMary Harney (Minister, Department of Health and Children; Dublin Mid West, Progressive Democrats)
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I welcome two new Deputies to the House, Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan who is present, and Deputy George Lee who spoke in the Chamber this morning. It is a great privilege to be elected to the House. Walking across the plinth having been elected is a singularly great honour. I extend best wishes to the new Deputies, both of whom have much to add to our deliberations.

I am pleased to contribute to this debate. Motions of no confidence are serious matters which should be taken seriously. They are not opportunities for shouting at each other, heckling, cartoon politics or cheap stunts but means of putting forward our particular perspectives, especially in the context of the serious economic challenges facing the country. It is a fact and not an excuse that the world is facing its most serious economic crisis since the 1920s and 1930s.

Ireland is no different from many other countries although our economic difficulties may have been compounded by some issues relating to property here. However, as an exporting country dependent for its survival on 80% of what we produce being sent abroad, we are more adversely affected by the economic crisis that almost any other country in the world. The German economy, which exports 40% of what it produces, will contract by 6% this year. No country will get out of its problems if its simply laments its mistakes, loses it nerve or does not concentrate on its core competencies.

This country has the capacity to see its way through the most difficult economic challenges of our time. We have done it before and we know what needs to be done. We are a country that can design products. We can innovate, market, sell and produce them. We can service our customers. We can deal with the supply chain from beginning to end. The debt-GDP ratio, the size of the budget deficit or solving the banks are merely enablers to allowing our companies to innovate and to be able to trade, and that is how we will generate employment. Our employment opportunities will come from export growth.

Clearly, the Government has been focused. There has been robust debate within Government and we are focused on one matter and one matter alone, that is, doing the best in the national interest. We are not bailing out banks and builders. We are simply trying to save this economy as without a sound banking system, we cannot have a sound economy. The challenges we face are being faced by other countries around the world, but I remain confident that we can see our way through them. Leadership requires us to make difficult decisions.

I will end by saying this because I do not want to take too much of the time allocated to the Minister for Finance. Deputy Kenny stated yesterday that Fine Gael had come forward with a great plan for health known as the universal insurance plan. He described it as revolutionary. It will include a half a million more people in health insurance with additional benefits, including primary care for the entire population. It will not cost those individuals a penny and it will not cost the taxpayers a penny either. It certainly is revolutionary, but it is the revolution of the comic. It is not doable, not because it defies administration but because it defies logic and arithmetic.

If we are to have serious debates in this House - the Government's mandate comes from this House through the people - for as long as the Government has the confidence of this House to whom we are accountable I believe we should govern. Deputy Lee spoke about this being the 30th Dáil. If we were to go for an election at every whim when we have had a mandate given for people for town councils, county councils and the European Parliament, not for this House, then we would be in the 130th Dáil instead of the 30th Dáil.

Our job and duty is to see this country through the difficult challenges and anyone who aspires to Government and to the office of Taoiseach has an obligation to show leadership, not least when he or she puts forward policies. The Government is putting forward a cancer control plan. The Leader of the Opposition marched with opponents in County Mayo against that plan even though he stated in here he agreed with it, but he did not agree with it because it affected Mayo. I challenge Deputy Kenny to find a single breast cancer patient or a single doctor in the past year in Mayo who is not totally confident of the transformation that has taken place. Therefore, I invite people who aspire to the office of Government to back us when we are making difficult decisions, not because they are tough or because they are unpopular, but because we are compelled to do what is right, in my case by patient safety.

I remain hugely confident and optimistic for the future of this country. That is not to say that I am blindly willful to the challenges we face, but I know if we are resolute, if we are determined and if we do not lose our nerve, we will see our way through this crisis as we have done in the past. The challenge for all of us is to step up to the plate and to support the policies that can transform the economic difficulties we face and bring this country around again.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The results of Friday last's elections have been very good for the parties opposite and I congratulate them on their success. I especially congratulate Deputy Kenny on his success in rebuilding his party after seven years in a political wilderness. It is a political achievement, but it is important to remind ourselves that the questions before the electorate on Friday last were the elections of councillors, MEPs to the European Parliament and in the case of this House, two seats which had become vacant. That is what the people voted on and the Opposition parties won handsomely.

However, the people were not deciding on who should run this country. They have yet to decide whether or not they want Deputy Kenny as Taoiseach. That was not put to the people on Friday last and their judgement on this matter in 2012 remains a matter of conjecture.

We must remember that until we implemented reform and gave a constitutional status to local government the common reaction of Governments to local elections was to postpone them. Deputy Kenny speaks now of his pride in serving as Minister for Tourism and Trade in an earlier Government. He fails to mention that as a member of that Government he decided to cancel the local elections scheduled for 1996 and 1997. As a statement of his faith in democracy this speaks louder than any of his words in this debate.

