Appropriation Bill, 1980 [Certified Money Bill]: Second Stage.

Thursday, 18 December 1980

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 95 No. 7

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Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. McEllistrim): Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  The introduction of this Bill not only gives Senators [670] an opportunity to discuss the expenditure covered in the Bill but also provides, in line with previous years, an opportunity for a wide ranging discussion of the Government's expenditure and general financial policies.

No doubt Senators are aware that the main purpose of the Appropriation Bill is to give statutory effect to the sums voted by the Dáil for supply services, and, it also sanctions the utilisation of certain departmental receipts as appropriations-in-aid. It is also a requirement that this Bill be passed before the end of the year.

Section 1 of the present Bill appropriates to the specific services set out in the Schedule to the Bill the sum of £3,441,326,550 comprising of the original Estimate of £2,977,872,000 and Supplementary Estimates of £463,454,550.

In accordance with previous practice I do not intend to make any general statement at this stage. However, I shall attempt in my concluding remarks to deal as fully as possible with the diverse issues which will undoubtedly be raised by Senators during the course of this debate. I look forward to an interesting and constructive discussion.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  I welcome the opportunity to discuss the Appropriation Bill today. I have no doubt that we now find ourselves in a much worse economic position than ever before. This is a most distressful country and we do not have to say who the blame for that is attributed to. What has happened to all the now infamous plans for the economy, the forecasts and the White Papers that we had in 1977 and 1978? In those years we were told that it was good economic planning to have forecasts and White Papers of one description or another outlining exactly where the economy was going. I was new to the House at the time, and I thought that this was a proper way to structure an economy in so far as the forecasts were important for the various sections that make up the economy. In this House I listened to former Minister Deputy Martin O'Donoghue on numerous occasions, on all types of plans and forecasts. They were plans and forecasts [671] that never materialised. Since the present Taoiseach took office I have not seen too many of them. It is also true that there never was a short introduction such as this to any Bill before.

I cannot understand why there is such an almighty turn when in the best interests of the country, for a number of years — and this Government is only three and a half years in office — it was considered necessary to have a plethora of planning, forecasts and White Papers. All of a sudden why have we decided that there is to be nothing? Some years ago the Coalition Government were fiercely attracked because they did not put their plans on paper. Now we come to a situation where the same thing is happening. At this stage it is much more important that the people know where this Government are going.

We are on a disastrous borrowing path at the moment: 14½ per cent of GNP is borrowed. If I remember correctly, it was decided in the Fianna Fáil manifesto that we should not exceed 10½, or 11 per cent at most. Deputy George Colley said it was like an aeroplane taxiing along the runway, and what one was doing in 1977 and 1978 was injecting capital into it to ensure that it had a successful take-off, that once it had taken off there would be no need to be borrowing for the type of development for which we have been borrowing. If the economy was being properly handled we should now be at 8½ per cent of GNP. The entire management of the economy has got completely out of hand. We will be borrowing for ever. The big thing now is to borrow, irrespective of what it is for. We borrow to get out of trouble. The Government has certainly done that on a number of occasions this year.

After the national understanding, the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, was reported as saying that there would be a certain amount of slippage. The only slippage I can see is that we were running again to our international bankers to get several £ million to pay certain sections of the community. We borrow for a great number of things, for wage increases and we borrow indiscriminately for non-productive [672] means. We were told two years ago that the only thing we should borrow for was productive purposes, and that if the economy was to be trimmed down it was necessary to get our overall borrowing down as a percentage of the GNP.

It has now got to the alarming proportion that 29p of every £ collected in taxes in this country has to go to service the interest on the loan itself. One does not have to be an economist to appreciate the terrible position in which we find ourselves vis-à-vis borrowing. In the last budget, the Government showed the white feather. There were certain aspects of the economy that should have been tackled, which would demand great courage, and the Taoiseach in his wisdom saw fit to hide his head and allow the tornado to blow through.

The terrible day of reckoning is coming for every man and woman in this country. Unless something is done very rapidly about our decision to keep on borrowing we will do a disservice to future generations. We must be fast approaching the day when the financial brains and the financial institutions from which we borrow money must be coming to the conclusion that it is now time to tell the Irish Government to do their sums properly and that there will not be the amount of money available for borrowing that has been at their disposal in the last couple of years.

The budget will be on 28 January. The Taoiseach and his Ministers will do nothing drastic on that day either, because it is likely to be a political budget, as the last one was. The Government in the last 12 months have shown themselves to be everything to everybody. Their general appeal was that if you have a problem we will solve it, irrespective of whether it is good for the nation. Everybody will be taking note of the way they will tackle the problem on the 28 January, unless we have a general election before it.

Our problems vis-à-vis unemployment are now at an alarming proportion. There are between 120,000 and 130,000 people out of work. That would not be too bad if our balance of payments were not as bad as they are. We are now caught in a vice, on one hand we never had so many [673] people out of work, and for the next couple of months it has all the signs that there will be more out of work. At the other end of the scale we are arriving at a situation where we are over-borrowed and might not get borrowing for productive purposes to the same extent that we would like. I am talking about borrowing for production only.

It is also true to say that never before have there been so many sectors of the community so badly off in a particular year. When one looks as the entire situation in the agricultural sector, one can see beyond question from what the Department of Agriculture economists said two weeks ago, that farmers' incomes had dropped 41 per cent in two years. There is not another section of the community in this country or in Europe that would not react violently to a reduction of that kind. What did the Government do about it? First of all they said, right, you have a problem; we will restructure loans for you. The ACC got something close on £50 million to restructure loans. When they decided to restructure the loan, it meant that most of those farmers were on borrowing extending to 25 years.

When we joined the EEC it became apparent to most people in 1974, 1975 and 1976 that the farmer was going to get due recognition for his work and toil on the land. A number of the best farmers we had in this country saw fit to invest to the tune of the confidence that was in the market at the time and to the tune that it would appear that any products we would have to sell would have a good market in Europe. Also, every institution in this country, everything connected with finance and with agricultural advice and indeed the Government, were not slow to propagate the idea that now was the time to boost production in Irish farming. We were under-capitalised, there was nowhere else we could get the money for production other than to borrow it, and it was with helping hands that that happened. Every institution bent over backwards to ensure that the farmers who wanted to borrow money got it. They certainly got it and lo and behold what happened? Stars began to fall and, before [674] we knew where we were in two short years after that prices for agricultural produce failed to rise and the cost of inputs went through the roof. Inflation was allowed to go mad.

Farmers were doing their best at that stage to ensure that we met our repayments, considering that our income was down 41 per cent. I hotly dispute the figure of 41 per cent. That is an average figure. The more progressive over-borrowed farmers were certainly down 50 per cent to 52 per cent. Many farmers in that category could not repay their loans, so a big deal was contemplated. The Minister for Agriculture intervened and the ACC were given about £50 million to solve the problem. The problem was, of course, the actual restructuring — the banks were involved in this also — that if it had to be restructured, well and good, the interest rate was somewhat lower, two or three per cent lower but they were expected to repay in five years. That was the loan itself. Then we arrived at a situation where the repayments on those big loans that would normally be of 25 years' duration, the principal and the interest over five years was dramatically higher. Many farmers could not touch it. That is borne out by the fact that a lot of money that was earmarked for farmers has not been borrowed at all because there is no way that farmers could accept money at that price and for that short duration.

However, it got worse than that. Two or three months ago, the Minister intervened again and said that because of the bad harvest — to be fair we cannot blame the Government for that — and because of the fact that the quality of hay was not good in the months of August and September, they would give £20 as a subsidy on a ton of nitrogen to ensure farmers grew silage in autumn, thereby increasing the amount of fodder for stock. The subsidy was confined to one farmer, one ton of nitrogen and one £20, Ask a farmer who has borrowed £30,000 or £40,000 about that particular intervention.

Earlier in the year the threshold for rates dropped from £60 to £40. This meant that a farmer who had to pay about £350 tax on rates last year had to pay the [675] whopping sum of well over £700 this time. The Minister intervened again. He said that any farmer between £40 and £60 valuation would only have to pay one moiety this year. There was nothing about the people between £20 and £40 who had their rate almost doubled and nothing about the people over £60. The number involved who were in the second half of the moiety was certainly important but there was very, very little relief there.

