Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Stability and the Budgetary Process: Motion (Resumed)

 

The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael Noonan on Tuesday, 30 November 2010:

"That Dáil Éireann:

— recognises the urgent need for the establishment of economic and political stability;

— believes that an accelerated budgetary process would contribute to economic stability;

— notes that Dáil Éireann is currently scheduled to sit for just eight days during the month of December;

— notwithstanding anything in Standing Order 26 resolves that the Dáil should, if necessary, sit on each working day during December to deal with the budgetary process; and

— agrees that the 2011 Budget, and the legislative measures to give effect to it, should be presented to, and disposed of, by the House before the end of December 2010."

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:

- commends the Government for bringing forward the National Recovery Plan which provides the blueprint to achieve budgetary stability over the next four years;

- notes that the Plan provides a credible path towards budgetary consolidation and a return to sustainable economic growth;

- notes that the measures in Budget 2011 will give effect to the first phase of adjustment committed to in the Plan to be put into effect in 2011;

- agrees that the national interest is best served by all parties in the House facilitating the passage of these measures in the present uniquely serious circumstances; and

- endorses a timetable which will see the presentation of the 2011 Budget on 7 December 2010, the introduction of the necessary Resolutions in accordance with usual Budgetary practice and the enactment in the New Year of the necessary legislation to give definitive effect to the Budget measures.

- (Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan).

7:00 pm

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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I welcome the Fine Gael motion, which the Labour Party supports. In speaking on the question of political and economic stability, we have before us proposals by the European Commission in relation to co-ordination on economic governance issues. What goes to the heart of this is the very existence of political and economic co-ordination on issues of a monetary nature. Events in recent months have shown clearly that there is an existential crisis as regards the very existence of the euro. As a result of the current crisis there are some who seek to impose on countries greater economic and political co-ordination in return for the continued existence of the euro. In other words, the very threat we see to the euro at present, in the opinion of some people, is as a result of a lack of greater political co-ordination.

My view is that if the Government of the day is to talk about greater political and economic co-ordination at a European level, we must be very honest with the people about that. There is a choice now in this country as regards where we go. Do we follow an intergovernmental model so that we may ensure our sovereignty, both economic and political, or do we go for a deeper co-ordination at European level and follow an intra-institutional model, whereby greater power is derived by the European Commission? Instinctively in this country, because it is supposed to be a republic, there is a view to the effect that while greater economic co-ordination is necessary and we subscribe to the very existence of the euro, this should not be to the further detriment of our sovereignty. We have now given away too much of that sovereignty along with our ability to be able to make and break our own fiscal and monetary policies. There has to be a breakpoint which determines that this current crisis should not present itself as an opportunity by the European Commission as potential for deepening European integration so that the intra-institutional model wins out over the intergovernmental one.

The plan that has been put before us, on which we will not be even entitled to vote, is a further kick in the teeth to the citizens of Ireland, who believe very strongly that they should have the ability through this House to decide as to its efficacy. There is now a well-founded deepening suspicion that this crisis has presented itself as an opportunity by the European Commission and the intra-institutions to deepen their grip and to bring about a federal construct for the European Union. I want to lay down a marker to the effect that any new Government must think carefully as regards where it wants to go and on its policy in relation to the European Union in this respect.

Mine and future generations have been sold down the river, and deemed expendable in the greatest ever swindle to which the people of Ireland have been subjected as a result of the economic policies of this Government. I note the presence on the Fianna Fáil benches of members of my generation, some of whom became Members of the Dáil around the same time as I did.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Give or take a few years.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Finance; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy is being very ageist.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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I am speaking of the people of my generation. While there is no blame apportioning to that generation of Fianna Fáil politicians, there is a sense that they do not appreciate the anger and sheer sense of betrayal among the public. Some of the people of my generation on the Government benches are as vigilant as their elders in defending the party line and the sins of those who have gone before them, politically. If this country is going to mean anything, I believe our generation of politicians will have to come clean with the people and begin a new political paradigm that ensures it will not be about serving Fianna Fáil or the party first, but rather the people, so that they are sovereign. It is the people on whom we will rely to guide us in terms of how the country should be governed.

It is deplorable that a deal of this magnitude could be brought in by a Fianna Fáil Government, which through pure chicanery knows it will not have to implement half of it and that a large part of the deal will be very difficult to unhinge for any incoming Administration. That is the trick of the Fianna Fáil party and that is what it has done for generations. There will be Fianna Fáil speakers of my generation tonight who will defend the position and the deal with great gusto, knowing full well that they will be on this side of the House in six months time when we will have to defend and do our best to renegotiate a deal into which the Government has manoeuvred us. It is chicanery of the highest order. That we cannot vote on this deal makes a mockery of the very sovereignty of this country, and of this House.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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The Labour Party is getting worried about being in power. They are getting the jitters already.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to share time with Deputies Michael McGrath, Dooley, Fahey, Conlon, Collins and O'Rourke.

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

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak this evening following the absolution conferred on me by Deputy Sherlock. The Deputy appears to be speaking from an ultra-confident perspective in that he has already called the general election-----

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party called it.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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-----and has told myself and my colleagues we will be sitting over where he is sitting.

The motion before us effectively states that we should hurry the budgetary process, get it done quickly, get everything wrapped up by the end of the year and work towards holding a general election in January.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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That is exactly it.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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That is it, backed up by the Labour Party. However, there are a couple of things the Opposition will have to get straight before going to the electorate. They will have to have a plan. Fine Gael at least has presented some semblance of a plan. The Labour Party has no plan. They should try to agree a plan together. I would like to read into the record a couple of interesting comments made recently by Deputy Gilmore. On 12 November 2010, he stated:

We have to be absolutely straight with people. The politics of promises is over. I am not going to go around the country or whenever a general election is held and promise people that cuts made here or there are going to be reversed.

Two weeks later on 25 November 2010 he said:

If there is something that we consider to be particularly unfair then yes we will look at that with a view to reversing it. Yes, there are specific cuts we would address. We will take them one by one.

While Deputy Gilmore refers to specific cuts he does not mention what they are. Effectively, what we have from Deputy Gilmore and the Labour Party is probably the greatest evidence of hurlers on the ditch I have ever seen. I have been a Member of the Dáil for the past three and a half years and I have yet to see-----

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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People in Dublin know about hurling all right.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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The Dublin hurlers are not doing so badly this year.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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With a good Clare man helping them out they will be all right.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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And a Limerick man.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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To be fair, I did not interrupt Deputy Sherlock when he was speaking.

