Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Confidence in Government: Motion
That Dáil Éireann reaffirms its confidence in the Government.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to report to the House on the important work being undertaken by the Government, the major challenges that face the country and how the Government intends to meet these challenges. The debate is also an opportunity to expose the political opportunism that has resulted in this motion. Sinn Féin, not content with collapsing the power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland, now wants to cause similar chaos down here.
By its actions, Sinn Féin has deprived the people of Northern Ireland of proper political representation at this crucial time in the Brexit process and I will not let it do the same in this State. Sinn Féin's motion was prompted, we are told, by the Government's decision to establish a commission of investigation into very serious allegations centred on an alleged smear campaign against a serving garda. When one reflects on the history of that party's relationship with An Garda Síochána over the years and its shameful handling of sexual abuse claims in its own movement, it has a brass neck to call for a general election on these issues.
I want to make it clear to the House that the Government's sole objective in responding to the recent protracted disclosures has been and remains to get to the full truth of all these allegations. The false allegations against Sergeant Maurice McCabe are simply appalling. Sexual abuse is the worst crime a person could be accused of. He and his family deserve the truth, as do all against whom allegations have been made. I, therefore, offer a full apology to Maurice McCabe and his family for the treatment meted out to them as exposed in recent programmes. This must be done in finding the truth in a way that is transparent to the public but also fair to all concerned. The Government has decided that a full tribunal of inquiry is the only way it can be achieved. Intensive work is under way on the terms of reference and I hope the House will support the proposal so the work of the inquiry can commence without delay.
I reject any suggestion the Government has not supported Garda whistleblowers. I remind the House the Government ensured all Sergeant McCabe's previous allegations were investigated. They included the reports on the penalty points which were published and the Guerin report into policing issues in Cavan and Monaghan which led in turn to the O'Higgins commission of investigation. I am pleased in each of these instances the inquiries largely vindicated Sergeant McCabe concerns and his complains. It includes the recent inquiry by Mr. Justice O'Neill into the allegations of a smear campaign arising from two protected disclosures. Last week, we proposed a further commission of investigation, chaired by Mr. Justice Charlton of the Supreme Court, accepting the terms of reference drawn up by Mr. Justice O'Neill. Now that will be transformed into a full tribunal of inquiry.
The issues raised by Sergeant McCabe and others also led to significant reforms by the Government, including the establishment of an independent police authority for the first time in the history of the State. We legislated for the protection of whistleblowers and empowered GSOC to receive complaints from serving gardaí. In response to proposals from the Independent Alliance group, we have agreed to appoint without delay an independent international policing expert to carry out a thorough investigation into the wider and more fundamental issues of public concern which have emerged relating to the administration, ethos and culture of An Garda Síochána, and this work will augment the ongoing issues by the Policing Authority and the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.
I recognise the long-term commitment of Independent Alliance colleagues acting in the interests of the McCabe family and the cause of whistleblowers. Their charter for change states unequivocally that Garda whistleblowers have been treated shamefully and a complete overhaul of the justice system is necessary. I hope the work of the tribunal of inquiry will also contribute to the ongoing process of policing reform, which is absolutely necessary in the public interest.
There has been much comment on my brief contact with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone. I have corrected the public record in this regard. On 24 January, one of the Minister's officials told my office she intended to meet Sergeant McCabe. That was relayed to me. On 7 February, in a brief informal conversation as the Cabinet meeting of that day was about to commence, the Minister mentioned she had met Sergeant McCabe about false allegations of sexual abuse that had been made to Tusla about him. She did not go into the details of her meeting with Sergeant and Mrs. McCabe or into Tusla's gross mishandling of the issue. She quite rightly respected his right to privacy and confidentiality regarding very sensitive matters.
It was absolutely clear to me these allegations would be fully covered by Mr. Justice O'Neill's draft terms of reference as allegations of criminal misconduct against Sergeant McCabe, as these are at the very core of the proposed commission's remit. In fact, it was Mr. Justice O'Neill who carried out a thorough examination of the two protected disclosures and prepared his draft terms on the basis of covering all the issues he believed needed to be investigated. This was later confirmed by Mr. Justice Peter Charlton, who stated all the allegations revealed in the "Prime Time" programme are, in fact, covered by the original draft terms of reference.
I also acknowledge I was mistaken in my account of the sequence of contacts with the Minister, Deputy Zappone. This was an unintentional error for which I have already apologised to the House. However, I will not and do not apologise for my record as Taoiseach when it comes to child protection. I appointed the first Cabinet-level Minister with responsibility for children in the history of the State. In responding to the Cloyne report I expressed the revulsion felt by very many people at the gross failure of the Catholic Church to protect children and punish abusers. I ensured a referendum was held to enshrine the rights of our children in our Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, and that the Children First guidelines were put on a statutory footing. There is much more work to be done and many more challenges to be met.
An election is the last thing the country needs less than a year after the last one. At a time of huge international uncertainty we need stability. In a few short weeks the formal negotiations on Brexit will begin. Ireland is well prepared for this process but we need to hit the ground running as soon as Article 50 is triggered. Our programme for Government is based on a clear principle to use the fruits of a strong and well-managed economy to improve the daily lives of our people. That plan is working. The economy is growing strongly. This morning, I had the privilege of announcing a further 500 jobs with an international firm in Dublin. Last year, more than 1,000 jobs a week we were created and a further 45,000 new jobs are expected later this year. We continue to invest in tackling the very serious challenges in the health service. The housing and homelessness crisis is probably the most difficult legacy of the collapse of the housing bubble which we inherited back in 2011. Bringing housing supply back to sustainable levels and stabilising the rental sector has been a slow process but we have a clear plan and that plan will overcome and deal with this particular challenge.
Our prudent management of the public finances means we are on course to have a balanced budget by 2018. We recently began work on a national planning framework, which is essential if we are to achieve balanced regional and rural development. This will be underpinned by a new ten-year national capital plan, which will set out the key infrastructural investments needed to support a post-Brexit Irish economy. The delivery of these and other initiatives in the programme for Government is what the country needs to meet the very real challenges ahead, not political stunts by the Sinn Féin Party. I commend the motion to the House.
The issue which has dominated debate during the past week touches on points fundamental to the functioning of our Republic. Public faith in the integrity of State agencies in general, and the police force in particular, is an essential foundation for democratic institutions. From the moment I was approached, almost exactly three years ago, about serious allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe, my party's position has been very clear. The truth must be established and justice must be done. While there has been a constant effort by one party in this House to promote snide comments about our actions, both in here and through its legion of online trolls, we have been consistent in responding to every substantive piece of information we have received. We have refused to play politics with this issue. We have pushed for and secured independent inquiries and have rejected efforts, particularly by the last Government, to declare the matter closed. Most important, we have maintained ongoing contact to ensure we respected the wishes of those who have suffered most in this scandal.
There is no question but that the Government has, especially over the past week, handled this matter in a casual and an incompetent manner. The Taoiseach and his Ministers failed to react with appropriate concern when deeply disturbing information was brought to their attention concerning the possible use of a State agency to terrorise an honourable servant of the State. Their complacency in respect of ensuring this matter would be fully investigated by the proposed inquiry is appalling and is clearly at the heart of its ongoing failure to respond to the many ways in which it was informed about the Tusla file. While it is not central to the substantive issue, we have no doubt that the Tánaiste knew from multiple sources, including a direct conversation with Deputy O'Callaghan, that requests to broaden the inquiry's terms of reference were specifically founded on the need to include the Tusla file. Just as when they met each other, members of the Government may have talked but appear never to have listened.
During the last Government, there was clear and obvious evidence of efforts to bury this scandal. While many in Fine Gael and the Labour Party worked hard to lay all the blame on the former Minister for Justice, they happily went along with the earlier attempts to minimise the importance of the allegations and they dismissed the people making them. In contrast we have, as of yet, no evidence that this Government has acted in bad faith in its discussions concerning the scope of the inquiry. There is insurmountable evidence of complacency and incompetence but there has been no attempt to block the establishment of an inquiry with the powers and terms of reference required to establish the truth and provide justice. The Taoiseach has confirmed to me that he is willing to support an inquiry of the type that Sergeant McCabe is correctly calling for.
If the concern of Deputies is genuinely to deal with this scandal the question before us should deal with the form, terms of reference and funding of an inquiry. The question before us is not how we get justice for Maurice McCabe and others, however. It is about whether we should collapse the Government and the Dáil in order to have a general election in the next few weeks. The sole motivation behind putting this question is party politics. As we have seen recently in the North, at every given moment Sinn Féin's primary concern is promoting the interests of the provisional movement. When it comes across an issue it looks for ways to exploit it rather than to address it. In the case of the Assembly, it took advantage of an undoubted scandal about an out-of-control scheme which it had known about for a year and which had been made worse by its active promotion by the party's new Northern leader. Instead of securing an immediate inquiry, it secured an immediate election. In a vote of confidence in First Minister, Arlene Foster, on 19 December, Sinn Féin initially abstained but two weeks later, it collapsed the Assembly and the Executive. As a result, the people of Northern Ireland will have to vote relying on political charges, rather than a definitive and independent review. The people of Northern Ireland must also go without a voice in critical Brexit discussions and in discussions on the action to take in regard to the hospital crisis, which is their No. 1 concern.
It is not possible to accept that Sinn Féin tabled its motion of no confidence out of any sincere outrage about how information was handled. Every one of that party's senior members aggressively attacked me and others for raising now proven allegations about abuse within the provisional movement. Remember Máiría Cahill and the treatment meted out to her, and Paudie McGahon. I was relentlessly attacked by Sinn Féin for daring to raise those issues, outside and inside this House. We are still waiting for the first person to respond to its call for witnesses to come forward to the gardaí. Not one person has come forward.
While the issue of confidence in the Government has been put on the agenda for purely partisan reasons, it has to be addressed. Our position remains that every Deputy elected to the Dáil has a duty to do everything possible to make the Dáil work. We reject the idea that the only roles we can play are to support Government in everything or oppose it in everything. Unlike any other party, Fianna Fáil tried to remove Fine Gael from Government. We did not just oppose Deputy Kenny and Fine Gael, we repeatedly offered an alternative to them. We will not take lectures about removing Fine Gael from office from Deputies who sat on their hands when this could have been achieved. I point out to Deputy Howlin and his colleagues, with their new-found revolutionary zeal, that on 10 March last year each of them voted to support Deputy Kenny's nomination as Taoiseach. Deputy Rock might also consider the fact that the record of the House has not been erased. It still contains his multiple crawling speeches on the visionary leadership qualities of the man from whom he is now sprinting away. It is great to hear that Fine Gael Ministers have rediscovered their voices, having been running from journalists for the past three days.
The confidence and supply arrangement we reached is absolutely transparent about the basis for enabling the Government to be formed and to continue. In return for a range of guarantees, mainly focused on ending some of the worst policies of the last Government, it has been given the opportunity to get on with its job. In defiance of all the commentaries, we have played this agreement absolutely straight. We have been a constructive Opposition in proposing alternatives and, on some occasions, allowing through policies with which we disagreed. We can point to concrete advances on pensions, a more progressive budget strategy, the suspension of water charges and investment in key educational supports, each of which was achieved in the face of the right-wing agenda of key Fine Gael representatives.
While we have refused to play games, there have been clear breaches of the agreement by the Government and regular provocations from its members. The last-minute appearance of hundreds of millions in budget spending, the blocking of Deputy O'Callaghan's judicial appointment Bill and the bulldozing through the House of the rent control Bills are examples of this behaviour. So, too, are the regular statements of Fine Gael Ministers, manoeuvring for the post-Kenny era and claiming that they will "put manners on those Fianna Fáilers". These comments are both childish and representative of an arrogant party which cannot accept its fall in public support.
The events of this past week have put the agreement under serious strain. We continue to believe that the Government's policies are leaving too many people behind, that it is drifting and failing to provide leadership, either from the top or in any major policy area. Most Ministers are focused on their personal future, and on pretending to be external commentators on public affairs, rather than attending to the people's business. We want a change of Government but we believe this Dáil has not yet fulfilled its obligations to the people, whom we are elected to serve.
My party's priorities are to address this scandal and help our country overcome the many challenges it faces. There is no evidence that an immediate election would do this. We will abide by our agreement. However, there is a point after which all good faith efforts to make this Dáil work will have failed and there will be no alternative but to have an election. That point is much closer today than it was last week. It may well be reached if there are further revelations that suggest that the Government has been acting in bad faith in this manner, or if it fails to honour both the spirit and the detail of its agreements.
I speak this evening in absolute opposition to the Taoiseach's motion of confidence in himself and his Government. He leads a Government that is without purpose and devoid of direction, stumbling from one crisis to the next. They have lost any authority to govern and that authority of course derives from their guardians in Fianna Fáil. The Fianna Fáil position is that it wants to ensure that this Government survives. The latest scandal to engulf Fine Gael and the so-called Independents is caused by Fine Gael's perpetual and disgraceful handling of the campaign of vilification against Maurice McCabe and other Garda whistleblowers. Fine Gael has lurched from one justice and policing crisis to another. Whistleblowers, brave citizens, have been the target of campaigns of abuse and harassment from within An Garda Síochána, enabled by this Government's behaviour. In no other modern state would these actions be tolerated, yet under the watch of two parties that have dominated politics here since partition, this is the state that we are in. Why? It is because between them Fine Gael and particularly Fianna Fáil are responsible for a culture of insiderism, strokes, cronyism, corruption, graft, cute-hoorism, brown envelopes, dig-outs and whatever you are having yourself Micheál.
Last year they gave it a new name, "new politics", in the centenary year of 1916. However, this new politics represents the type of politics that is prepared to accept an alleged criminal conspiracy by senior gardaí to destroy the character of a decent man doing his duty, and expects the Government that allowed this to happen to remain in office. In their world, political power is not a means to an end, it is an end in itself. That is the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil way, but as Martin McGuinness has shown it is not the Sinn Féin way. No wonder the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader protest at Martin's decisive leadership.
Maurice McCabe is a man who deserves the thanks of the people of this State. He is a man of incredible strength. He and his wife, Lorraine, and their family deserve our support and solidarity. Their resilience and commitment to each other has been extraordinary. The twists, turns, lies, spin and the contradictory claims of the Taoiseach and his Ministers in recent days have heightened public outrage. Citizens do not have confidence in this Government. The Tánaiste was first up last Thursday to deny any knowledge of contact between the gardaí and other State agencies regarding Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Her position was contradicted both by the Minister, Deputy Zappone, and then by Teachta Jim O'Callaghan, who said they had informed her of the Tusla links. She reiterated her position on Sunday when she said she had no advance knowledge of the Tusla allegations against Maurice McCabe. She has maintained that position since. An Teachta O'Callaghan has maintained his position, so we have a senior Fianna Fáil Deputy essentially calling the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, a liar over a very serious issue, yet Fianna Fáil is not prepared to do anything about this.
The Taoiseach too has failed to clarify when and how he became aware of all this. He refused again this morning. Having previously denied it, he now admits that the Minister, Deputy Zappone, told him that false accusations made against Maurice McCabe were referred to Tusla. He says he assured her that all this would be covered by the terms of the then proposed commission of investigation, but unless the Taoiseach has seen these disclosures he had no way of knowing that false accusations brought to him by the Minister, Deputy Zappone, were the false accusations contained in the protected disclosure. He has yet to explain that, so both his position and that of the Tánaiste are not creditable.
Maurice McCabe's appalling treatment illustrates the absolute need for a culture of openness, transparency and accountability within our policing, justice and political systems. In the midst of numerous controversies, Sinn Féin has consistently called for a new dispensation, for the establishment of an independent policing board similar to that established by the Patten Commission in the North. Under this process the gardaí would have been accountable to an independent policing authority with full powers to hold them to account. The Government rejected this again and again. There is a Policing Authority but the most senior garda, the Commissioner, remains accountable to the Minister for Justice and Equality. No police service, senior police officer or Garda Commissioner should be solely accountable to any one politician no matter who he or she is. Therefore, real change has not happened - not of the quality and depth that modern policing and citizens deserve.
