Leaders’ Questions

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 742 No. 1

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Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  The news of possible large job losses in Covidien in Athlone over the next two years is a devastating blow to the people of the midlands and, in particular, the workers and their families. My heart goes out to the workers who are left with this great uncertainty in their lives. Added to that is the threat of closure of the barracks in Mullingar, something the Tánaiste promised would not happen. When the Government parties came to power, they promised a significant jobs budget and all we got was a damp squib of a jobs initiative. Month by month, the Government presides over increases in the live register, despite net outward migration.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  Tourism figures are up. What about all the jobs initiatives?

Deputy Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  The Deputy would know all about it. Fianna Fáil spent three years ballooning it.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  The figure is going up since Fine Gael and Labour took office.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  That is the legacy of Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  What about the minimum wage cut?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Deputy Ó Cuív should put a question.

[2]Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  I am waiting for the interruptions to cease.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Order, please.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Deputy Ó Cuív has a hard neck.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  He is reading from a Fianna Fáil manifesto.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  It is nothing compared to the neck of the Government whose tune in opposition——

Deputy Michael McCarthy: Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  We have learned from the masters.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  What about the U-turns?

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Is this the new Fianna Fáil or the old Fianna Fáil? What is the Deputy talking about?

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  We have a mandate as well.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Order, please.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  The Deputies opposite will have to change the line to Fianna Fail. They failed the country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Deputy Buttimer should cease.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I am sorry.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  The Deputy has never been sorry in his life.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Order, please. I call Deputy Ó Cuív.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Have the IDA and the Government been informed of the exact number of jobs at risk? What steps have been taken by the Minister responsible and the IDA to save the jobs? What proposals does the Government have to provide alternative employment to people affected by this decision across the midlands and the west? What plans are in place to work with the employees and management of the company to organise training and reskilling of workers? Will the IDA seek a clawback of grants paid to the company? Can I also be assured by the Tánaiste that there is no threat to jobs in another company facility in Blanchardstown, Dublin? Is it intended to use the underspend of €10 million at the end of the August on the Tús programme to provide more jobs and opportunities for unemployed people?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  First, I would like to express my concern about the announcement in respect of Covidien which has operated in Athlone for 30 years. I understand the company is undertaking a transformation of its operations and that, as part of this, one of its basic products will transfer over the next two years to Thailand and it intends to offer a voluntary redundancy programme. It is too early for the company to state how many jobs will be impacted, as it is also looking at bringing in new products and technologies to the site, which will affect the final number.

The Deputy asked about the Government’s employment strategy. Since the formation of the Government, 3,145 new jobs have been announced by the State agencies and another 525 in construction.

[3]Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  How many jobs have been lost?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The creation of employment and investment in the economy is the Government’s main priority. Later we will announce a number of initiatives to progress our strategic investment strategy. The Government will announce significant reforms in the semi-State sector to ensure it will be an engine for investment and job creation. We will take a total portfolio approach to the State companies. The setting up of a shareholder executive operation within the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, to be called NewERA is modelled on similar arrangements in other countries, including one established by the last Labour Party Government in the United Kingdom. The objective is——

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  To sell off State assets.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  ——to get the best out of our semi-State companies to ensure there is increased investment in our economy and job creation.

In addition, the Government will also announce the establishment of a strategic investment fund, which will channel resources from the National Pensions Reserve Fund towards productive investment in the economy.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The establishment of the NewERA entity within the NTMA, which will be headed up by a new chief executive officer, Dr. Eileen Fitzpatrick, who is a director of the agency, will be aimed at maximising——

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  The sales process

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  ——the contribution that the semi-State sector will make to the creation of jobs in the economy. That coupled with the strategic investment fund and the continuing efforts of the State agencies to attract inward investment, which is evidenced by the announcement of more than 3,000 new jobs in that sector, demonstrates the Government is serious about generating employment and securing replacement employment where jobs are lost.