Then it was announced that there was to be a new western packet of £300 million. It was well heralded in the press: £300 million, £150 million contribution by the Irish Government, matched pound per pound by the EEC over ten years. That was to come into operation on 1 January. There will be very little of that knocking around the country in 1981. While I agree with the idea of a structure type of loan, nevertheless, there is a certain amount of playing to the gallery. It would be all right if it came in in 1981. It would certainly help a good number of people.

The Minister, through his contacts in Europe at the negotiating table, got the beef-cow incentive scheme and the cow suckler scheme in the disadvantaged areas raised. It was a welcome £12 to £13 per head of an increase. That was important. It is also fair to say that the small writing in that document was not read too well by a lot of people who were either at the negotiating table or saw what was released to the press. There was an increase, but most of the in-calf heifers in the national herd were not included at all. They were there as replacements only, but not in themselves. Two days later, the Minister made a statement at the opening of some function that it was important that the national herd be increased. Is that not a very peculiar statement after a deal had already been made which excluded the in-calf heifers from this grant, in most cases?

It is also fair to point out that the Minister is negotiating in Brussels for a better deal for farmers. I cannot understand why, from the point of view of the disadvantaged areas, a deal cannot be hammered out in Brussels on the same [676] basis as parts of France and Germany where they are given the full package because of the so called “brown” areas of Europe. Altitude is a great barometer in deciding the disadvantaged areas of Europe. They call the mountainous areas the “brown” areas, and they qualify for a fantastic amount of EEC disadvantage aid. For some unknown reason, we do not seem to be able to negotiate a deal where the west of Ireland, from Clare to Donegal, would be eligible for that type of aid. I understand that there has been great pressure put on the Government and the EEC by North Connacht farmers to ensure that that type of development will happen. A £20 subsidy on a ton of nitrogen will not save the farming community at the moment. Whatever system is arrived at we must have the national herd increased, because for a farmer or a non farmer it is most important that the agricultural products be increased, not alone in volume, but in revenue terms and in foreign markets.

This year there is no increase in agricultural output. Were it not for the number of cow slaughterings in the factories this autumn we would have a dramatic reduction in that area. I do not like to contemplate what is going to happen next year; our exports from agricultural products will be so bad as a revenue earner that we are going to have far more economic problems than we had this year. The Minister for Agriculture should be putting extreme pressure on Commissioner Gundelach. Now is the time, whether they are big farmers or small farmers, to increase the national stock herd. By doing that we will have more cattle to export and more cattle to kill and our factories will have greater employment. If it is not done on that basis we are in very, very serious trouble.

A situation has now been reached where the Government and the Minister for Agriculture must look very closely at the type of taxes they imposed in the last two or three years. The tax imposed on a farmer must be closely connected with his ability to pay that tax, and the whole taxation business must be seriously looked at. All rates on agricultural land should be abolished. In the not too distant [677] past, Fine Gael spokesman Deputy John Bruton proposed a number of items that would certainly relieve the problems of farmers at the moment.

It is very important that we have rates relief on all agricultural land. It is also vitally important for the people who have over-borrowed, people who are not able to meet their repayments, that we subsidise their interest rates, in the best interest of agriculture and in the interest of jobs created from farming products.

It is very important that the interest rates that a farmer has to pay on his loan are as near to 10 per cent as possible. Fine Gael are committed to doing that. It is also very important that the disease levies which are being imposed by the Government, which all take their toll, are alleviated.

We believed that, when the Minister was negotiating the £300 million western package, there would be in that document a proposal that the mobility of land would be speeded up. I am talking about the father to son transfer. I am talking about the aged bachelors who are not using their land to the best advantage. That £300 million package should have included a special father to son farm transfer, whereby the father would be guaranteed a certain pension, provided that he handed the farm over to his son. On the other hand, the son would be happy in the knowledge that his father would be financially secure in his old age. We would get tremendous land mobility under those conditions. I do not see it mentioned either in the new Land Commission Bill. I am sorry to see the Government seems to have turned a blind eye to that.

This has been a very disappointing year for local authorities. They were allowed only a 10 per cent increase. With inflation at 20 per cent for the year under review, one did not have to be a professor of mathematics to understand that the sums did not add up. In Galway County Council, and all the other county councils for that matter, for the first time in years county council workers were on a three-day week. Projects which were vital for the community had to be postponed for a year. The conditions of our roads are [678] at a stage where we are ashamed of them, because the Minister and the Department believe that there was a certain amount of belt tightening to be done and this was the area they were going to nail, the area where one might not notice the condition of the roads for a year or two.

It was a particularly bad year for the Department of the Environment generally. Their entire loan scheme has now almost drowned. Recently Galway County Council got £1.8 million for housing loans but actually needed £4 million. Sanction for county council house loans will not be forthcoming until well into mid-1981 or later in that year. The Government have fallen down on their responsibility in so far as those people are concerned.

On the question of road works, whichever Government is in power in two years' time will have to pay for them. Some secondary roads are at a stage now where they are beyond repair. It is appropriate to mention, with the budget on 28 January, that if there is not a great upsurge in finance for road works, we are going to find ourselves in real trouble.

This has been a terrible year from a housewife's point of view. We do not have to wait until 28 January for a budget. Every single week of the past year we had a budget. There were budgets in years past which would not have made the price increases possible, which were made through the National Prices Commission, and the relevant Minister in the last 12 months. There must be thousands and thousands of housewives asking themselves, where will we go in 1981, will rising prices continue? If they do, the least well off in our community will be on the breadline in 1981. That is always the problem in an economy which has high inflation, high prices as a consequence and high unemployment. It is always the people who are least well off who will suffer. If old people's pensions are eroded by high prices and young people coming out of school cannot get jobs because of economic mismanagement, we are at a very serious crossroads. We have the basic problems of any badly managed economy: high unemployment, spiralling prices every day and the cost of [679] living as a consequence is at a stage where a lot of housewives are unsure of what is going to happen next.

We were led to believe two or three years ago that there would be great scrutiny attached to the work of the National Prices Commission. We were led to believe that under the new regime it would be much more difficult for any manufacturer to get a price increase. In the last 12 months one would believe that there is no trouble whatever in getting increases. It appears that the ESB and the oil companies have no problem getting price increases. It is always passed on to the consumer. How long is this going to continue? Unless on 28 January 1981, the Government decide to do what they should have done three years ago, the things which the new Taoiseach should have done when he got to the helm, a disservice is being done to every man, woman and child in this country. It will be ill of this Government to say it was politically practical to do what they are now doing, if, in the heel of the hunt, they kill the goose that laid the golden egg. It is time that the people of Ireland shouted stop. We are in a terribly bad economic position. We are at a stage where the international bankers will soon cry halt.

Unless we fix up our accounts in Government and the economy is properly managed, we will soon come to a stage where it will be downhill altogether. Let nobody say the Government was not warned. Every economic factor and everybody in that particular area has taken note, made submissions, but it all seems to be of no avail. Under this regime, if there is a financial problem they borrow to get out of it. So long as they can keep getting the money it is OK. There is nothing about the rainy day as such, and God knows we have had enough of them. From the point of view of the various sectors of this community I believe that if the Government does not take control and govern as a government should we will rue the day in the not too distant future. If it is that this Government have not the political will or know-how to do it then it is time for them [680] to go to the country and allow somebody else to undertake that task.

Mr. Jago: Information on Valentine Jago  Zoom on Valentine Jago  Last year I had not an opportunity to speak on the Appropriation Bill. I am glad to have the opportunity this year. As I did not speak last year, and as I was not present, I looked up the records to see what was said. The first thing I noticed was that the speeches of the Opposition Members in the Chamber were an awful lot longer than the speeches of the Government Members. Reading those speeches they constituted just criticism, there was no suggestion allied to the criticism of what alternatives could have been undertaken. I feel at times that there is danger attached to the use of descriptive names. In industrial relations at present we use the names employers and workers. The fact that we do, I feel, creates confrontation. Similarly we have here the Government and the Opposition. Because we use these names as descriptions we automatically create a situation in which it appears that if the Government say this the Opposition must say the opposite and vice versa. But one does not get alternatives. To explain now what I mean by this; this morning Senator Connaughton said that to help the farmers rates should be taken off land.