Remember the story about someone saying, "Give me another pint guard, or go to Achill Island". Those days are over. People expect more, but this Government is not capable of delivering a new beginning to policing or delivering for ordinary citizens. Our health service is creaking under the pressure of cuts and lack of investment. Record levels of patients are on hospital trolleys. Children with scoliosis are left in pain for months, sometimes for years, awaiting treatment. Tens of thousands of patients languish on unacceptable waiting lists. Front-line staff are left to manage a broken system without necessary resources. It is clear that this Government is not capable of fixing the problems in health care.
What of the housing emergency? For decades Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael abandoned the construction of social housing. They surrendered that to the private sector. They have driven up the price of rents and left tens of thousands of people, including families, without a home. Homelessness is now at record levels. Citizens cannot afford runaway rent increases, yet the State continues to abrogate its responsibility. In this Dáil Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have co-operated to stop all attempts to bring about rent certainty and proposals to build more social housing. The Government also refuses to adopt a position of seeking a special position for the island or the North within the EU in the aftermath of Brexit.
This is a Government which has undermined confidence in itself. Everything that is wrong is its own fault. It is all self-inflicted. The Government's policy, under the banner of "keep the recovery going", is to cut taxes for highest earners, continue to starve our health services, cut capital gains tax, ignore the housing emergency, protect elites and vested interests, and cherish all the bankers of the nation equally. The policy is to tolerate a crisis in public services, and that means protecting their wealthy friends.
Last year we celebrated the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Perhaps Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Deputies will reflect on what that was all about. There are very decent people here. I have never tried to take away the character of one person here. What was 1916 all about? Perhaps they will also reflect on how they have advanced on the Proclamation and its principles in the time that their parties have dominated politics here since partition.
Fianna Fáil will, of course, continue to peddle the line that it is not in the interests of citizens to have an election. What that really means is that it is not in Fianna Fáil's interests. It suits it to have a weak Government in power that it put there in the first instance. Now it complains that Sinn Féin would not talk to it in the aftermath of the general election. It is absolute nonsense. We talked to all parties and Independents who would engage with us.
Teachta Martin will recall Sinn Féin saying that in the interests of delivering change, we were willing to talk to Fianna Fáil. Indeed, it is Fianna Fáil which refused to talk to us. Contrary to what he said during the general election, the Fianna Fáil leader put the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, back into power. This is the same de factodeputy First Minister of this Government, Deputy Micheál Martin lambasted Martin McGuinness for taking a principled stand and resigning because he would not put up with the behaviour which had brought the North's institutions into disrepute just as the Government's behaviour has brought the Oireachtas into disrepute. I call on all Deputies to exercise their mandates and to vote against the Government motion.
The Labour Party campaigned in the election 12 months ago for the re-election of the outgoing Government and at the first meeting of the Dáil honoured its election pledge by supporting the nomination of the Fine Gael candidate for Taoiseach. However, we voted against the arrangement cobbled together by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, supported by Independents, that brought this Government about. We did that because I predicted at the time that it would not last 12 months. That has yet to be fully tested.
At a time of great challenge for our nation, we have a Government which is intrinsically weak. The responsibility of governing is too important to lie with a Government that has neither the authority nor the capacity to govern. When the very notion of collective Cabinet responsibility appears to have been thrown out the window, we can truly begin to see through the crumbling edifice. A Government that was delivering progress in Ireland would have much work to do with a health service in clear need of remediation, a housing crisis that seems unremitting, rent increases that continue to spiral and, of course, Brexit, the shadow of which looms large over our future prosperity. On top of all that, we have a range of issues this intrinsically weak Government has not even considered tackling, including water charges, the eighth amendment, the funding of third level education, the baptism barrier in our schools and, of course, whistleblowing in An Garda Síochána. There is no issue the Government seems sufficiently to believe requires resolute and real action. My party believes the power of the State should be an enabler of good. In those circumstances, this weakened State is profoundly depressing.
Over the last week or so, things have gotten more serious. From doing nothing, the Government has actually begun to do harm. Over the last week, we heard a great deal about the anguish and agony imposed on the McCabe family. We are beginning to hear similar stories from elsewhere, including from the Harrison family. In truth, the fumbling by the Government on this critical issue has only added to that agony. Faced with a crisis of this nature, one would expect a Government to gather together to discuss openly the best way to tackle such an important issue and to propose measures that could reassure the public as well as give solace to the victims. Instead, we have seen senior Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil figures stop just short of calling each other liars. More worryingly, we have seen the Taoiseach and one of his senior Ministers do exactly the same. Yesterday, this tawdry mess managed to get even worse. The Taoiseach stood in this Chamber and gave two versions of the same event within 15 minutes. After a week of public disquiet, the debate we are having this evening has become all about the Taoiseach.
I worked closely with the Taoiseach for five full years and more in a Government which has been maligned but which will, in time, be recognised for its significant achievements. During our time in government, we disagreed on many points. We come from different traditions and we were not afraid to trash those differences out. I have had since the election cause to reflect on our failings and mistakes as well as on our achievements but on balance I still believe we did a great deal of good. Some of the good we did is in this actual territory. The whistleblower legislation we implemented is recognised as world class and the creation of the Policing Authority was a ground-breaking move which had long been sought. Despite our many disagreements, we got a great deal done together. Participating in this debate tonight, it gives me no joy to see the position in which the Taoiseach now finds himself. There are many on the Taoiseach's side of the House as well as on this side who are waiting for his time as Taoiseach to come to an end. Some of them, perhaps, share the Front Bench with him. If this debate proves to be a tipping point which brings that end closer, the Taoiseach should know that he has made a significant contribution to the State. He should also know, however, that the events of the last week are not an acceptable way for a country to be governed.
I emphasise an important point that has been aired too little in the debate over recent days. Article 28.4.2° defines how collective Cabinet responsibility shall operate in Ireland. There are many other clauses in our Constitution which lawyers and academics dispute and which can be debated in different contexts, but this is not one of them. To remind the House, Article 28.4.2° reads: "The Government shall meet and act as a collective authority, and shall be collectively responsible for the Departments of State administered by the members of the Government". This is not optional. One cannot decide that some issues are decided collectively and others are not. One cannot decide that one does not want to hear any more about an issue when one's own Minister mentions it. It is not acceptable. Too many people over recent days have suggested that the notion of collective Cabinet responsibility is some sort of historical nicety. It is not. It is the highest law of this land and it is being flagrantly ignored by members of the Taoiseach's Government. I was genuinely shocked to hear yesterday and today how this Government does its business. It is one thing to bring a sensitive memo to Government under a Minister's elbow. I have done it myself. It is quite another when that sensitive memo proposes a Government order for a commission of investigation based on a judge's report which has not been circulated. How on earth can anyone in government be expected to know what he or she is agreeing to investigate?
The Minister, Deputy Katherine Zappone, presumed her concerns were included in the terms of reference. She was entitled to assume the Tusla affair was included in the protected disclosure referenced in the terms of reference, but she never got to see the protected disclosure so she never got to know her presumption was right. Everyone in government is now citing the law to justify their failure to inform colleagues but there is nothing in the law to prevent the Tánaiste from sharing details from the protected disclosure with her colleagues in government if they needed to know them. As the former Minister who introduced the Protected Disclosures Act, I remind the Government that section 16 specifically allows information to be disclosed where that disclosure is considered necessary to investigate the matter or is in the public interest. Neither does the law prevent Deputy Zappone as Minister from demanding information from Tusla and sharing it with Cabinet. It is the only way collective Cabinet Government can work. Nevertheless, the Taoiseach continued to insist today that he was restricted by law from asking questions about the protected disclosure. There is no such restriction because there is no such law. That has as much basis in reality as the Taoiseach's advice to the Minister, Deputy Zappone, to take a good note.
I said at the outset that I had no confidence in the Government when it was formed. After the events of the last week, I cannot in conscience support the Government now. Therefore, the Labour Party Deputies will oppose the Government's motion.
It is difficult to listen to Sinn Féin talk about policing and justice matters. When Sinn Féin held its annual conference in my home town, Wexford, the family of Garda Seamus Quaid, who was murdered by the IRA, asked for the plaque in his memory in the Wexford Opera House to be removed from the venue before Sinn Féin arrived.
I have zero confidence in this Government for a lot of reasons, but they were crystallised this week when we got a glimpse of the dark, rotten and sinister underbelly of the Irish State, namely, the black propaganda campaign that has been alleged to have come from the top of An Garda Síochána. The response of the Government to the exposure gives a glimpse of the threat to people's basic democratic rights that exists. The response of the Government was to engage in evasion, spin and outright deception.
The Taoiseach's various changing versions of events over the course of a number of days have no credibility whatsoever. The Government and Taoiseach attempted to take people for fools, and continue to do so. The Taoiseach's studious and wilful misunderstanding of the point four times so far in the House, I understand, about the fact that him telling the Minister, Deputy Zappone, that the issue would be covered by the commission investigation exposes his story because it shows that he knows more than he let on. It goes even further and he cannot be let away with deceiving people again and again, while we are expected to brush it under the carpet.
Fianna Fáil enables this and its position is laughable. Anyone who heard Deputy Kelleher on the radio today describing the Government as incoherent and shambolic, but also saying that Fianna Fáil would loyally ensure its stability, would wonder what position it has gotten itself into.
Another reason I have no confidence in the Government is that it is allowing the Commissioner to remain in place. It is agreeing to the setting up of a public inquiry into whether the Commissioner orchestrated black propaganda against her own gardaí. The Government agreed to allow a public inquiry to go ahead, but at the same time has full confidence in the Commissioner continuing in her role when she is in a position whereby she could obstruct the operation of the tribunal. She has to step aside right now.
Yesterday, the Taoiseach confessed that he went on national television, gave an inaccurate account and that he never actually had a conversation with a Minister. It was false memory syndrome, as psychologists call it. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality also had another problematic conversation with another Deputy. He had one version and she had another. It is not lies; rather, it is just alternative facts.
If this country had even a pretence of being a bourgeoisie democracy the Taoiseach and Tánaiste would be gone and an election would be called. That does not happen in the Irish State because we are more akin to a banana republic this week. The rotten nature of the Irish State has been exposed. The lid has been lifted and it seems that Fianna Fáil wants to press the lid on the can of worms back down.
The allegation is that the top garda in this country may have encouraged and taken part in black propaganda against a garda who spoke out against corruption, that there may be allies of An Garda Síochána working in State agencies who will assist it in planting information against such gardaí or other people the Garda does not like and that top gardaí routinely leak information to journalists who act as a propaganda arm for the Garda on many occasions. This has repercussions for what we have seen in recent times regarding the policing of working-class communities, in particular the anti-water charges campaign. Similar black propaganda was used against protesters in Jobstown and the Commissioner's husband heads up Operation Mizen, which is investigating water charge protesters.
The State, police and courts ultimately act in the interests of the status quo. They will act to defend the wealth and the economic and political system of the 1%. It is impossible to see how there could be a healthy culture as long as that remains the case. The Garda needs to be opened up to democratic community accountability. What is being proposed here is shambolic.
In the spectator sport that, sadly, politics often descends into, instead of dealing with the serious issues that affect people, the chat around the Dáil among journalists and politicians is that the crisis has receded, the Taoiseach will survive a bit longer and because of decisions made by the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil, the Government will hobble on for a bit longer. Those are somewhat interesting issues but, frankly, they pale into insignificance compared with the issues that are at the heart of this crisis.
The crisis involves the utterly despicable treatment by the State of a brave man who had the courage to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in the institution of the State that is supposed to ensure justice. That person, instead of being commended and supported in his efforts to do what is right, was the subject of an orchestrated and savage campaign of vilification, intimidation and impugning of his character.
To me there is no doubt that there was an orchestrated campaign; that is beyond doubt. The only issue is precisely who orchestrated that campaign. That is to be decided. That there was a campaign is not in doubt. The Taoiseach said yesterday the inquiry is about finding out whether there was an orchestrated campaign. There was. Everybody knows it, and there was a campaign against other whistleblowers with similar tactics used. The fact that another Garda whistleblower, Keith Harrison, also had investigations about child abuse made against him at the same time that he was blowing the whistle is too much of a coincidence not to indicate a policy at the highest level of An Garda Síochána of dealing with whistleblowers in this way. It is shocking.
If that is the case, it can only be the tip of the iceberg of an absolutely rotten culture at the heart of the State and the institution that is supposed to maintain justice. Has that crisis receded? Not at all. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel for Maurice McCabe because at least he, in the eyes of the public, is being somewhat vindicated, something that has been forced on the State, although it is not clear that he or Keith Harrison will get the individual justice they deserve. That is far from certain, and it is unlikely that the rot in the culture of institutions of the State that could have allowed this to happen will be dealt with by any of the major parties, either those in government or Fianna Fáil which is propping them up.
The proof of that is the extraordinary decision not to ask Nóirín O'Sullivan to step aside. She is entitled to due process, something the Taoiseach has used as justification for allowing her to remain in situ. We cannot prejudge the tribunal of inquiry. However, given the seriousness of the allegations and the substantial evidence that has been brought forward, the idea that she can remain in situwhere if she were guilty she could potentially frustrate and interfere with the line of evidence that would allow the tribunal of inquiry to get the truth and justice of the matter, is absolutely unacceptable.
If the Government was being any way reasonable and was committed to a fair and impartial tribunal of investigation into the matter, it would have to ask her to step aside without prejudice so that the investigation could proceed unobstructed and with no possibility of or potential for interference. Unless it does that, I do not believe that either the Government or Fianna Fáil, which has failed to call for it, is serious about dealing with the rot that produced this scandal.
On every other front where the Government has set out its priorities to deal with key issues, such as, for example, the housing and health crises, it has failed. How could we possibly vote confidence in a Government that has failed on all of these fronts?
We will now move onto the Independents 4 Change group, which has ten minutes. I understand Deputy Joan Collins is sharing time with Deputies Broughan, Clare Daly and Wallace. I ask them to ensure that they are self-disciplined. I will not be interfering.
I certainly will be on this side of the House.
I have no confidence in the Taoiseach or the Government. I am sure he is not surprised by that statement but it does not just relate to the despicable treatment of Maurice McCabe and other whistleblowers over the past decade. I also have no confidence in the Government in terms of the housing and homelessness crisis. Nor have I any confidence in the Government in the context of waiting lists and the health crisis in general or workers' rights. On Monday, workers in Bus Éireann will most likely be forced into a strike while the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport maintains the farcical attitude that it has nothing to do with him.
On the treatment of whistleblowers, I was among a small group of Deputies that first raised the issue of the abuse of penalty points within An Garda Síochána. I will defer to the ruling of the Committee on Procedures and Privileges on naming people, but at the time a journalist contacted me to fish for information on whether there had ever been an incident in my previous employment in the GPO, which there had not. Other journalists inquired if, and hinted in a way that, my partner had sought favours from relations in An Garda Síochána. Again, there was no basis to the matter. There was a campaign to discredit Deputies Clare Daly and Wallace and former Deputy Luke "Ming" Flanagan. There was not just a campaign to discredit Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, the other whistleblower involved, there was also one to intimidate them.
John Wilson had the deep displeasure, at the height of the penalty points issue in January 2013, of finding that a dead rat had been tied to the handle of the front door to his family home in the middle of the night. Everyone knows the connotations associated with a rat. There were also pictures of gardaí playing with a stuffed rat called Maurice on Facebook. If anything was disgusting in this whole episode, it was actions of this kind and worse against Maurice McCabe and his family. For the O'Higgins report, we had lawyers acting under the instruction of Nóirín O'Sullivan and claims were fabricated that Maurice McCabe privately admitted making allegations of misconduct out of malice. If he had not had his recording, Maurice McCabe would have been destroyed and people knew it.