In respect of Covidien, the State agencies will remain in close contact with that company to discuss with it the new investments it will be making in Athlone in order to minimise the number of job losses.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Cuir é sin i do phíopa agus caith é.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Would the Tánaiste not agree that it takes a number of years before an initial contact with new companies coming here and the announcement of jobs? In other words, all of the jobs being announced this year——

A Deputy:  Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  ——were brought into place by Fianna Fáil when we were in Government.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Order, please.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I thought the head shops were banned.

[4]Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  The Minister, Deputy Bruton, is putting his head down because he knows the truth. He knows how long it takes before the announcements are made——

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  It is a pity the Deputy’s logic does not apply to the banks.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Order.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  ——and, therefore, if he is claiming credit for the jobs created this year, he is doing what he has been doing——

(Interruptions).

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  What did the Deputy’s party do for 14 years?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  This is Leaders’ questions. Please, Deputies.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  ——in a systematic way since this Government came into power, that is, that everything we put in train that the Deputies opposite believe is good they claim they did in miracle time.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  What did Dev do?

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  I was very interested in what the Tánaiste had to say about the semi-State companies but how does he square the selling of the semi-State companies and the selling of minority shares where shareholders’ interests will dominate with his big plan——

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  How can a minority dominate?

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  ——directed by the State, to develop the semi-State companies on the jobs front? How will he square this dilemma that I outlined here previously? Also, can the Tánaiste tell us how many jobs have been lost since the Government came into power this year?

(Interruptions).

A Deputy:  Three hundred thousand under Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I think the Deputy lost about 61 behind him.

Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Information on Charlie McConalogue  Zoom on Charlie McConalogue  The Minister’s party might lose them the next time. He should not be so cocky.

A Deputy:  The gloves have come off.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Could this Deputy identify himself?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I note how quickly Deputy Ó Cuív has rushed to claim part of the credit for the jobs that have been announced this year.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Not part of it, a lot.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I presume he will also take appropriate credit for the huge numbers of people who have lost their jobs in the course of the recession. I agree with him that it takes time for investment decisions to be made and that is why the Government has a programme to encourage inward investment into this country.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  By robbing the pensioners.

[5]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Please, Deputy.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  The Deputy’s party robbed the country.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  That is why the Minister, Deputy Bruton, was in the United States last week. That is why, in the course of my own work in New York last week, I worked with the IDA in talking to a number of companies. That is why the restoration of Ireland’s reputation, which was so badly damaged in the lifetime of the previous Government, has been so important to us. We are seeing the fruits of the work of this Government over the course of the past six months in the restoration of this country’s reputation.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  All these Korean fairy tales.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  That is reflected in the very significant reduction in the interest rates now applying to Irish debt, all of which will encourage increased investment in this country.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  And the junk status.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is also why over the course of the next couple of weeks we have arranged a number of events aimed at encouraging additional investment into this country. The convening of a global Irish economic forum on 7 and 8 October will bring together senior people from the corporate world, many of whom have Irish connections. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, in turn has an additional event which is co-organised with the United States embassy——

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  It was a stunt two years ago.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  ——aimed particularly at potential investors from the United States. All of that, in addition to the measures I spoke about earlier, is aimed at encouraging investment in this country and the creation of jobs. The reality is that we have a very high level of unemployment. Everybody knows that. We must try to get that level of unemployment down. The only way we can do that is by the creation of employment and the way we are doing that is, first, by encouraging additional inward investment into this country through restoring the country’s reputation and, second, using the assets available to us, including the semi-State companies which need to be reorganised and harnessed in a different way from what has been the case in the past to ensure that the combined strengths and talents of the staff and all of those involved in the semi-State companies, and the National Treasury Management Agency, can be brought together to increase investment, increase the number of jobs created and get economic progress in this country.

