Leaders’ Questions

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 2

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Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Before the general election the Tánaiste promised that the Labour Party in government would not impose cuts to social welfare payments. Following the Government’s first budget, as the detail emerged in the days and weeks after the announcement, we saw that the exact opposite was the case. The disadvantaged were targeted like never before. The social welfare cuts agreed to by the Government were cruel, the proposed disability allowance cuts being particularly cruel, with a more than 50% reduction in some allowances. The Government then paused this budget measure amid opposition and clamour from within this Chamber to add to that from disability groups and campaigners. People with disabilities have been left in limbo, as they do not know for certain where they stand with the Government or whether they receive recognition.

The proposed cuts are deeply unfair. Young people with disabilities look forward to having an income of their own. They look forward to the independence it gives and the certainty and quality of life it brings. Cutting the disability allowance for young people up to the age of 24 years was wrong and should be reversed. The Government admitted the mistake it had made in delivering the equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, scheme. It is time to do the same with this proposal. The budgets announced in 2008, 2009 and 2010 were tough, but, at least, they were fair and did not target those most in need. This was independently confirmed by the Economic and Social Research Institute which also observed that the 2011 Budget Statement was exceptionally regressive. Does the Tánaiste still stand over the regressive Budget Statement of 2011? Will he confirm that the proposed cuts to disability allowance will not proceed?

A Deputy:  Will we have no mention of the Mahon tribunal report?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy Niall Collins is correct that the Government committed to imposing no reductions in basic social welfare payments.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  I did not say that.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We honoured that commitment in the budget. The Government is absolutely committed to defending the position of people with disabilities and their families, working with them and supporting them. That work is underpinned by that being carried out by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, the Minister for Health, Deputy [394]James Reilly, and the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton. The Government has given a commitment to defend people with disabilities and ensure their needs are fully met.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  The Tánaiste did not address the question I posed. The Government paused this budget measure. People who suffer from disabilities and are in receipt of disability allowance are entitled to respect and have certainty in the payments they can expect to receive from the State to support them in their day-to-day lives. Their daily lives are full of challenges. The decision to pause this budget measure included charging the chairperson of the Commission on Social Welfare and Taxation to carry out a review. Where stands that review? Are the people concerned not entitled to know exactly where they stand? The uncertainty must end. The Government is trying to rewrite and re-present some of its budget measures. Where do people with disabilities stand and when will they know the position on the budget announcement to cut their disability allowance payments?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The change to the disability allowance was, as the Deputy says, paused. That position has not changed. I find it remarkable that on a day the Government has progress to report in regard to the promissory note and when we have just seen the publication of the report of the Mahon tribunal, the only issue Fianna Fáil can find to raise during Leaders’ Questions is one that has——

(Interruptions).

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

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  We care about real people. My party cares about people with disabilities.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  The Tánaiste to continue, without interruption.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is an issue that has already been dealt with by the Government.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  It has not.

(Interruptions).

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  The Tánaiste has failed to answer the first question he was asked. Let us see how I get on.

Last night’s announcement by the Minister for Finance on the promissory note, during the debate on a Sinn Féin Private Members’ motion on the European Stability Mechanism, blackmail clause, begs more questions than it answers.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  The Deputy’s party has been talking about blackmail for 800 years.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Sinn Féin Party has been raising this issue for more than one year and calling for a write-down of this odious debt. If a deal is agreed today with the European Central Bank which will result in a write-down of the debt, Sinn Féin will be the first to welcome it.

(Interruptions).

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

[395]Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Before any of us pass judgment on the deal, there are a number of questions that must be asked. Will this deal reduce the State’s liabilities to Anglo Irish Bank? Will the debt heaped on the shoulders of citizens by Fianna Fáil in 2010 and honoured by the Government to the tune of €3.1 billion last year be reduced? Will the deal announced last night by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, have any effect on the State’s debt-to-GDP ratio and, in turn, any impact on Ireland’s return to the bond markets next year? Will it have any impact on this year’s deficit or the Government’s plans to suck €3.8 billion from the economy in 2012 and a further €2.25 billion in 2013?

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  On a point of order——

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Suigh síos.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  There are no points of order during Leaders’ Questions. Deputy Emmet Stagg should resume his seat.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Has a script been circulated?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  The Deputy cannot take the heat. He should get out of the kitchen.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I thank Deputy Mary Lou McDonald whose time is up.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  No; excuse me, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  The Deputy’s time is up.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I have been barracked constantly by other Members.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Will the Deputy please finish her question?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I wish to conclude my remarks.