It is plain that the electorate is very angry with the Government and I understand why. People have lost jobs. They have lost savings. They have lost pensions. Living standards have fallen. Parents are worried about the future of their children. These are the human manifestations of the worst global recession since the Great Depression eight decades ago.

I do not suggest that all of our difficulties are down to global factors. I am well aware of the contribution our housing bubble has made to our economic downturn. As I stated previously, with the benefit of hindsight, more should have been done to contain the housing market which was fuelled by very low interest rates and the ready availability of credit. I readily acknowledge that and so has the Taoiseach. However, I am nauseated by the dishonesty of an Opposition that time and again courted the electorate with its calls for the abolition of stamp duty, effectively the only control mechanism we had on the property market.

I heard Deputy Coveney condemn the previous Government for profligacy during its term of office. In response to Budget 2006, Deputy Kenny stated that his biggest regret about the budget was that it did not give the people enough. In response to Budget 2007, Deputy Bruton criticised the modesty of the increase in child benefit and the budget for social housing. On Budget 2008, Fine Gael was still demanding that we spend more. Deputy Mitchell expressed bitter disappointment that the funding for arts organisations had been cut.

Nothing has changed. The debate that has taken place in this House over the past two days has been a sham. Having put down its motion of no confidence in a blaze of publicity, Fine Gael simply went through the cliché-ridden motions joined, on this occasion, by a reluctant Labour Party. Is it any wonder the public is cynical?

Nothing we have heard from the Opposition suggests any engagement with the enormous difficulties facing this country and our people. There is a €20 billion hole in our public finances. That is the reality. It is crazy for Deputies to come into this House, one by one, punching in the slots, decrying every effort the Government has made to control spending. Deputy Gilmore condemned the income levies and the increase in class sizes as if it was some piece of optional mendacity on the part of the Government without any reference to how we might meet the cost of education and our public services. In an hysterical contribution, Deputy O'Dowd launched a tirade of criticism about cutbacks in the budget of the road safety campaign. On what planet does the Opposition live?

Deputy Bruton referred earlier to his party's suggestions on how to respond to the economic crisis which he stated were, by definition, rejected by this government. That is not the case. I welcomed the documents at the time of their publication. I agreed with many of his suggestions and they formed part of the supplementary budget. However, the problem is that some of Deputy Bruton's suggestions were subsequently disowned by his own colleagues. Deputy Bruton proposed the emergency suspension of non-priority capital projects in the areas of local roads and social housing. In the supplementary budget, we duly made those savings and in no time there were two outraged press releases from Deputy O'Dowd, the transport spokesman, and Deputy Terence Flanagan on the social housing issue all, of course, of which were just in time for the local elections.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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That is scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Bruton proposes cuts, we agree and subsequently introduce those cuts, and they, in turn, are opposed by two of his party colleagues

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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We asked for efficiencies.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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It is a farce and it gives the lie to the notion that in most cases, the Opposition wants to do anything other than make political hay out of this economic crisis. Fine, if that is what they want to do, do it but please be honest enough to admit it.

In the last year, the Government introduced a fiscal correction of over €8 billion, that is, approximately 5% of GDP. No other country in Europe has been able to achieve that quantum of savings. It has damaged us politically but it has been a powerful start to our journey on the road to economic recovery.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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There are 400,000 unemployed as a result.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The journey continues as we will take the necessary decisions to bring sustainability to the public finances.

That is the challenge that would face any party in Government to bring the General Government Balance to the requisite requirement of the Stability and Growth Pact. This approach has received the approval of the European Commission and we have seen visible public support from the President of the European Central Bank, Mr. Jean Claude Trichet, and from the President of the Eurogroup of member states, Mr. Juncker. This is a real and credible plan of adjustment and has been recognised as such. The choices are limited. There are no easy, painless solutions to our fiscal dilemma and it is time we all faced that reality.

Yesterday, Deputy Kenny said the country was bankrupt. He either does not know or does not care that such loose rhetoric-----

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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-----fuels misinformation about the economy and makes it more difficult and costly for Ireland to fund itself in international financial markets. The country is not bankrupt. We have a flexible and resilient economy that is adjusting rapidly to the new economic circumstances. We have world-class, modern export industries built in a low tax, pro-enterprise business environment that the Government is committed to maintaining. This strength is reflected in the resilience of our exports which decreased by 5% in the early months of the year compared with a decline of 20% to 25% in most other European countries.

Our external financial position is improving, despite the increase in State borrowing. We are moving from a decade-long position where we were a net borrower abroad to having an external debt that is actually falling. Our underlying economic strengths, fostered by significant investment in education and productive infrastructure in the past decade, will ensure that, if we make the right decisions now, we will rebound from the current slump. In the words of the recent ESRI report on our medium-term prospects, "the Irish economy, as long as it regains competitiveness, can be expected to grow quite rapidly in the 2011-2015 period".