I have no confidence in Fianna Fáil or the Labour Party either. The Labour Party sat on its hands for five years in respect of this matter. Fianna Fáil warmly applauded Paul Williams at the conference in 2013 when he stood up and criticised Deputy Wallace and Luke "Ming" Flanagan for criticising An Garda Síochána. What Pauline conversion has the Taoiseach had? He has been found out. That is all. The Taoiseach may win the vote on the motion of confidence but he should walk out on the streets and find out exactly what is people's mood in the country.
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to oppose the motion of confidence in the Government. We have all watched in shock, disgust and disbelief as events have unfolded and taken such a sinister turn over the past week. Sergeant Maurice McCabe has endured many years of maltreatment and sullying of his good name since he first stepped forward as a whistleblower. I absolutely agree that there should be a tribunal of inquiry with the widest necessary terms of reference. However, I also agree with my colleagues that a criminal investigation should run concurrently and that this investigation must be carried out by police officers from outside the State and perhaps co-ordinated by Europol. I also believe that the Garda Commissioner should step aside without prejudice for the duration of the inquiry.
I have never had confidence in this Government. In May 2016, just before I voted against it, I called it a sham Administration and said it was a temporary, ghost Administration. We know it is one that cannot and will not last. It is a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil Government with the spoils of office divided between the two parties and Deputy Micheál Martin and his colleagues as the chief puppeteers. As Fine Gael and the hapless so-called Independents stagger from crisis to crisis, the great issues facing our nation such as the shocking crisis of more than 100,000 people in desperate need of housing, the 632,000 citizens on hospital waiting lists and the 250,000 children living in poverty and the multifaceted profound challenges facing Ireland when Article 50 is triggered next month by Britain are completely overwhelming this weak Administration. The common thread through all the suffering of our people is the absolute refusal by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, and the vested interests in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to abandon austerity and to raise and spend the necessary funding to give us the decent homes, hospitals and other caring public services our people deserve.
I commend my colleagues, Deputies Wallace and Clare Daly, for their courageous and steadfast support of Sergeant Maurice McCabe and the other Garda whistleblowers. In any advanced democracy we would think that Sergeant McCabe’s public spirited work would have been addressed by Government in fundamental reforms of policing by 2011 at the latest. The revelation by Sergeant McCabe and Garda John Wilson in 2012 and 2013 of the waiving of fixed charge notices and penalty points was an immense service to the Irish people and to saving lives on our roads. Given the many internal Garda reports and the work of Mr. Guerin, Mr. Justice Fennelly, Mr. Justice O’Higgins and Mr Justice larfhlaith O’Neill, it is astonishing that the Oireachtas is only now finally addressing the allegations of the smearing of Sergeant McCabe's name. The response of the current and of previous Governments to this sad saga has been an appalling shambles. The last week in particular shows clearly that it is time for the Government to go.
I have no confidence in the Taoiseach's Government. In part it is because of his handling of this matter but, to be honest with him, I really do not care about that because we all know what the outcome will be. I am much more concerned about how the Taoiseach responds now to the crisis which has dominated the airwaves over the past number of days and weeks but which we have been campaigning on for years. I appeal to the Taoiseach to listen to us. We are not wrong on policing issues. If the Taoiseach does not set up this tribunal properly, the problems will continue and we will pledge our remaining term in office, whatever it might be, to pursuing these matters.
I am concerned. I want this tribunal to be held in public but there are dangers in our rushing it through in response to what has gone on in the media. We need to get these terms of reference correct. At the heart of the allegations of Dave Taylor and Maurice McCabe is that there was a deliberate targeting and undermining of a whistleblower with the full knowledge of the Commissioner in flagrant breach of protected disclosures policy. While Maurice McCabe's experience was the worst example, it is not unique and the situation facing Keith Harrison and Nick Kehoe is exactly the same. It involves many of the same personnel. The allegations being made are not new. When we had discussions earlier with the Tánaiste, concerns were raised that if these were introduced, the inquiry would be too broad and that, in any event, the matters in question are already being investigated elsewhere. That is not the case. I am not talking about the content of their protected disclosures but rather the harassment and targeting they have received since making the disclosure and which went on with the knowledge of the Commissioner. The disclosure of Nick Kehoe, who has been vindicated, concerned Garda involvement in the drugs trade. It was very serious and this man's life has been ruined. His claims of harassment are not being investigated anywhere. If these people are excluded, the systemic problems under the Commissioner will not be addressed and we will be back here sooner than the Taoiseach thinks.
I am sure it is not easy being in government and I am sure we would not find it easy either. At the same time, we would be dishonest if we were to say that we had confidence in the Taoiseach's Government. The lack of fairness during the past six years and the failure to deal honestly with corruption in the hierarchy of An Garda Síochána and NAMA are too striking. However, this matter is not just a matter of justice for Maurice McCabe and other whistleblowers. Maurice McCabe would be the first to stress why he put his head over the parapet way back in 2008. He did so because of the systemic problems within An Garda Síochána. Let us keep things in focus. The way in which the present Garda hierarchy has dealt with whistleblowers has to be at the core of the investigation. With that in mind, other whistleblowers have to be included. The story of the dysfunctional nature of the present hierarchy in An Garda Síochána will be missed if the likes of Nick Kehoe are not included. Much of what the force did to that man over several years has still to see the light of day. No one needs to tell the Government that there has been a media frenzy over the past while about the whole thing, but if we are not careful, as Deputy Clare Daly stated, we will not do this right. Our preferred option would have been a public commission of investigation run in parallel with a criminal investigation that has people from outside the country running it.
The judge should be given powers to compel witnesses to attend, garner all necessary documents and override privilege, just as Mr. Justice Cregan has in the IBRC inquiry. There should be a limited period within which judicial reviews can be brought, as is the case in the Refugee Act, because the tribunal of inquiry will otherwise go on forever.
It was good to hear the Tánaiste state her belief that the tribunal of inquiry can be completed in nine months. It would be brilliant if that were the case. There is a serious danger that an old-fashioned tribunal will cause as many problems as it will solve. I urge the Government to think clearly about how it approaches this issue and not to react to being hounded in a certain way by the media. It should do what is right rather than simply pleasing the media, because this issue is too serious and too many people have suffered as a result of it.
This is also about how policing will be done in future. The Government has an opportunity to change how policing is done because it is not good enough and the legislative changes introduced a couple of years ago were not enough.
The Garda Commissioner is not fit for office. I would not ask her to stand aside. I ask the Government to use instead section 11 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which provides that the Government may remove the Commissioner if, in its opinion, it would be in the best interests of An Garda Síochána.
The substantive reason for Sinn Féin's motion of no confidence in this Fine Gael-led minority Government is the assertion that the controversy over Sergeant Maurice McCabe has been mishandled and cannot be properly investigated. There is no doubt that Sergeant McCabe has been grossly mistreated by senior management of An Garda Síochána and Tusla and several inquiries have failed to clear his good name fully. The full extent of the orchestrated campaign of vilification, undermining of his motivation and smearing of his name by accusations of sexual abuse is astounding and requires to be fully, publicly and satisfactorily investigated. The establishment of a sworn tribunal of inquiry is now the only transparent and proper course of action to take. The inquiry must cover other identified members of the Garda who have made protected disclosures, had their careers damaged and had their reputations smeared. Their cases should be progressed in parallel to allow the tribunal to complete its work in nine months. After all, allegations of illegal activity and improper conduct are not confined to Sergeant McCabe.
While Sergeant McCabe is the most high profile case, all whistleblowers have suffered in equal measure. There is a common pattern of smearing, undermining and mistreatment. Accusations of child abuse seem to be an instrument used to discredit those who challenge wrongdoing in the Garda Síochána. Should the Government fall on this issue, the inquiry will be set back by an indeterminate period, resulting in Sergeant McCabe and others who have made protected disclosures having to wait even longer for justice. The Government has been damaged by this controversy and lessons need to be learned about listening to those who highlight deficiencies in all State agencies, not only An Garda Síochána. We must restore confidence and trust in the Garda and the impartial application of the law.
The Government should be allowed to establish a public sworn tribunal of inquiry and redouble its efforts to bring this appalling saga to an end. A general election on this issue would not be in the best interests of Sergeant McCabe or other members of the force.
People in every part of the country are horrified and disgusted by what has occurred in recent days. They do not believe the contradictory statements made in the House by many Government members. There does not seem to be any accountability.
It is equally horrifying that the cost of another tribunal will be loaded on taxpayers, the low and middle income earners who leave for work early each morning in cars for which they have to pay dear insurance. They leave home in the mornings with snot in their noses and they will finish up paying for all the carry-on in this House and the carry-on that went on two or three years ago. They are saying there is no accountability.
We learned last week that the Health Service Executive is not accountable to the Government and the Minister for Health cannot take any HSE manager to task for anything that happens in the organisation. My brother, Michael, and I, as well as many others, have been raising cases of people with cataracts who are going blind and cannot get a 90 minute procedure done. These procedures would cost much less than all of this. Who will pay for it all?
We do not seem to be able to do anything about insurance costs either. We have only reports and investigations. We were told the issue would be sorted out and the Minister for Finance would come back to us on it. I am sure he tried to do so but the story now is that we cannot do anything about rising insurance costs, whether for a young fellow trying to pay car insurance to get to work or an old person trying to insure a car to be able to collect the pension.
We do not seem to be able to sort out the issue of housing either. The Government has been working on this for 12 months and very little progress has been made. Next week, the country will grind to a halt when Bus Éireann workers strike, yet the Taoiseach and his Ministers have not intervened or made any attempt to solve the problem. I do not have time to speak about broadband, over-regulation and many other issues.
If I had my way, I would round up the Ministers opposite, put them in a Transit van, drive them to the Four Courts and let three judges sort them out because it is the taxpayers who will pay for the tribunal. I am sorry about that.
I am sorry I have to speak on this issue which has been handled extremely badly. I would never blame anyone who makes a mistake because, as my father always said, the person who never made a mistake never made anything. How could the Government make so many mistakes in the handling of the aftermath of this case?
I am shocked and horrified by the way Sergeant Maurice McCabe and other gardaí have been treated by the hierarchy of An Garda Síochána. In making that point, I should also point out to the Minister for Justice and Equality that throughout Ireland there are highly respectable, dependable and sound members of An Garda Síochána. They are honest, straightforward people who get up in the morning, do their duty and put their lives on the line to help other people. They do not know when they are in a squad car or riding a bicycle on the street whether they will face people with guns, drug crime and so on. We must acknowledge that there are decent, honest and hard-working gardaí. Unfortunately, when some people get shiny buttons, they seem to lose their heads and think they are small gods. Politicians have subsequently dealt with the matter badly.
I ask that people be treated with respect from now on. For God's sake, everyone is trying to do their job. If people have a problem in their workplace and make an honest to God complaint, it should be handled properly by the hierarchy of the organisation in question, whether it is An Garda Síochána or politicians who are dealing with the issue. Tusla, an organisation that has done great work, has lost much of the esteem in which it was held and has a great deal of ground to make up in restoring it.
It would be far better to be accused of murder than any type of interference with children. I am very sorry this happened. The tribunal of inquiry must go ahead.
It is a bad man who never made a mistake or, as Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said, a man who never made a mistake never made anything. The Taoiseach made many mistakes and his Government was punished severely by the electorate at the previous general election. However, the party colleagues who remained and Independent Deputies gave him a second chance, which he has completely blown.
He has come in here this evening blowing his own trumpet again. He will definitely get a place in the Artane boy's band or the Mayo pipe band when he retires. The Taoiseach said that he will not apologise for his record when it comes to child protection because it was at his direction that the referendum to enshrine the rights of children in the Constitution was held and the Children First guidelines were put on a statutory footing. I voted against that. I was the only person here who campaigned against it. Look at the mess we have now. The Taoiseach also said that he appointed the first Minister for children. The current Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, is doing a reasonable job but the Taoiseach tried to trip her up the other day in terms of the confusion around when and where he met her. The Taoiseach changed his story in that regard three times last night.
During a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach a number of years ago I gave him the benefit of the doubt but he blew that as well. As I said, all he is doing is blowing his own trumpet. I am surprised that the Taoiseach did not refer to the "recovery" in his speech tonight. What happened to the recovery? It has gone down the river in the flood. The phrases we are hearing now are "damage limitation" "cover-up", "deceit" and "deception". The Taoiseach said in his statement tonight that he was going to ensure a recovery through use of the fruits of a growing economy yet there is a continued failure to tackle the serious challenges in the health services. Given the statistics we heard in that regard last week, the Taoiseach and his Ministers should hang their heads in shame. They were found out when they could not suppress them any further. The health service is an appalling vista. The Taoiseach, or whoever drafted his speech for this evening, neglected to mention that, yet he has come in here this evening expecting people to vote confidence in this Government.
I also opposed the establishment of Tusla. It is a mess. As in the case of the HSE, the people involved in Tusla are accountable to nobody. The Government will not hold them to account but this House will hold the Government to account. If we cannot hold it to account the people will do so soon. I said before that they were waiting in the long grass and they were. They made their decision with the peann luaidhe and they will do it again. The people are sick and tired of this Government's deception, deceit, dishonesty and the spreading of outrageous misinformation by spin doctors.
The Government has a cheek to table this motion of confidence in itself.
I am sharing time with Deputies Eamon Ryan and Seamus Healy. On Monday, 6 February 2017, we saw a "Prime Time" report on children with scoliosis who were on waiting lists and adults threatening suicide to escape pain. The programme gave us a bird's eye view into what it is like for people living on a waiting list. By Thursday, the suffering of those children and adults was off the agenda. It was replaced by the appalling revelations about the scurrilous and vile smear campaign surrounding Sergeant Maurice McCabe, a man who was acting in the public interest. It is rare that people feel threatened by the State. I believe people feel threatened by this State. They wonder why nothing happens and why things do not change. That situation was so badly handled it shone a light into a dysfunctional Cabinet.
Yesterday, Daft.iepublished a report which showed the highest ever level of rent increase. The Taoiseach said that the rental sector has been stabilised. Just because one says something does not mean it is true. This morning we learned of the 52% increase in the profits of the real estate investment trusts, REITs. There is so much dysfunction across a range of sectors that it is impossible to comprehend how the Taoiseach could come in here and ask us to vote confidence in this Government. The issues I highlighted earlier are but a snapshot of what has happened in the last week. How can the Taoiseach ask us to vote confidence in this Government?
The Green Party will not be able to affirm confidence in the Government this evening. In effect, this debate is about an issue that we have been debating intensely this week and for many years. What is it that has allowed this issue more than any other to trip up the Government? Is it that Fine Gael, in terms of its identity dating back to Michael Collins, Michael Staines and the foundation of the State, is so close to the Garda Síochána it did not listen to and check some of the issues that were raised here and elsewhere only to realise too late that this was an issue that could not be ignored?
The Green Party has confidence in this House. We do not want an election but we accept there is a need to restore public confidence. We believe we can strengthen the work of this House, although that is probably a minority opinion. My confidence in this House is based on the fact that it allows us the opportunity to ask awkward questions and try to get to the truth. It allows us to question Ministers. It puts Ministers and the Taoiseach on the spot on a daily basis. That does not happen in other Parliaments. That is right and good. We have an opportunity now to extend the powers of this Parliament. Earlier today there were four committees sitting doing tremendous work, with members going from one committee to another. We work hard and we try to represent the people to the best of our ability. I do not want to see this House fall. I want to see public confidence restored in terms of what we do. We do that by restoring confidence in An Garda Síochána. That confidence has been lost as a result of what happened to Maurice McCabe and other whistleblowers. We do it by restoring some sort of order to what is going on between the Garda and the media. We all know of cases where a report has slipped and matters were dealt with in a back-handed manner. That type of connection between the Garda and the media is wrong. That is what is behind this case. We have an opportunity now to sort that out.
