Tuesday, 5 July 1977
Dáil Eireann Debate
I should like to explain, in connection with the last nomination, the following. The management and development of the economy will be the immediate concern of this Government. The direction and co-ordination of this function is a task of such magnitude that it imposes an almost impossible burden on a Minister who is also charged with the administration of the public finances and the development of the public service. I, therefore, propose to introduce legislation to establish a new Department of Economic Planning and Development to be headed by a separate Minister. Certain functions at present vested in the Minister for Finance will be transferred to the new Minister. While the finer details have to be worked out, the broadened range of functions will cover as follows: medium and long term economic and social policy and planning for the economy as a whole, including sectoral and regional aspects; functions relating to public bodies and institutions with a role in economic planning and development, for example, the National Economic and Social Council, the Economic and Social Research Institute and the proposed new national board for science and technology; co-ordinating dialogue with the social partners and other appropriate groups; participation in the relevant work of international institutions which relate to economic and social development, such as the institutions of the European Communities and the OECD.
There will obviously have to be a  close working relationship between the Minister for Economic Planning and Development and the Minister for Finance but I am convinced that it only by the assignment of responsibility, as I have outlined, to a separate Minister that the difficult tasks we are undertaking can be accomplished. The Minister for the Public Service will, conjunction with the new Minister for Economic Planning and Development undertake the preparation of the necessary enabling legislation for the new Department. The legislation will be introduced immediately after the Recess. In the meantime, I am nominating a Minister, without portfolio, who will have the title, Minister for Economic Planning and Development. I am proposing Deputy Martin O'Donoghue as this Minister.
In addition to the creation of the new Department for Economic Planning and Development, I believe that further changes in the distribution of the functions of Government are desirable. I have decided, therefore, to has the following changes made. Responsibility for Energy will go to the Minister for Industry and Commerce There has always been a degree of uncertainty certainty as to which Department or agency is responsible for environment matters. Because of its widespread functions in building, the provision roads and other amenities and service I believe the primary responsibility for environmental matters should be with the Department of Local Government. Therefore, I propose to retitle it, the Department of the Environment. The political head of the Department already relieved of the work involved in planning appeals, will also be relieved of responsibility for redrawing Dáil constituency boundaries as I propose to set up an independent commission for this purpose. There will therefore be more time to concentrate on environmental problems. I propose also to transfer responsibility for tourism to this Minister with a Parliamentary Secretary to assist in this are The Minister for the Public Service will, in conjunction with the relevant Ministers, commence immediately the preparation of the enabling orders for these changes.
I also propose to nominate the following members for appointment by the Government as Parliamentary Secretaries: Deputies Patrick J. Lalor, David Andrews, James Tunney, Thomas J. Fitzpatrick, Pearse Wyse,  Tom Hussey, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. When the Government have made these appointments I will indicate the Ministers to whom they will be assigned. At this stage it is my intention to nominate Deputy Patrick J. Lalor to be the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach.
I have already indicated my intention of appointing Ministers who will not be members of the Government. Whether they will be designated Junior Ministers or Ministers of State, or by another title, I have yet to decide. In my view there is a clear need to appoint such Junior Ministers to help members of the Government who have especially heavy workloads by reason of modern developments and international commitments. To change the title of Parliamentary Secretary or to increase their numbers, at present limited to seven, will require an amendment of the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. The appropriate legislation will be introduced early in the next session of Dáil Éireann.
The creation of the new minsterial portfolio and Department and the transfer of functions I have announced are but the first step in a phased programme of public service reform which I intend to have developed further under the aegis of the Minister for the Public Service. In particular the institutional arrangements for planning in each Government Department will receive early attention in order to ensure that the activities of the Department are responsive to and reflect the central responsibilities for economic planning and development of the new Department.
I consider public service reform to be of fundamental importance for the effective discharge and implementation of the programmes of national renewal and development upon which we are now embarking. The Public Service Advisory Council in their report have, rightly in my opinion, drawn attention to the fact that without conspicuous political will and commitment public service reform will not occur. The new Government will not be found wanting in this respect.
The Government's priorities have been fully set out in our manifesto which we published the day after the dissolution of the 20th Dáil. We got a strong endorsement from the people to implement our policies. The fact that we have an unprecedented majority will certainly not make us complacent. We intend to undertake our task with urgency and determination.