It was stated in this House that the Fianna Fáil Party has put party before country. Nothing could be further from the truth. The decisions my colleagues and I have had to take, in particular in the past two years, have not been for political gain or popularity unlike many of the comments made by the Opposition, which has opposed every measure. Deputy Sherlock's party leader would not even say whether he would back the Croke Park agreement. However, when passed, he welcomed it, which is untenable. If, not when, the Labour Party gets to sit on this side of the House it will get a serious land because it will then have to make some decisions. The Labour Party has left many hostages to fortune during the past two years. Some of the comments made in this House by the Labour Party Members, in particular Deputy Burton, have been downright outrageous, outrageous on the basis not of fact but-----

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Does Deputy O'Brien not acknowledge the economic morass we find ourselves in?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Please allow Deputy O'Brien to conclude

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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The Labour Party spokesperson on finance is not here this evening and there is nothing I can do about that.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I ask Deputies to make their remarks through the Chair and I ask Deputy Sherlock to allow the Member to-----

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Deputy O'Brien needs to acknowledge the economic morass we are in.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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If Deputy Sherlock is ever sitting on this side of the House-----

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Sherlock, Members are entitled to speak without being shouted down. This is the national Parliament.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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I apologise.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Dublin North, Fianna Fail)
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There is a viable plan in place. Many of the decisions taken in the past two and a half years have saved this State. We have been able to bridge our deficit by €14.5 billion. The decisions taken have not been easy or popular but they were necessary for the long-term good of this country. As a new Member of this House, I stand over every decision I have taken in the past three and a half years. I wonder whether the Opposition, if ever on this side of this House, will be able to stand over what they have been saying for the past three years. I doubt it.

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution in support of the Government amendment to this motion. We can all agree with the objective of having economic and political stability. We all know that a general election is on the horizon. In the interim, we have work to do in the interests of the country. We must achieve the economic stability that all our citizens so earnestly crave. The budget, which will be announced next Tuesday, 7 December must, in my view, be passed in the national interest. The legislative arrangements to implement the budget will follow on from that with publication of the finance Bill.

The Fine Gael motion demands that the finance Bill be disposed of by the end of December. I am only a Member of this House three years but in my experience as a member of the finance committee, the finance Bill requires serious consideration. It is probably the single most important item of legislation on the annual Dáil calendar. As Deputy Rabbitte pointed out, last year's finance Bill was not disposed of until April and the Bill for the year previous to that it was not disposed of until June. I do not wish to frighten the Green Party into believing that this year's Bill will not be disposed of until April 2011. The question that arises is to what extent one can accelerate that process. How quickly can the Parliamentary Counsel staff prepare the finance Bill and have it ready for publication? Last year's finance Bill contained more than 160 sections dealing with all of the major taxes, including the income levy, income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, capital acquisitions tax, VAT, stamp duty and so on. It also dealt with Revenue powers and amended the tax consolidation Act. I would be interested to hear the views of the Irish Taxation Institute on the proposal that all of this be dealt with in a matter of days. That would not make for good legislation. I do not believe it would inspire economic confidence in the country if we were to deal with the single most important item of legislation on the Dáil calendar in that manner. That legislation requires careful scrutiny by Parliament. It must be comprehensive and water tight given that we are amending important and longstanding legislation. I do not believe it is realistic to dispose of it in the manner proposed. It would be far better for the country that we do our business professionally. We must see out the budgetary process and bring it forward to the extent that is possible without compromising the integrity of the process. I would support the House coming back earlier in January and perhaps sitting later in December. However, this will not serve any purpose unless we have a finance Bill to examine. In this regard, we are at the mercy of the officials. Once published, we should engage in an intensive period of parliamentary activity in the Chamber and in committee to dispose of it. We should then get on the business of the general election.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and in particular to support the amendment as put forward by the Government. Deputy Sherlock made a couple of interesting points. He talked about the anger and sense of betrayal felt by the people of Ireland. Like most Members, I, too, meet people on a daily and weekly basis and I am aware of the sense of anger and betrayal out there. However, the people are as angry with the Opposition as they are with the Government. They are angry with the game of politics.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Dooley's nose is getting longer.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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If Deputy Hayes will listen for a moment I will try to help him.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputies please allow Deputy Dooley to speak.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I will tell the Opposition Members why the people are upset.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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Only Billy Earle would come out with that one.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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They are upset because they see this House as irrelevant. Deputy Mattie McGrath will be the Opposition's Billy Earle if they are not careful.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I ask Deputy Dooley to make his remarks through the Chair.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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They are angry-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Please allow Deputy Dooley to make his contribution without interruption.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Much of the business of this House is politics as usual. However, it is not politics or business as usual for the vast majority of people who are enduring this economic recession and who are in crisis in terms of losing their jobs. We are here this evening discussing a Fine Gael motion which as Deputy Michael McGrath said, seeks to bring forward the budgetary process, one of the most important matters with which we deal on an annual basis. The Opposition parties want to cram it in order that an election will be called sooner. The Green Party caught them a little off guard and moved on the calling of an election.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Who did the Green Party catch out?

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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They have been calling for an election for a long time. There is a clear process following which there will be a general election but Opposition Members are playing politics with the election. They are seeking to drive a wedge between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. They are trying to play politics as usual.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Try a chasm.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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We do not have to try too hard.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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The Deputy should stop digging.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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The people are not fooled by it and they do not accept it. If they had any sense, they would realise the people have no interest in it.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Is this the Christmas pantomime?

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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"Look behind you".

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Please allow the Deputy to continue.

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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Opposition Members also regularly start up the cant about the guillotine regardless of what legislation is in question. If a decision is taken by the Whips to advance a Bill and to bring it to a conclusion to get rid of the filibuster, Opposition Members are on their heels and voting against the introduction of the guillotine. There is outrage on all sides. Now the Opposition parties want to guillotine the most important Bill of the year. Do they think the public buys this?

The motion "recognises the urgent need for the establishment of economic and political stability". That will happen when there is a proper budgetary discussion in the House and the Government sets out clearly the objectives for the year ahead; how we will bring order to the public finances and bridge the gap between spending and borrowing; bring some certainty to the international markets and to the lives of our people; set out a strategy for the creation and promotion of jobs; and to dispense, in so far as possible, with the political bickering, which has such a negative impact on the lives of many people. When we conclude it is not business as usual and people who are suffering greatly do not need to see the chicanery that, unfortunately, is such a part of the process and arcane and archaic approach we take in the House. The sooner we can bring about structural reform in the way the House conducts its business, the better it will be for everybody.

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I hope I will not have to beg for the Chair's assistance to make my contribution.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I will try my best.