Even more sad is that we now also need to check on the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, which was set up to protect children, which is one of the biggest issues with which we have had difficulty in recent years. Confidence in that institution is much diminished. We have a responsibility to work together in conjunction with the tribunal of inquiry to try to sort out those three issues. There must be respect and trust in the Garda Síochána, respect and proper order in the relationship between the Garda and the media, and respect in our child protection agency so that we never again see an incident like this. We must find out what exactly happened. Let us see what the tribunal delivers.
I agree with Deputy Wallace. I am nervous about tribunals. I have been on the outskirts of a couple of them and I did not like the way they worked. I do not like how much they cost or the length of time they take. The Tánaiste has a particular responsibility to get the terms of reference of the tribunal right, to ensure its work is completed in nine months and to ensure it is transparent and brings justice to all involved. This House has a responsibility, in the context of the tribunal taking nine months to complete its work, to see out that business and to ensure it works well and independently in a judicial manner. I would like to see us as a House deliver that report and restore some of the confidence that has been lost.
I will be voting no confidence in this Government for a number of reasons. It is now clear that senior gardaí were systematically intimidating whistleblowers. False accusations of sexual misconduct made to Tusla was the first leg of that operation. The second leg of that operation was the dissemination of these allegations through pet crime correspondents who are dependent on gardaí for information to do their jobs. In this way, these allegations were disseminated to other journalists, politicians and opinion formers. The Taoiseach has refused to say when he first learned about this operation. I am satisfied that he and the Tánaiste knew about it. They tried to cover it up and to confine the inquiry to a cosy secret investigation but Sergeant McCabe pulled the plug on them. They were caught out. It is time for the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Garda Commissioner to resign. I believe that a criminal investigation by an external police force chosen by this Dáil should begin immediately in parallel with the tribunal of inquiry.
The Committee of Public Accounts will shortly report that €220 million was lost on the Project Eagle sale and that it was not appropriate for the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, Department of Finance officials and NAMA to meet senior Cerberus representatives in the days prior to that sale. This is but the tip of the iceberg. Massive Irish assets are being sold off at knock down prices to the Government's international financial friends. People in need of health care are being criminally neglected and hundreds are dying needlessly according to our medical consultants.
At the same time as the Irish super-rich make massive untaxed asset gains - the value of their assets is now significantly higher than at the height of the boom - tenants, mortgage holders and farmers are being evicted by banks and vulture funds, including banks owned by this State.
With regard to housing, the Government has refused to declare a housing emergency and to implement adequate measures to house the homeless and the 100,000 on the housing waiting list. Recent Governments have surrendered all Irish economic sovereignty under the fiscal treaty. Despite what I would describe as a begging letter, the European Union is now refusing to allow the Government to borrow money to put a roof over the heads of our citizens. The wheels are coming off the policy of privatising State companies, combined with the over-reliance on foreign direct investment. The interests of the Irish people have been put completely in the hands of foreign agencies, foreign companies and foreign governments. I say to this Government tonight: go now.
I support the motion. We are here because Sinn Féin is exploiting a serious issue for political gain. It quite clearly has an à la carteapproach to whistleblowers. Ask the former Senator Máiría Cahill. When most people and parties in this House attempted to form a Government last year, Sinn Féin sat it out. I am honoured to serve as Minister for Justice and Equality. I have never sat it out because I believe public service is about contributing. My record and the records of the current and previous Governments are records of reform and progressive legislation. As Deputy Howlin said, the establishment of an independent policing authority that has oversight of Garda Síochána is one of the most significant reforms to the justice system ever undertaken in this country. We have change that will further strengthen GSOC legislation.
Yesterday in this House, I outlined how I had dealt with the two protected disclosures I received last October. I have always been careful and concerned about dealing with all the cases that come to my attention, and I have always made the case, publicly and privately, for the protection and support of whistleblowers.
Following the publication of the O'Higgins report, I decided the Garda protected disclosure policy should be independently examined. That is why I asked the Policing Authority last June to assess and report on the policies and procedures in place. The revision of the protected disclosure policy was finalised last December. Implementation is now being kept under constant independent review by the Policing Authority, alongside a new code of ethics that is being prepared by that authority. Progress is being made but there is still much more to be done.
Policy is only part of the approach to whistleblowing. Changes to culture and attitudes and acceptance of those changes are also crucial. There has not been enough of that. Every day in this country, individual members of An Garda Síochána put themselves at risk in order that we can be safe. I never forget that in my role as Minister for Justice and Equality. I have always made it clear, however, that any wrongdoing within An Garda Síochána must be addressed fully and fairly. Sergeant McCabe's experience as a whistleblower in An Garda Síochána has been unimaginable and troubling. I thank him and his family for speaking out, however hard it may have been. We now have an opportunity to establish the truth once and for all.
Throughout my time as Minister for Justice and Equality, we have always made changes in significant areas of public life aside from policing — changes I have campaigned for all my lifetime, including changes such as marriage equality and the Children and Family Relationships Act. I have published ten different Bills since the new Government was formed, including legislation to strengthen the rights of victims of crime and to tackle the evil of domestic violence. I published a mediation Bill and the groundbreaking Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which completed its passage through both Houses of the Oireachtas last night. We are making real progress on tackling crime. The Bail (Amendment) Bill was published last December with the aim of making the law as effective as possible in protecting the public against crimes committed by persons on bail. We have responded to a vicious armed feud in Dublin with legislation to strengthen the Criminal Assets Bureau, more money and a dedicated armed response unit for Dublin.
Let me return to words I have used in the past: democracy is not about entitlement; it is about contribution. In fairness to most Deputies and parties in this House, they are genuine, as I am, in their desire to contribute towards finding a resolution to these terrible events for Sergeant McCabe, his family and all the people involved.
The Taoiseach and Tánaiste have outlined the great challenges our country faces, including the challenges posed by Brexit and those that could be created by a new Administration in America. We are aware of all the challenges across our island. I will respond to the points made by Opposition speakers tonight. We have a motion in front of us tonight that is motivated only by political objective and whose only aim is to destabilise this Government-----
Let me deal with this record first and with the motion. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality has outlined very clearly, including in recent weeks, the progress that has been made in dealing with the issue of whistleblowing. The only aim that this Government has had is serving the public interest. The only objective that has ever motivated decisions made by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, or anybody else in the Cabinet, is to get to the truth to ensure the national interest is served. This is illustrated by the decision that the previous Government, a Government led by Fine Gael, made to bring in legislation on protected disclosures and independent oversight mechanisms in regard to An Garda Síochána. This is demonstrated by the way in which the Tánaiste responded to the protected disclosures she received. They were referred within four days to a judge. The judge did his work, came back and make recommendations, all of which the Government was seeking to implement. This is illustrated finally by the commitment the Taoiseach has made that we will go ahead with putting in place a tribunal to make sure we meet the Government's objectives of getting to the truth and serving the national and public interest.
Allow me to address some of the points made in this debate. First, let me deal with the points made by Deputies Catherine Murphy and Ruth Coppinger, in particular. There is a special place in hypocrisy heaven for the kinds of claims they have made in the debate. Two Deputies who have stood up on so many occasions asking our citizens to break the law-----
-----have stood up here tonight purporting to be champions of those who enforce and implement our laws on behalf of our State. We know what the national interest is and we know the public interest that needs to be served, but for Deputy Coppinger to call upon her supporters to break the law that An Garda Síochána is asked to enforce or implement shows the contempt that she has for the institutions of the Garda and our State.
That leads me to Sinn Féin and its behaviour here tonight.
There is nobody in this House who buys the new-found interest of Sinn Féin in the integrity of our Garda Síochána, an institution that has suffered at the hands of Sinn Féin's associates. It is an institution that Sinn Féin has sought to frustrate for decades in our country. There is nobody in this House who is buying Sinn Féin's new-found interest in whistleblowers given the way it treated the former Senator Máiría Cahill and its blatant and ongoing denial of the truth regarding the handling of cases of sexual abuse within the IRA.
There is no one who is buying Sinn Féin's interest in justice, given its continued refusal to recognise the Special Criminal Court in our space.
Sinn Féin Members' antics and behaviour have debased Dáil Éireann. They have been left politically stranded by an economic change and a change in our prospects that they said would never happen and challenged at every stage. Their lack of vision is masked by an abundance of vitriol. While others in this House looked to put forward real answers to real problems-----
Any issue that is raised is an opportunity for division. Any matter that is raised is an opportunity for political advance. Sinn Féin Members challenge the presumption of good faith on the part of nearly everyone in Dáil Éireann apart from themselves. That is why the motion and their efforts tonight-----
In truth, if the Sinn Féin Members were successful in their efforts to bring down the Government, there would be no party more surprised than their own this evening. They have no intention of trying to bring about an election. This is simply yet another negative stunt that comes from a party that offers nothing constructive.
We put a Government together following a very complex result a year ago in a general election after which, in typical Sinn Féin fashion because its Members stick to themselves and refuse to work with others to try to put solutions in place, they did nothing to try to put some stability and certainty in place for people who rely on this institution to provide governance in Ireland. However, that is exactly what we did, and it is what we will continue to do. That is being facilitated by the main party opposite, which is clearly not a comfortable arrangement for either party, but we have a written agreement in place that is based-----
-----is solving significant problems that need solutions that can put a just solution in place for people like Maurice McCabe. The Tánaiste and the Taoiseach are determined to do that this week. Instead of actually finalising the terms of reference for a tribunal of inquiry that we want to put in place without any further delay, we are in here talking about a nonsensical motion of confidence or no confidence that Sinn Féin has, as usual, caused.
The substantive issue that led us to this motion was and is the Government's poor handling of Mr. Justice O'Neill's report and the recommendations contained therein. Sinn Féin's reaction was quite predictable, in so far as it sought to manufacture a means to politicise the issue and do as much political damage as possible, not just to the Government, but to Fianna Fáil, when it saw that opportunity arise.
As we all know, Deputy Ferris, that does not serve the McCabes or the whistleblowers well. That does not set the terms of reference. That does not get to the truth. That does not pave the way for the criminal implications that may arise out of a public tribunal of inquiry. However, it gets Sinn Féin what it wants. It gets Sinn Féin to bring down a Government, as it is doing in the North, when it partakes in the setting up of none.
As to Fianna Fail's perspective, have we been impressed with the handling of this issue by the Government? No.
Has it affected our confidence in the Government? It has definitely waned our confidence in the Government. Sinn Féin asks whether there was a conspiracy at the heart of the Government. No. Was there a cover-up at the heart of the Government? No.
Eventually, though, we find ourselves at the right conclusion, with a public tribunal of inquiry. We do not find ourselves in the mouth of an election. We do not find ourselves in the mouth of six months of paralysis, which Sinn Féin might welcome. We find ourselves at the door of a process that offers a solution, offers the truth and offers a resolution into the future for how these issues might be handled.
There is no doubt in my mind and in our party's belief that the people do not want an election. We want our agreement, in which we sought to facilitate the Government, implemented. We want budgets to reflect it. We want policy to reflect it. We want confidence restored in the prospect of Government achieving results, together with those of us given the privilege to be in the Dáil to assist with corrective action being taken in respect of the health service, the waiting lists and the National Treatment Purchase Fund doing what it did previously. We want action on the Brexit scenario and the potential damage it can do. We do not want the paralysis in the South that exists in the North when Brexit faces us. We want to address the regional imbalance. We want an Ireland for all, and this Government, like it or lump it, has the potential, and we all have the responsibility, to provide that.
There will come at a later juncture the potential for us and others to adjudicate on the implementation of that agreement, for us and others to adjudicate on the results of the Government's efforts to implement it. At that juncture, we will take stock of where we are and take stock of the people and their will, when we can go to the country with confidence and ask them to put those of us who took our responsibilities seriously, those of us who, when presented with a convoluted result last year, did not sit on our hands or go on manoeuvres or holidays, but sought to give vent to the people's wish, which was to provide a Government and governance.
I hope to be in a position to again give confidence to this Government at a later date when we come to the next budget and the following one and be in a position to go to the country and say we gave value for the votes we got, the 400,000 plus votes. We did not win the election but nobody else won it either. We took our responsibility seriously and insisted on a Government being provided to the people, one that can deliver, and if it does we will shake the hands of those involved and say well done. We will be delighted with our own performance in ensuring it did so.
The fundamental reason I stand here this evening is to say to the Government that I am not really that concerned about the posts of the Taoiseach and the individual Ministers and their futures. What I am concerned about is the constant chipping away at the confidence and authority of An Garda Síochána and the justice system for which the Minister for Justice and Equality is responsible. Most of us are aware of the thousands of men and women of An Garda Síochána who serve this country every single day with great distinction and put their lives on the line every single day to protect us and our children and families and the institutions of this State. What is incumbent upon us as Members of the Dáil is to make sure that confidence is restored in An Garda Síochána and the justice system as speedily as possible. That will be done by the establishment of an independent public tribunal of inquiry with robust terms of reference because what I and Fianna Fáil are concerned about is getting to the truth and vindicating Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family following the disgusting treatment that has been meted out to him and other colleagues in the force.
This is a deeply unpopular Government. The political expediency would be, should we have wished to do so, to take it down and go to the people and have an election and, with the help of God, increase our mandate. Those who have come to the democratic process late in the day - I accept they are still learning - they are here to serve the people, not the ard-chomhairle of Sinn Féin, and the provisional movement.
I certainly will. The reality is that it is incumbent upon all of us - I include Sinn Féin and others - to make sure that we get to the truth of the matter and that what has happened never happens again. We must ensure that all future Ministers for justice and Taoisigh never preside over the sorry saga we have seen in the past week to ten days. It borders on the pathetic.
I am also concerned at the hypocrisy of many Members in this House. I have been contacted by people who find it deeply disturbing to have to listen to one party in particular and its new-found fauxconcern for the welfare of members of An Garda Síochána. It is very difficult to sit here and to listen to them pontificating on the matter. The only thing Sinn Féin members are interested in is themselves; themselves alone. That is it. I ask the Sinn Féin Members to tell me how many members of An Garda Síochána were murdered by the Provisional IRA in the cause of protecting the State. Perhaps they will respond to that, because that is the issue.
I can tell the House, and I am sure many other Members can do so as well. What we are concerned about is getting to the truth for Garda McCabe and for Sergeant McCabe. There are six other gardaí who have never got the truth, who were murdered by the Provisional IRA while carrying out their duties. Their families have never got the truth.
I have no love for this Government at all but we are concerned with getting the truth. If the Government is interested in that it should work with all parties in this House and put together terms of reference that are robust, which ensure this never happens again. I hope the Tánaiste realises what damage has been done to the confidence of An Garda Síochána and its members. Let us think about how they felt this morning when they woke up and put on their blue uniforms and walked out in every town and village of the Republic of Ireland. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that has happened. The situation has been presided over for the past five to six years with the dumbing down of An Garda Síochána, the cutting of resources and the closure of Garda stations. I urge the Commissioner to have a think about her stewardship of the force and whether she is happy with her performance. If she is not she knows what to do.
I reject the Government's motion, which is entirely politically motivated and represents a craven attempt to cling to power at all costs. The Taoiseach's defence this evening of his record in government was most unconvincing. I do not think he believed it himself. He lauded his and this Government's achievements and seemed to be blissfully ignorant to the reality that self-praise is no praise. In seeking a mandate for Government last year, the Fine Gael Party presented the electorate with what it said was a choice between chaos and stability. The Taoiseach, in his own vainglorious way, presented himself and his colleagues as stability and therefore the rest of us presumably as chaotic. According to him, anyone championing change or challenging the status quorepresents chaos.