The Irish electorate, as always, have proved themselves to be most discerning and discriminating. They have rejected the Coalition Government. The same Irish electorate will be equally discriminating at the next general election if this Government do not create the real economic progress and the improved quality of life our people are entitled to expect.
As a people and a Government we can go forward with confidence and in co-operation, confidence in our ability to overcome the difficult problems that face us but realising that without the necessary degree of co-operation between all sections our task will be the more difficult. We welcome and will consider carefully constructive criticism whether from the Opposition or any other responsible source. Our aim will be to improve our economy in the years immediately ahead and to ensure that this progress will have laid the necessary foundation on which successive Governments can build and maintain the steady and peaceful advances of our economy and of our people's well-being for the remainder of this century and beyond.
Dr. FitzGerald: It has been my duty to-day, as leader of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, to oppose the nomination of Deputy Jack Lynch as Taoiseach. Having registered our vote on that issue, we shall not oppose the Government which he, having been chosen as Taoiseach, has selected. I note the changes in functions proposed and the intention to introduce Ministers outside the Government.
This party recognise and loyally accept the verdict of the Irish people, as we have done since the first occasion when Government changed in 1932, but we have the duty by our negative vote here today to register this party's rejection of the basis on  which this electoral victory was won and to warn against the dangers inherent in the policy adopted by Fianna Fáil in the recent election. The dangers are twofold—economic and moral. The first economic danger is that in a situation where our economy is expanding, and indeed where the expansion of the economy is accelerating, and with rapidly declining inflation, the measures proposed by the new Fianna Fáil Government involve a massive further increase in borrowing —borrowing at home according to their leaders—which will either generate a new round of inflation by excessive expansion of credit at home or will hit the growth rate by reducing the scale of credit available to the private sector which at last, after the long world recession, is starting to re-invest.
The second economic danger is that pursuit of such irresponsible policies which have caused alarm in the international community, as we are already aware from private reactions, will weaken the external competence necessary to sustain the present high rate of growth, which depends of course to a considerable degree on foreign investment, and will weaken the internal confidence upon which domestic private investment depends.
The third economic danger is that in the event of a further sharp fall in the value of sterling, which cannot be ruled out in view of the uncertainties in Britain, the conditions which we have created for the maintenance of the value of our currency in those circumstances, for the preservation of our economy against further imported inflation and for the possible insulation of our capital markets against a further upsurge of interest rates in the United Kingdom, could be undermined. A big increase in borrowing, when all advice and expectations are in the opposite direction towards a reduction in borrowing, could deprive us of the possibility of external support against speculation in an independent Irish currency, a support which I believe would as of now be available to this country because of the policies we followed in Government.
These are the economic dangers that face this country as a result of Fianna  Fáil's victory on the basis of irresponsible economic policies. It is our duty in Opposition—and we will carry it out—to oppose every move which weakens the economic base we have built up. Let me briefly describe what that economic base is.
What we have achieved has been achieved against the background not merely of a prolonged world crisis but, as far as the present year is concerned, against the background of a situation deteriorating yet again. The growth forecast in the EEC for 1977 was originally 4½ per cent and it has been progressively lowered to 4 per cent, to 3½ per cent and now to 3 per cent. World trade is faltering. Unemployment is still rising in most EEC countries and in the EEC as a whole. Despite this intimidating external picture our economy, under the guidance of our Government, is on the road to recovery. The 1977 growth rate forecast for this country was originally 3½ per cent but now the forecast by the Economic and Social Research Institute, to which the Taoiseach referred in his opening remarks, is 5 per cent. As other countries are lowering their expectations, ours are rising. Agricultural output is forecast to rise by 4 per cent this year and incomes by somewhere between one-quarter and one-third. Construction output is forecast to rise by 6 per cent, and manufacturing output by 10 per cent. Based largely on export boom an increase in the volume of manufacturing exports in the first four months is forecast at 25 to 30 per cent.