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I support the amendment. I am pleased to be able to make a brief contribution to the debate. Like many others in the class of 2007, I never imagined the country's finances could deteriorate so sharply and quickly.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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Therein lies the rub.

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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We are not the only country suffering these difficulties and, as each day passes, a few more are mentioned. While I accept our country is in a perilous position, we are not banjaxed but we have to take radical decisions to safeguard the future.

Deputy Sherlock referred to anger. A few weeks ago President Obama said nobody has a monopoly on wisdom. Neither does anybody have a monopoly on anger. I am angered by what has happened in the banks and with regulation and I am equally as annoyed as Opposition Members.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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Is the Deputy angry with Government Members?

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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People say we have not accepted mistakes were made but I do and I hope they will never be repeated.

However, we are debating economic and political stability. We also have a duty to be politically responsible. The national recovery plan and the EU-IMF-Commission programme have been published and the budget will be announced next week. When they are put in place, they will help us to achieve economic stability. Next week's budget will probably be the most important in the history of the State because it will play an important role in ensuring the economy recovers. If we did not have as severe as budget as we will have and if we did not have the national recovery plan, there would be greater tax increases and more severe spending cuts. It is in the national interest to implement both. We cannot continue to spend like we are spending. The deficit this year is €18.5 billion, which is unsustainable, and we have to take the necessary steps to reduce the budget deficit. Reducing the deficit on its own will not be enough.

We have to take other measures to solve our economic problems. We have to grow our economy, improve competitiveness and build on our export performance. Some people view the Government's plans and reforms as ambitious. We have witnessed a number of positive developments in recent months but they did not get the headlines they deserve. Unemployment has fallen for the third month in a row-----

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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People are emigrating.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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There are cheap flights.

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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That will not be on the front pages of tomorrow's newspapers.

Next week will be important. It is the duty of Government to take the difficult but correct decisions in the national interest and not the populist decisions. We will do our duty and I ask Opposition Members to support the budget in the national interest. It has been said many times that it is not time for politics as usual. Let us put the country and its recovery first. I am prepared to play my part. Are the Deputies opposite?

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick West, Fianna Fail)
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I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this topical and important debate. As practising public representatives, we all have to face one eventuality, which is an election. Whether it happens in a few weeks or a few months, we will have to deal with as a matter of fact. That is the way it is in our profession. We will have to face the people based on our own track records and ask them to give us a new mandate. Hopefully, we will all be back in the new Dáil, although it will probably have a different configuration. We can then debate the issues from different sides of the House, which is what is being indicated by the opinion polls. Opposition Members will soon experience the responsibility of being in a Government party. They will have to take tough responsible decisions, which impact on themselves, their families, their communities and the people they represent. It is not easy but it has to be done in the national interest.

Many of our debates are clouded by populism and domestic political positioning, which is regrettable. We must move away from that to look at the bigger picture, which is how we will pull ourselves out of the position we are in and how we will position ourselves on the world stage and get Ireland back to the position it enjoyed globally in the good years. The Government was right early in November to set out a sequence of events and then publish the four year national recovery plan, announce the budget and hold the election in the new year. It does not matter whether the election is called in January, February, March or April. We should have a long debate on the budget and the finance Bill and then have the election. I concur with previous speakers who stated we cannot guillotine or rush the passage of the Bill. We often hear a chorus of opposition to the guillotining of legislation. We cannot have it both ways. We are either in favour of guillotining legislation or we are not.

The national recovery plan has a number of positive aspects, particularly the funding of local authorities. The proposals for site valuations and water charges will put local government on a sustainable, independent financial footing. Over the years, local election campaigns have focused on national issues, which is wrong. Local issues are not debated and if we elect people to local government, we should give them the ability to raise revenue for which they would be accountable to the local electorate. That has sadly been absent in local government for a long time. Through the national recovery plan, we will hopefully see a shift away from a national focus at local election time to purely concentrating on local issues.

The minimum wage has also been mentioned. We have to bear in mind that about 4% of the workforce are currently being paid the minimum wage. That does not represent many people, but the point has been made that we have the second highest minimum wage in Europe and that it is a barrier to generating new employment. If reducing our minimum wage will create additional employment at weekends, among students and in service industries in particular, then that is a good move. The agencies that are involved in monitoring this have been telling us this for a long time. I particularly welcome the commitment in the four year plan to overhaul the employment regulation orders, the JLCs and the structures whereby premiums have to be paid at weekends. That is placing a severe disadvantage on businesses that operate on a seven day week basis. These changes will allow them accrue a degree of competitiveness that they have been lacking.

Our banking situation has rightly been a great source of anger among the people. We thought last September that we had parked our position on banking following the banking announcement. We knew what the issue was, we had put a figure on it and we thought that we could deal with it. Unfortunately, it has deteriorated again and people are very angry and concerned, particularly when they see the salaries that top bankers are being paid. Now that we are moving into a position where the two banks are moving into almost total State ownership, we have to look at the fundamental wage structure of our senior bankers and the salary levels they are being paid. It just cannot continue. People are beside themselves with anger when they see the exorbitant salaries that they are being paid and the state of our banks. We must move to address that issue. No banker in any of the main banks which are State owned should be paid a salary higher than that of the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach of the day should be paid the highest salary in the public sector. People in the ESB and Bord Gais and other commercial State agencies should not be paid their current salaries. None of them should be paid more than the Taoiseach.

Much debate has centred around why we have not defaulted and burned the bondholders. It is worth noting that Argentina defaulted in 2001 and since then they have been unable to gain access to the bond market. That is food for thought. Many academics and celebrity economists are appearing on talk shows and they have all the solutions, but they do not have any responsibility and they are looking at a narrow focus. Unfortunately, we have to take decisions that impact on all society. Argentina burned the bondholders in 2001 and they are still living with the consequences of it because they are locked out of the bond market.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this motion, ill advised though it is. When Deputy Conlon spoke about the decreasing numbers on the live register, it led to risible laughter. I do not know why, but it is a fact of life and I am very satisfied that for three months in a row, there has thankfully been a decrease in unemployment.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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That is because people have left the country. They have emigrated.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Allow Members to speak to the House without interruption.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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You know they have emigrated.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputy Hayes, address the Chair.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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On a point of order, Deputy O'Rourke should be told that the people have emigrated.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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You may not raise a point of order when the Chair is on his feet. When you do raise a point of order, you should stand up yourself.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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Okay. On a point of information on emigration, young people are leaving our country and the people should know that.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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A point of information is not a point of order and under the rules of the House, there is no such thing as a point of information.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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That is why there was laughter.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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I know the rule that when somebody else stands up, one sits down. I was told that when I first sat on the county council. That is many years ago now.

