Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Order of Business
The Order of Business is No. 1, Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 3.45 p.m. and to be adjourned no later than 6 p.m., if not previously concluded, with contributions from group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes; and No. 2, Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2014 - Order for Second Stage and Second Stage, to be taken at 6 p.m., with contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes and those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes.
The Taoiseach has lost the trust of the people. In 2011 he stated that he wanted a sense of trust to be brought back to Irish politics. As can clearly be seen, he has failed the people in this regard. The process relating to the Seanad by-election was nothing other than cronyism of monumental proportions. There has also been a shocking failure regarding Irish Water. The former Minister of State who introduced the legislation to establish the company in this House has stated that it is "a disaster". Irish Water also involves cronyism. Half the jobs relating to it are not, according to thejournal.ie, being advertised at all and most of them are being given to former public servants. Perhaps the Leader will arrange a debate on this matter, because I would like to discover why these jobs are not being advertised. Where is the transparency the Taoiseach both offered and promised in 2011?
As bad as the lack of transparency relating to Irish Water is, that in respect of the HSE is even worse. I refer to the manipulation of hospital waiting lists, something which is putting people's lives at risk. Patients are being taken off those waiting lists and told to see private doctors, many of whom are not suited to treating the conditions with which people are presenting. This is being done in order that the HSE can manipulate the figures, and people's lives are being put at risk as a result. In addition, surgeons are being told to perform operations on people they have neither seen nor consulted with. This is being done in the knowledge that these surgeons will not perform said operations and will put the patients involved back on the public hospital waiting list. As a result, the list is manipulated in such a way as to make it seem that there are far fewer people on it. What is being done here brings to mind the famous line about lies, damn lies and statistics, which is attributed to Disraeli. Obviously, all three of these things apply in the context of the HSE's manipulation of the hospital waiting lists. Mark Twain once stated: "Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable." The Government does not like the facts, but it is fairly stubborn when it comes to manipulating statistics. I request that the Cathaoirleach allow the Leader to bring the Minister for Health before the House in order that we might discuss the memo relating to this matter. That memo is putting people's lives at risk. Perhaps the Minister might bring with him a copy of the memo in which HSE officials were instructed to manipulate the waiting lists, putting people's lives at risk. The person who issued the memo in question, who knew he was putting people's lives at risk, should be fired.
In addition to manipulating hospital waiting lists, the Seanad by-election - quite disastrously, as it turns out - and Government Departments-----
I would like the opportunity to make my point, which is uncontroversial. This is the first time in the history of the State that there will finally be a need for Cabinet approval for an objective and transparent system of appointments to State boards.
Slow learners. Some people never learn; that is the truth about Fianna Fáil. I urge colleagues on both sides of the House to look at the website stateboards.iewhich, for the first time, is to provide a one-stop shop to ensure transparent appointments to State boards and which will detail candidate specifications, including relevant experience and other criteria. It is hugely important that we will see this reform.
I have expressed my own concerns about the appointment of Mr. McNulty. As such, I do not want to go back over that issue.
However, it is hugely important and significant that we now have in place a proper and transparent system for appointing the members of State boards. If we are having this debate, we should look at the other reforms the Government has brought forward, for example, extending the Ombudsman's jurisdiction and powers and reforming the system of parliamentary inquiries, even in the wake of the defeat of the referendum in 2011. We will regulate lobbying through the Registration of Lobbying Bill which is going through the Oireachtas. Again, for the first time in the history of the State, it will introduce a register of lobbying. This is hugely important and something which has been called for by NGOs for many years. We have restored freedom of information legislation and reversed Fianna Fáil's attempts to dismantle the freedom of information system, about which my colleagues on the other side have probably forgotten. They sought to dismantle a system which had originally been introduced by the former Labour Party Minister of State, Ms Eithne Fitzgerald. We have put in place protected disclosures legislation to protect whistleblowers and are preparing an ethics Bill to overhaul ethics legislation.
I asked the Leader for a debate on the democratic reform process being brought forward, including some aspects that had already been introduced and, in particular, items such as the ethics Bill, which is yet to be brought before the House. We should have a debate on all of these reforms. It would be very useful to have the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, in the House to discuss this broad ranging programme of public reform that he is leading.
We are not paying attention to the real issue, the biggest issue in the country, the greatest issue in every house, the only issue for every worker in the country and the most pronounced for every business, that is, the behaviour of the banks. We have gone crazy about it and into a kind of silent stupor. We spend three weeks talking about a shopkeeper in Kilcar and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. While I agree what was done was wayward, unnecessary and stupid in the extreme, we have people roaring around the place about cronyism. However, if Fianna Fáil Members really want to ventilate the subject of cronyism, I suggest they re-read about TASC's mapping of the golden circle when they will learn about the interlocking of multiple directorships, the remuneration, pensions and fees for all of the boys, banks and State companies. It was money, money, money. If I am correct, Deputy Micheál Martin, one of the loudest speakers recently on the idea of cronyism and modern art, was the worthwhile leader of Fianna Fáil, with four portfolios during all of this period when there was a lack of governance and a general swindle. Four portfolios - it defies belief.
It is the banks that have the people choked. The people understand the necessity for water which, by the way, we have polluted. We have not looked after it, although we understand it needs to be looked after. We know that it is precious and needs to be preserved well, but that is not the problem. The problem is that the people do not have the money to pay for it and the reason they do not have the money to pay for it is they are being choked by mortgages and loans. They do not have proper legal recourse to tenancy or rent arrangements. The universal social charge is at the top of every single cent they earn to pay for the wayward banks, on top of the €3.7 billion we gave to them, in addition to the people's savings, yet we are still being choked by interest rates, which is financial thuggery at its best.
Will Senators, please, place their eyes on the most important issue in every house, home and business in the country?
I plead with Senators to represent people and stand up against the banks. Let me tell Senators what Mr. Honohan has done this morning. He has reinvented fire. He has run out and told us that he is limiting loan amounts for mortgages. If he had looked back at practice in the 1980s, he would know people used to get two and a half times their salary as a loan. That is all they were allowed when they came to a bank. Mr. Honohan is now reinventing the wheel, but it is a bit too late to discover fire, when what he is doing was discovered in the 1980s when people were allowed borrow two and a half times their salary.
I urge Senators to think of the big issue, which is the way the banks are treating people - business people, mothers and fathers, mortgage dealers and people who owe money. How they treat them is disgraceful, but not one of us is talking about it. Banks are pulling interest rates out of the air and we are sitting here talking about somebody up in Kilcar and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, an issue I agree was wrong and wayward.