These achievements have been based on competitiveness achieved through a moderate national wage round averaging about 7½ per cent this year. We have also halted the increase in unemployment, unlike six of the other eight EEC countries where unemployment is still rising. We are handing over to the new Government a country in which inflation has been brought down to below 14 per cent and in which the expected rate of increase in consumer prices in the second half of the year is projected at 4 to 4½ per cent—an annual inflation rate of 8 to 9 per cent. There is no  precedent for achieving in an economy as open as ours a result so much against the general world tide, so much against that tide that our growth this year is likely to be the highest in the EEC. This must be put on record so that the public can observe whether the policies of the incoming Government maintain this achievement and build on this base, or whether instead they undermine the base, re-introduce higher inflation and cut back growth, so that after the temporary effects of extravagance wear off we return to rising unemployment.
Apart from economic dangers another danger has been created by the Fianna Fáil policy during this election. This policy was aimed at buying the support of different interest groups, almost all of whom are to be found among those who have jobs, incomes, homes and cars. The policies are aimed at those who can afford to buy a house on a mortgage, not towards those whose incomes and insecurity of employment make this a pipe dream. They are aimed at those who already own their own houses, not towards those in council dwellings. They are aimed at those who own private cars, not towards those who use public transport. They are aimed at those whose incomes bring them within the tax net, not towards those living on social benefits or on such low incomes that they are not taxable. These policies, seeking support by this kind of auctioneering, are anti-social in their direction, and they are designed to pauperise and demoralise all those groups in society whom political leaders concerned with the moral health of society must encourage to stand on their own feet and not look to the State for benefits and privileges. The whole basis of the independent society is undermined by Fianna Fáil's approach to this election. For the sake of votes and office they have reduced politics to an unprecedented auction for votes. This tactic has succeeded in the short run, because fewer than 5 per cent of the electorate, attracted by the short term gains offered, did not realise the economic or moral dangers involved. Many are now appalled at the results of their actions.
 Our job as an Opposition is to say these unpopular things now. In Government we rejected the course of easy popularity and governed with courage. We re-distributed wealth from those who have jobs and incomes to the poor and underprivileged. We did this even in a time of recession, knowing that this could cost us votes among those affected without being likely to gain us much support among the less organised and less politically-conscious, 25 per cent underprivileged people in our community. We introduced taxation of the 10 per cent wealthiest farmers, because justice demanded that they pay a share of income taxation, knowing that this could lose us some votes not only among those farmers directly affected but among some of the remaining 90 per cent, who would fear that the tax net might in time spread to them. Faced with this year's budget we courageously refused to act irresponsibly by increasing borrowing above the actual 1976 level towards that originally projected for that year. This could have enabled us to offer all the goodies that Fianna Fáil put in their shop window. We did this, not because it did not occur to us that such an option existed but because we knew it would be wrong and dangerous and because our duty to the country came before any party consideration. That has always been the tradition of Fine Gael, and it is also the tradition of our friends in Government, the Labour Party.
In relation to the fisheries negotiations with the EEC, we have left the incoming Government with a hand well-stacked with cards. Last October we had a guarantee of special treatment for Ireland. We have the right to have a fisheries policy so operated as to yield a doubling of the Irish catch by 1979. We have Community aid for fishery protection. Since then we introduced unilateral conservation measures which must either stand or be replaced by tightly controlled alternative measures based on fishery plans involving specific details of which boats will catch how much fish, where and in which period. We have laid the ground for the negotiation of a coastal band of up to 50 miles. We have never given  an inch on this since May last year and we have set up for the benefit of the incoming Government a bargaining situation in which the Community cannot enter into any third country agreements unless and until it concedes us such a band. We shall watch Fianna Fáil to make sure they do not lose this country any of the advantages gained in this area.
The Coalition have secured immense advantages in the EEC for Ireland, not only in fisheries but in agriculture, social policy, regional policy and in other sectors. We secured these advantages by a mixture of skilled diplomacy and the creation of goodwill by the positive character of our contribution to the Community in many areas where no Irish vital interest was involved. Countries which are reluctant to concede the further development of supranational institutions have admired our principled stand on Community matters and have extended their goodwill to us. I hope Fianna Fáil will not depart from the principles upon which we based our policy of seeking further movement towards a more strongly supranational community in which the power of the larger countries to exploit or dominate the smaller ones is curbed by curbs on their possible abuse of sovereignty.