It is very helpful that there has been a decrease in the number of people signing on. It is not enough and I wish it was accelerated. There is one important nugget within that information that we gleaned today. One third of those who are now drawing unemployment benefit have been unemployed for more than one year. Therein lies a danger and I have spoken about this before in the House.

When Deputy Quinn and I laboured many years ago in what was then the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Quinn came up with an idea of the social employment scheme. I concurred with his idea and we launched it together. It involved a huge amount of detailed, hands-on training and it was wonderful because when the upturn came, people were trained to go into jobs. I hope that when the Minister for Social Protection brings forward 10,000 placements under the labour activation market, there will be decent training for those people also. Many people have come to me and have said that they wish to obtain a place on one of those social employment schemes. We do not yet have the details of them, but hopefully they will be unfolded either in the budget or in the following social welfare Bill. That is very worthwhile.

There was a suggestion at our parliamentary party meeting that there should be a national internship programme. Senator Ó Domhnaill proposed it at our meeting and I seconded it, because I think there are huge swathes of people with very fine qualifications who are not able to gain a foothold in the labour market. I would wish that they could use their formal education and that this could be allied to decent employment opportunities within firms. We had a foretaste of that this morning when the Minister for Education and Skills announced a provision whereby unemployed SNAs would have the opportunity to come into the workplace and gain valuable on the job training skills. That is important for the way forward and it is very worthwhile. I hope we will see this all over the public service.

I heard the general secretary of the INTO speaking this morning, and she obviously has a concern for her members and she spoke in that vein. At the same time, it was generous and open of the INTO to agree to welcome such people into their classrooms, and I hope such teachers will gain valuable knowledge and valuable work experience when they come into the workforce. That is what I mean when I talk about a national internship programme. It is very worthwhile and the €32 million that is earmarked for the labour market activation fund is targeted at a specific priority group among the unemployed.

Things might change in the not too distant future, if the polls are correct. I am so glad because some people have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths about the bondholders. The finance spokesperson for the Labour Party has stated, "Now is the time for hard-nosed negotiations with these investors, and we can legitimately plead inability to pay." However, only a month previously, when the leader of the Labour Party was asked whether he would default on "Morning Ireland", he replied that we cannot and should not default. What an amazing volte-face within a short period between two people speaking on public radio. I look forward to all of this and to oceans and acres of it. That of course is if I get back, which is another question altogether.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Is the Deputy standing again?

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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We must first ask the electorate-----

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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We have an exclusive.

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

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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-----if they will support us. I beg the Deputy's pardon?

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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We have an exclusive.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Deputies, please.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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An exclusive? What is the Deputy talking about?

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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Go raibh maith agat a Theachta. I must move on to the next speaker.

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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There definitely is something wrong with the Deputy. Nevertheless, I look forward to being able to say "But you said you would burn the bondholders but now you are not burning them. How amazing."

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I call the next speaker, namely, Deputy Terence Flanagan.

Photo of Terence FlanaganTerence Flanagan (Dublin North East, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share time with Deputies O'Donnell, D'Arcy, Breen and Tom Hayes.

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

Photo of Terence FlanaganTerence Flanagan (Dublin North East, Fine Gael)
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First, I thank Deputy Noonan for tabling this most important motion, which I fully support and endorse. There is an urgent need for political and economic stability in light of the country's present position and it is clear that we face into the political abyss. An accelerated budgetary process will be necessary to restore some economic stability, while a general election will be necessary to restore political stability. If the Government is interested in putting the citizens first, it will present the necessary legislation and provide an accelerated budgetary process to be completed by the end of December.

One can thank both Government parties for destroying and bankrupting the country and for forcing thousands of young people in particular to emigrate. The reason the unemployment figures were lower today is that many young people now have little future here and must emigrate to get work. It also is clear that the burden will remain on the 1.8 million people who will be obliged to pay taxes in Ireland for many months and years ahead. They will be obliged to repay all the money that has gone into the banks. It clearly is impossible for the Government to go to the bond market at present as there is no credibility in the country's capacity to repay money and as a consequence, the interest rate for ten-year Irish Government bonds reached 9.2% today. In light of the deal concluded recently with the European Commission and the IMF, it is worrying that yields and spreads have not fallen by now.

In his recent statement, the Minister, Deputy Gormley, summarised this clearly by stating that Irish people feel misled and betrayed. Everyone has been misled and betrayed and that is an understatement, to say the least. Most people are livid, furious and angry and this came through in the results of the most recent by-election, in which it was not an established party that received the majority of the votes cast. People are angry that the National Pensions Reserve Fund has been raided and that there will be no money forthcoming from it to pay pensions for those who will retire in years to come unless the money is replenished in the coming years. The Green Party, through the Minister, Deputy Gormley, has made a complete mess, both of itself and Ireland's international image, by giving notice that it intended to pull out of government in two months' time. The best decision it could have made would have been to simply pull the rug, rather than continuing to add to the country's instability by announcing a decision to opt out of government.

If the Green Party is determined to work for the people, it will ensure that the budgetary process is completed as soon as possible before the end of the year. The Fine Gael motion states there is no reason the Dáil cannot sit on every working day between now and the year end, were the Government determined to clear the decks and have a general election. Members have been told that the social welfare Bill and the budget are ready and if the Government acts as though this is an emergency, the necessary legislation, such as the finance Bill, can be progressed much more rapidly. Fine Gael's leader, Deputy Kenny, made a direct plea to the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions last week, in which he asked the Taoiseach to bring forward the budget by one week. Sadly, this plea fell on deaf ears. While the Taoiseach stated that his party was not intent on clinging on to power, that is the impression that is coming across. The perception is that the Government is desperate and is trying to remain in office for as long as it can. The authority of and trust in the Government evaporated during the negotiations last week and in the previous week, on foot of continual denials from Ministers that negotiations or applications for funding through the European Commission and the IMF were taking place. Given what was going on in the background, it is clear there would be a bailout. The country needs both confidence and stability, which it lacks at present. This is the reason so many commercial deposits are leaving Ireland, as financial institutions no longer have confidence in the political establishment or the manner in which the economic position has been allowed to deteriorate. Fine Gael is different. Last week it tabled a motion on corporation tax and on doing what is right for Ireland to ensure the retention of the low 12.5% corporation tax rate, which is most important. I note, from the publication of the four year plan, that a difference of opinion is evident between the Government and the European Commission. The Government has forecast an economic growth rate of 1.75% next year, while the Commission has forecast that it will be 0.9%. Were one to ask people outside this Chamber which of the two predictions they believe, I believe that one would get one's response.