A year on, the nonsense of that position is laid bare. If the Government could see beyond its bubble it would know the chaos over which it presides. There is chaos in the health service with tens of thousands on waiting lists while children and young adults are in agony with scoliosis and must wait for surgery. They wait and the Government continues to let them wait. There is also chaos in the housing sector. People cannot provide a roof over their family's head. They are priced out of the market and are in desperate need of rent certainty. They are raising children in bed and breakfast accommodation, hostels and hotels. They languish on social housing waiting lists with no real prospect of getting a house. They live in overcrowded and inadequate accommodation. The chaos in those people's lives can be directly attributed to the Government. There is chaos in the lives of citizens in low-paid, insecure work, those who lie awake at night because they cannot make their rent, mortgage or pay their bills. Does the Taoiseach recognise those people? They are the ones he and his Government have failed. They have no confidence in the Taoiseach or the Government.
It is however the trauma inflicted and visited upon Sergeant Maurice McCabe that has rendered the Government definitively finished.
It is hard to imagine the nightmare Maurice and Lorraine have lived through. I refer to having one's reputation, honour and standing rubbished, one's fitness to love and protect one's children questioned and vile allegations made by vile people - disgusting individuals intent on destroying an innocent man. These were powerful people who sought and gained the support of elements within the media in their vile campaign against Maurice . They lost, however, not because of anyone in government but because Maurice faced them down, defied them and would not allow his life and his precious family to be destroyed. He won because he is better than them. I hope they hear that message. I hope those who contrived this campaign understand that now. The truth will out and the public inquiry is now agreed because of Maurice and Lorraine's tenacity and endurance. They alone have done the heavy lifting. Others, such as Garda Keith Harrison and his family, have made the same journey.
The Government's response has been characterised by evasion, spin and "he said, she said" incoherence. The Taoiseach misled the people and the Tánaiste misled the Dáil. I have no confidence in the Government's ability to oversee reform of An Garda Síochána or anything else. Fianna Fáil knows how incompetent the Government is. Fianna Fáil cares so little for the people and so little for the future that it indulges the Government's incompetence. Fianna Fáil's response to the Government's outrageous behaviour over the past week was to advise it to, in the words of Deputy Kelleher, "pull up your socks." It must be said that the cynicism of Fianna Fáil is unrivalled even by the Government. Fianna Fáil fears the chaos of an election because it does not suit it. The party tolerates, supports and enables this chaotic Government and the damage it inflicts on men, women and children. That causes Fianna Fáil no bother at all.
Sinn Féin took a stand against corruption in Northern Ireland and the DUP knows that full well. That the Taoiseach and Deputy Micheál Martin are so outraged by our stance tells us everything about their tolerance for corruption - nothing new there, I suppose. Meanwhile, the Independent Alliance clings with all its worth to office. It seems that it will fake anything just to remain in power. The Maurice McCabe story and others lay bare the profound corruption that is still alive and well in this State. It is the story of Garda malpractice and corruption at the highest levels of Garda management but it is much more than that. It is the story of sinister collusion between elements of senior Garda management, other State agencies and elements of the media. The Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil are the architects of this culture. It is a culture that protects the status quo and their own power at all costs, slings mud, pulls strings, grinds up the rumour mill and panders to those elements of the media that will faithfully recount and record their every utterance against political outsiders. This is a culture that confined women and children to brutal institutions and robbed them of their human rights. It is a culture that stood over institutionalised and industrial-scale abuse. That is their culture. That is the culture that enabled the campaign against Maurice McCabe. Now it comes slowly into the light of public view and the people are rightly outraged. The Taoiseach and his Government must go and go now. They should go to the people, face them and let them have their say. They should resign.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I am acutely conscious of the challenging global environment in which this Government is operating. Our nearest neighbour, with whom we share a land border and solemn responsibilities as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, has voted to leave the EU presenting an enormous challenge. Brexit has dominated the Government's agenda for well over a year now. Our response is being led by the Taoiseach, who is widely respected in the EU and well connected to numerous heads of Government and EU Commissioners due to his deep roots in the European People's Party and across the EU.
Over the past eight months, the Taoiseach and I have led an intensive programme of diplomatic engagement across the EU and beyond. I have had some 150 meetings with ministers on Ireland's priorities and unique concerns. As a result of the Government's work, Ireland's concerns have been publicly prioritised by Michel Barnier, Guy Verhofstadt in the European Parliament and the UK Prime Minister among others. The Taoiseach continues to lead this vital work across Government, in particular through the Cabinet committee on Brexit. Ireland alone published a contingency plan on 24 June 2016. Put simply, this Government's work on Brexit is intensive and relentless. On Friday, the Taoiseach and I will host the second all-island civic dialogue on Brexit. This follows 14 Minister-led all-island sectoral dialogues augmenting the analysis of Government.
The all-island nature of these dialogues is all the more important given the collapse of the Sinn-Féin-DUP Executive in Northern Ireland. The new Executive in Stormont needs to be up and running within three weeks of the elections scheduled to take place just a fortnight from now. People in this House have a responsibility in this regard. We are about to embark on negotiations in respect of Brexit. We are conscious of pending elections in a number of EU member states and the possible challenges these will bring. We are also dealing with a new US Administration. This Government is absolutely focused on protecting Ireland's national interests at this very difficult and challenging time for our country. This is the time for unity, not one for narrow partisan political gain or priorities. This is a time for working together within these Houses and as a nation.
Since this Government took office in May last year, there has hardly been a more denigrated political phrase than "new politics". Whatever one wants to call it, the truth is that this Government was formed on foot of the decision of the people. It was difficult to form this Government, which is different in its function. The people's vote set us a challenge that we are genuinely working hard to meet and whatever shape future Governments and future Dáileanna may take, we should hope that we never lose the genuine best lessons from the new way of working that the current Government and Oireachtas have had to cultivate. Those lessons are listening to diverse voices, working together, winning the argument or finding a good compromise and finding the areas of common ground on the issues that matter to people so that we can make progress for them.
Everything about the Sinn Féin motion of no confidence is old. It is the old, easy "attack everyone" politics from a party that absented itself from any responsibility for Government formation after the election - the old, easy "call for an election today regardless of the consequences for the country tomorrow" politics. How can any party really believe that Ireland, which is preparing for the consequences of Brexit, can afford at this moment to dissolve its Parliament and head to the polls or does Sinn Féin just want to satisfy its desire for dissent and division? Sinn Féin expects us to believe it is the party that supports whistleblowers yet it wants to derail this Oireachtas before we can establish an inquiry to put a public platform of truth in place for Sergeant Maurice McCabe and others who have suffered and been wronged while trying to do good. We talk about whistleblowers. Talk to Máiría Cahill.
I am worried the Deputies opposite might blow a fuse. The steps this Oireachtas will take this week to establish a tribunal will end forever the culture of secrecy. No matter how hard Sinn Féin protests, the good people of this country will never see Sinn Féin as a party which defends members of An Garda Síochána. To hear any Sinn Féin Member refer to "Garda McCabe" does not just make people think of the brave and courageous Sergeant Maurice McCabe, it makes them remember with a shiver up their spines what happened to another Garda McCabe in Adare on the morning of 7 June 1996. Sinn Féin should stop playing politics. This is what the people gave us. Sinn Féin should apologise, stand by its record and let us get on with the job in the national interest.
The Minister for Health just said that it was the people who elected this Government. The people gave us the result. There would be no Government and Fine Gael would not be in government were it not for the arrangement it reached with Fianna Fáil.
The Government might take note of the fact that there are some in the party who might not like that arrangement but go along with the party line in the interests of the country to get business done. That is what we do. The Government had better remember that because its performance in the past few days and on many of the other key issues facing the economy leaves an awful lot to be desired.
With regard to Sergeant Maurice McCabe, it was sad to look at how some members of the Government had behaved. When we look back at when the issue first started and how it had come to the point where the word "disgusting" was used, it was the Minister, Deputy Leo Varadkar, who said Sergeant Maurice McCabe was distinguished, not disgusting. There were very few others in the Government who stood up in his defence. This did not just happen in the past few days. It is the result of a culture that we have allowed to take hold in every single Department and agency that states it is bigger than any of us and that serves itself, not the people. That is what has happened. Toda, we are looking at the beginning of the tearing down of that culture and the introduction into the system of humanity, compassion and an acknowledgement that we serve the people.
Sergeant Maurice McCabe deserves better than this debate. The terms of reference of the tribunal should not be rushed into. We need to take account of the common issues that stretch across a number of the whistleblowers who have come forward. We need to understand there is a culture that allowed them to be treated in the way they were. It was interesting to hear Deputy John Deasy say last night what he had told the Taoiseach. It was interesting the hear what former Deputy Pat Rabbitte had to say about being influenced or being told a story by a garda. It is the same with Deputy John Deasy. We should all recognise that around this House for many years, once someone raised his or her head in support of Sergeant McCabe or any whistleblower, there was a nod or a nudge to say it was not the thing to do and that the fellow could not be trusted. Over the years, the story was embellished to take in the accusation of sexual abuse which was pedalled around this House.
I look forward to establishment of the tribunal. I ask the Taoiseach that the terms of reference be extended in order that those involved in the tribunal will understand there was a culture in the treatment of the people concerned long before and since Sergeant Maurice McCabe. I cannot forget the names of Mr. John Wilson, Garda Keith Harrison and the others that have been mentioned. I cannot forget the death of Mr. Shane O'Farrell. Ms Lucia O'Farrell met the Taoiseach and many Members of this House. When one reads the file, one can only ask questions about that Garda investigation and her treatment at the hands of the State by the Director of Public Prosecutions and others. It has to be questioned because the report tells the reader that the State believes it can trample on the rights of people, kick them about, ruin their lives and cause them ill-health and mental health issues. That has to stop.
We have to recognise that the whistleblower legislation we trumpet so much is simply not working because often the very people about whom the complaint is being made are the same ones who investigate the case. We need independence from now on in every single thing we do in this country to restore the confidence the people should have in the institutions of the State. However, the Government has been anything but confident in how it has managed its affairs.
I do not have confidence in the Taoiseach or the Government. I question how anybody in this House could vote confidence in the Government of a Taoiseach who cannot even remember what he said, whom he met and what he was told only a few short days ago. Since last Friday, the Taoiseach has given four different accounts of the events surrounding his knowledge of the Tusla aspects of the Sergeant Maurice McCabe's case. There were four versions in less than a week. Two of the differing accounts were actually given within 14 minutes of each other last night.
The Taoiseach stated yesterday that he had been mistaken and that he actually did not meet the Minister, Deputy Katherine Zappone, about Sergeant McCabe prior to her meeting him. Everyone can make a mistake and if it was a mistake, he can be forgiven. However, I do not believe it was because he did not just say he had met the Minister, he actually went into details of a conversation with her saying he had advised her to take very thorough notes of the meeting. We subsequently learned that that conversation was a complete work of fiction. It beggars belief Fianna Fáil is actually happy to continue supporting a Government led by a man who makes up full blown conversations with his ministerial colleagues. Let us think about that. The Taoiseach readily told the people about conversations he had had with members of the Cabinet that he never had. In any other democracy he would be forced to resign or fall on his own sword. However, in this state he is allowed to continue.
Chaotic, shambolic, incompetent, naive and incoherent is how the Taoiseach's Government has been described tonight but not by anyone in Sinn Féin. They are the words of Fianna Fáil members used in describing the Government. What is Fianna Fáil going to do about it? It is going to allow the Taoiseach to continue in the interests of stability. If I was Mr. Ryan Tubridy - I am glad I am not - I would give everyone in Fianna Fáil a tweezers because there are surely splinters embedded in their backsides from sitting on fences for so long since the formation of the Government. This is the party the members of which have pressed the blue abstain button during votes more times than they have pressed the green or the red button. That is how much Fianna Fáil cares about stability.
What was the price for the Independent Alliance's support tonight? There is to be an in-depth review of An Garda Síochána to be led by an international and independent figure. I do not know whether the Independent Alliance is aware of this, but we actually have an inspectorate that is independent, statutory and internationally-led that already looks at the operations and administration of An Garda Síochána. It is doing quite a good job. In recent years it has made over 750 recommendations on how the efficiency and administration of An Garda Síochána can be improved. Unfortunately, very few of these recommendations have been taken on board because the legislation that governs that inspectorate does not give it any power to implement them.
Much has been said about how we have reached this point. The Government has outlined its own record on reform of An Garda Síochána. If it had listened to many of the amendments we had tabled to Bills dealing with the Policing Authority, GSOC and An Garda Síochána, as well as miscellaneous provisions and amendment Bills, we would not be in this situation. There would be a much more robust and accountable process in place for members of An Garda Síochána at a senior level. However, the Government failed to do this. For that and many others reasons, we do not have confidence in the Taoiseach or his Government.
It does not help this country, at a time of great difficulty, dangers and issues to be deal with, that we seem to have a Government of national confusion which technically is in charge but with very little to no authority in the Dáil and subject to endless disagreements within the Cabinet.
I heard some of the Taoiseach's interview on RTE Radio 1 on Sunday and if I heard it correctly, he said that this Government has the largest number of Fine Gael Ministers in the history of the State. By the way, the Taoiseach made one mistake. He added three additional Ministers of State when he formed his Government, and with no disrespect to the individuals who occupy those positions, it was not necessary and it does not seem to have achieved anything. Of those 33 members of Government, between Ministers of State and senior Ministers, six at senior and six at Minister of State level are non-party, Independents or the Independent Alliance.
What has that given us in terms of this debate? Where are they? They are not here. A Cabinet is about taking on difficult jobs and working in the interest of the people. In some cases they will not get through that agenda. In other cases, they will get through much of it. There is no denying it is a difficult situation but the Taoiseach is on his own tonight cutting a lonely, solitary figure as his comrades in the Government absent themselves. In fairness, the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, was here earlier, and he was here for the debate last night as well. I understand the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is in the Seanad tonight, but this tells its own story. In a Cabinet with any kind of collective sense, some of the members who do not come from this great overweening Fine Gael majority Cabinet would be sitting beside the Taoiseach and simply going the road.
I call this a Government of national confusion. The previous Government of which I was a member faced extraordinary difficulties in terms of trying to rebuild the solvency of the State after what Fianna Fáil did to it. We came in when young graduates did not have jobs or any prospect of a job. People in rural Ireland had to emigrate or migrate away from their homes. They were incredibly difficult times for very fine people.
We now face two very serious challenges. Mr. Trump, as President of America, is a totally unknown quantity. Like something out of an Oscar Wilde play, he has already lost his director of national security. The holder of that office did not seem to know that his calls would be taped. He fired the legal officer who identified that he was a national security risk. Who knows what his petulant attitude may or may not be to Ireland? We hope it might be friendly, and Comrade Adams might be able to tell us because I think he went to functions on his behalf and was one of his supporters. Presumably, we will hear more about that as Deputy Adams scrambles to greet him, as he did with George W. Bush. That was done in the interests of political expediency so I do not want any lectures on political expediency. The Sinn Féin Members are very good at doing that. He is probably one of the most elite politicians on the face of the earth.
The health service was not quite good enough. There was a better private one across the Atlantic. Deputy Adams is so privileged and incredibly elite.
What is a Government about, and this is the problem tonight? This is a vote of confidence in the Government. The Government is about doing the people's business on the people's behalf so that our children, families and people who work in business have a future, but what has happened? We have utter confusion. It is shambolic and dysfunctional and for that reason, it is time for the Government to go.
-----therefore, I will start by saying that I have no confidence in this Government whether it is led by Deputy Enda Kenny, Deputy Leo Varadkar or Deputy Simon Coveney. It is not just about policing, even though the Government's record on policing is so shocking and so poor. It is also about our health service. It is about a country with waiting lists so long it is ranked 35th out of 35 European countries on accessibility to health services. It is about housing. Despite a housing and homelessness crisis, local authority house building under this Government is at its lowest level since the 1970s. It is about workers' rights. Under this Government, a company which makes a profit of €250 million every year, Tesco, can attempt to cut wages by 20% and organise a crude campaign of union busting without this Government so much as lifting a little finger to outlaw that union busting campaign. Meanwhile, workers at Bus Éireann face wage cuts of more than €7,000 a year while the sole shareholder, the Minister, Deputy Ross, stands idly by.