Deputy Eamon Ó Cuív rose.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I am sorry, Deputy. I call Deputy Mary Lou McDonald. Deputy Ó Cuív knows about the Standing Order.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  What about the——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Order, please.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  We now have it straight. The Tánaiste’s Government is intent on the wholesale privatisation of State assets.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Who told the Deputy that?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  A threat of €2 billion of privatisation——

[6]Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Where did the Deputy get that from?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  ——has now morphed into a €5 billion fire sale of the State’s family silver.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Did the Deputy write that herself?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Since when has the Labour Party been in the business of lining the pockets of private investors at the expense of the taxpayer? It has clearly bent the knee to the troika. That is nothing new. That is a pattern that has emerged, but in this instance it is also clear that it has bent the knee to Fine Gael. In fact, the Tánaiste stands in this House this morning and waxes lyrical about NewERA as though it were a creation of his own. The Tánaiste knows as well as I do that semi-State companies such as ESB, Bord Gáis, Eirgrid, Bord na Móna and Coillte are all profitable industries. They have consistently self-financed, consistently returned a dividend to the Exchequer and consistently employed thousands of people and they have been built up over generations of investment by Irish taxpayers. The Tánaiste talks about non-strategic assets. Can he tell me on what planet is the energy sector non-strategic? On what planet is the transport sector non-strategic?

A Deputy:  And you were trying to blow it up.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Can the Tánaiste tell me also what of the promises made by his party to the electorate only a few short months ago that his party is opposed to short-term privatisation? Has he had a road to Damascus experience hand in hand with his boss, the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny?

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Order, Deputies, I have called the Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy McDonald should stop fantasising.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  There is no fire sale of State assets and there will be no fire sale of State assets. There is no wholesale privatisation of State assets. The Government is taking a strategic approach to investment in the economy. We are doing that because I believe even Deputy McDonald will agree that there is a necessity and a priority to generate employment in the economy. We have a number of things going for us in this country. We have very good State companies, as the Deputy has said. We have the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, which has developed considerable expertise in the area of finance and of corporate governance. It makes sense to take what I call a whole portfolio approach to the State companies. That is the progressive approach that has been taken in a number of other countries. The investment strategy, the corporate governance strategy, the obtaining of finance and the entire State shareholding in the State companies are looked at as one. There is huge potential for investment in some areas of the economy, including communications, which the Deputy mentioned, energy and infrastructure such as water. In all those areas, there is a requirement for additional investment and potential for the generation of employment. It makes sense for the State to harness the resources it has available in order to invest in those areas of the economy and generate employment both directly in those areas and, through that investment, outside them. There are two arms to the strategic approach the Government takes. One is the total portfolio approach that is being taken to the State companies and the other is the establishment [7]of a strategic investment fund that will use resources from the National Pensions Reserve Fund and leverage resources in the private sector in order to invest in the economy.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Tánaiste knows as well as I do that the total portfolio approach can and should be taken with those companies still in full public ownership. He knows well that the moment shareholder interests enter the equation in the semi-States, they will trump the public interest. I imagine that is why his party’s manifesto stated categorically that the party was against short-term privatisation, yet that is precisely what he is proposing to do — to cash in the chips of the semi-States. He tells us we need to invest in jobs. The troika has the view that that will be used to write down debt. The Government is guilty of exactly the same short-term political thinking exemplified by the Fianna Fáilers, and an incapacity to understand that those assets and industries need to be harnessed. They can generate employment, but they will deliver their full value in the medium and long term to the State, the citizens and the taxpayers only if they are kept in public ownership. The Tánaiste has singularly failed to tell us what the non-strategic assets are. He has not told us that because his plans are to go in and vandalise key strategic infrastructure.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Vandalise it——

(Interruptions).

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Deputy Rabbitte and his cheerleaders to my right may scoff, but they and we know full well that they have buckled to the troika and to Fine Gael. Shame on the Labour Party for pursuing this. We understood that its job in Government was to stop the worst excesses of the privatisation agenda, but it is clearly not serious about that.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hello, Mary Lou, what’s new?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy McDonald mentioned the Labour Party manifesto for the election. I think she will agree that the first word in it is “jobs”.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Where are they?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Jobs, reform and fairness——

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  We do not need privatisation to create jobs.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Some 22,000 public sector workers sacked under Labour.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  A sum of €2 off the senior citizen’s allowance.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Government’s priority is to bring about economic recovery, get people back to work and get people into jobs. To do that, we have to reform the way in which things have been done in the past.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  We have to create jobs.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy McDonald and her party keep parroting on about change, yet they want to leave everything the same.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  No. We do not want privatisation.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  They do not want to change anything. The Government is in the business of effecting change, and that means we will change the way in which our semi-State companies are used in our economy.