Had that come from the Government side it would appear there must be something to it because, when the Government took rates off residential houses, look at the furore we had. We were told the local authorities had lost all their authority because they had not rates. If rates are now taken off land what have the local authorities left? Will rates be kept on industry if they are taken off land? The Government took them off residential houses because they said it was an unfair tax. For expedience sake it is suggested by the Opposition that we take them off land. Looking at the history of the thing that does not appear to me to be a valid alternative. Senator Connaughton has not told us where we are going to get the money from to replace the money we get from rates on land. At the same time he is saying that we have got to stop borrowing. What we are getting [681] is only criticism with no alternatives to its replacement.

I do not propose to speak today as a defence of the Government. I do not think the Government needs any defender. I want to speak on one theme and, if I can, try to illustrate what I mean. I believe that a Government can only create a climate in which things are done. I do not think a Government can do all things themselves. For instance, this morning we passed legislation in regard to bacon through which the Government are creating a climate in which to improve the marketing of bacon. They can create the climate by subsidy, but the Minister for Agriculture, the Minister for Finance, cannot go out and sell the bacon themselves. There appears to be the tendency today that when anything goes wrong everybody just looks to the Government to put it right. They do not look to themselves to see are they doing what they should be doing within the climate which the Government creates.

We are in a world recession, everybody admits that. When one gets into a recession out come the economists' textbooks. We are told to get inflation down, correct the balance of payment, stop borrowing and so on. We are told how to do it through reduced consumer demand, raised interest rates, controlled incomes, depressed growth, cutting back on Government expenditure and so on. But what about the social aspect of things? In the European Economic Community we are a special case. We are a developing country, we have a growing population; the figure is supposed to be now something like 3,400,000 and that population is comprised mainly of young persons. Are we going to turn around and correct the economy? We must bear in mind our unemployed and all those young people with no jobs whatever. Can we just carry out the textbook procedures to get inflation down and correct the balance of payments without any regard to its result? Can we suddenly stop the economy and then, when the recession is over, turn around and get it in motion again?

In our budget last year a middle course was steered. Definitely there was action taken to reduce spending to get borrowing [682] down. But, at the same time, there was a balance between that and the maintenance of jobs in our community. In this context there was one essential, and that was to maintain exports. This meant that we had to be competitive in industry. In 1979 a colossal number of man days was lost. We have our trade unions and our employer organisations. What did they do about this? Firstly, we have a Commission sitting on industrial relations. For a reason of their own the trade unions withdrew from it. Recently because of the national understanding, one employer organisation has withdrawn from the employer-trade union committee; I have not got its correct title. The point I am trying to illustrate here is that because things are not going right for them they opt out and it is the Government who have got to put them right. Within the last 12 months man days lost have been reduced by almost 3 million.

Therefore I think we can turn around and say that that was almost due entirely to the personal efforts of the former Minister for Labour. I contend that that should have been done by the people responsible within the climate created by the Government to do it. That climate contains all the structures that we have — the Labour Court, Rights Commisioners and everybody else — the procedures one can go through to get differences in industrial relations corrected without confrontation. Why is it that we cannot do it? Even at this moment we have it with a shortage of buses in this city because of some argument about a supervisor. Why is there not a Rights Commissioner engaged in its settlement, or something like that? What is wrong with us? We have a strike in Lunhams in Cork because the workers there do not wish to carry out the national understanding as it has been agreed. They go off and act unofficially.

I am endeavouring to point it out that the Government can create the climate but we have got to do something about it ourselves. We have another bigger problem coming up, that is absenteeism. Is anything going to be done about it by the employers, the unions themselves or are we going to have another sit-back and [683] wait to see what is the Government going to do about it?

In the context of maintaining exports and keeping industry moving the Government, during the last year financed the IDA to get more jobs. The IDA continued their programme, SFADCo continued their programme for small industries. Both of them were most successful during the 12 months. But again, we lost jobs in traditional industries. The productivity, on average, should show an increase in the year, a very small one but that productivity is reflected mainly in the new industries that come to this country. The productivity in some of our traditional industries is as low as 50 per cent of competitors in the same field. Yet, there are structures to help with productivity. Are they not being used? The Government have provided them. In the case of jobs which are lost the Government have provided training through AnCO so that people can go from one job to another and remain employed.

As we have moved into the field of new industry we now find that our industry is becoming more technical, more related to the scientific and technical fields. The Government have provided the necessary changes in education to meet the needs of industry in the future. Recently we had the NIHE Bills passed through these Houses. We have the RTCs. The Government are making these provisions for the future. Are we going to use them? Have the population got it into their heads that there is a change, a school of thought in education that to try to get a university degree is not the thing to do? We have an energy problem. The Government have provided free advice to industry through the IIRS. Has all industry availed of that free advice? They have not. It is there to be used to save energy. We have had money spent on infrastructure, on new telephones. Money is being spent on roads. There is no doubt about it. There is a programme for roads and harbours going ahead.

We know that agriculture is having a bad time. Agriculture got a lift when we joined the EEC, through prices. We have had bad weather this year and agriculture [684] has suffered. The Government have continued to support agriculture. They are still spending money on the disease eradication scheme. Increased grants are continuing to be given to sheep farmers, to those in disadvantaged areas. Even when trouble arose the Government intervened to assist the farmers. I know that Senator Connaughton has made some of those efforts appear small. This was money spent as first-aid for the farmers, with rates relief given to those farmers between £40 and £60 valuation on their second moiety. Senator Connaughton said they did nothing for farmers with valuations over £60. They did; they said they could defer payment of their rates. Then there were subsidised loans, fertiliser and silage grants and so on. But, in the case of farming, the farmers are complaining that they want prices. On the other hand have we thought about output? Take the average farmer who is in milk and who gets 10p a gallon increase. His income increases by £900. If that farmer brings his stocking level from one to one and a half acres down to one acre his income increases by well over £2,000. This is what we are competing against.

I am saying that the Government can create the climate but what are we doing about it ourselves? Last Monday, I was at the inauguration of the ACOT programme for the south-western area. The Government have created a new climate through its introduction. I heard Dr. Tom Walsh speak an that occasion. He said they were going to do the job. He maintained that they wanted specialised staff, they wanted more instructors. He said that if they get them they will do the job; if they do not get them they will do the best they can. If the farmers co-operate in this I see this as one of the best moves in agriculture. If Dr. Tom Walsh wants this staffing I believe the Government should support him and give him what he wants to get the job done. We have had the small farmer, the problem there, the trouble over land. The Government have now issued a White Paper on Land Reform. There will be criticism of it. It can be discussed. But again it is a Government creating a climate in which things can be done.

[685] I have mentioned a lot of things here on which the Government have spent money the aim being to achieve increased production, to maintain our exports and keep jobs. Can anybody here say that money should not have been spent? Were the Government wrong in spending it? If they were, what should they have cut back? Where should they have cut back, on which of these things should they have cut back? On the other hand, if they should not, or should be increased, where do we get the money to do it? There is no use criticising unless one is constructive about it. I say that the Government require no defence. In the future I hope we will all stop looking to the Government to solve problems. Those people who can act themselves, let them do so within the climate which the Government creates, and by so doing I have no doubt that we can solve the problems facing us, but we cannot opt out.

Mrs. Robinson: Information on Mary Robinson  Zoom on Mary Robinson  The Appropriation Bill debate affords Members of this House an opportunity to stand back from specific issues and proposals, to assess the performance of the Government over the past 12 months and indeed its fitness and suitability as a Government for Ireland in the 1980's. The unusual feature of this Appropriation Bill is the fact that it includes a very large amount for the Supplementary Estimates totalling £463,500,000. This has given rise to fairly widespread speculation about the possibility of paving the way for an early election. This kind of speculation seems to me to reflects a very poor degree of political commentary at present. Perhaps this, in itself, reflects a lack of depth and a lack of maturity in the political climate, indeed I would even say in the political education in the country. I say this not in the spirit of somebody seeking to lecture but in the spirit of somebody who is trying to stand back from the immediate issues and analyse the position in which we find ourselves at the end of the first year of this decade. If you examine the political commentary at present, most of it is spent in the realm of political personalities, of pre-occupation with individuals and a sort of one-dimensional assessment of [686] how those individuals are performing, with a very superficial and inadequate assessment of how in fact the politicians and Government and indeed the leaders of the community as a whole are responding to the range of challenges and indeed to the reality in Ireland today.