It is clear that the banking situation has gone from bad to worse. The core tier 1 capital ratios have been increased yet again from 8% to 12%. The banks and the banking industry have undermined confidence in the economy as a whole and their situation lacks credibility. The banks' failure to make adequate provision during the boom years for loan loss provisions obviously has added greatly to such lack of confidence. No restructuring plan has yet been produced for the banking sector although this will be necessary to draw a line in the sand and to enable both the country and the banking industry to move forward. Until a credible plan is introduced, I fear that people will be unable to move on. As for Anglo Irish Bank, people have been waiting for two years for prosecutions to take place but no such prosecutions of senior bankers who may have been involved in wrongdoing are forthcoming. The sooner that such prosecutions are brought forward and the sooner that files are issued to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the better.

In conclusion, I support fully this motion that an accelerated budgetary position is necessary and that the Government must clear the decks to provide economic certainty and political stability. This is to what the people of Ireland are looking forward.

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick East, Fine Gael)
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The Leas-Cheann Comhairle might let me know when a minute remains to me. I support this straightforward motion. We are in the midst of the greatest defining moment in the history of this State since the achievement of independence. A sense of urgency is needed and Fine Gael has proposed that the Government would bring in the budget with immediate effect and would facilitate the passage of all the legislative measures, namely, the social welfare and finance Bills, through the House before the end of December. That would allow the people to have their say in a general election. Before it resumed its consideration of this motion, the Dáil heard statements on the 40-page IMF plan. The representatives of the Irish people in this House did not get to vote on the plan, however, which is anti-democratic. A proper debate, involving a vote where Deputies troop through the lobbies to state how they view this plan, should have been allowed to take place.

We cannot afford the 5.8% interest rate that has been agreed by the Government under this plan. The growth rates projected will not give us the capacity to make such repayments. In the first six months of this year, a growth rate of 0.1% was achieved after cuts of €4 billion had been imposed. The Department of Finance has projected that a growth rate of 1.75% will be achieved in 2011, despite the fact that cuts of €6 billion are planned. It does not add up. The European Commission has said the rate will be 0.9%, which is half that predicted by the Government.

I noted with interest reports in the media today suggesting the European Central Bank may engage in quantitative easing, in terms of purchasing government bonds throughout Europe. It would certainly have the benefit of bringing down the bond yields. It would probably inflate the debt as well. When the Minister replies in the House tonight, I would like him to indicate whether he believes the ECB will engage in this policy. The rate the Government has negotiated with the ECB and the IMF on behalf of this country is not sustainable, based on our growth rates. As a simple rule of thumb, the growth rate added to the rate of inflation must be greater than the cost of borrowing. That is not the case in this instance, as we are well below that figure.

Earlier in this debate, Deputy O'Rourke raised the issue of how we should deal with bond holders. Governments have to make judgment calls and decisions. Unfortunately, most of the decisions made by this Government, particularly during the banking crisis, have been disastrous. We have ended up with the kind of rule book that would have to be adhered to by a schoolboy looking for his pocket money. If we do not deal with all of these issues, we will not get the money. The weekly reporting requirements are extremely onerous. What level of flexibility does this plan provide to the incoming Government?

I will return to the original question of the banks. The Central Bank published a report today that suggests bankers are paid too much and the system has not been reformed. Not one banker has been brought to court or to proper justice. We have yet to see credit flowing to the real economy. This motion demands that the Government should show urgency by working with the Opposition to bring the budget and the finance and social welfare Bills forward. If the Members of the House can discuss these matters, the people will be able to see democracy at work. We could have the proper election we need in the new year and allow the people to have their say.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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On the Government's mishandling of the negotiations and the communication that it would deal with the ECB and the IMF, the level of dishonesty was appalling. Although negotiations were ongoing, people were pretending they were not happening. At some stage one has to stop treating the public like fools. It was not until the Thursday morning, when Professor Patrick Honohan went on "Morning Ireland" to speak about what was happening and what was going to happen, that we heard what the likely result of the negotiations would be. The level of mismanagement was telling. Given that the Government could not correctly communicate the fact of the negotiations, how could it be expected to manage the negotiations?

The singular role of the European Central Bank is to protect the euro. That may or may not affect certain jurisdictions, but it is having a massive effect on this jurisdiction. Ireland has come through an era of "spend while you have it", as the former Minister, Charlie McCreevy, used to say. By God, we did spend. Other options are available to the ECB, one of which is to consider what has happened in other jurisdictions around the world. If a decision were taken to consider the bond holders, it would not be a precedent. Nobody represents capitalism more than the bond holders. When their investments do not work out, their losses should not be transferred to the taxpayer. The reality is that when bond holders make profits, they do not transfer those profits to the taxpayer. They hire the best tax lawyers and tax accountants in the world to come up with mechanisms to ensure they do not pay any taxes.

We have an option to default on the bank moneys of the bond holders. We have to bear in mind that the bond holders took a commercial decision, which was converted into a sovereign guarantee within the past two years. That has been shown to have been the worst possible decision ever made by any Government in this jurisdiction. To put it into context, the bonds held by the bond holders in AIB and Bank of Ireland are worth approximately €30 billion and the bonds held in all the Irish covered institutions are worth approximately €45 billion. There is a worldwide precedent for reducing those amounts in a negotiated way. If those of us on this side of the House go into government, we will end up doing that. There is no option. It does not matter whether one is dealing with somebody in a small business, a large business, a State institution or the State itself - if one cannot afford it, one cannot afford it. At some stage we might as well appreciate that we cannot afford it. At the end of this year, the national debt will be €95 billion. A further €80 billion will be accounted for by the bank guarantee and the NAMA moneys, which are to increase further.

It has been suggested that the US Government made the worst possible decision when it decided to let Lehman Brothers go. It was let go because there was a solvency crisis, rather than a liquidity crisis. We are constantly told we have a liquidity crisis in the Irish banking sector, but I suggest we have a solvency crisis. There is a rule to the effect that one cannot solve a solvency crisis by purchasing more debt. There are other options; for example, Henry VIII printed money. It was as black and white as that.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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He chopped off a few heads as well.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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The Americans are doing it. The Chinese are deflating their currency. The UK is printing money. If one deflates one's currency, one deflates the debt. There is a real concern about inflation. It is something we have to consider.