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

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Will any deal agreed in Frankfurt alter fundamentally the nature of the debt, changing it from a toxic banking debt to a sovereign bond debt?

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating  Zoom on Derek Keating  That is some question.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It is a Second Stage speech.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The question concerns whether the Government has actually secured a deal that will reduce the debt which will represent a write-down of the debt to Anglo-Irish Bank and if in so doing, it will reduce the deficit and the extent of the cutbacks and hardship experienced by millions of people across the State.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  First, to correct the Deputy, the debt did not just materialise in 2010. It materialised in 2008 when her party voted for the bank bailout.

(Interruptions).

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  That is the reason we are in this fix and the reason the Government is trying to fix it. It was landed with the highly expensive method of financing Anglo Irish Bank and [396]the Irish Nationwide Building Society via promissory notes as a result of the disastrous banking policies of the previous Government.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  The Tánaiste stated the Government would renegotiate, but it has done nothing.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  That is what we are doing.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Yes, and we have.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  It is Mr. Draghi’s poodle.

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Since taking office the Government has been working hard to lessen the cost to the taxpayer of rescuing the banks.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Who told the Tánaiste that?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  This has involved a long process of building trust and confidence with our partners in Europe.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  No points of order are now being raised.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Government has committed itself to informing the Dáil about any significant development in the payment of the promissory note at the end of the month. The Minister for Finance brought the Dáil up to date on the issue last night.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  The Minister, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, had it done weeks ago.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  In recent months the Government has been involved in technical discussions to reduce the burden of debt associated with the recapitalisation of the banks. In particular, its focus has been on the promissory note arrangement made to fund the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society. This is an arrangement that requires the State to make cash payments of €3.06 billion each year to the IBRC.

There have been some developments on this issue in recent days. While the discussions with the European authorities on the general issue continue, the Government is negotiating with the European Union authorities on the basis that the €3.06 billion cash instalment due from the Minister to the IBRC on 31 March under the terms of the IBRC promissory note could be settled by way of the delivery of a long-term Irish Government bond. The details of this arrangement must still be worked out and I reiterate the Minister’s statement last night that discussions are ongoing. However, the obvious use of a Government bond would have a positive cash flow benefit for the State, as it would free up the €3.06 billion required to pay the promissory note.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  It appears from the Tánaiste’s response that, uniquely, he has been consistent on this matter. The Taoiseach repeatedly told Members that the Government would not seek a write-down of the debt.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Would the Deputy go away?

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Sour grapes.

[397]Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Government has been as good as its word. I find this highly disappointing but not all that surprising. Will the Tánaiste, at least, clarify that the State now has €3.1 billion or €3.06 billion in additional resources to ease the burden on citizens and row back on the cutbacks and some of the tax hikes? Will he answer this question for the people? Furthermore, in the Government’s presentation of this matter, will it move from spin and rhetoric to being straight with the people?

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Burn the bondholders.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Rather than resolving the debt issue, the Government has kicked the can further down the road.

Deputy Ciarán Lynch: Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Remember the peace process.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The debt will be left intact for future generations and Governments to meet.

Deputy Eric Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  After Sinn Féin’s guarantee.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Tánaiste has stated we will have an additional €3 billion available. Where will it be invested? On which of the cutbacks will the Government row back? What relief will citizens obtain as a result of this deal?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I thank the Deputy and ask her to resume her seat.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy Mary Lou McDonald is correct: I have been consistent on this issue, as have the Taoiseach and the Government. Since its formation, it stated it would proceed to renegotiate the terms of the bailout arrangements which it considers to be too onerous on the taxpayer. It has been consistent in this regard. The Minister for Finance has brought the House up to date on the progress made on the issue. The Deputy has also been consistent, but she has been consistently wrong.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Correct.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  She was wrong when she assumed, first, that the Government would not succeed in negotiating a change in the arrangements.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Has the Government secured a reduction in the debt?

(Interruptions).

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy Mary Lou McDonald was wrong when she assumed the Government would not secure a reduction in the interest rate. Moreover, as I recall it, she was wrong when she assumed the Government would not secure agreement, for example, to reverse the change to the minimum wage. Her problem is that——

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  She is always wrong.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Tánaiste should answer my question. He should avoid my problem and answer my question.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Whatever the answer to the question is——

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

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Is the Tánaiste a psychologist? Eamon the shrink.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy Mary Lou McDonald’s problem is that she is disappointed the Government is succeeding.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis  Zoom on Dessie Ellis  It is succeeding in punishing the people.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The Government is succeeding. I repeat the point that if we succeed — the discussions have not yet been concluded — in getting agreement to the replacement of the promissory note with a long-term Government bond, this will have enormous benefits for the taxpayer and the country.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Spell it out.