[8]Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  The Labour Party is changing a lot of the promises it made.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We will change the way in which the companies are used so that we can get maximum value from our semi-State sector in investing in our economy and getting people into employment.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  By selling them off to pay off gamblers’ debts

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  There are areas of our economy that require further investment — energy, communications and several others — and where there is potential to generate additional employment. The Government will take a constructive approach to using the State companies to invest in those areas of the economy and combine that with private sector investment to get people into employment.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  When?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We are not going to be stuck in the old groove that Deputy McDonald seems to want to remain in.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  An old groove that the Labour Party reflected in its manifesto.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We want to get people into employment, create jobs and get economic activity moving again. That is the Government’s priority and that is what we will do.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  Since when did privatisation create jobs?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I would like to lighten the Tánaiste’s burden this morning by bringing him some good news from Frankfurt.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  The Tánaiste will be aware that Europe has woken up to the fact that bankers are not the only scandals in suits in the financial crisis. The draft regulation has surfaced this week pointing the finger very decidedly at auditors. They say there is no longer any trust between the clients of auditors, the public and the Government because auditors have betrayed that trust particularly in the financial reporting of financial institutions.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Hear, hear.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  It also points out specifically — this is where Ireland comes in — that the auditing world is dominated by what it calls an oligopoly. By that, it means the big four — PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young. Nowhere is that problem greater than in Ireland, and the kernel of the problem is the consultancy work that has been given to auditors who are also auditing the company in question. In other words, the same company is doing consultancy work and doing the audit, so it has a serious conflict of interest.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  A question, please, Deputy.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I have a question coming. The Government has invariably employed the big four to do consultancy work in the case of the banks, and at the same time, in many high-profile cases, they have passed the banks and given the all-clear for the solvency test. How long will the Government continue to accept the independence of these guys when they are [9]patently compromised? How long will it continue to give them millions in consultancy fees when they are also auditing the banks’ accounts?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I thank Deputy Ross for bringing me good news from Frankfurt. There has been a lot of good news from Frankfurt since the Government took office, including the significant reductions in the interest rate that we have been able to negotiate.

I thank Deputy Ross for drawing my attention to that.

I also agree with him in respect of the performance of auditors. There are questions to be asked about their performance, particularly in some of the financial institutions where accounts were signed off by firms of auditors, particularly over the last couple of years when we have seen some of the extraordinary transactions in and between banks and financial institutions.

I agree there is an unhealthy concentration of business among a small number of auditing and accounting companies and that must be looked at. The present Government, however, relies less and less on consultancy work being done for it by various financial companies.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  That is not what the Estimates indicate.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The legislation being drafted for whistleblowing will contribute to greater transparency in the way in which these matters are addressed.

  11 o’clock

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  I am getting used to the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach replying to my questions by agreeing with the sentiments in them and then doing absolutely nothing. The vast fees paid to PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young, a company that disgraced itself in Anglo Irish Bank, are completely indefensible. How long will the Government continue to pay these fees when there are equally reputable — or equally disreputable — people in the second line of auditors who will do the job for much less? Why does the Government always and invariably go, sometimes without going through the tendering process, to the big four, which are not only discredited in Ireland but are now discredited internationally and in Europe, as we will see in the coming draft regulation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The European Union is working on a new directive on the role of auditors. A consultation phase is under way at present and that will establish Europe-wide regulations governing the role of auditors and that will obviously apply here.

The second part of the question related to the way in which the Government engages firms of auditors or obtains financial advice. I do not disagree with the Deputy and he will find that as time progresses, the Government’s approach to the securing of financial advice will reflect more the sentiments expressed in the question than it will reflect the practices of the past.


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