The role of the ECB is to protect the currency. The US Federal Reserve has other roles, one of which is to promote growth. The Government is not attempting to promote growth. This country's tax receipts have collapsed. We were bringing in €53 billion or €54 billion per annum, but that has decreased to €30 billion. If one keeps slaughtering people with taxes, they will stop participating in the economy. Irish taxpayers cannot pay for this. They are not in a position to pay for it. The Government proposes to saddle future generations with a debt that will not be met. Contrary to the Government's view of the right thing, I suggest the right thing would be for the bond holders to take their reduction. It will happen sooner or later.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the opportunity to speak during tonight's debate. I begin by commenting on today's marginal decrease in the live register figures. Deputy O'Rourke welcomed the figures. In my view, she is completely out of touch with the reality of the situation for the unemployed. I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, will take no solace from the fact either that the queues are growing at the departure gates of our airports as young people leave this country in search of work. I can give an example which will be relevant to every county. Clare GAA recently carried out a survey which reveals the crisis in our county and I am sure it is the same in other counties. One day recently, 17 young men from north Clare boarded aeroplanes at Shannon Airport in search of work abroad. More than 200 young players were forced to leave the clubs in County Clare during the last recession. My next-door neighbour, a friend of my son's, along with seven other young people, left Dublin Airport the other night for Australia because he was forced out of the country. He is a member of the Clare football panel. Entire communities are being wiped out. Naomh Eoin is a club in the west Clare peninsula and it lost 11 young men. Coolmeen, another club near my home, lost ten players. The majority of these players are leaving this country because they have no work. If this brain drain continues, we will face a very serious problem in the future. The arrival of the IMF was the last straw for many young people because they feel betrayed. They have a right to be angry and to feel let down.

I will remind the Minister of State about his own 2007 Fianna Fáil manifesto which promised that Fianna Fáil, " will operate a responsible fiscal policy characterised by broad budget balance and a declining debt burden." That is what I call fiction. We have had ten years of incompetent governance that has brought us to this defining moment for the nation. The decisions we are to take now are extremely important and will determine whether our country will sink or swim.

Other than Iceland, no other country has suffered a banking crisis as bad as ours during this recession. Every attempt by the Government to address the crisis has created an even blacker hole in the economy. The four year plan is the latest attempt and the Government has got it wrong again. It refers to an interest rate growth of 1.7% next year but this prediction has already been rubbished by the European Commission which estimates that the growth rate will be 1% next year. The four year plan will be wrong if we do not have a growth rate. A host of new taxes will be imposed on hard-pressed taxpayers next year but there is no jobs stimulus package nor any plan to get the country back to work. There is a concern that the Government's slash and burn policies will see Ireland follow Greece with drastic spending cuts being inflicted but with the country struggling to raise income tax as economic activity dwindles.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, yesterday stated that being in Government is like being in an asylum. This tells us that the Government has thrown in the towel. While I support Deputy Noonan's motion I do not believe this Government, which is on its last legs, has the budgetary policies to deal with the serious situation we will face over the next four years.

The country's first Minister for Finance, Michael Collins, said: "Give us our future, we have had enough of your past. Give us back our country to live in, to grow in and to love." All of us in the Fine Gael Party look up to Michael Collins. It is time for this Government to give us back our country. The election of a new Government is the only way to provide hope, inspiration and certainty. The sooner a general election is held, the better.

Photo of Tom HayesTom Hayes (Tipperary South, Fine Gael)
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I am delighted to support this motion and it gives the House an opportunity to debate the biggest issue facing the Irish people, the upcoming budget. People are looking forward in fear and with anger in some cases and they want to know what will happen in the future. They do not know what will happen to themselves or their families. All they have heard from radio and television programmes and from newspapers over the past weeks and months, is doom and gloom. There is doom and gloom about the way we have managed our country. Many people use words such as "unbelievable" and "bizarre". They cannot understand how we let our country go. Was the political system at fault? The politicians are being blamed but we have to change the way we do business and how we look after our country.

The views of the Opposition have not been taken seriously in the past. Over the past number of years I have listened to the Budget Statement in the House and the Government says one thing while the Opposition says something else. It is the same in this debate tonight. Where was the Government of this country over the past number of years? Its members were outside this House dealing with trade unions, with farmers and with business people but not consulting this House. This is one of the main reasons the people of Ireland were not listened to. We could not contribute until the decisions were made. Whatever issue was being dealt with, it could be guaranteed that the then Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, would be out somewhere on a Friday announcing a new policy and this House would not be consulted. This was wrong and in my view, it was not democratic. We need to change that practice.

Deputy Mary O'Rourke is an experienced politician and she has told the House tonight that the unemployment figures are falling. I wonder if this woman is for real and if she is living in the real world. Thousands of people have left this country. Two hundred thousand people have left for Australia, America and New Zealand and then the Deputy says that the unemployment figures have steadied. How daft is Deputy O'Rourke to think that? I am surprised that a person of her experience would say that in the House. She should be ashamed of herself. It is unfair because every day and every week, these young people are leaving the country.

Next week when the budget is announced, we have to give the people of Ireland some hope. We have to give them the belief that something will happen. We have to give them a road to recovery, a road that will lead them somewhere so that we can make this country competitive. We must use the country's natural resources to create employment and agriculture is one such resource. I come from a very strong agricultural county and I know there is a willingness and resourcefulness in the agricultural community to create jobs. The food industry is crying out for expansion. We must face the future with confidence rather than having Deputies saying daft things in this House like that lady said tonight.

Whatever the Government does next week, it has to point the way forward to show that this is a good country and that we have highly educated people so that all the people who have left our shores will come back and this country's prosperity will be restored.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Service Transformation and Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Finance; Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Neither I nor any other members of the Government wish to delay the budgetary process. On the contrary, we are all working as hard as we can to deliver budget 2011 on 7 December. After that date we will do everything in our power to conclude all budget-related matters within the shortest time scale that is consistent with properly fulfilling all required technical and legal procedures. Everybody agrees that this is a crucial budget, and any material change to the normal timetable would be neither necessary nor beneficial. Indeed, such a change could jeopardise the effectiveness of the budgetary process. If budget 2011 proceeds on the normal schedule it will still enable all key decisions to be made within a short time, and will also allow detailed consideration of more complex measures in the finance Bill.

It may be helpful to refer to the pieces of legislation that the Government wishes to be enacted before the Dáil rises later this month. These are the appropriation Bill 2010, which will give statutory effect to the Estimates passed by the House; the social welfare Bill, which will give statutory effect to any social welfare changes in the budget; and the financial emergency measures in the public interest Bill, which will provide for the reductions in public service pensions and reductions in pay for future public servants. The need for this legislation follows from the related proposals set out in the national recovery plan. There may also be legislation to give effect to some elements of the recent EU-IMF programme of support agreement.