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Is that a local elections announcement?

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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This regaining of competitiveness depends on decisions being taken by the Government. We have begun the process of making those decisions, many of which were fought tooth and nail in the House by the parties opposite. What this debate has underscored is that it is not Ireland, but the Opposition parties which are bankrupt of ideas-----

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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-----about how to progress the country out of this grave economic crisis.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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That is very clever.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Are the people wrong?

Photo of Martin ManserghMartin Mansergh (Minister of State with special responsibility for the Arts, Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism; Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Department of Finance; Tipperary South, Fianna Fail)
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Rhetoric.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Is the Minister going to shove a lecture down our throats?

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The last two days have shown that the Opposition prefers to hide behind empty rhetoric-----

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Have the voters run out of ideas?

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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We did not hide our proposals before the local elections. There are many who did.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The people are wrong. Fire them.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Opposition Members are superb rhetoricians, for which I give them credit. Deputy Howlin is one of the ablest, but it is rhetoric, smoke and mirrors.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Fire the people.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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It is not the practical decision making that must be followed to ensure the country progresses. The Government has not shied away from taking difficult decisions.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Increasing taxes and failing to reform the public service are the Government's angle.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please allow the Minister to continue.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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We will protect the economy and position the country to benefit from the global economic upturn when it eventually occurs. These decisions have not been popular, but they are unavoidable. We will continue to take actions to restore order and sustainability to the public finances. We are determined not to repeat the policy mistakes of the 1980s when successive Governments postponed taking the necessary decisions. At the time I was a member of the party which engaged in the initial postponement. The parties opposite engaged in subsequent postponements. None of it suited the country's interests. The Government was not afraid to take action as soon as there was a crisis. As difficulties emerged last July, we took immediate corrective action which we followed in October, February and April.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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With respect, the Government was asleep for too long. There were difficulties before July.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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We carried out four budgetary adjustments because we needed to address the difficulties as they emerged. It is what the country needed. It did not need postponement or endless analysis and rhetoric. It required decisions which is what the Government took. Last July the various adjustments laid the foundations which were built upon with subsequent measures. That programme has the backing of the European Commission.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Who is the Minister trying to convince?

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The scope for further income tax increases is limited if we are not to dampen recovery; therefore, the bulk of the future budgetary adjustment will need to fall on the expenditure side. This task will not be easy, but the Government will not shirk its responsibilities.

Sound public finances will provide the backdrop for renewed export-led growth in the economy. As we regain international competitiveness through cost reductions, businesses will find themselves needing to increase employment and investment to expand capacity. This adjustment in cost competitiveness is already occurring. The European Commission projects that our unit labour costs will decline by 4% this year compared with a 3% increase across the euro area on average. This translates into a 7% improvement in competitiveness. Public services and their reform must measure this improvement. Deputies must focus on this factor because the House is responsible for the public finances and members of the Government are collectively responsible to the House for them. The containment of costs and the reform of the public service must play a crucial part in improving basic competitiveness. Prices of consumer goods and services are dropping at a remarkable rate, cushioning the effect of falling wage levels on households' spending power. Interest rate cuts have injected significant amounts of money into home owners' pockets, the people who are obligated to make mortgage repayments.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Am I to suppose that the Government did this? Thanks.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Today the International Monetary Fund reiterated in its review of the euro area economy that economic recovery would not happen unless decisive actions were taken to stabilise and revitalise the banking system. We have taken those actions, sometimes with the support of the main Opposition party, with the relentless opposition of the Labour Party, the members of which want to say out of the sides of their mouths at all stages that we are bailing out the builders and not helping others.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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And the banks.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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We are borrowing money to meet day-to-day expenses. Everyone who has been advised by the Labour Party and its satellites on the far left that he or she is subsidising the banks should be informed-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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That is what Standard & Poor's states.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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-----that we are borrowing to pay for basic public salaries.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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And the banks.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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That is because the Government let them run out of control. They are the Government's responsibility.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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We are borrowing for welfare payments and to meet day-to-day expenditure.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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That is not what Standard & Poor's stated when it downgraded us this week.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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This situation cannot continue. It is an unsustainable trajectory for the country.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Standard & Poor's downgraded us because of the Government's handling of the banking crisis.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister to continue without interruption.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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We cut all of the-----

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please allow the Minister to continue.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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That is why the Government is taking the necessary actions.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Order, a Cheann Comhairle.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Brian Lenihan is the Minister.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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No more interruptions, please.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I began by pointing out that the IMF had advised all European governments that economic recovery would not occur unless decisive action was taken to stabilise and revitalise the banking system.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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By the people when they give the Government its P45.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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The Government will be in trouble then.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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We have taken such steps and continue to take action to repair the financial system. We introduced the guarantee for deposits and other covered liabilities of the banking system to stabilise the banks' funding position. We have recapitalised Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks which have seen considerable recovery of their shareholdings, in respect of which we have taken a warrant for the upswing and protected the taxpayer.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Small businesses are not being helped.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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We needed to nationalise Anglo Irish Bank, as banks cannot lend to sound businesses and personal customers-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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They are not lending.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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To anyone.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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-----unless they themselves attract funds.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Does the Minister not know that?