In relation to Northern Ireland our patient and quiet diplomacy, carried on without regard to sniping intended to force us counter-productively into the public arena on delicate issues, has helped to create the conditions necessary for a settlement in the North. We defused the North-South tensions which over decades aided by the propaganda of their extremists had maintained a siege mentality on a part of the Unionist population. The Northern Unionists have known that under the National Coalition they were not threatened. They knew that we sought to impose no solution on them, nor to persuade others to impose one but sought rather co-operation between North and South and sought to foster co-operation between the two sections in the North. My greatest pride during our period in office, was a remark made by a Northern politician—a representative of the minority—that our Government had won more respect  from both sections in the North than any previous Government had secured from either. Since 1969 our policy has been based on the belief that the resolution of internal tensions in Northern Ireland could come about through encouraging what we on the 18th September, 1969, described in our Northern Ireland policy document as “joint Government” or powersharing. We believed in encouraging this for a period so that both sides could learn to work with and trust each other. Everything that has happened since we drafted that policy statement has validated this approach. We are not yet at a point where this is possible, but the new Government will find that real progress has been made and is being made in mutual understanding and in seeking a way forward to at least an interim solution. I hope nothing the new Government says or does will inhibit this progress or set it back.
All this has been achieved against the background of our relationship with the United Kingdom. Before we came into office Deputy Lynch, as Taoiseach had secured, with difficulty and after some acrimony, recognition by the United Kingdom Government that we have a vital interest in Northern Ireland which, incidentally, over the years has cost the lives of many of our citizens here as well as many of our people in Northern Ireland. We have built on that. We maintained our position in the Strasbourg case. We never ceased to be vigilant about any abuses in Northern Ireland or in Britain affecting Irish people. At the same time we developed a healthy relationship with successive British Governments, thus increasing our potential influence on a constructive Northern outcome. I hope the new Government will build further on this.
We came to Government on the eve of the greatest world crisis in 50 years. We inherited problems of Border insecurity, of Northern doubts and fears about the genuineness of our intentions. We took over also the problem of making our way successfully in the EEC and of retrieving past errors on fisheries policies. On all of these fronts and despite all of these difficulties we  have made progress and we leave behind us a country in better economic shape in terms of economic growth than any of our neighbours. We shall be vigilant in watching how Fianna Fáil look after it on behalf of the people. Above all we shall try, from these benches, to give a moral lead to the nation, to combat materialism, the growth of which Fianna Fáil have so unfortunately encouraged in this election, and to offer to the younger generation a vision of a more just and worthwhile society, a vision that will encourage them to maintain their faith in the multi-party democratic parliamentary system.
Mr. Cluskey: On behalf of the Labour Party I should like, first of all, to extend our congratulations to Deputy Jack Lynch on his election as Taoiseach and also to convey to him and his Ministers every good wish in the interests of the people. We, too, voted against the election of the Taoiseach because we wanted to register our protest at the way in which the very large majority of the Government was obtained. However, Deputy Lynch is now Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil are now the Government of this country. They obtained that position by telling the electorate that they had the answers to all our economic and social ills. In the interests of the people we sincerely hope they have those answers; we seriously doubt that they have but we hope they have.
At this point it is worthwhile to look at just a few of the problems confronting the Government. I shall mention just a few. Unemployment is of paramount importance to this party. The Labour Party have always regarded it as being the greatest social evil in our society, directly responsible for many other social evils in our society. The question of inflation will require considerably more attention than a paragraph in a manifesto. There is the question of the redistribution of wealth in our society, so closely related to social justice and, last but not least, there are the questions and the difficulties posed by Northern Ireland and indeed the defence of our democratic institutions here at home.
 It is worth while to comment briefly on those items I have listed as being among those that will have to be tackled by the Taoiseach and the incoming Government. I hope the question of unemployment will continue to be one about which we will hear a lot from the Fianna Fáil Party now that they are in Government. God knows we heard sufficient about it when they were in Opposition.
The question of unemployment over the last four-and-a-half years was presented to our people as if it was something that had been discovered by the Coalition. Listening to Fianna Fáil speakers, including the present Taoiseach, one would think the country had enjoyed full employment since the foundation of the State. Unfortunately that is not the factual situation. The fact about unemployment is very briefly as follows: when we came into office in February, 1973, the January figure for unemployment was 76,000 persons, approximately 7 per cent. Throughout the history of this State unemployment has run at approximately 7 per cent or 8 per cent, and that at a time when the rest of Europe and all of the members of the Common Market, with the possible exception of Italy, were enjoying full employment. Quite obviously unemployment was not a high priority when Fianna Fáil were previously in office. One can only hope that their newfound concern about the unemployed will continue now that they are directly responsible and in a position to take the necessary political decisions and actions to rectify the situation.