I believe it is fair to say that there is a lack of political maturity in the approach of political commentators and of the media as a whole. I feel that this perhaps reflects a very conservative and inadequate conditioning that we have as a whole, as a people. This stems right from the educational system. We are not encouraged in the educational system, our children are not encouraged and our young people are not encouraged, to stand back from their society, look at it and see, in a real context, how, for example, the wealth of this country and its resources are divided, used and allocated. This means that in political life there is at the moment a striking lack of real leadership. Senator Jago referred to what he saw as being the role of the Government, that it is limited to creating a climate in society in which things can happen. If one accepts Senator Jago's point I believe fundamentally that this Government are creating the wrong climate for the kind of society that we have and for the kind of challenges which that society poses for us at the moment. This is the appropriate debate in which to try to make that point as clearly and as succinctly as possible.

First of all, there is nothing in the approach of the present Government which reflects the need to bring home to the people, including the social partners, the educationalists, including indeed every family in the country, that we have this immense challenge and very new situation of a growing population and of a very young population. If the Government were to create a genuine climate then it would be one of radical leadership at this time, one of constantly bringing home the need for very different sorts of policies, both for creating wealth and for redistributing the wealth of this country. I do not say that in a pessimistic fashion. I am convinced that Ireland has the advantages of natural resources, the, [687] advantages of a young population, the advantages of its location in a rather privileged corner of western Europe and the potential of tapping much more cohesiveness and much more goodwill in the nation than we have begun to try to harness. Instead of that we see a Government which appears to be prepared, at whatever price, to favour the better-off because they are the stronger voices in our society, to distribute income towards those who already have income, to give home improvement grants to those who already have homes, at the cost of lengthening the housing crisis for those who are homeless. They appear to be prepared to take taxation measures which favour the better-off. I propose to make very specific reference to what this does in our society, and to ask the Minister of State, who is here representing the Government in this debate, to answer very specifically some of the questions I will raise.

It is necessary, first of all, to refer to the seriousness of the present crisis in which we find ourselves. This has to be done because of the unreal optimism in which the Taoiseach and other members of the Government speak about our position at present. It is fair to say that this may very well be in the hope of generating some sort of false climate in which to have a general election. I have no particular view on whether we are likely to have a general election in the very near future. But I think that the unreal optimism of Ministers means that either they do not know what is happening, which is hard to credit, or else that they feel that the approach is better to be one of misleading rather than giving the basic different kind of leadership than we have really ever had in this State since we gained independence, because the nature of the State is radically different from the kind of country that we have had. We are not an ageing, declining population which can afford conservative measures, which can afford to muddle along as it has done before. We are the fastest growing and youngest country in the European Community. We are not beginning to create the society, in Senator Jago's words, which will allow us to reflect the [688] adequate economic and social policies for this population.

The proof is there at present, if one looks at the number of unemployed. Unemployment at the end of November amounted to 115,000 on the live register figures alone. This constituted an increase of 30,000 in 12 months. That by any standards cannot be regarded as a successful performance. And, as is well recognised — and indeed as Fianna Fáil in Opposition stressed again and again — these figures on the live register are an under-estimate. When account is taken of those working systematic short-time and those who do not show up on the live register, in particular the number of women workers who do not show up on the live register when they become unemployed, the true unemployment figure is well in excess of 150,000.

Once again, not surprisingly, these unemployment figures show a distressing pattern of youth unemployment. According to the figures published this month, there are 38,000 unemployed young people between the ages of 15 and 21, and this number is on the increase. That is a very sad reflection. It is a failure by our society to provide opportunities for our young population, at whatever cost and as the first priority of our Government.

There are other indications of seriousness. Reference has already been made to the extent of our borrowing abroad, to the balance of payments problem. There has been a turndown in investment. From the IDA to the FUE and the CII, alarm bells have been sounding about our competitiveness, about our prospects of creating future employment. Already emphasis has been placed — and this is right — on the agricultural sector and on the crisis in agriculture. There is absolutely no doubt that part of our wealth, part of our resource is our agriculture. One of the ways to provide for our people is by having a sound and supported agricultural sector.

It is in such a depressed condition that the farmers have become the marchers and the protesters of the eighties, and this appears to be likely to continue. It is understandable from the figures. Farmers' [689] real earnings fell by around 26 per cent in 1980 and they had dropped by 23 per cent in 1979. The prospects do not look good for agriculture over the next few years because cattle numbers have been depleted in a very serious fashion. Cattle numbers are down by 450,000 at the end of this year compared with December 1979. That is very serious both for the farmers concerned and for our balance of payments over the next few years.

There is a crisis of confidence and a lack of belief that the Government will cope. The reaction to the opinion of the European Court in the 2 per cent levy case, the opinion of the Advocate-General, was indicative of the lack of confidence the farmers have at the moment in a genuine understanding of their position. That 2 per cent levy was criticised very heavily when it was brought in. I believe it was brought in as a very hasty and ill-thought through measure. It appears now that there is at least a case to be made that it is contrary to Community law. We await the judgment of the Court of Justice at the end of January on the case. It is only an example of an approach to the basic resource of agriculture which reflects, I believe, a pandering to short-term interests, a reaction of a fire brigade nature to particular problems, rather than a structured approach with clear social priorities, clear priorities of ensuring a basic standard of living and a proper distribution of and creation of wealth in our society.

I should like to turn to a report which highlights the criticisms I have been making more than any other that I could refer to. This is the final report of the poverty committee which was published and presented to the Minister earlier this week. This report speaks eloquently for the selfish and unresponsive society that we are. It also speaks for the attitude of the Government in that those involved on the combat poverty committee have been given redundancy notice. It appears that the pilot projects are being phased out. It appears that the committee, in other words, have got the cold shoulder from the Government and that whatever may continue, if it continues at all, will be [690] extremely limited and very much research-orientated, back into the safe pastures of more academic research rather than the — I can almost hear the word used — subversive areas of action-orientated projects on the ground, which actually encourage people to help themselves to develop knowledge, and through knowledge, a sense of how to exercise just a limited power in relation to their own lives.

This runs counter to so much of the paternalistic political climate of this country that it must be worrying to those who have come out of and who depend on a paternalistic and centralised power structure. We should reflect on the work of the poverty committee, the analysis in that report and the response — the response by the Government and the response by us as a people — to that report. Therefore I should like to turn briefly to some passages in the report, starting first with a brief extract from the preface by Sister Stanislaus Kennedy where she refers to a striking figure of inequality in this country. I believe there is greater relative inequality in this country than in any other country in the European Community at this moment, greater relative inequality, greater disparity between those who are well off and those who are the bottom, those who are in dire poverty. We have extreme poverty and comparatively greater polarisation between rich and poor in Ireland.

In her preface she refers to an assessment of living standards in Ireland and says that the 1978 Household Budget Survery showed that:

...the top 20 per cent of households received 43.4 per cent of the national income, whereas the share of the bottom 20 per cent of households is just 4.5 per cent. Poverty does not come about by accident. Rather our system is planned in such a way that poverty is an integral part of it, emerging from social, economic and educational policies which favour the non-poor. The whole structure of our society is underpinned by a philosophy which is totally inimical to the poor.

That quotation sums up the essence of the criticism of a Government of Ireland [691] at the start of the 1980s who are inimical to a poor, growing, young population, and who in their structures and approach favour those who are better off, those who are already the established people in our society. This leads to a situation of inequality, cynicism, bitterness, vandalism and all the other ills which stem from this creation of climate by the Government. I should like to refer to the expenditure on the poverty committee because it might appear from some reporting that it is the cost factor that prevents the continuation and, indeed, expansion of the work under the general umbrella of the poverty committee.

If one looks at the appendix on page 301 of the report one sees the financial implications of the programme since its establishment. We are talking about very small amounts of money. We are talking about a substantial part of that very small funding being contributed by the European Community. So it is not a question of cost. It has to be a question of priorities and, indeed, of a vision of our society. At page 301 there is a table showing that the total expenditure on the programme was as follows: in 1974, it was £15,065; in 1975, £103,357; in 1976, £290,981; in 1977, £317,257; in 1978, £501,000; in 1979, £546,000; in 1980, £580,000. There is an asterisk correction that this may go up to £615,000.

The largest expenditure in any year has been just over £½ million. That is not all Irish money because the European Commission has contributed £829,489 out of that total expenditure in the period 1974 to 1980. A strikingly small amount of money is spent on funding the combat poverty programme.

