Thursday, 14 January 2016
Order of Business
I welcome the political reforms announced by the Taoiseach on 5 January 2016 and circulated to us the next day by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service. The reforms include election of the Ceann Comhairle by a secret ballot, the proportional allocation of chairs of Oireachtas committees using the D'Hondt method and regular appearances by the Taoiseach before the working group of committee chairs. These reforms harmonise with the recommendations made by the Smaointe group of four leading political scientists, Prof. David Farrell, Dr. Eoin O' Malley, Dr. Theresa Reidy and Dr. Jane Suiter. This group is concerned about the guillotine motion which is also a concern of our Leader. The use of the guillotine motion was why the President convened the Council of State to review legislation during the Christmas recess. The work of political reform is important and the reform initiatives are welcome. The observations of the four political scientists are also welcome.
I note that Standard & Poor's rating agency has taken a dim view of the regulation of the insurance sector in Ireland. The Taoiseach was dealing with this matter also during the past week. I am concerned there is a possibility for €92 million of liability from the Setanta Insurance company even though that company, as the Central Bank said today, was prudentially regulated in Malta. How on earth a Maltese liability ended up here should be discussed in this House. We also have concerns about the insurance industry not rewarding areas where the OPW has installed flood defences. There is also the matter of the Quinn Insurance company bankruptcy. The insurance sector requires tighter regulation.
There are also fears, as reported by Daniel McConnell, that we may be returning to the era of pro-cyclical budgets and concerns are being expressed by the European Union. It is very important to make it explicit that revenues from corporate tax, which grew exceptionally quickly in the last quarter, are sustainable increases and there is not a round of budget promises which would return the State into the financial difficulties which this Oireachtas was elected to correct.