When we came into office the economic situation did not look too unpleasant. Quite suddenly we had a world economic recession and countries whose economics were much stronger than ours were rocked to their very foundations. During that period of government in which this party shared we gave priority to two things, the protection of the weak and underprivileged and the maintenance, as far as was humanly possible, of the level of employment then obtaining. We did so by borrowing to a large extent. I recall in the first two-and-a-half years  after the recession the way Fianna Fáil condemned, day after day, the irresponsibility of that Government for their approach to those problems and for their foreign borrowing. I am totally convinced that had we not pursued that policy the figures of unemployment here would have exceeded 200,000 and that the people less able to defend themselves against the worst ravages of inflation would have suffered very severely indeed. Those were policies pursued by us but condemned by Fianna Fáil.
Now we understand that they have all the answers. I hope they have, in the interests of our people. I shall dwell some time on unemployment because this party have always recognised full employment as being a primary aim. We have always recognised unemployment as the greatest social evil but however difficult it may have been in the past to achieve full employment there is no doubt that it will be much more difficult to do so in the future. This party are totally convinced it cannot be done if we proceed along the same road that Fianna Fáil proceeded along in the past. This is not the question of ideology. We have been accused of that. It has been thrown at us that we have ideological hang-ups. Of course, we have a political philosophy but undoubtedly Fianna Fáil have the hang-ups and unless they get rid of them there is no future for the unemployed in this country.
We have the position that our population is increasing—something unique in Europe—and approximately 50 per cent of our population are under 25 years. There is no emigration to any great extent—I understand the figure is approximately 7,000 or 8,000. What is required if we are serious about solving unemployment is a radical new approach to job creation.
In 1972-1973 we produced the highest number of jobs. In that year which was our peak performance we created between 12,000 and 13,000 jobs, 7,000-8,000 of which were the work of the IDA. I do not want to give the impression that we do not appreciate the work done by the IDA. It has been very valuable and that organisation has been responsible for creating employment but if we continue to rely on that policy there is no way in which we can tackle seriously the unemployment problem.
It is only fair to say that when the Labour Party speak about curing the unemployment problem we do not mean going back to the 7 or 8 per cent unemployment rate, something some people were comfortable about. We mean full employment for all our people. In the manifesto produced by the Coalition there was provision for the setting up of a national development corporation. The Labour Party believe that kind of development is necessary, that the State must actively involve itself in job creation, whether on its own or in partnership with private enterprise where suitable. There must be direct intervention by the State in job creation; otherwise in the opinion of the Labour Party there is no possibility of fulfilling what Fianna Fáil promised with regard to employment.
One of the other matters that loomed so largely in the election and which was used with considerable effect by Fianna Fáil was the question of inflation. Undoubtedly, inflation was a problem for the Government of the day and for the people. However, we took action with regard to it and Fianna Fáil are now going to reap the benefit of that action. If one looks at the use of the high priced professionalism of the presentation of matters such as prices and inflation by Fianna Fáil in the election campaign it leaves one wondering just how serious that party will be in government on those very important issues.
There was the question of the leak from the National Prices Commission and the use made of it by Fianna Fáil while knowing that it was not accurate. The media took up this matter and highlighed it but immediately after the election all acknowledged that a mistake was made. It was effective but I wonder if that is the way to deal with inflation. It makes one wonder how seriously the Government intend to tackle the problem. I should like to know how inflation can be brought  down to 7 per cent next year as Fianna Fáil have promised. We will repeat that question and we will follow it with great interest. In the interest of the Irish people I sincerely hope it can be achieved.
During the last few years we were told we were bankrupting the country when we tried to protect the underprivileged, the unemployed and those in shaky employment. It is now accepted by international commentators—not just our own people—that the economy is basically in good shape and that our growth potential is extremely good. Fianna Fáil are deriving the benefit of the actions taken by the Coalition Government, responsible actions on behalf of the Irish people. They may have cost us the election but, on behalf of the Labour Party, I can say that if it were a choice between endangering the future of the Irish people and our economy or winning the election we gladly find ourselves on this side of the House. Fianna Fáil made a different judgment.