It cannot be that it was because of lack of activities and a lack of energy because, in the first appendix, there is a list of the major activities and studies undertaken by the programme, and they are striking in a number of ways. They are striking for the geographical distribution of them — from Connemara to Cork, to the Midlands, north Leitrim, to the areas of agriculture, fishing, inner city, welfare programmes. There is a range and a striking degree of both comprehensiveness [692] and initiative. They include projects which have both helped and involved the poorest sections in our community in a different way from the previous approach, in a non-paternalistic way, in a way which has created a sense of self-respect and an emphasis on self-help. It cannot be a lack of activities and a lack of energy in those activities. Nor can it be a lack of analysis and relevant comment. The analysis in this report is deeply relevant to the discussion on the Appropriation Bill because it is an analysis of our society.

I should like to refer briefly to what are described as the experiences arising out of the programme. Under the heading “Poverty — The Reality” there is a summary of the incidence of poverty which is fundamental to a debate on Government performance during the last year.

What comes through from the report and studies may be summarised as follows:

...the difficulties disadvantaged people face in trying to be part of and have a say in events that shape and affect their lives; — their helplessness or frustration in the face of official structures viz. of the Church, State, etc; — their poor self image; — their dependence on others to achieve their rights, e.g. politicians, social workers, clergy, teachers, etc. — the obstacles created by complexities of services and structures in areas such as education, housing, the legal system, planning etc. — the inadequacies of income maintenance services to provide a decent life for those worst off.

Having given in more detail a picture of these various subheadings, the report goes on to look at the implications arising out of the work of the programme. I can give a brief summary of the positive and negative implications at page 241 of the report.

The positive implications of the work may be summarised as follows: — given support by way of personnel, small financial aid, information training and co-operation, disadvantaged people can: (a) do things for themselves and their communities; (b) they [693] can participate effectively; (c) they can come to terms with the complexities of official services and structures; (d) they can provide new insights into accepted practices.

The report goes on to the negative implications as follows:

The negative implications which have emerged are: participation by disadvantaged people does not happen overnight; challenges to traditional leadership and practices are not always welcome; bringing about change cannot totally be the responsibility of the poor.

Finally, I should like to refer to the main proposal made in this report of the combat poverty committee and this will lead me to my question to the Minister of State. A number of possible alternative proposals are stated in the report. At pages 266 and 267 the report argues the need to establish a national agency not, it is emphasised, to replace the need for a central Government social policy, or for existing Departments to review their policies and programmes in order to meet the needs of the poor, but that in addition to that a national agency is required. I should like to refer briefly to the reasons given for this because they are well summarised in the report. They are summarised at page 267 as follows:

What is therefore proposed is the establishment of an agency capable of operating at national, regional and local levels, which would develop and expand the work of the pilot schemes. Its responsibilities would include: (a) the refinement and promotion of new ways of dealing with the problem of poverty along the lines pioneered by the Committee; (b) the development of a national forum which would enable poor people to speak on their own behalf; (c) recommending to Government agencies and Departments particular actions in the fight against poverty and working with them in their implementation; (d) co-ordination and dissemination of relevant information to deprived groups regarding their rights and entitlements on a range of [694] issues; this would require the provision of resources including library facilities and equipment; (e) provision of specialist resources, advice and assistance to such groups and others engaged in self-help activities, including priming grants and training; (f) promotion of issues research, both to help deprived groups tackle the problems facing them and contribute to evaluation of policy at national level; (g) provision of specialist services and in-service training for community workers; (h) publication of a journal or magazine for the promotion of awareness on poverty and related issues; (i) acting as a focus and liaison for various community and social work interests and other groups, Government Departments, and relevant statutory and voluntary institutions.

I put the entire list of the potential role of this national agency on the record because I believe it touches on the various kinds of activity which are urgently needed, and also because I would welcome very specific responses from the Minister as to what the attitude of the Government is to the work done by the combat poverty committee, to the approach of the combat poverty committee in their work and their various pilot projects, and what is to be the future.

The Minister for Health, Deputy Woods, said again and again the Government cannot take a final decision until they get the report and evaluation. I understand that the material in this is well known to the Government through the officials of the Departments who participated for some time. It is a matter of urgency that we get a very specific answer on the attitude. I have taken the liberty of referring in detail to that report because it is the conscience of this whole debate. We cannot evaluate the Government's performance unless we do it in the context of the most deprived sections of the community.

I should like to turn now to another specific area on which I would welcome a response from the Minister. It follows very easily the combat poverty committee because it is another type of activity [695] which is concerned about families and people in a working class area, which provides a remarkable service to people in that area and yet which does not know if it will be able to continue next year. I am referring to the Coolock Community Law Centre. The position at the moment is that the solicitor and community law officer and administrator and other staff of the Coolock Community Law Centre do not know if they will be open in January 1981. They do not know what they should be saying at the moment to clients who come in and make appointments or seek to have cases set down in court for February, March or April of next year. I find this an appalling reflection on any appreciation of the importance of the Coolock Community Law Centre in that area and of the need to establish further community law centres on the same model. I should like to ask the Minister if he would in his reply state very specifically what the position is.

The Coolock Community Law Centre have been writing to the various Departments. They wrote to the Minister of State at the Department of Justice on 10 October and they got an acknowledgement saying it was a matter for the Minister himself. That is dated 21 October, and they have not had any more detailed response. They sent in a submission at the request of officials in the Department of Justice setting out in detail the work of the law centre, the case load, the informational role which it plays, the various local associations and organisations involved with the management committee. They summarised the financial needs of the Coolock Community Law Centre, including the need for a second solicitor because of the volume of new cases and the increased activity of the community law centre.

They wrote a letter to the Minister for Health on 10 October 1980, to which they have received no reply to date. They do not know what their position is and, at the same time, they have continued right up to the end of this year to provide the kind of community law service which is the essential way in which we as a State should provide access to law and to legal [696] services. I suppose the role of the Coolock Community Law Centre is a challenge to the much less adequate approach in the Government's legal aid scheme which has established in the Dublin area the two law centres at Lower Gardiner Street and Aston Quay. These law centres are certainly staffed by very dedicated staff who do their best to provide the legal services to those who come to them. We know that the means test has worked out to be very stringent, to be a definite barrier to people having access to legal aid.

The law centres themselves are a very narrow perception of what the genuine role of a community law centre should be. That is best illustrated by referring to some of the surveys and analyses that have been done by the Coolock Community Law Centre for the Coolock area. I understand, in fact, that just this morning they have published another detailed survey of social welfare appeals in which they show the actual problems encountered by clients and by people who use the Coolock Community Law Centre in pursuing their social welfare appeals.

This is extremely valuable documentary evidence of the fact that this appeal structure, as I think most of us know, is not working very well. It is not adequate for those appealing against a refusal to give a social welfare entitlement, of whatever it may be — unemployment benefit, invalidity, or whatever — that the appeals structure is not working very well. This has been very well documented in this booklet, which gives the experience of a representative number of people over a particular time and, therefore, is perhaps the best evidence we could have of how the system is working.

A short time ago the Coolock Community Law Centre produced a report on barring orders and showed that the system whereby a barring order can be obtained under the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976, is breaking down partly because of the reluctance and, indeed, the refusal of the Garda to enforce a barring order when it is breached, which leaves a wife and family in a very helpless position if the husband breaks the barring [697] order, and leaves them with the possibly rather academic redress of taking out a second summons and looking for relief in that way.

It is only when you have bodies who can spend time examining the problems on the ground and who are close to the people whom they act for, and are under a board of management representative of the tenants' organisations and women's groups in that area, that you will get past the present barriers to access to law and to legal remedies. I would ask the Minister, first of all, to give a definite answer on whether the Government will be funding the Coolock Community Law Centre over the next year and, if possible, a specific indication of the amount of that funding. Will they fund the present staff, or will they allow the law centre to employ a second solicitor as is necessary because of the volume of work and the new cases which have come to the centre in the past year?

Being selective in the subjects which I am dealing with on this Appropriation Bill, as every Senator necessarily has to be, it is not difficult to move from the specific case of the Coolock Community Law Centre to the continuing absence of any commitment to law reform in important areas of Irish life, to important family law reform, and to law reform in the area of minority rights which is particularly relevant at a time when we appear to be making generous overtures, at least on paper, to the minority communities in Northern Ireland. I should like to relate this question of the absence of commitment to law reform to the political manoeuvres which are taking place at the moment. In the commentary so far and, in particular, in the political commentary here in the Republic, there has been an absence of scrutiny and an absence of concern about what appears to be a totally contradictory approach to the situation here in the 26 Counties over which we have jurisdiction and our apparent willingness to guarantee all kinds of protection in the context of an extension of that jurisdiction, or a federation, or confederation, or some sort of take-over of the territory of Northern Ireland.