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

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Will the Tánaiste have a chance to answer the question? He should respond on how the Government has converted the debt of €30 billion to——

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Sinn Féin Members are sick as parrots.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I ask the Tánaiste to conclude.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  In response to Deputy Pearse Doherty, a man who got it so outrageously wrong in September 2008, the taxpayer is due a period of repentant silence from him.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Can we have order in the House, please?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I bring the Tánaiste back to what he stated in the Chamber yesterday on the household charge when he asserted that people wished to pay. Members of the Government have been stating all week that the reason 83% of householders have not registered and paid as of last night is they all are waiting until the last minute. I suggest to the Tánaiste that he is delusional about what is happening in this regard. I put it to him that this is on the Marie Antoinette scale of delusion and that he is completely out of touch. I also put it to him that the herd of elephants stampeding from Malin Head to Mizen Head completely unseen by the Government is evidence that there is a massive revolt under way among the ordinary, decent, compliant tax-paying majority in society against a new tier of taxation that they understand will quickly rise to a figure of €1,000 and above.

Deputy Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash  Zoom on Gerald Nash  Spoofer.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I suggest this constitutes a massive revolt against the disastrous policy of austerity pursued by the Government and its predecessor. That policy is creating havoc in our society because ordinary people are being fleeced in order that the speculators might be bailed out.

I put it to the Tánaiste that in a major article on the household tax yesterday, The New York Times was much more correct in its analysis than has been the case with the Government and many in the Irish media by identifying the wellspring of anger relating to this issue which is driving a massive national boycott. Will the Tánaiste read the article to which I refer?

[399]Does the Tánaiste understand that the Mahon tribunal report — published today — will remind our people of the enormous greed and corruption of a tiny elite——

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  What is the Deputy’s question?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  ——the members of which plundered our society and plunged it into a disastrous crash?

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  What is the Deputy’s question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Deputy Higgins’s time is exhausted. He should conclude.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  The individuals to whom I refer are making the majority pay for their greed and this is having disastrous consequences for our society.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  Is the Deputy going to ask a question?

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Those consequences are only going to intensify the boycott against the household tax. At least the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government appeared to be coming to terms with reality yesterday when he was challenged on RTE’s “Drivetime” programme——

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Deputy Higgins is rambling.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Oh come on, Deputy Higgins.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  ——in respect of the fact that nobody knew about the household charge. He responded by stating that posters protesting about the household tax have been put up in every town in Ireland and that, therefore, everyone knows about it.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  The Deputy cannot have any injury time, I must call the Tánaiste.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  The Deputy did not ask a question.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Deputy Higgins has gone way over time and must resume his seat. He should conclude.

A Deputy:  Deputy Higgins is being heckled. Those opposite are not allowing him to speak.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Who is going to pay the bill in respect of those posters?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  We must bring reality to this matter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  There are time limits in respect of Leaders’ Questions.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  Deputy Higgins should ask a question.

[400]Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  The Deputy should shut up and allow Deputy Higgins to conclude.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  Should I write down a question and give it to Deputy Higgins to ask?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  In view of the position in this regard and in light of what the Tánaiste just stated to the effect that the arrangement in respect of the promissory note will bring tremendous benefits to taxpayers——

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Thank you.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  ——will one of those benefits be that the Government will withdraw this regressive household tax and that it will listen to what the people are saying?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Just prior to entering the Chamber I received a copy of the report of the Mahon tribunal. Obviously, I have not had the opportunity to read it yet. We will all have the chance to read and consider that report during the course of the day and over the weekend. I hope that it will be possible to make arrangements, through the Whips, for the House to engage in a comprehensive debate on the Mahon tribunal’s report during next week.