I welcome the statement made by the Taoiseach that he is setting up a new Department to deal with economic planning. The Labour Party have sought this for many years. We do not object to Fianna Fáil robbing our clothes because we are by no means naked. We have many more policies that we hope will be implemented. There is one comment I wish to make with regard to economic development. So far as the Labour Party are concerned, economic planning and development are not an end in themselves. They must be accompanied by social planning and development. We do not want to go back to the days when any speculator could make vast sums of money, when any get-rich-quick boy could obtain enormous sums of money, thus widening the gap between the haves and the have nots. Not only do we think that immoral but we believe it is extremely dangerous so far as our democratic institutions are concerned. We regard it as a top priority that economic and social planning must have the same priority and we hope that will be done.
If we are going to have social justice it is clear that this can be  achieved in one way only, namely, by a redistribution of the wealth in the country. I know that using such phrases will be misinterpreted. I know we will be called people who follow alien philosophies. This party is a socialist party whose socialism is deeply-rooted in the finest traditions of the Irish people. It is Christian in its origin. I fail to see how one can think that you are preaching an alien philosophy by asking that some measure of social justice be done in the only way it can be done, by political action and implementation of political decisions. If the Government are talking about the redistribution of the wealth of the country let us look at Fianna Fáil's proposals. There are approximately one million wage and salary earners in the country and 750,000 of those pay tax through PAYE. The other 250,000 are at such a low rate of income that they do not come within the tax net. On the other hand, if we look at the agricultural community, the farming community, we will see that we have approximately 170,000 farmers. Even under the present legislation only approximately 30,000 of them are liable for tax. It is entirely beyond my comprehension how one in those circumstances can hope to make any advance towards social justice.
I know that the taxation of farmers is not a very popular thing politically but if we are to rule the country and if our political actions are to be determined solely by vote catching and political popularity there is no hope for the country. The taxation code is the only possible way in which a proper and equitable redistribution of the wealth in this society can take place.
I would like to say something about the previous Government. As far as the tax code is concerned many reforms have taken place. The Government are now in a position where the basis for an equitable tax code is there. They can use it if they want social justice. If they are just interested in other political objectives they will not use it. It is for the Government to decide. I know there will be some difficulties here because Fianna Fáil told farmers, both small and large, that if  the Coalition were returned every farmer would be taxed. They frightened them by that distortion of the facts. When Fianna Fáil were asked how they would lower the rate of taxation for urban dwellers the people were told: “We will tax the farmers”. Fianna Fáil were elected on promises, some of them of very little importance. I cannot get very excited about not paying tax on my car or by handing £1,000 to some builder not to the purchaser. I am concerned about the total lack, as I see it, of trying to come to grips with the fundamental, basic problems that face Ireland as a society and the total absence in my opinion of ideals.
During the past four years in partnership with Fine Gael we participated in Government. As far as the Labour Party are concernd, we are proud of many of the things achieved during that time. Many decisions were taken and many things were implemented that will be of lasting benefit to the Irish people. As far as many of them are concerned they will only be fully appreciated in retrospect. We are not terribly concerned with that. Our political philosophy is about people. We believe, although we regret that it is not always true, that politics should be about people.
When we look at the Departments of Health and Social Welfare under Deputy Brendan Corish we can see that very substantial advances were made. When we look at Local Government and housing we see that over 100,000 houses were built by Deputy Jimmy Tully. One out of every eight houses was built in the last four years under Deputy Jimmy Tully's direction.
When we look at our natural resources and that much maligned man, Justin Keating, his approach to our natural resources has ensured a large measure of public control over their exploitation in the interests of the Irish people. This is of lasting benefit to the Irish people. I ask any impartial observer to contrast that with the situation when we took up office, a 20 year tax free holiday. I am convinced that that also will only be properly appreciated in retrospect.