I should like to refer to specific recent [698] quotations from the Taoiseach which I think highlight this. Following the talks with Mrs. Thatcher which took place last May in London, the Taoiseach made a statement in the Dáil on 29 May in which he stated:

I am sometimes asked to put forward some kind of blueprint for a united Ireland. My reply is that in this context it is not any blueprint of mine that is important. What is important is the extent to which the Ireland I favour would have to be changed and altered to accommodate those whose traditions and attitudes are different from mine. This could only be ascertained in a meaningful way through patient dialogue and discussion.

I am prepared at any time to enter into discussion with representatives of any tradition in these islands. I say now, clearly, that the people who regard their tradition as being far removed from ours would be surprised at the length to which we would be prepared to go in such discussions to accommodate them, to give guarantees and undertakings, to protect and safeguard their interests and traditions.

Those of other traditions in the northern part of this island might well be surprised, might well even be suspicious of such overtures, because words have authenticity only when they reflect deeds and when they reflect an attitude. There is nothing in the approach of the Government towards their own minorities in their own jurisdiction at the moment which would give hope and encouragement to those of other traditions in Northern Ireland that things might be different. If they take the Taoiseach's words at another level, is it the case that these guarantees of safeguards and of recognition of minority tradition are to be bargaining counters in a context, and how much credibility can one put on using human rights and recognition of minorities as bargaining counters in this kind of political debate?

This is very relevant because of the reference in the recent communique issued in Dublin on December 8 to joint studies covering a range of issues including [699]“citizenship rights”. How exactly are these citizenship rights to be identified or to be studied? In what context are they to be studied? Will there be a study of the lack of protection of citizenship rights in the fullest sense at the moment in the Republic of Ireland? Is that to be part of the overall study? Are we going to be examined in some wider context as a country which has not so far recognised and protected minority rights? If so, will the experience of the past 12 months come into the picture — for example, the Government's current attitude on the question of amending the constitutional position on divorce?

If that is the case I do not think that we will come very well out of it, because, as the Minister will recall, in 1967 there was an all-party committee which unanimously recommended that there be a change in the total prohibition on divorce law under our Constitution. They recommended a formula which I would not think was the best way to deal with the situation but which effectively meant that the Constitution would be changed to allow those whose religion permitted divorce to obtain divorce within the Republic. But regardless of the precise formulation in 1967, the important thing is that 13 years ago an all-party committee unanimously recommended a change to permit divorce in the Republic. Yet in the past 12 months what have we seen? We have seen first, the Government's refusal to allow a First Reading to the Private Member's Bill proposed by Deputy Browne in June last and in October the defeat of a motion tabled by the Labour Party in the Dáil which proposed the establishment of an all-party committee to examine the ways in which the Constitution should be amended to permit divorce, a motion by which the Labour Party specifically tried in a constructive way to suggest a method of taking this issue out of the realms of being a political football in party politics so that there could be a broad-based approach which would enable this necessary reform.

What was the response? In the Dáil the Minister of State at the Department of [700] Justice said and I shall quote the extract because it seems to me to be a blind refusal even to establish a committee to debate the matter: in other words that it is a definite step backwards since 1967 — as reported at column 1109 of the Official Report for 29 October, 1980:

The Government's position on this issue has been clearly stated on a number of occasions. The Taoiseach told the Dáil in April that the Government had no plans at present to promote legislation to amend the Constitution to remove the prohibition on the grant of a dissolution of marriage.

This view was reiterated by the Minister for Justice when Deputy Browne's Private Member's Bill was defeated on 3 June last. The Minister said that the Government's opposition to the motion is based on the conviction that in present circumstances the establishment of an all-party committee to deal with the question would be both deceptive and ambiguous.

I should be glad if the Minister would explain why the Government think that it would be deceptive and ambiguous at this stage to establish a committee with a view to examining the way in which the Constitution could be amended on the divorce issue. Why those words, “deceptive” and “ambiguous”? Could we perhaps have a more detailed assessment? Would it be deceptive to establish such a committee in the 26 Counties but not deceptive to offer it, as is clearly intended in the earlier passage that I quoted from the Taoiseach, to the Unionists in Northern Ireland? Who is being deceptive and ambiguous on the subject — the present Taoiseach and the Government? Would it be deceptive and ambiguous to discuss the matter in both Houses of the Oireachtas? This points graphically to a lack of willingness to give leadership, a lack of awareness of the human suffering, of the misery and of the oppression of not having any legal means to terminate a marriage in Ireland but having lots of Irish solutions to the Irish problem so favoured by our Taoiseach as a formula for introducing other legislation which I will come to briefly in a moment.

[701] On the attitude towards the movement for divorce legislation, the opinion polls now reflect a majority in favour of a change in the divorce law. One of the recent polls showed 47 per cent in favour of a change in this law and 41 per cent against. There is an old political jibe which goes as follows: “There go the mob and I must follow for I am their leader.” The Government now have the mob ahead of them. Therefore, would the Government not start to follow the mob and perhaps bring forward proposals in this area?

In so far as the Government have acted, their action has brought us into ridicule internationally and into a very serious situation locally in relation to the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 which was brought into effect on 1 November 1980. That Bill is not funny although there is great potential satrical subject matter there. It is deeply serious because it is denying access to information and advice to those who should have such access. It is creating a false premise on which the whole subject is being treated, the false premise that doctors should be involved in prescribing non-medical contraceptives, the false premise that doctors should be assessing what is or is not so called bona fide family planning and an approach which shows again a total unwillingness to face and indeed bring forward proposals to help the real situation in Ireland today. This is particularly shameful when there is at the same time a tendency to condemn in a very narrow context and out of hand the growth in the abortion rate and the number of Irish women going to cities in England for abortions. It seems to me that it must be inevitable that the Health (Family Planning) Act will have the effect of increasing the abortion rate. It will increase the number of unwanted pregnancies because it is narrowing in an artificial way access to family planning advice and services. That must in itself be a very serious matter. It is also preventing a proper health and family focus to the debate, because once again we have this incredible aspect to the Irish solution to the Irish problem, namely that the pill still remains outside this whole strange [702] system and is not regarded as a contraceptive but as a cycle regulator and therefore does not come within the provisions of the Act. There is ample evidence down the years that the pill has been overprescribed in Ireland. This has presented severe health risks in certain areas, particularly among older women, especially if they have been on the pill for a number of years and without adequate supervision or because it is the only form of contraceptive that can be prescribed by the doctor in the area. The danger of the present Health (Family Planning) Act is that it lays a distorted emphasis on so-called natural forms of family planning. I am not against natural forms of family planning. They have a role to play for highly-motivated people and for people who have back-up support.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Chair is very loath to interrupt the Senator but I would hope that the House would understand that it is not in order to advocate or criticise legislation on this Bill, which is purely a review of what is contained in the Appropriation Bill. I would be grateful if Senators would bear that in mind.

Mrs. Robinson: Information on Mary Robinson  Zoom on Mary Robinson  I accept your ruling of course, but I think I am correct in saying that there has been an appropriation for the implementation last November of the Health (Family Planning) Act through the health boards to enable them to carry out the activities.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  It is quite in order to criticise the implementation but not the actual legislation itself.

Mrs. Robinson: Information on Mary Robinson  Zoom on Mary Robinson  The main point that I wanted to make I have already made, and that is that at the end of the first year of this decade of 1980 the Government have finally brought in the regulations implementing this legislation and that the manner of implementation as it will affect families and individuals and couples in this country is a very decided step backwards which again must polarise the two parts of this island. Certainly it has made us ridiculous internationally. What it really does is that it further shows a total [703] lack of commitment to move forward as a young, growing country with real problems and a need for a much different approach to the family law issues, social issues, economic issues and prospects in this country. I put it in that context because Senator Jago seemed to suggest that there was either an unwillingness or an inability on this side of the House to do more than criticise. It is an important function of the Opposition to criticise. Indeed, the Appropriation Bill presents the time to criticise. But there is no lack of proposals for alternatives. In the areas which I have been mentioning the proposals are positive and very much thought through for an alternative approach.