Deputy Higgins is correct in stating that the matters the tribunal was asked to investigate are not unrelated to the difficulties this country faces today. The issue with which the Government is dealing at present involves renegotiating the terms of the bail-out relating to the former Anglo Irish Bank. In a sense, this involves tackling the mess that was created as a result of the need to deal with a financial institution which was the piggy bank for the property bubble that brought the country’s economy to its knees. As we know from some of the evidence presented to the Mahon tribunal, certain aspects of the property bubble were, unfortunately, connected to corrupt acts performed by particular individuals. What is at issue here is related to the difficulties the Government has in the context of managing its way out of the mess it inherited from the previous Administration. The latter includes dealing with the issue of the promissory note and the requirement whereby Irish taxpayers will be obliged to pay more than €3 billion in cash every year for ten years in order to bail out the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Government will pay it in any event.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Labour promised it would not pay the money.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  We have made progress on that matter and the Minister for Finance made an announcement in this regard yesterday. I would like the Whips to reach an arrangement whereby, when Members have had an opportunity to consider it, the Dáil will have the opportunity to engage in a comprehensive debate next week on the findings contained in the Mahon tribunal report.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Deputy Higgins has one minute in which to ask a supplementary question.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  One minute.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  I acknowledge that the Tánaiste has just stated there is a link between the corruption and reckless speculation that undoubtedly will be outlined in the Mahon tribunal’s report, the crash experienced by our society and the austerity the Government continues to impose. However, the Government should have broken the link in this regard. It [401]should not have placed the massive burden relating to this corruption, profiteering and speculation on the backs of ordinary people.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  Hear, hear.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Those people are rejecting what is being done to them and that is why there is a huge revolt throughout the country against the household tax, which is the symbol of people’s opposition. It is amazing that Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers — I refer, in particular, to the Labour elves in this regard — have not done their job in making the Tánaiste and his colleagues aware of the extent of the anger that exists. That is the reality.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  By the end of the month — namely, in nine day’s time — a majority of the people will be in revolt against the austerity and household tax policies of the Government. Will the Government recognise reality, withdraw the burden of this tax from our people and, perhaps, start again?

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  That is one minute.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Will the Government stop encouraging bodies such as the Irish Postmasters Union to become boycott-breakers for this regressive tax?

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  The Deputy must conclude.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Will the Tánaiste come to the National Stadium in Dublin on Saturday next to see the thousands of people who are going to come together at a major national protest rally against the Government’s regressive tax? If he does come, perhaps he might bring some of the Labour backbenchers with him in order that they might obtain a dose of reality by listening to ordinary people for a change.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Deputy Higgins needs a dose of reality.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Fantasy economics.

(Interruptions).

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

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  If we were to follow Deputy Higgins’s advice, the country would run out of money.

Deputy John Lyons: Information on John Lyons  Zoom on John Lyons  It would do so tomorrow.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  It would already have run out of money.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  That is not an idle comment. The only occasion on which the Deputy’s people ran anything was in the 1980s when they ran the city of Liverpool. That city ran out of money. One Friday afternoon, when there was no money to pay the wages of the grave-diggers, the road workers and the other employees of the city of Liverpool, the Deputy’s people were obliged to hire taxis to deliver P45s to those individuals.

[402]Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  That is absolute rubbish.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Here is another link for the Deputy.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  The Tánaiste should take the advice he offered to others two weeks ago and take his head out of the archives. He should deal with current matters.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Perhaps Deputy Higgins could find us a chisel so we might carve our way out of this one.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I have another link for Deputy Higgins in respect of a matter that is not unconnected to the Mahon tribunal. His people in Liverpool were also subsequently found to be corrupt.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  That is absolutely——

(Interruptions).

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  What about the Tánaiste’s people in the former Soviet Union?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy Higgins’s juvenile economics——

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  On a point of order, this is desperation gone too far.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  There can be no interruptions. Deputy Higgins must resume his seat.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  As already stated, this is desperation gone too far.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  The Chair is on its feet. There can be no points of order during Leaders’ Questions. The Deputy must resume his seat.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  An allegation of corruption has been made against certain people. To whom was the Tánaiste referring? Who is he stating was corrupt?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I will deal with that matter later. The Deputy must resume his seat.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Deputy Higgins’s juvenile economics——

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  The Tánaiste should answer the questions I have posed.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I am answering them. Deputy Higgins’s juvenile economics will not get the country out of the difficulties in which it currently finds itself.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  The Government is not doing a good job in that regard.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  It is doing a good job.

[403]Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  The Tánaiste should tell that to the pensioners who are freezing in their homes.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The only way the Government will get this country out of the mess inherited from Fianna Fáil will be through the prudent management of our economy and continuing with the approach it is currently taking.

There is, for example, the way in which we are dealing with the promissory note.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Tánaiste failed to outline that.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Many of those on the Opposition benches said it was not possible. We took an approach on the interest rate and successfully renegotiated the terms of the programme. Getting out of the economic hole that this country found itself in is not easy for the Government or the people of this country. It is not helped by the kind of facile, instant, abracadabra-type solutions that Deputy Higgins believes will work.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  The Tánaiste used that approach for a long time.


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