The Ministers, Deputies Varadkar and Coveney, may not be as clumsy as the Taoiseach when it comes to telling tall tales but they all support the same policies and the Government they are all part of is unworthy of confidence.
My constituency colleague, Deputy Billy Kelleher, was very interesting on "Morning Ireland" this morning. He was asked three times if he had confidence in the Government and three times he refused to say "Yes" or "No". He was asked four times if he had confidence in the Taoiseach and four times he refused to say "Yes" or "No". Instead of a proper answer, all he would say was that he was confident the Government would continue. Deputy Kelleher's hapless interview aptly summed up the Fianna Fáil position. The reality is that the Government may well continue but only as a result of being propped up by Fianna Fáil. It may not yet be a grand coalition of the right but it is getting very close to it.
This is a coalition of forces that may well face some real opposition in the weeks ahead. That opposition will be mounted on the picket lines, with nurses fighting for a decent health service, other health service workers fighting for decent compensation after years of austerity and, if the talks do not make serious concessions, bus workers fighting for decent pay. We will support those workers to the hilt and will step up our fight for a left alternative, a general election and a left-wing Government in this country.
I note in his opening remarks the Taoiseach said that he will not let Sinn Féin cause chaos down here the way they did in the North. That is because that is his job down here. The Taoiseach and his party are overseeing the chaos in housing, health, workers' rights in the public services, abortion rights, Travellers' and refugees' rights. He will not let them oversee chaos because that is his job and he wants to do it.
I will reserve most of my criticism for Fianna Fáil, which is disgracefully propping up a Government that has repeatedly told lie after lie. When someone keeps telling lies, the brain finds it very difficult to remember what is the truth and what is the lie so they keep getting caught out. The Government has been caught out in such a disgraceful manner over a very serious claim that at the heart of the State there is something extremely rotten that is punishing Sergeant McCabe, and possibly many other gardaí, with smears about being involved in the sexual abuse of children. There is probably a pattern with regard to that, and we need to get to the heart of it.
However, as well as getting the truth for the McCabes and others, we need to call an election. Fianna Fáil is remiss and disgraceful in what it claims to be about. In reality, it is propping up the system it created over decades that at its heart is rotten and corrupt. It has been about brown envelopes, lies, the 1%, the bankers, the developers and the wealthy in this country.
What we need is for all of the Government to go. We need a general election that will allow us deliver a real left alternative. If the Government does not give the people their say in all of this it just shows the contempt in which the Government holds them. I believe the State has utter contempt for the little people. It came out very much in stark terms when the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, accused our side of the House of promoting crime by advocating non-payment of water charges. He likened people fighting water charges to the disgraceful scourge brought upon Garda McCabe and his family. How dare he. What he is really saying is he has utter contempt for the tens of thousands, in fact hundreds of thousands, of ordinary Irish people who have refused to pay water charges and marched in this country. That is what that is about. That remark has nothing to do with Deputy Ruth Coppinger, it is about the people.
Rather ironically, I have some small semblance of confidence in the Government at this stage because finally it is doing what is right by Maurice McCabe and opening the way to doing what is right by the other whistleblowers, especially those who, like Maurice McCabe, have been having horrendous difficulties and stress in their lives because of the way in which whistleblowers have been treated. All of what has been happening, and especially what has happened this week, could have been avoided if the Government had heeded, acknowledged and acted on what Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace have been highlighting here since they were elected in 2011. They were the ones who brought the issue of penalty points, whistleblowing and Maurice McCabe and others into the Dáil. They did not do it for publicity, they brought the issues here to be taken seriously and to be addressed. It was in everyone's interests to do this. What happened? Nothing. I acknowledge the hard work of Deputies Daly and Wallace in not giving up and their persistence and passion for justice which has finally seen a beginning on the road to justice for Maurice McCabe and others.
What happened showed the way in which defence battle lines are drawn up very quickly. Instead of taking the matter seriously and thanking Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace and telling them we will work together to get this right, the concerns were dismissed and left lying in abeyance for a number of years. I do not expect infallibility from anybody here, but it is not a sign of weakness to acknowledge making a mistake and to acknowledge things could have been done better. It is not a sign of weakness to say "sorry, we got it wrong".
Regarding the Garda, in the constituency of Dublin Central I must say we have been in the main served well by the gardaí in Store Street, Fitzgibbon Street, Mountjoy, the Bridewell and Cabra. They have what I consider a very good practice of coming to community meetings and working with the community policing forum. From the gardaí to the chief superintendent they come to meetings and address concerns. There has been some positive work done here and by the committees and some individual Ministers have been very progressive, but there is a dark shadow over the way in which whistleblowing has been dealt with. Now that action has to be taken I hope it will be done urgently and efficiently. With regard to costs, I hope the legal profession plays its role.
Yesterday, as I listened to the Taoiseach's explanations and the changes in the explanations about meetings and discussions which did not take place about the tribunal and Cabinet meetings, I was reminded of Ronald Reagan's explanation when he discovered he actually was selling arms to the Contras. He said his heart and his best intentions told him it was true but the facts and the evidence told him it was not. This sums up the situation about the Taoiseach's contribution yesterday.
The motion comes from the appalling handling and disgraceful treatment of Sergeant Maurice McCabe. He dared to raise concerns about corruption and malpractice in the Garda but he was the only one disciplined for it. He has been raising these concerns for 15 years. While the O'Higgins inquiry was ongoing we know Tusla had an active file on false allegations of sexual abuse against him. He has fought continuously to have his name cleared and have practices done properly in the Garda. The Taoiseach's Government has failed on at least three occasions to deal with this properly. If it was not for the work of Deputies Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Joan Collins, and Luke Ming Flanagan when he was here, the situation would have been buried long ago.
The fact the Government is being forced to have a tribunal of inquiry is enough to have no confidence in it, but there is even more. The Government is responsible for allowing thousands of children to live homeless in hotels while 200,000 empty houses lie vacant in the country. Its commercialisation and privatisation of housing and the espousing of housing solutions rather than housing for citizens is another reason. Its commercialisation of health and education are gaining momentum and will do nothing but impoverish our society. I have no confidence in the Government. The Government is led by a commitment to market solutions, which make citizens consumers to be profited from rather than served by the Government. We need a Government in place which serves our citizens.
Listening to the debate one would imagine there was some monopoly on compassion and concern on that side of the House. The reality is everyone here has a similar mandate. We all represent the same people. We all strive to do the best we can by the people who put us here. There are people here who see the only way in which they can express their concern is through condemnation and outrage. This is the type of thinking that has seen the emergence of forces throughout the Continent and in the US which are wholly inimical to the type of country and society to which most of us in the House aspire. We have to move on from the politics of anger and start to talk about the real issues that face us.
I was a member of the previous Government and we tried to manage the public finances and make cuts. Every cut was opposed by people on the other side of the House. When we tried to introduce employment measures we were treated with disdain and told they would never work, but we see the truth is that by taking a careful approach we did deliver more people at work. We did not create the perfect society, we certainly did not, and we have a long way to go on this, and we have a housing challenge and challenges in education and health, and we all know about them, but the purpose of the House is to come here together to try to resolve the issues.
Teddy Roosevelt made a fine speech about true citizenship, drawing a distinction between the critic and the person who acts. He recognised it is not the critic to whom we owe the credit, the critic who tries to drag down the strong man and criticises the one who stumbles. It is to the doer, the person who gets into the arena whose face is marred by sweat and blood and effort, to whom we must give credit. The truth is that when it came to forming a Government, many of those in the House who are loudest in their clamour for change in society sat on their hands. They were not the ones who would step into the arena and take on the opprobrium of making changes in our society. We did. To be fair, in the area of Garda enforcement we are seeing the consequences of having whistleblower legislation and having independent Garda authorities. We are seeing stones turned over and we do not like what we see, but we cannot attribute the blame to Ministers who have put in place the changes which make it possible. We need to grow up and not pounce on every little misspoken word but look at the bigger picture and the direction in which we are trying to take the country, which is why I believe support for the Government is absolutely correct, because the alternative on offer on the other side of the House simply offers no prospects for our future.
I support the motion of confidence in the Government. It is a minority Government, a type of government which the State has not experienced previously and one which will form part of the political landscape. It is one which operates with a different modus operandi, which is something not well understood by those who criticise it or those who write commentary about it. The result of the motion will have far-reaching consequences, much more so than the mere removal of a Government.
Tonight we reach a critical juncture as an Oireachtas and as representatives of our people. While public confidence in our most fundamental institution, the Garda, and in State agencies has been tested to its limits, we have an obligation as a collective and as an Oireachtas to begin the task of re-establishing confidence in the pillars of our society. Voting confidence in the Government is the starting point on that journey. My Government colleagues have outlined in detail the process that will follow. The establishment of a tribunal of inquiry that is effective and efficient will give the McCabe family the opportunity to move beyond this ordeal and move forward with their lives.
I wish to reflect on the contribution of the Members who have committed themselves to ensuring this new type of Government can succeed.
In an age when naked populism seeks to dismantle western society as we know it, I am encouraged that there are those in this House, in the main on these benches and in Fianna Fáil, who can resist these forces and stand for something better. When I look at the critics of this Government, I see a mirror image of what has happened in America, of the shrill voices of Brexit and with le Pen in France.
I see the same forces in the alternative right in Germany. It is shrill populism with nothing to offer in the context of the problems we face. They are uncomfortable truths but these people should look in the mirror. Almost immediately after taking office, we faced a challenge in Brexit like no other, and which affects the sector for which I am responsible. I have absolute confidence in the Government and that those who are most vocal in their criticism should look in the mirror as they are a mirror image of the things that threaten democracy and to bring down western civilisation. They have some track record in that regard.
We are here tonight on a motion of confidence which is a very serious matter, as evidenced by the numbers in the Dáil. This is not simply a routine debate on a motion that will be passed or not passed. If the motion of confidence is passed, it is likely to be on the narrowest of margins. As Deputies McGuinness and Martin said, the Government must remember that. At every turn it must remember the confidence and supply agreement which it has entered into with us, but the Government's actions of the past week reveal a shambolic, careless and rudderless Administration. The actions of State agents and agencies are causing fear and revulsion, not just among people directly affected but among the citizenry generally. A tribunal of inquiry must be established as quickly as possible to get to the truth of the matter.
Ministers do not seem to realise that as well as being an honour and privilege, ministerial office is also a responsibility. I ask Ministers to look at the Constitution to see the nature of that responsibility. Their responsibility is to Dáil Éireann, not as individual Ministers but as a collective Government. They are not just responsible for each Department of State but for the Departments of State. They are all responsible for all Departments of State. They need to be reminded of that when they speak out in public, criticising a Minister, and in the way they interact with each other daily. It is the easiest thing to do to go back to the Constitution to find out how these things should be done. If the notion of collective responsibility for the Departments of State, as the Constitution states, were considered by Ministers, they might not be in the bother they are in at the moment.
The confidence and supply agreement is the bedrock on which this Administration stands. It is difficult to abstain, given what has gone on but, my leader has clearly outlined the circumstances which are involved. I seconded Deputy Martin for Taoiseach three times but we failed. All we wanted to do was put in place stable Government. There was a need for stable Government last May and there is an even greater need now. That is not just our responsibility. It is the responsibility of Government Deputies and all Deputies.
One of the key objectives of the confidence and supply agreement was the fairer allocation of resources towards education. Education is a key driver of economic opportunity and is a key priority of the confidence and supply agreement. We are very pleased that guidance counselling has been restored, on an ex quota basis, and a circular will be issued putting that into practice in the next week or so. It is also fair to say that despite this being agreed, it took some time to persuade the Minister, Deputy Bruton, to implement it. The reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio is also a requirement of the confidence and supply agreement and nothing has been said about that. More action is required on that. The Minister has had help because the Irish Journal of Educationhas published research recently on this issue. He should publish an action plan or at least a statement about what he sees as the ideal pupil-teacher ration for our schools and how he sees us achieving that.
We have set out our stall on third level funding and we expect the Minister continue on that course. We welcome the expansion of DEIS but I will be insisting there be a proper appeals process which does not simply look at where pupils live but at family circumstances. Issues of fairness, equality and special education must be dealt with and we have submitted amendments to the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill.
This is a difficult position and one we do not want to be in and the Government must continue to deliver on the policy priorities we specified.
Like the majority of Members in this Chamber, I got into politics to make a difference, to improve people's lives. What has happened to Sergeant McCabe and his family is disgraceful. We need to put in place the public inquiry to get to the truth. I and the Government want proper terms of reference.
I also want our people to get jobs and no longer to have to emigrate. I want them to have the opportunity of a good chance to get jobs in their communities and in their country. This morning I attended a major event with the Taoiseach at which 500 jobs were announced by Indeed, the world's largest jobs recruitment website. The energetic, clever young people I met at Indeed this morning give me confidence in this country. These young people are brimming with confidence, building their careers and Ireland's future. I expect 1,140 jobs to be announced by the end of this week and there is a good pipeline for the near future. Out unemployment rate is down to just about 7% and still falling, and more than 2 million people get up every morning, go out to work, pay their taxes raise their families and live their lives. We have targeted another 45,000 jobs for creation in 2017.
However, there are headwinds in the shape of Brexit and geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges. Jobs are the keys that unlock the future of our people. Every job matters. It transforms the life of the person who gets the job as well as the lives of his or her family and community, but we have much more to do. Now is not the time to be complacent and not the time for you-said, he-said, she-said. Now is not the time for political opportunism. Now is the time to ensure justice for Sergeant McCabe. Now is the time to build for the future of our children and grandchildren. Now is not the time for a general election.
With its motion of no confidence the Sinn Féin party is saying it wants an election. It is saying it believes an election is just what we need now. Sinn Féin wants an election, despite the pressing need to establish a tribunal of inquiry without delay in order that we can get to the truth of this matter, despite the need for stability and coherence in the face of Brexit and other significant international challenges, despite the large body of work under way on the part of the Government in a number of vital areas such as job creation, housing and rural Ireland, and despite the fact the last thing the country needs is a second election in the space of a year, with protracted negotiations on forming what would likely be another minority Government.
Despite all these issues, Sinn Féin wants an election. The party is attempting to collapse the Government just like it collapsed the assembly in the North. It is displaying, quite proudly, the same reckless approach it consistently takes to matters of state. Meanwhile, the Government is focused on the substance of the matter - to achieve justice for the McCabe family. The focus now should be on letting the tribunal get on with its work so that we can get to the truth.
It is a pity another McCabe, Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, is not around to see Sinn Féin's new-found support for the members of An Garda Síochána.
I call on the Sinn Féin Members in the Chamber tonight to explain what this motion does for the McCabe family. This is nothing less than good old-fashioned Government bashing and political opportunism at its worst.
It is worth referring to Fine Gael's record on the economy. The Fine Gael Party has driven the economic recovery since 2011. Growth rates of 4.5% are the highest in Europe. Some 200,000 jobs have been created since 2012 across every sector. Unemployment rates have been halved and the economy is now bigger than it was before the crash. In addition, we have increased the minimum wage and the old age pension. On behalf of the Government, I led the extremely successful commemorative programme with more than 3,500 events nationwide. The commemorations were inclusive and respectful.
It is hard to believe that in the space of six short years a Government would go from being so popular, and having such an enormous majority and such goodwill behind it, to a position where one of the parties in that Government was practically wiped out. The other party somehow, by chance, was returned to Government but having received a right drubbing in last year's election.