The process of passing the finance Bill normally lasts from its publication at the end of January until late March or early April. The gaps between the various stages in the Dáil and Seanad facilitate Government and Opposition amendments, but there is no legal requirement for these gaps, and the timetable can be as short as possible provided that the House agrees. The only legal requirement is that the finance Bill must be signed four months after the budget, which, for budget 2011, is 4 April 2011. As a result of its technical nature and complexity, the finance Bill usually takes some months to pass all Stages. The forthcoming finance Bill certainly could not be concluded between now and Christmas, or even if the House were to sit in the few days after that to the end of the year. Notwithstanding this, the normal timescale for the finance Bill could be reviewed in light of the emerging political developments. As the Fine Gael members wish to facilitate the enactment of the finance Bill, I expect that they will have regard to this when proposing amendments to the Bill. In this regard, Members will recall that the Government did not propose any amendments on Report Stage to either the second Finance Bill in 2008 or the Finance Bill 2009, so as to speed their enactment.

Deputy Creed suggested that because the Lisbon treaty was renegotiated, so too could the EU-IMF programme. There is no comparison between the two. The speedy agreement of the programme was essential because our banking problems were too big for us to solve on our own and because the eurozone was under strong and growing pressure. Deputy Naughten described the EU-IMF programme as an "act of treachery" and a "contract of shame", and went on to say that it would bring real poverty to many homes. The Minister commented earlier today on the use of such extreme language. Without the programme, there would indeed be widespread poverty, as we would not be able to make sufficient payments to the neediest of our citizens - those who are dependent on social welfare payments.

Deputies Durkan and McEntee questioned the realism of the Government's projections, as did Deputy D'Arcy and a number of others, in light of the European Commission's less optimistic macroeconomic forecasts for Ireland. The Minister commented on this issue earlier today by saying that the Commission's more optimistic outlook for world trade would be beneficial to Ireland's export-led growth. The differences between the forecasts mainly relate to private consumption, but it is our view that the 2011 budgetary consolidation measures will reduce uncertainty and therefore help restore confidence and boost consumption. It should be noted that other organisations, such as the ESRI, believe that my Department's forecasts are too pessimistic.

I congratulate Deputy Doherty on the occasion of his maiden speech. However, we cannot accept his proposal to postpone the 2011 budget and call a general election. On a more positive note, Deputy Naughten mentioned that our economy has sound fundamentals, and Deputy McEntee referred to the fact that we have a great deal to be proud of. He pointed, as did Deputy Tom Hayes, to the great potential for Irish agriculture, which is the subject of plans in the four year programme.

We have a lot going for us as a country. The growth potential of our economy is better than many around the world and our economic essentials are still strong. It is important that we consider today's announcement of the third successive monthly underlying fall in the live register. I know this is partly because of the large amount of emigration; I do not need to be told that. However, we must acknowledge the falls in the number of registered unemployed workers in the occupational category and go through the details, which show some positive signs. As well as that, all of the reforms set out in the national recovery programme will assist employment growth in the coming months and years. This will add to our economy a dynamism on which we can build further growth, allowing us to achieve our growth projections and carry out the plans we have outlined.

Photo of Andrew DoyleAndrew Doyle (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share my time with Deputies Feighan and English.

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

Photo of Andrew DoyleAndrew Doyle (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I agree with one point that has been stated by the Minister and others. We have, and always have had, the ingredients for a good economy and a good nation. The problem is that Fianna Fáil-led Governments, which have been in power for 20 of the last 23 years, have allowed that to diminish in the interest of staying in office and for the benefit of that party and the people who led it. This is the sad truth. In many ways, this House has become irrelevant. No matter whom the people elect to the House, time after time, the Taoiseach of the day or the relevant Minister appears outside Government Buildings to announce key initiatives and policies. In the partnership process, the gates of this House were bypassed. The process was set up in the late 1980s with good intention and for good cause, but it has become totally dysfunctional and needs to be re-examined and redeveloped.

A dripping tap is sometimes used to torture people in order to get information out of them. Since 2008, when we were told that the banks had a bit of a problem, we have been drip-fed the truth. The purpose of this evening's motion is to restore confidence, because confidence and reputation are important. This evening, I listened to the chief executive officer of the National Dairy Council speak. He and others in the agricultural sector see major potential, although they acknowledge, reluctantly, that what has happened in this country is casting a shadow over our image as a nation that has the ingredients to produce, export and prosper. We can, and we must, do that. At a conference on Monday, I heard a man use the term "export or expire", and that is exactly what this country must do. However, we are hobbled by a debt that we cannot manage.

In order to achieve stability and try to engender confidence in our country, we should set up a solidarity bond which would tap into the reserves of money that the people of this country have saved because they are afraid to spend it. This would be better than using the National Pensions Reserve Fund, which is our rainy-day fund and is designed for a specific purpose. It will be only another 10 or 12 years before it is needed, and it will not be there. When we get over this hiccup, we will have to decide how to manage this in the future.

The Irish people have been good Europeans, which is why the package that came through on Sunday was so disappointing. As pointed out by one of the previous speakers, the responsibility of the European Central bank is the stability of the euro currency. In this respect, it differs from the Federal Reserve in the US, which has other functions. We have been conducting an experiment. I predict that in six months' time, this whole project will be re-analysed and the flaws that are manifesting themselves at this point will be dealt with. I hope we will be in a position to renegotiate a better deal when that is finally acknowledged by the powers-that-be in Europe.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I support this motion. This country badly needs political and economic stability. The people I met while canvassing in Donegal, and those I meet on the street every day, want this budget to be taken early. The games will need to stop. I appreciate that the Minister of State provided a considerable amount of information in his speech, but we know what is going on. At the moment I am being monitored by Government Information Services - "Hello, how are you?". For the past ten or 20 years it has monitored everything I have said in this Chamber, in the Seanad, on local radio and in every newspaper. It will contradict me and use what I have said and it has done so previously. For once, Government Information Services should do something reasonable and tell the people the truth. The Government has spun itself such that the people do not believe what it says. The Government Information Services is in place to do one thing, which is not to protect the Government but to protect Fianna Fáil. It puts Fianna Fáil's future and survival before that of the country.

I have knocked on the doors in Donegal. I witnessed a woman crying because her three sons had gone to Australia. Behind every second door on which I knocked were families with young people who have emigrated. That is our future. They told me I did not shout loud enough. However, no one listened because this country was a one-party State and it realised it needed Government Information Services with between ten and 30 people working in it to spin the story that everything was okay in this famous land in which we believed we were making money by selling houses to one another.

We should question the risks taken by the bondholders and whether they should take a hit on the exorbitant cost of borrowings which they introduced to the country. They gambled but they will not lose. Unfortunately, the Irish taxpayer seems to have lost.