I will finish on the note that Senator Jago struck. He said the role of Government is to create the climate in which a society can move in a certain direction. That is my greatest criticism of the Government. They have created a very strange divisive climate in which to move Ireland, this young and growing country, forward to the next decade. We will see a lot of social fall-out from the creation of this climate. We will see a lot of dissent, increasing vandalism in centre city areas, increasing cynicism among young people about politicians generally and in particular about the established structure of our political life. That is a very serious situation. It is one which I should like to see coming under much sharper political scrutiny from professional political commentators.

Dr. Whitaker: Information on Thomas K Whitaker  Zoom on Thomas K Whitaker  On this occasion last year I drew attention to the marked deterioration in our public finances during the seventies. It was a story much too sad for Christmastime, even for adults, and I do not intend to retell it this morning. I should call to mind, however, the rapidity with which we got into our present difficulties in the hope that we will not be persuaded to follow much too slow a way out.

Consider this for speed of downhill slide. It took nearly 50 years for the State debt to reach £1,000 million but it has multiplied nearly eight times during the [704] past ten years. Not only this, but external debt, direct and guaranteed, which was about 16 per cent of GNP in 1970 is about 40 per cent of GNP today. Very little of the 1970 debt, less than 10 per cent of it, arose from borrowing for current purposes. A large slice, over 30 per cent, of the enormous debt incurred since 1970 is attributable to current budget deficits. Indeed in the past few years £1 in every £2 is being borrowed to meet current expenses.

In a country so deficient in infrastructure and in jobs it was, in my view, a tragic mistake to resort to large-scale borrowing, particularly foreign borrowing, to meet everyday expenses when development expenditure would have increased the nation's productive capacity, provided jobs and been no less effective in stimulating the economy when a stimulus was needed. This mistake was compounded by continuing to borrow, indeed borrowing even more, at a time when no economic stimulus was needed, opening the boat's throttle, as I said a few months ago, when the economic current was favourable and leaving ourselves short of fuel when the tide turned against us.

When the heavy deficit financing for current purposes began in 1973-74, and when it took off again in 1977-78, only a few lone wolves, including the Central Bank and myself, were howling in the night air as the authorities dreamt rosy dreams and set top-of-the-scale targets which inflamed public expectations. Now all the watchdogs are barking, professors, commentators, representative bodies, the National Economic and Social Council and the authorities are showing signs of being disturbed. We anxiously await developments. Whether 1981 is an election year or not the next budget must, in Ireland's interest, do something effective to bring our finances into order. We cannot afford again to have the appearance rather than the reality of reform. The new Minister for Finance, whom I wish well, must regain the control over the public finances and the fiscal policy dis-creation which are vital elements in our capacity to manage our own affairs, indeed, I might say, vital elements of our [705] political sovereignty. The first thing to learn is to say a firm “no” to proposals likely to add to our deadweight financial burden.

At a time like this it is extremely important that the public should have a clear understanding of the financial position. It was obvious from the PAYE campaign last year that the minor contribution, about 25 per cent, made by income tax to meeting the State's current expenditure was not generally understood. At the present time there is widespread misconception as to the scope for redistribution of incomes in favour of any particular section of the community. One can only be surprised to find able commentators conjuring up tax relief prospects from future oil revenues and ignoring the yawning deficit in the current budget that must first be filled. Others who propose reliefs or new expenditure usually, as Senator Jago has reminded us, omit to indicate how they are to be paid for.

Part of the blame for all this must lie with the inadequacy of the information services of Government but part also, perhaps, lies with the format in which our financial information is published. The Appropriation Accounts, for example, are still set in an antique mould which has probably not changed much since the time of Gladstone. Because of my training I know my way around them but I pity the ordinary man who is seeking comprehensive information on our public finances from the Appropriation Accounts, the Finance Accounts and the diverse publications issued at budget time. Presentation, classification, guidance on interpretation fall far short of what is desirable. I would suggest that there is a need for a single more popular presentation, composite and clearly intelligible, of the significant features of the national finances.

The Appropriation Accounts conform to a traditional pattern which has its own curious features. For instance, in the latest volume, you can find a note on the Vote for Finance about an ex-gratia payment of £15 to an officer in respect of damage to personal property in the [706] course of official duties—perhaps a nail in the office desk tore his trousers. Matters of infinitely greater importance are dealt with in ways which do not adequately highlight the waste of public moneys involved. I have mentioned previously in this House, in this context, the bovine disease eradication programme. The point I wish to make now is simply that if you want details of the money already spent and the number of animals slaughtered you have to go to an answer to a parliamentary question on 26 November last and even then you have to tot the figures yourself. To save my colleagues this trouble and any further curiosity, may I just say that £191 million was laid out over the years 1955 to 1979 and that 1,500,000 animals were slaughtered, but even the depleted herd is still far from having a clean bill of health.

I would commend to the new Minister not only the urgent task of repairing our financial system but also, assuming he is more than a few months in office, the desirability of reforming and modernis-ing the presentation of the public accounts.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  Perhaps I could open my remarks by asking Senator Whitaker through the Chair if I understood him correctly as saying in an early part of his speech that the financing of current deficits by way of borrowing commenced in the year 1973-74?

Dr. Whitaker: Information on Thomas K Whitaker  Zoom on Thomas K Whitaker  Yes, that is virtually true.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  I am able to correct the Senator at least as to the intentions of the Minister for Finance in respect of the year 1972-73. The first of the three Fianna Fáil Ministers of Finance whom we have had since this Government were established was at that time also Minister for Finance, Deputy George Colley, and I read from his budget speech, as reported at column 575 of the Official Report for 19 April, 1972:

The tax reliefs which I have announced will cost in all £14.1 million this year. When added to the social [707] welfare and other concessions and taking account of the opening gap of £8.6 million they bring the overall deficit in the budget to £34.8 million. To finance part of this deficit I propose to bring into the Exchequer an exceptional non-recurring receipt of £7 million from the Central Bank.

Further, the then Minister continued:

The £7 million is a once-for-all payment and in future only the surplus of the immediately preceding year will be available for transfer to the Exchequer.

The balance of the deficit—£27.8 million—will be financed by borrowing.

Dr. Whitaker: Information on Thomas K Whitaker  Zoom on Thomas K Whitaker  Would the Senator allow me, through the Chair, to make a comment? I attach great importance to showing no political bias in this House. I have on a previous occasion challenged the then Minister for Finance to whom he refers, Deputy Colley, in this House as being the one to begin this bad policy of deliberately incurring budget deficits. But I have had to excuse him from having done it on any significant scale in 1972-73. What I meant by saying that heavy deficit financing began in 1973-74 is that it took off into big numbers, rising to hundreds of millions of pounds, from that stage on.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator FitzGerald to continue. I hasten to point out that it is not in order to have this type of question and answer, but since the Senator gave way, it is all right on this occasion.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  Perhaps the Chair would develop reasons for any disorder in either my putting the question or in the Chair permitting Senator Whitaker to answer it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  It is not a Committee Stage debate, as you will appreciate, and Senator Whitaker had concluded his contribution, but nevertheless since you were agreeable to give way [708] to him the Chair allowed the clarification from Senator Whitaker.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  It was necessary for me to be informed as to whether my hearing was correct and I found it to be correct and that Senator Whitaker had in fact said 1973-74. I wish merely to point out, but obviously Senator Whitaker knew already, that in fact the breakthrough into the matter of borrowing for current deficits did not occur in 1973-74 but that it occurred in 1972-73. It was planned for as one figure and in fact it ended up as a smaller figure. The fact of the matter is that that was the year in which and that was the Government by whom the decision was made. I had not intended to open my remarks with any reference to the initiation of the financing of current budgets.

Mr. Mulcahy: Information on Noel William Mulcahy  Zoom on Noel William Mulcahy  It is not such a terrible thing, anyway.