It is not true that the people voted for this, as the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, said. They did not. This is the result that people got, but they did not vote for it. The reality was that the only stable government that could have been provided last year was for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to coalesce, but for Fianna Fáil's own interests they chose not to do that. We are now left with a lame-duck Government that is in a very precarious situation.
In my lifetime, I cannot recall a Government being so unpopular. The public are seething over what this Government has done over the last six years. There are many issues, including the economy and poor social services, that people are really angry about. The Government has contributed to crisis situations, including the housing crisis and a completely dysfunctional health service where 350 people are dying on trolleys every year. This Government and the previous one contributed to a doubling of child poverty. All of those things make people really angry and contribute to serious problems within our country.
More than any of those issues, however, what really drives people mad is the failure of this Government, and the last one, to recognise the importance of probity. It is those probity issues that have disappointed people so much. When I say "probity" I am obviously talking clearly about the whole whistleblower issue. I am also talking about the McNulty affair, the Government's response to Siteserv, the resignation of the previous Garda Commissioner and the Taoiseach's failure to explain his role in that, the Guerin report and the misrepresentation of that. Those are the kind of probity issues in which people expect a level of leadership and honesty from government, yet this Government has been found seriously wanting when it comes to that.
Let us talk about the whistleblower issues for a moment. The issue was raised by Sergeant McCabe and John Wilson in November 2012. Okay, one would have to keep an open mind on it and examine that. However, those claims were examined on eight different occasions and the whistleblowers were completely vindicated on eight different occasions, yet the Taoiseach and the Government utterly failed to support them. They denied them the support and protection they deserved. Here we are five years later with a scandal going on before our eyes that is scandalising the public. The reason we have this is because of a failure of leadership on the part of this Government and a failure of courage on the part of members of this Government to stand up for what is right.
That is where we are and where we continue to be with this Government. In spite of all we heard last week from Sergeant McCabe and in spite of his demands, the Government is still denying Sergeant McCabe his rightful protection. Even up to this evening, they are not prepared to discuss with all parties in this House how we should address this matter. They are not prepared to discuss the terms of reference in a consultative way. They are not prepared to accept the proposal that was put at the Business Committee yesterday whereby we would take our time and ensure that we get this right. Every effort was made by the Government today to force this issue and rush it. It is another part of the pattern we saw last night whereby there are weasel words, obfuscation and a failure to meet these issues up front and provide the right kind of leadership when it comes to probity. People deserve better than this. They expected better from the Taoiseach and they deserve better. Fianna Fáil has to take some of the blame as well.
We are all here at the gift of our constituents, so I intend in my limited time to address the people of Roscommon-Galway who elected me to represent them and their needs. I also want to speak to the wider population of rural Ireland about my determination to ensure that the economic and social future of rural communities is not put in jeopardy by political uncertainty. Life in rural Ireland can improve under this Government and through my work and commitment as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
The failure by previous governments to assist provincial towns in rural Ireland has come at an economic and social cost to this country. To overcome the isolation and to challenge the sense of powerlessness in homes and parishes across rural Ireland, our children must be able to do their homework and small enterprises and family farms must be able to do their business. The national broadband plan will do that. It will put every placename on the digital map. It will also give every parish the means to be the hub of a living community. As a member of this Government, I am determined to deliver broadband. Rural Ireland cannot afford for this plan to be placed in jeopardy and this Government must be allowed to get on with delivering it.
Similarly the Government's action plan for rural Ireland - the first ever such plan - with clear timelines, supported by a €60 million investment to revitalise our towns and villages with the creation of 135,000 jobs, has to be allowed to be followed through on. If not, I fear the damage to rural Ireland will be irreparable.
I commend the confidence motion to the House.
The line in a Rudyard Kipling poem is appropriate to the actions of the last couple of days: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you...". That is what we need right now - to keep our heads cool. We need a clear plan and a course of action to establish the tribunal of inquiry so that we can get to the truth. I think the truth is the very least that the McCabes deserve. It also needs to be a truth that we can have trust and faith in.
I do not know how Sergeant Maurice McCabe is still standing tall after the last number of years he had go through. I do not know how he has the strength and resilience he obviously has to keep fighting for justice. It just shows what a genuinely outstanding public servant actually looks like. We all owe him a very big debt. What Sergeant Maurice McCabe and his family now need - in fact what An Garda Síochána needs as a force - is a comprehensive inquiry in order that we will get to the truth.
The sole objective of the Government as a whole in regard to these allegations is to get the truth in the public domain for all of those involved. People are rightly shocked and angered at the revelations of the last couple of days. We are turning over stones and people do not like to see the ugly, murky side of what is underneath them. Let us be very clear that the turning over of those stones has not happened by accident. Over the last number of years, the Government and its predecessor took a number of positive steps to make the turning over of those stones happen. We established the independent Policing Authority to oversee the performance of An Garda Síochána. We strengthened GSOC and increased its powers. We passed a wide range of whistleblower legislation for the first time ever in this country. We published the Cook report, set up the Guerin inquiry, established the O'Higgins commission of investigation and just last month launched the new code of ethics for An Garda Síochána which was developed by the independent Policing Authority. All of these steps are designed to bring light to an area of Irish society which has been cloaked in shadow for many years. Now, we are about to establish a public tribunal to get to the bottom of the latest two protected disclosures and anything else the House sees fit to put into the terms of reference tomorrow. We also have something which has been overlooked this week in the major and chilling flaws in Tusla. We have instructed HIQA to undertake an independent statutory investigation under section 9 of the Health Act into how Tusla, an agency in which we are supposed to fundamentally have faith, manages child abuse allegations.
All of the above and the actions of the Government and its predecessor have been influenced by the Fine Gael way, by sincerity and, more particularly, our integrity. Sinn Féin mentioned earlier the Sinn Féin way. Let me be honest and reflect on the Sinn Féin way. Anybody who wants to know about how Sinn Féin treats child abuse victims need only ask my very good friend Maíria Cahill about how she has been vilified and been put through the kangaroo courts that reflect the Sinn Féin sense of justice. The persistent online harassment she has gone through for the last number of years is a shame on Sinn Féin. Anyone who wants to know about the Sinn Féin way regarding An Garda Síochána, our Defence Forces or prison officers need only ask the widows of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, prison officer Brian Stack or Private Patrick Kelly. Sinn Féin does not do truth, integrity or sincerity. It is full of spin, rubbish and pure political games. That is all that is going on here today.
I might be able to cut my contribution somewhat short if that will help. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs have succeeded in turning what should have been a fairly straightforward process into what can only be described as a shambles. The activity, claim and counterclaim, truth and mistruth, the discussions that took place and those which did not, the "Dúirt bean liom go ndúirt bean léi" over the last seven days have been nothing short of shambolic. Those of us who have studied politics in recent history will be familiar with the term "GUBU". A friend of mine described this to me at the weekend as "turbo GUBU". It is almost unbelievable. It is highly unlikely that much of what has been said can be accepted by the Irish people. It should have been a fairly straightforward process to establish an appropriate inquiry to look into the matters which were the subject of the protected disclosures, those identified in particular by Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill and, indeed, the other information that was clearly available to the Government in the claims made and the investigation to which Sergeant McCabe was subjected. For the Government to turn something so straightforward into such a mess speaks volumes for the lack of coherence, breakdown in communication and, I suspect, lack of trust between Ministers. A number of Government colleagues said over the weekend that they had discussions on occasion and spoke about things but never really got to the nub of the matter. That is hard to take. It certainly does not speak well for a functioning democracy. Certainly, it does not speak well for a functioning Government that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, is going to resolve the issues throughout rural Ireland.
The irony is not lost on anyone, however, that we are here tonight discussing a motion at the behest of Sinn Féin with its crocodile tears for An Garda Síochána, due process and whistleblowers. I suspect most right-minded and right-thinking Irish people agree. I am not going to go through the gory details but the lads and ladies in Sinn Féin know how they dealt with whistleblowers and gardaí in the past. I am glad they have seen the light and are moving away from that but it is somewhat ironic that they seek to lecture those of us who have been around electoral democratic politics for quite some time.
I welcome the fact that Deputy Doherty is coming to democratic electoral process and is prepared to turn his back on the kind of behaviour in which his colleagues were involved in the past and the way they treated gardaí and whistleblowers. Whistleblowers did not get an opportunity to have an investigation appropriately heard in Sinn Féin. They usually ended up on a lonely road with their hands tied behind their backs and a bullet in their heads as the Deputies well know. The irony is not lost on anybody that they would come before this House and try to take attention away from the efforts of those of us who want to shine a light on what has happened to Sergeant McCabe.
There are many reasons not to have confidence in the Government and I could start by talking about the children waiting in agony for months with scoliosis or the fact that there were more than 300 patients on hospital trollies today. We could talk about the handling by the Government of NAMA, the flawed sale of Project Eagle and the report that the PAC will make an adverse finding against the Minister for Finance which would be the second committee in two jurisdictions to be critical of the Minister in relation to NAMA. We could talk about the reason to lack confidence in the Government on foot of the housing and homelessness crisis and the fact that in January 2016, over 7,000 people were in emergency accommodation. All of those issues on their own are reason to have no confidence in the Government, but the events of the past week have taken us to dizzying new heights.
It is a Government that could not get its story right. Ministers contradicted each other and threw each other under the bus. There was a meeting that did not exist and a conversation and advice offered that did not take place. There was a Taoiseach giving contradictory evidence about himself, with multiple versions of the same story, including his version of the truth with his alternative facts.
Is it any wonder that the public has lost confidence in this Government or that Sinn Féin has tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government? Is it any wonder that one part of the Government, the Independent Alliance, considered withdrawing its support from the Government? The only people who have confidence in the Government outside of its members are Deputy Micheál Martin and his brave soldiers of destiny.
The Fianna Fáil benches are angry at the Government one minute and support it the next - some are even able to do so in the same minute. One Fine Gael Deputy told the nation earlier that this has not been the Taoiseach's best week. That is the understatement of the year. The Taoiseach, following a week of answers, now faces more questions than ever that need to be answered.
One of those questions was how he was able to reassure the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that the false allegations levelled against Sergeant McCabe would be captured by the commission of investigation's terms of reference. Based on what we can piece together from the many versions available, there are only two plausible scenarios that explain his behaviour in this regard. I will not and cannot say which one is true.
The first scenario is that he was aware of the content of the protected disclosure of David Taylor. That would explain why he knew the terms of reference covered what the Minister, Deputy Zappone, had raised with him. That would explain how he knew that the criminal misconduct referred to in the terms of reference of the commission of investigation was indeed an allegation of sexual abuse. It could also mean that he broke the law. If that is the case, it is also deeply concerning that that would be the way that protected disclosures would be dealt with by the Minister in charge of that protected disclosure.
The second scenario is that the Taoiseach did not break the law and was not briefed on the protected disclosure by the Minister for Justice and Equality. In that scenario, he was simply arrogant and shockingly casual in dismissing the Minister, Deputy Zappone, by telling her that her concerns would be included when he had absolutely no idea whether the terms of reference would cover those issues. The terms of reference are explicit. We all have them; they have been published and anybody can see them. They only cover the allegations of criminal misconduct regarding the protected disclosure made by David Taylor.
In either scenario, this week has proved that the Government needs to go. It has faced allegations that senior members of the police force in this country embarked on a vicious campaign involving the smearing of a serving sergeant and failed to do the right thing. Why was Sergeant McCabe targeted? What was the great treason about which he spoke? It was speeding penalties. However, when push came to shove, the Government could not act swiftly and fairly to protect a good man. Instead, it floundered. It was supported every step of the way for eight years by the Fianna Fáil Party.
Could it be that one of the reasons the Government has not handled the scandal as it should have done was because it was affected by the campaign against Maurice McCabe and others? The Government does not need to pull up its socks. Rather, it needs to go. This week has been reminiscent of the last days of the Brian Cowen and Deputy Micheál Martin Government that destroyed the country. The Taoiseach knows how that ended - with Deputy Micheál Martin sticking the knife into Brian Cowen. The Taoiseach should be wary. Time will tell whether history will repeat itself.
The level of chaos we have had to endure is not what this country needs. I have no confidence in the Government to deal with the health crisis or housing crisis, or to do the right thing by whistleblowers who have demanded that it do the right thing for over eight years.
Let me be very clear from the start that we in the Independent Alliance have always supported Sergeant Maurice McCabe, his family and all of the whistleblowers. What happened to Maurice and his family was appalling, chilling and sordid. The vile stories against him were absolutely disgraceful. I commend his determination to uphold the law and expose wrongdoing. He has raised serious questions about the integrity and competence of some senior gardaí. We all need to get to the truth in a fair and balanced manner, and that is why we need a public tribunal of inquiry and why the Independent Alliance is staying in government.
We will introduce the change and reform that is urgently needed. This is not the time for an election. Everyone wants decisive action, truth and justice. We are all at one in our belief that government is not about having power. Rather, it is about using power to effect the kind of change, opportunity and compassion we need and desire in our society.
The Independent Alliance welcomes in principle the decision of the Government to establish an independent tribunal of inquiry into the Maurice McCabe controversy. Sergeant McCabe's good reputation is paramount and must be vindicated as swiftly and effectively as possible. We kept our counsel on this issue until now. We have had the opportunity to speak with the McCabe family and are in full agreement with them that an independent public tribunal is needed to establish the full facts of the matter.
We are particularly disturbed by the revelations which have emerged concerning the State agency, Tusla. The welfare and protection of our children is dependent on public confidence in our child care agencies. Should facts emerge suggesting criminal activity, a full criminal investigation should immediately follow.
We have been dismayed and, frankly, disturbed by the contradictory versions of events which have emerged this week. This is not how we wish to do business. We went into government in good faith to implement the commitments we secured in the programme for Government after protracted negotiations.
We in the Independent Alliance have, therefore, secured a commitment from the Minister for Justice and Equality to appoint without delay an independent international policing expert to carry out a thorough investigation into wider and more fundamental issues of public concern which have emerged regarding the administration, ethos and culture of An Garda Síochána. Finally, should facts emerge suggesting criminal activity by any member of An Garda Síochána a full criminal investigation should immediately follow.
There is only one Army and one An Garda Síochána in this country. I am very proud, as a mother of a serving member of An Garda Síochána. On a daily basis my son wears his uniform with pride and works to keep communities safe. That is why we must all protect those who serve our communities with dignity.
In 2011, Fine Gael and the Labour Party took on an unbelievable task. Citizens were leaving the country in their droves and our country was in crisis. However, by working together we led the way for the many changes that have happened: 194,000 jobs have been created; unemployment has been reduced to 7%; the universal social charge is being phased out; there has been an increase in the minimum wage and social welfare payments; the Christmas bonus has been reinstated; two free preschool years have been rolled out; two weeks paternity leave have been introduced; there are 2,500 extra teachers and 900 resource teachers; 79 schools will be added to the DEIS programme; and 30 schools in the programme will receive additional resources.
We appointed the first ever Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, provided €14.6 million for health and finally started the new national children's hospital project for very sick children across the country. GP medical cards for those aged under six have been rolled out and there is a network of primary care. We also have a new Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, the Rebuilding Ireland plan and an action plan for housing with a budget of €5.35 billion to 2021.
The Luas cross-city project is in place. We passed the marriage equality and children's rights referendums. In the past number of months many people have returned to live and work in the country. We all know the difficulties with recruiting doctors, nurses and many other professionals. However, on a daily basis we hear calls in the Chamber from Sinn Féin to tax the rich. Who are the rich? They are the doctors and nurses who have dedicated their lives to serving the many sick people in this country. God help us all if Sinn Féin-----
As a new Deputy, I never thought I would see such a crisis just one year into my time in the House. Like many other Deputies, I have been shocked by the goings-on and the allegations and revelations in recent times.