When we look at the Department of  Labour we see the amount of legislation in the industrial area that was put through under Deputy Michael O'Leary. These things are of lasting benefit to Irish workers and have contributed substantially to a better climate in the future in the whole industrial field. When we look at the responsibilities of Conor Cruise O'Brien, again a much misquoted and maligned man, the fact that he is not here is not something he would consider to be of the greatest importance. He would regard as of great importance the fact that he made a very substantial contribution towards the safety and security of this island. His contribution is not immediately evident in regard to our telecommunications field. This is undoubtedly in a bad way as a result of previous neglect. A very substantial capital programme was initiated by him in that field. I know it is difficult for the Government to look objectively at what has been achieved during the last four years. Labour's contribution with Fine Gael in the last four years is one in which we have tremendous pride because it was about the type of politics we believe in, that on behalf of the people.
The role of Labour in Opposition will not be one of opposing just for the sake of opposing. I will say this that the difficulties and the problems that face this Government are enormous, much more enormous than was indicated in the three weeks before the election, but I really do think that the Taoiseach particularly realises the enormity of these problems. We will hope to oppose constructively. Where something is proposed which we regard to be in the interests of the people we will support it. We will allow a reasonable amount of time for the new Cabinet to become familiar with their various Departments.
This Government have achieved office on the basis of a manifesto. Another remarkable achievement of the Coalition is that for the first time Fianna Fáil are on record as to what their policy is. We can now refer to it; we can now look at it. We will ensure that if they do not live up to each and every promise which has been  made and which resulted in their vast majority here today we will expose and condemn Fianna Fáil for that failure. We will ensure that the people are aware of such failure. If these promises can be implemented and if we regard them as in the interests of the people we will not oppose them for the sake of opposition.
We in the Labour Party have our unique concept of the type of society we believe Ireland should have. We will advocate that concept, the policies we believe to be in the best interests of the people, both inside and outside this House. We are totally convinced, as the Taoiseach himself said in his opening remarks, that it is just as easy to have a big swing next time as it was this time. We are convinced that with the type of new electorate the policies that the Labour Party have and have been advocating will be clearly seen by that new electorate to be totally relevant to the economic and social problems which face this country.
Mr. Blaney: First of all, Sir, I start by congratulating you on your election today, despite the fact that I abstained on the vote in question. Immediately after that I should like to congratulate the Fianna Fáil Party on their extraordinary win. They carry a very heavy responsibility because of that win. In reference to your election today as Ceann Comhairle of this House, my not supporting you was tied up in my fears of what would happen thereafter in the announcement by the Taoiseach later elected of the selection of his Cabinet. I feared that Donegal and the north-west would be left without a member or a voice in the Cabinet. That is why I did not agree with your selection and I now congratulate you. While the selection of the Cabinet is a matter for the Taoiseach, I regret sincerely that from Malin Head to north Galway there is not a voice belonging to that part of the country that may be heard directly in the council chambers of Government.
Having said that I want to refer to the arrangements that the Taoiseach has announced. He gave a brief outline of the new Department which he has indicated will be in the control of the  new Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, that is the Department of Economic Planning and Development. Later speakers claimed that this was something they had been talking about for a considerable time. I would jog their memory and go back a bit further. At the formation of a previous Government quite a few years ago it was talked about and the pity of it is that it was not done then. Better late than never.
It is also a pity that there has not been a further widening of the scope of the responsibilities of some of the other Ministers. The Department of Local Government has been relieved of much of the tedium that was attached to it, not just in redrawing the boundaries of constituencies, which I do not think took up all that much time or certainly should not have done. The Department has been relieved of the difficulty and tedium of trying to adjudicate on the various planning appeals which, contrary to all expectations and directions, keep pouring into the Department rather than being dealt with at local level where the responsibility should rest.
I would advocate to the Taoiseach and his Ministers that it is still not too late to create a physical planning and construction Department that would take over at this very critical time total and complete control and responsibility for all public expenditure on all types of building and construction of whatever nature. Herein I believe lies the one, immediate prospect for this or any other Government to begin in a big way—I am talking of figures in the region of 20,000 to 50,000—to reduce the unemployment figures in a drastic manner. Drastic it must be.
I make that point and pass from it quickly to refer to something that has been mentioned by other speakers, notably the new Leader of the Fine Gael Party whom I should also congratulate, though I doubt the wisdom of his selection. That is neither here nor there. We will hear more about that at a later stage. Listening to Deputy FitzGerald I was immediately struck by the contradiction of what he said here today as distinct from what the electorate said recently—in other  words, everything in the garden is rosy, we have practically cured everything. He tells us of the background to the economic base on which this country is being handed over to the new Government.