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please, Deputy Burton.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The National Asset Management Agency will clean up balance sheets-----

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Next year, when it will be too late.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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-----by purchasing the riskiest loan categories from the banks at an appropriate price, thereby boosting international confidence in our banks and restoring their ability to lend.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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The Minister should read the Standard & Poor's document.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I will mention something about the Government's approach to Anglo Irish Bank. What occurred in terms of its lending practices and corporate governance was a disgrace. Nobody in the House is more angry than I am about the events that took place at the bank. Let me reassure the House that every step the Government has taken regarding Anglo Irish Bank and the rest of the banking system has been to protect taxpayers and the economy. The Opposition calls for a winding down of the bank, but it ignores the fact that, if the bank is not recapitalised, it can no longer hold a banking licence. Without such a licence, what hope does that institution have of retaining the €50 billion in funding to which Mr. O'Connor referred yesterday, approximately three quarters of which comes from outside the State?

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Some €64 billion.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The substantial support provided for the bank by the European Central Bank would immediately be withdrawn since the ECB does not lend to non-banks. Perhaps the Opposition could suggest where the State could find a quick €50 billion to cover the lost deposits and interbank funding.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The wholesale bank funded by the ECB.

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Talk to Alan Dukes.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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As a former distinguished Member of the House-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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May I conclude?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Minister may.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please allow the Minister to finish.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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He asked a question and we have answered him.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I showed the Deputy the courtesy of listening to him.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Let the Minister conclude.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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A former distinguished Member of the House, Alan Dukes, told the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service yesterday that a winding down, whether orderly, would expose the State to far more expense than the approach the board is adopting.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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We do not believe a word of what the Minister is saying.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Lee, whom I welcome to the House, has argued that Anglo Irish Bank is not important to the banking system because it has only one branch in Dublin.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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No, it is important to Fianna Fáil.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Lehman Brothers did not have even one retail branch outlet, yet we saw the consequences of its collapse on the entire global financial system.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The Government is looking after its cronies.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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Its demise almost brought the entire global financial system to a halt.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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Fine Gael has cronies, too.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Minister only has one minute left. Let him finish.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party is a part of it.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I will not be deterred-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Where is Deputy Gogarty's leader?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Order.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party is propping up cronyism.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Kehoe should let the Minister finish.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party is propping up Fianna Fáil.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputies must have this discussion somewhere else.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party is propping up the cronyism of Fianna Fáil.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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Go back to the developers.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Let the Minister proceed.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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We have a mandate from the House to carry on the business of government. That is our duty. Much has been said about the rise and demise of political parties. I can say we led this country out of profound economic difficulties in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Into the mid-1990s.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The Government must act beyond party interests and in the interests of all of the people. With our partners in government-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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God love the Minister.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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The Government does not even have the banks.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Minister stated this was how the people wanted us to go.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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-----we will lead the country out of the current difficulties and back into the sunlight of prosperity, investment, jobs and social justice.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Where is the standing ovation?

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Question put.

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 85 (Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Noel Ahern, Barry Andrews, Chris Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Bobby Aylward, Niall Blaney, Áine Brady, Cyprian Brady, Johnny Brady, John Browne, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Pat Carey, Niall Collins, Margaret Conlon, Seán Connick, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Brendan Kenneally, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael Lowry, Jim McDaid, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Noel O'Flynn, Rory O'Hanlon, Batt O'Keeffe, Ned O'Keeffe, Mary O'Rourke, Christy O'Sullivan, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Eamon Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Mary White, Michael Woods)

Against the motion: 79 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, Joe Behan, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ulick Burke, Joan Burton, Catherine Byrne, Joe Carey, Deirdre Clune, Paul Connaughton, Noel Coonan, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Seymour Crawford, Michael Creed, Lucinda Creighton, Michael D'Arcy, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Frank Feighan, Martin Ferris, Charles Flanagan, Terence Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, George Lee, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Joe McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Ruairi Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Alan Shatter, Tom Sheahan, P J Sheehan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Mary Upton, Leo Varadkar, Jack Wall)

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.