-----that is a serious crisis for every one of us. When Deputies interrupt, I ask them to remember that this is a very serious issue. That is what members of the public have been saying tonight and in recent times. The people are losing belief in State agencies. There is the issue with Tusla. I note that throughout the crisis the Minister, Deputy Katherine Zappone, has not been in the House. She has not been here.
Let us be honest. Serious questions about Tusla have to be answered. We all welcomed and acknowledged the importance of Tusla when it was set up. We know the important job it does, but now there are serious matters that have to be referred to and dealt with.
Do I think the Taoiseach is dishonest? No, I do not. Do I think the Tánaiste is dishonest? No, I do not. By the way, I must say both of them look very shaken by this crisis, but it is absolute and total incompetence that has caused it and, as a Deputy stated earlier, it is of their own making. This side of the House has been totally responsible in its agreement with and facilitation of the Government. As stated, we sat here for ten weeks when no one was prepared to come on side to ensure the State would not face another general election. We did the right thing and, as I stated, facilitated the Government. This evening Deputy Róisín Shortall has been critical of us and our role, but she did not make much of an effort at the time to offer support and Deputy Stephen Donnelly obviously does not agree with her seeing as he has joined us.
This party has made a major contribution to the pensions Bill, the flood Bill and other legislation and ensured the Fine Gael-Independents Government has taken on board our policies. We must ensure stability. That is what the electorate of Roscommon-Galway and throughout the country is saying to me. People want stability, but they also want to be able to believe in the agencies of the State.
For the record, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, joined the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris; the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach last night for several hours - I think three hours - to answer questions.
I will wait, a Cheann Comhairle, until Opposition Members quieten down.
The motion of no confidence was tabled by a party on two issues related to An Garda Síochána. One relates to the Garda, while the other relates to whistleblowers. In his opening remarks Deputy Gerry Adams had an anecdote about someone saying, "Give me another pint ... or go to Achill island." As he knows, the lucky gardaí might have made it to Achill Island but thanks to an organisation - Sinn Féin's sister organisation - six gardaí were put in early graves. One of them, Seamus Quaid who was from my constituency, was murdered by the IRA in Wexford. A woman was left widowed with a young family to be brought up. In my constituency Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was murdered by the IRA. For doing what? He was escorting social welfare payments to a post office in my constituency.
-----when they think of to what Deputy Gerry Adams has led them. However, when he gets back to the high moral ground tonight - some of his commandants are also still knocking around - he might take the opportunity in the stillness of the night, when the light is switched off, to remember the faces of the dead gardaí in whose graves he put them, with his organisation, earlier than their time.
Absolutely, a Cheann Comhairle. If it helps the House, I will do so, but I want to continue. The organisation Deputy Gerry Adams has said he was never a member of was responsible for six gardaí being put in early graves. When Sinn Féin Deputies are on their high moral ground tonight, especially the younger Sinn Féin Deputies, they should ask themselves about the darkened vans in people were brought to so-called kangaroo courts on the Border. They should ask themselves about the whistleblower Máiría Cahill, a brave woman who was placed in the Seanad by the Labour Party and who was vilified by Sinn Féin. They should ask themselves about Paudie McGahon. We know what was done to him. They should also ask themselves about the memory of Brian Stack, whose family have begged Sinn Féin for answers about what happened to their father. However, Sinn Féin Deputies will not come forward and tell us what they know because they say there is a journey to truth and reconciliation. They are right, but let the journey begin here tonight. When the country goes through what undoubtedly will be a difficult period with the tribunal that has to be set up - it is right that it has to be set up - Sinn Féin Deputies will need to play their part once and for all and come clean on what happened to the six dead members of An Garda Síochána, the dead members of the Defence Forces and the dead members of the Irish Prison Service-----
-----who were put into early graves by an organisation the sole motive of which was to subvert the State and which never recognised the legitimacy of the Dáil or the State. When they cast their votes tonight, especially the younger Sinn Féin Members, they should ask themselves who has led them to this and if they have confidence in him and his equals to lead them further. He has questions to answer with that generation of leaders of so-called republicanism.
The true republicans in this House are the one swho stand by the Constitution, the Defence Forces and the Garda. The Deputy may well laugh at the memory of dead gardaí, prison officers and members of the Defence Forces, but Sinn Féin's hypocrisy does not wash with the people of Ireland. Sinn Féin has a belated and new found interest in the Garda, but, then again, it always had an interest in it. Some of its people wanted to know where gardaí lived and worked and about their movements. We and the people know this and will not wear Sinn Féin's new found interest in the Garda.
The Deputy may very well roar and shout at me but people inside and outside this House are entitled to answers. Sergeant Maurice McCabe, Jerry McCabe's widow and Seamus Quaid's widow are entitled to answers and when those answers are being given, let everybody get theirs.
It is a sad reflection on all politicians that Katie Hannon and RTE had to bring this matter to light when so many people knew and did nothing about it for years. Some good people kept silent but if we stay silent, evil will remain. What the whistleblowers endured should never be endured by any individual or his or her family and children. Sergeant McCabe and the other whistleblowers in whose cases Tusla got involved deserve the truth and should be included in the tribunal of inquiry. The tribunal of inquiry must not become a place for fat-cat lawyers and must not create another 15 or 16 millionaires, as the previous tribunal did.
Tusla has lost all credibility as a result of what we have heard in recent days. Root-and-branch reform of the organisation is needed. We meet ordinary people who do not appear on television and have problems with Tusla. The organisation has an awful lot to answer for. Is the Government proud of the Health Service Executive, which is a monster? Last week, we were discussing people who could not get operations. Unfortunately, we have not heard a word about that today. Is the Government proud that if a nurse working on a hospital ward who wants to do the right thing and speaks up, he or she will be threatened with fitness to practise inquiries and taken out? Is it proud that farmers who have been refused payments are receiving letters from their banks? Is it proud that the after two years, people still cannot get answers from the appeals office, which is allegedly independent? Is it proud that in the past ten or 12 years, nothing has been done about a scan that has been highlighted in the chicken industry? The Government has not acted in the way it should have acted.
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a young man who entered the Prison Service in good faith. The Government is aware of the case. When an incident took place in a hospital, the prison officer told the truth. Unfortunately, good people who tell the truth are tarred and feathered among their own and work is made impossible for them. They will be segregated and people will talk about them. Are we, as politicians, proud that this is happening? Should Deputies know the outcome of a case that is before the courts before the person who took the case or that the State tells the person that it will not cost anything if the case is withdrawn but it may cost a few hundred thousand euro if it is not? That is the type of country in which we are living.
In this country, one will be looked after if one is involved with the fat cats in sectors such as that relating to wind turbines. There seems to be cronyism at every single point. It is my belief that there are lies and corruption in all Departments. While there are some good civil servants, there are some ferociously poisoned sections in every Department. That is a sad thing to say but it is the reality.
The Government has no vision of where we are going. It has lost the mandate to govern. The so-called Opposition that says it will hold the Government to account has failed to stand up and be counted. Instead, it will wait for a better day on which it might get more Deputies might elected. We owe it to the people of Ireland to change what is going on. We owe it to ourselves to be honest and straightforward. If there is a problem or someone who needs help, we must not dump the e-mail but get out and talk about it.
I ask that these people be treated with respect and dignity and that changes be made in Departments. Funnily enough, in this country people are promoted for not being great at their jobs but if one is good at one's job, it is down the ladder one goes. There were great gardaí who never took out a notebook and who may have had a good harsh chat with youngsters who may have got a clip round the ear. The one thing they did was hold communities together and, unfortunately, they did not get promoted.
When I entered politics for the first time in 2011, I did so for one reason only, namely, I wanted to make a difference. In 2011, the Fianna Fáil-led Government left the country in a mess. Its governance and policies had bankrupted the country. We must never forget that its boom-and-bust policies left generations of families trapped in long-term, unsustainable debt. I know from people who attend my weekly clinics the mess Fianna Fáil left behind. As a result of that party's time in government, we had to rely on others to bail us out, pay the wages of our public servants, including nurses, teachers and gardaí. We lost our financial independence and hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. We lost thousands of our youngest and brightest to emigration and public services were decimated. I could go on but everybody knows exactly the mess in which Fianna Fáil left us.
I joined Fine Gael because I knew it had the policies to get the country back on track. This is exactly what the party did in the past six years. Our record in government is there for everyone to see. We have restored the public finances and we are now in a position where we can invest properly in our public services. We will have a balanced budget in 2018. We have restored all the jobs lost during the Fianna Fáil crash. Last year alone, more than 1,000 new jobs were created every week. Under the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, we have a housing plan under which the houses that were lost as a result of the Fianna Fáil crash are starting to be built. We have regained our financial independence and seen the back of the troika.
I am proud of Fine Gael's record in government since I joined the party. I am also proud to support a Government which, since last year's election, has carried on with the rebuilding of our public finances and services. We have achieved much in our time in office but we are also aware that there is more to be done. As the economy continues to improve, we are using the extra resources to invest in our public services, hospitals and schools.
I ask the Deputies opposite to compare their last six years in government with Fine Gael's last six years in government.
I wish to make a brief contribution to the debate on the motion and state my full support for the Government and Taoiseach. I highlight that achieving real justice for the McCabe family is what Fine Gael and most other parties and Independents in the House are focusing on and working for. It is clear that real answers need to be obtained for the family and real action needs to follow. However, one does not get answers by pulling the rug from under the Government and selfishly running to the people to boost one's mandate in the process, as Sinn Féin has attempted to do tonight. Not happy to pull down the Government in Northern Ireland, it wants to cause the same chaos here. Who would this suit? In Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin has deprived people of proper political representation for weeks and we should not allow it to do the same in this country.
It is clear to everyone that the party is playing politics with a sensitive and personal issue for the McCabe family. It is also a bit rich of Sinn Féin to suddenly show concern for the Garda and the concept of law and order in light of its record on issues such as the murders of Brian Stack, Joseph Rafferty and Jean McConville and the treatment of Máiria Cahill, to name but a few. As the Taoiseach correctly stated, reflecting on the history of Sinn Féin's relationship with An Garda Síochána over the years and its shameful handling of sexual abuse cases within its own movement, it has some neck calling for a general election on these issues. I remind those in Sinn Féin of the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in June 1996 and that two members of the IRA are still on the run and wanted by the Garda.
I presume Sinn Féin will hold its sinister silence and refuse to hand over information to the colleagues of the late Detective Jerry McCabe and Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
I believe the focus should now be on letting the tribunal get on with its work in order that it can get to the truth and deliver justice for the McCabe family.
It is a naked attempt to go to the people to gain seats because its polling numbers suggest they will gain a few extra seats. Primarily, we are elected to this House to do something. I cannot think of any one thing that Sinn Féin could put its finger on in this country that is not chaotic or murderous, as mentioned by my colleagues over the last few minutes.
Sinn Féin decries the economic progress that we have made in this country for the past six years. It decries every economic indicator and every job created - 200,000 of them - giving people the opportunity to get off welfare and back into work. They are the reasons this Government is in office. What does Sinn Féin do when it gets an opportunity to govern in Northern Ireland? It throws it away because it might win an extra few seats. Sinn Féin does not deserve to be on this side of the House.
I support this motion of confidence in the Government. In the limited time available to me I want to speak about the controversy in relation to the Garda whistleblowers because that is the issue that has given rise to this motion and it is the most important matter before us. Party political point scoring is not what the people listening in at home want to hear about.
Almost three years ago I thanked Maurice McCabe and the other whistleblowers for shining a light into a very dark place and forcing those who would turn a blind eye to face up to the truth. I want to reiterate tonight some of what I said then. I said that there was one word to describe their actions and that was "distinguished". Given what has emerged in recent days about the sustained smear campaign against Maurice McCabe, the attempts to destroy his reputation and the torment he and his family have had to endure it is clear that his service to the state has not just been distinguished, it has been heroic.
I have no doubt in my mind, from what I know and what I have heard, that Sergeant McCabe was subject to a scurrilous whispering campaign to discredit him. What I do not know is who was involved and the extent to which it was organised. The inquiry must find that out. What is evident is that the aim was not only to intimidate him but also to scare people off from supporting his claims, and for a time that was successful. We now need to know if similar campaigns were organised against other gardaí, public figures and private citizens. Tonight, I call on all of those with information to come forward. In particular, I call on individual gardaí who spread rumours passed to them by superiors, perhaps believing them to be true, to come forward and to give evidence to the public inquiry, because they too were deceived and are not to blame.
I believe the Government owes a full and unequivocal apology to Sergeant McCabe for the appalling treatment he endured at the hands of the Garda, State agencies and Departments. We need to restore trust in these key institutions and we do so by showing a willingness to be contrite. Tonight I support the decision by the Government to hold a public inquiry but I know that in the past tribunals have not always led to the truth and can take many years. Sergeant McCabe has asked six questions, and if they can be answered, they should be answered in full before any tribunal is up and running and nobody should attempt to use the shield of legal advice, process or pending inquiries to avoid answering these questions.
Maurice McCabe's family is the latest and, perhaps, the most grievous example of a society where so often truth, justice and accountability are denied. The very first Garda Commissioner was Michael Staines, a trusted associate of Michael Collins. He said that An Garda Síochána would succeed not by force of arms or numbers but on its moral authority as a servant of the people. If it is to be seen not as a servant but a master then it will lose its moral authority. The Government cannot and will not allow that to happen because the security of the State and the liberty of our citizens depends on it.
My party, Fine Gael, is the party of law and order and a party of integrity in public office. These are among our core values as a political movement. Understandably, the events of the past week have shaken belief in the party and confidence in the Government but can and we will put these things right. We must now resolve to renew our vows as a republic and ensure that never again can any State body or institution be used to treat one of our citizen servants so shabbily. We need to bring an end to a culture where wrong is done but nobody is held to account. Systems failures, administrative errors, endless reviews and prevarications, lost records, putting on the green jersey and alleged lack of resources are all too often used to justify and excuse wrongdoing. This should no longer be the case. Our Republic can and must stand for something better. Let us get down to the business of doing that.
As this is a motion of confidence in the Government, in accordance with Standing Order 73(1), the division cannot be taken by electronic means and Members must vote through the lobbies.
Maria Bailey, Seán Barrett, Pat Breen, Colm Brophy, Richard Bruton, Peter Burke, Catherine Byrne, Seán Canney, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Simon Coveney, Michael Creed, Michael D'Arcy, Jim Daly, John Deasy, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Paschal Donohoe, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frances Fitzgerald, Peter Fitzpatrick, Charles Flanagan, Brendan Griffin, John Halligan, Simon Harris, Michael Harty, Martin Heydon, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Seán Kyne, Michael Lowry, Helen McEntee, Finian McGrath, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Kevin Moran, Dara Murphy, Eoghan Murphy, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Tom Neville, Michael Noonan, Kate O'Connell, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, John Paul Phelan, Michael Ring, Noel Rock, Shane Ross, Leo Varadkar, Katherine Zappone.
Gerry Adams, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Tommy Broughan, Pat Buckley, Joan Burton, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Catherine Connolly, Ruth Coppinger, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Michael Fitzmaurice, Kathleen Funchion, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Séamus Healy, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Mary Lou McDonald, Mattie McGrath, Catherine Martin, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Carol Nolan, Eoin Ó Broin, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Louise O'Reilly, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Thomas Pringle, Maurice Quinlivan, Brendan Ryan, Eamon Ryan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Mick Wallace.
Bobby Aylward, John Brassil, Declan Breathnach, James Browne, Mary Butler, Thomas Byrne, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells, Jack Chambers, Lisa Chambers, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen, John Curran, Stephen Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Seán Fleming, Pat Gallagher, Noel Grealish, Seán Haughey, Billy Kelleher, John Lahart, James Lawless, Marc MacSharry, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Micheál Martin, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eugene Murphy, Éamon Ó Cuív, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Willie O'Dea, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Frank O'Rourke, Anne Rabbitte, Eamon Scanlon, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Robert Troy.