In the EEC or some such international body a forecast of the growth of 4½ per cent had been indicated earlier in the year; that has had to reduced downwards and now stands a miserable three per cent. Unemployment is rising in these other adjoining countries. He went on to tell us that are on the road to recovery. If this recovery then God help us if we were going in the other direction. That would be a disastrous situation. We are told today that we are forecasting a growth rate of five per cent. We have been forecasting all sorts of things in the last 12 months. The Coalition were forecasting, together with the media, who have been so wrong again, that they would come back with an overall majority for the good deeds done during the past four years. That forecast is just about as good as this one and is not one on which I would place any credence. Nobody is more adept than the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy FitzGerald, in producing figures out of the hat but I would accept the figures which he has given to the effect that manufacturing industry has shown an increase of 10 per cent this year. Is that 10 per cent increase in volume or in value?
Mr. Blaney: Then we are told that unemployment has been halted. Halted where? At what figure? What about the 40,000 to 60,000 about to be added to the total unemployment figures that already exist? We are told that inflation has been brought down to 14 per cent and that the forecast is that it will be reduced to eight per cent or nine per cent. Under what circumstances is it to be reduced to eight per cent or nine per cent and what were the proposals of the outgoing Government bring that about?
Mr. Blaney: I did not have my own colleague behind me, taking the votes from under my feet. Deputy Harte did not know about it until he chipped him at the count on the day of the election. As usual, the Deputy cannot leave me alone. Before the election he said that it might help us if we attacked each other. The election is over and we are not attacking each other today.
Mr. Blaney: There has been a criticism about auctioneering at the election. I made this criticism during the election and I made it on both the major parties. While they had something to offer at the auction, I had not. The sky was the limit and it was a bit of the dog's own tail that was being fed to it by both parties. The auction is over, the election is over and the people have given their verdict. I know what they want and I am sure every Member of this House knows what they want. It is not forecasts such as we got from Deputy FitzGerald, the Leader of the Opposition, nor is it the type of speech we got from the new leader of the Labour Party. The sum total of both their speeches is that everything has been done to make things better. The patient has been treated thoroughly and well, but he is dead. The Government have to revive the patient. They have a mighty job to do and little time in which to do it. If the Government accept the verdict of the people in the spirit in which it was given—that of a very substantial anti-Coalition vote and not a positive vote for the Fianna Fáil Party—they should pursue the basic problem of unemployment. People are wondering where they will get the money to fulfil their promises in relation to rates, taxes  and so on. If they put people back into employment they will have money to spare. If they do not do this they will not have enough money.
I wish the new Government well. I believe they need the good wishes of everybody in this House and the help of every Member to ensure that a radical and courageous effort is made by them immediately to put back into employment the 25,000 construction workers who are at present on the dole. These workers are ready and willing to do the work of building the houses, water schemes, roads, schools, hospitals and public buildings that are needed and which will cost three times more ten or 15 years from now. If we have to borrow to do this work, it is better to borrow to create employment than it is to borrow as this lot borrowed in the last four years. They frittered away the housekeeping money and left us with a burden of debt, none of which we are repaying at present, although the interest is costing us £1¼ million per day. I say to the Government, go to it and do not spare it. If they do tackle unemployment we will not be here for four and a half years as some people happily think. Unless there is a change in employment the people will be out on the streets in 18 months.
The Taoiseach: I do not intend to reply in detail to the speeches made by the three Deputies I should like to remind the Leaders of the two parties opposite that the election is over. There is no need for me to redebate the issues put forward during the election. However, it is difficult to accept admonishments about the modest scale of borrowing that we propose in order to create the kind of employment we feel is necessary and possible in the immediate future as against the massive scale of borrowing which the previous Government indulged in to the extent of £2,000 million, £500 million plus a year in respect of each of the years they were in Government, that is over and above our previous level of borrowing.
The Leader of the Fine Gael Party said that we were guilty of irresponsibility in our election manifesto. If one can call a 14 point programme such, never were there so many obvious areas of unfulfilled promises, never was an outgoing Government so emphatically rejected by the electorate. We are not going to gloat over our victory nor are we going to accept it in a complacent manner. Rather than redebate the election issues now, a little over two weeks after the people's decision has been given, I would prefer that the motion be put to the House in order that we can get on with the job the people entrusted us with.
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