I have received four telephone calls calling on Fine Gael to support the budget in the interests of the country. Three of those calls came from members of Fianna Fáil, another example of Government Information Services sending out the message that we should do the honest thing. Fine Gael will always do the right thing by the country because we will put the country first. However, the games under way must stop although, thus far, they have not stopped.

The Dáil will sit for eight days in the month of December. If we are to provide leadership and hope for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people and the millions of people who are fearful for the future, we must provide a show of leadership and sit up to Christmas day, if necessary, for 12 hours per day, to find a solution to the most serious economic crisis the country has faced.

During the past two years the Government had the choice to protect the people and the State. However, it bailed out the reckless investors and bankers. Not everyone in this country is the same. There are politicians in Fianna Fáil who believe in doing the right thing. However, let us not have this dying embrace and hear the claim "You are all the same", because we are not.

I recall the budgets of the past eight or nine years when Deputy Richard Bruton was our spokesman for finance. He tried to put it that the approach was wrong. He disagreed with benchmarking and the way the Government chose to introduce decentralisation. However, no one heard him and the songs and cheerleaders in the Dáil bar claimed we never had it so good. Let us do something in the interests of the country. I have no wish to play politics. In the interests of the country, let us stop the games and do what is good for the country. Let us show leadership, that we care and that we have a solution. The people want hope and, I believe, with Deputy Michael Noonan's policies and with a dose of reality we can give the people hope.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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I am pleased to have the opportunity to wind up this debate and make some points. Some of the Deputies on the opposite side do not live in reality and I am unsure what planet they are on. Deputy Mary O'Rourke and others have come to the Chamber and claimed that unemployment is going down and that this is great. It is going down because people are getting on boats and aeroplanes and leaving the country. That is the only reason unemployment is going down. They are leaving because this country is not stable either politically or economically. They will only stop leaving and come back when we fix this. This is why we have tabled the motion tonight. We are trying to drive forward that process and to move it along.

The Minister of State does not support a credible Government. People do not want those making up the current Government any more. Surely, they should get the hint from talking and listening to such people. They are not wanted. I realise they are not celebrities but the people still want to get them out of here because they are fed up. We are willing to try to facilitate the process of passing the budget and the finance and social welfare Bills to get them out more quickly. Every day they stay in office is costing the country money, is embarrassing for the country and is damaging our reputation abroad. That is what is wrong.

Let us consider the people in business this week trying to deal with the snow. Anyone involved in a cash business may not have credit facilities from the banks. By the end of this week or next week they will have no money because money is not moving and people cannot come out and spend it. People cannot take a driving lesson or carry out the usual shopping because they cannot move around. This is because this dysfunctional country cannot deal with the snow and because the Members opposite cannot handle Government, including the finances and other aspects.

When I realised the interest rate was 5.8% I was left scratching my head. In fact, it could be higher because the arrangement is market related. I was unable to comprehend how useless the Government was in making such a deal. I am aware of all the blunders and mistakes the Minister for Finance has made. It is not like collecting €200 on a Monopoly board every time he turns a corner; this is costing us billions of euro. This is what we have become used to. The people in the IMF and Europe know how useless the Minister is and the mistakes he has made.

I read pages 22 and 23 of the bailout document. Every Friday, the IMF and the EU expect information on the main Government spending and receipt items. They seek weekly information on the Government's cash position with an indication of sources as well as the number of days covered. Every month they want data on the adherence to budget targets. Every month they want an updated annual plan for the general Government balance showing the transition from the executor balance; this is like a rolling monthly budget. Every week and every month they want to look over the shoulders of the Government. This is because they do not believe the Members opposite can handle Government. In fact, they know as much. The Government is not credible. It is no wonder we are being charged a fortune for the money because they know the Government is not capable of doing it.

The Croke Park agreement has been sitting idle for nine months and no action has been taken. I asked people in the Department of Finance the position in this regard. They shrugged their shoulders. This means the managers are not in place to implement the agreement in the various Departments. I asked the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, what he would do, whether he would bring in new staff to implement the Croke Park agreement, for example, whether budget, financial and human resource experts would be brought in to drive the change. There was a shrug of the shoulders indicating the answer is "No". We will have more of the same. Who will drive the Croke Park agreement? It will not be this Government. We are paying 5.8% because they do not believe the Government.

We need this Government out as soon as possible. Deputies on the opposite side have tried to claim it is irresponsible to try to shove through a finance Bill. This is not the case. After budget day on 7 December some 12 working days remain, not including Saturdays. Most people work on Saturdays and Sundays simply to survive and to get through Christmas. However, the Government will sit for 12 normal working days, not including Saturdays, before Christmas. This is the equivalent of sitting throughout February to pass the finance Bill. This could be done easily between now and Christmas and it is essential because the people need hope. They must know that it is over but this will only happen when the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, leads all the Members opposite out the gate once and for all. Only then will the recovery start, will money get moving to businesses again and will people get on with their daily lives.

We meet mothers, fathers and grandparents who are in a panic every day for the future of their children and grandchildren. We meet young people who are filling out forms for college and wonder whether to make changes. These people are trying to make decisions about their lives. Businesses are trying to put together business plans. However, none of these categories of people can make such decisions until they are sure this Government is gone, that the country will be run properly and that they can believe the information the receive rather than the constant spin which is out of date after one day and which does not add up. People must be able to believe in the Government. This is why the Members opposite must accept our motion, move out of here and realise the game is up. The people have had enough of this Government. People want hope. Fine Gael and other parties in Opposition have credible plans based on facts rather than fiction. Fine Gael and the other Opposition parties have credible plans, based on facts not fiction, roadmaps and sectorial plans which will show where jobs will be created to allow people to do courses to match the jobs' requirements. This is better than the Government's wandering around wondering what crisis will be next. The best course for the Government now is to hand over the reins because nobody believes it can get the country out of this crisis.

Amendment put:

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 77 (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, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, 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: 72 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, 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, Pearse Doherty, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, 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, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Liz McManus, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, 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 John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe

Amendment declared carried

Amendment put:

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 77 (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, John Cregan, Ciarán Cuffe, John Curran, Noel Dempsey, Jimmy Devins, Timmy Dooley, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Michael Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Beverley Flynn, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Jackie Healy-Rae, Máire Hoctor, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Michael Kennedy, Tony Killeen, Michael Kitt, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Martin Mansergh, Micheál Martin, Tom McEllistrim, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, John Moloney, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Darragh O'Brien, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, John O'Donoghue, 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: 72 (Bernard Allen, James Bannon, Seán Barrett, 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, Pearse Doherty, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, 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, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Liz McManus, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, John O'Mahony, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, John Perry, 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 John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe

Amendment declared carried