Mr. Alexis Fitzgerald:  With the greatest respect to Senator Mulcahy I do think it would be helpful if he would just keep quiet and let us make our speeches without interruption as we keep quiet when he makes his speeches, which are frequent, without interruption, and I do not invite a reply from Senator Mulcahy.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Chair would be obliged if Senator FitzGerald would continue on the Appropriation Bill without interruption.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  I was dealing with an interruption to my speech on the Bill but I will resume in deference to the Chair and with joy in my heart. I had intended to begin my speech today by saying that I think the whole operation of parliamentary democracy is very seriously threatened, and threatened by the inability of Government to cope with economic problems. I suggest to the House that we ought to regard it as our conscientious duty to consider the whole operation of our party system. There is at the moment, but only because Senator Whitaker has just finished, a fairly good [709] number of Senators in the House. It is only because Senator Whitaker spoke, I would suggest, that we have the muster of Senators we have now. It is an impression I have formed — Senator Brugha is shaking his head in dissent — that we do not have as free debates in this place and even less so in the other place than we each of us have at our own parliamentary party meetings where there is open dissent, full disagreement and strong arguments for and against particular courses of action. The result of this is that instead of the Seanad which is debating the Appropriation Bill, 1980 making the important decision, the important decisions are made by small majorities in parties and a small majority may be of the ruling party determining what is the economic policy that is to be pursued by the Government. That is because as members of our parties we consider ourselves burdened by an obligation of loyalty to stand up here and make cases in purely party terms and on party lines in relation to matters of enormous importance to the future of this country.

Business suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  I do not want to get excessively biographical or autobiographical, but the kind of remarks I have been making during the course of this debate, where some of the financially progressive Senators on the other side are concerned, may be very unwelcome, One of the very important changes made in the organisation of the central financing of this country was made in 1949 when a significant segment of the current expenditure on houses, hospitals, educational establishments and land reclamation schemes was removed from the taxpayer, the then and the present payer of taxes, and was borrowed. I was present at the meeting of the Ministers in which that decision was made and mine was the only writing of an economic character that was before them when they reached their conclusions, although proper advice other than the kind of [710] advice I was able to give had been given to them.

In the light of what has been happening in the last decade, I have had to ask myself conscientiously from time to time whether I had done right in expressing the opinion I had expressed in 1949, But it was at least an opinion which is what would now be described as progressive financing. It is possible to argue that a good deal of the considerable economic development which took place following the economic development programme was made possible by that decision. A good deal of that development also was associated with two other matters to which I contributed. One was to hand the memorandum which was written by the then senior partner in Craig Gardner and Company, Accountants, to the then Taoiseach recommending the structure of the Industrial Development Authority which was established in 1949 and whose operations are reflected in the Appropriation Bill before the House. I also persuaded a reluctant Minister for Finance in 1956 to accept the proposals for relief in respect of exports. That is the economic background from which I come now to make my criticisms.

It is relevant in the judgment of affairs to decide whether any given political party have been right or wrong. It is a relevant public matter of a sort that a historian would come to write about 50 to 100 years later but a matter that academic-minded impartial people feel they cannot look at and refer to when these events are happening. A great deal of the responsibility for the situation in which the country is now has to be borne by the present Government party. I argue that because it is a relevant matter, but I will not infer from that any particularly demoniac conclusions as to the necessity to destroy that party. I would generally remind that party and members of my own party that there is a very big question in the public mind about all these parties as to whether we are adapted now to govern this country.

As I will be making the case that the present economic position, which has been outlined to the House already by [711] Senator Whitaker, is the particular responsibility of the Government now in power as a result of decisions made by the present and the previous Taoiseach when Leader of the Opposition and the present Tánaiste when he was seen as and was the second most important man in that party. In no part of my argument is there some curious disproportionate distribution of virtues between the parties in this House. As far as virtues and vices go, both parties are giving a fairly good sample of the state of morality in the country generally. One may be more intelligent in getting votes than the other; it may be a matter of adroitness, a measure more of success than a measure of virtue or vice. I will argue, however, that there is a right and a wrong in this matter, and the right lies in this issue with the line taken by the Taoiseach preceding the preceding Taoiseach, Deputy Cosgrave.

Necessarily one has to start with the general election. Nobody will take great offence if I do not have in my hand the election manifesto of the party that won that general election but the main propositions which procured the transfer of considerable support to the party now in Government were the propositions to abolish rates, to give a free £1,000 grant to purchasers of new houses and to abolish motor taxation. These three policy proposals probably got the mass of the votes but the intellectual opinion, that opinion which forms opinion, was enormously attracted by another element in the manifesto. That was the offer of a plan.

I admit straight away that the absence of a plan, of the kind which Fianna Fáil presented in that election, from the proposals of the then Government, was a serious deficiency in the operation of that Government. That plan told the people that they would deliberately borrow 13 per cent of gross national product in the year 1978, 10½ per cent in the year 1979 and 8 per cent in 1980. What was the stance which Deputy Cosgrave the Leader of the then Government took when faced with these proposals? We look now to what he said in six speeches, and I will take only two sentences or so [712] from each of the six speeches. His consistent theme began with a speech on 28 May, when the then Taoiseach said in response to the manifesto:

There are no easy ways, there are no soft options, we know the facts. What our opponents offer cannot be implemented ... if they reconstructed themselves and fitted themselves for Government again, I tell you this: they would be faced with the choice of breaking their promises or breaking their country.

The then Taoiseach ended on that day by saying:

The Opposition programme involves either significant foreign borrowing or weighty new taxation, neither appropriate at this stage.

In the event, we got significant foreign borrowing. On 30 May the then Taoiseach, with regard to the inflation which was being suffered by the western world at that time:

With costly provisions of social welfare by deliberate policy we have cushioned the weakest at least against its worst efforts.

Now that may be disputable as to an analysis of who are the weakest in society. Deputy Cosgrave then proceeded:

But cushions like everything else have to be paid for and out of the recovery now taking place for which there are plenty of indicators, if international confidence is to be maintained, the debts of the past must be paid for. We are determined, cost what it may, that that confidence will not be the victim as it has been in so many other countries of the price bidding promises of a degenerating democracy.

The Taoiseach then gave some figures irrelevant to my purposes and then ended by saying in regard to those figures:

That is the hopeful side of the truth. But there is a sobering side too. We cannot pile up new debts and mortgage our future for present, fast disappearing gain. We cannot damage business confidence. We cannot have our bread [713] and eat it. If nothing else came out of the election but a single message, all our efforts would have been worth it. That single message is: no conjuring with figures, no juggling with economic models, no blending of nicely buttered carrots can substitute for the disciplines of work and saving by the people and Government alike. Savings must be increased and put to work in the most productive activities, generating solid well-paid viable jobs.

On 3 June Deputy Cosgrave said:

Discharging my responsibilities to you as your elected head of Government I can tell you nothing less than the truth. There is no easy way before us in the future. We have not travelled an easy way to come to this point of the recovery. Only increased economic growth can secure for us the ability to pay for all those things near to the heart of Irishmen. We have so far on the whole maintained our competitiveness, but if our costs increase further by giving ourselves incomes beyond our resources our competitiveness will be weakened, our exports damaged, our industry will suffer, our ability to bring the recovery to its next phase, the phase of significant growth in employment, will be impaired.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Séamus Dolan  Zoom on Séamus Dolan  I regret having to interrupt the Senator but he should bear in mind that the debate should be confined mainly to the year covered by this Bill, that is 1980.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  I accept that and perhaps if the Chair will allow I will conclude by another quotation from the then Taoiseach, though I had others to give to the House. On 11 June that year, not very long before the vote, the then Taoiseach asked for a vote of confidence for the Government, and said that this would be a vote of confidence in the nation itself. He said:

It will show its own maturity in rejecting a tempting panacea of promises to be paid for out of an unsound proposal for borrowing now — taxing later.

[714] Now, with regard to the manifesto, it was proposed to borrow 13 per cent of gross national product for the year 1978 and that promise was kept. That was a promise of too much and too much was given. It was promised that in the year 1979 10½ per cent of GNP would be borrowed. The newly appointed Professor of Economics in University College, Dublin, Professor Brendan Walsh, wrote in The Irish Times on 29 September of this year, in colleagueship with Mr. Colm McCarthy, of the Economic and Social Research Institute, that the outturn for the year was not 10½ per cent but was 14 per cent, an overshooting of the mark by 3½ per cent. For 1980, the year to which the Bill before the House applies, it was proposed that 8 per cent should be borrowed. According to the writers to whom I have just referred the forecasted borrowing for this year is 14 per cent of gross national product, or an over-shooting of 6 per cent is forecast. It is not necessary to dispute these facts.

Crisis is a word which is used very frequently and very loosely. Crisis etymologically, means the time of judgment. I suppose it depends on one's philosophical approach, but one does not like to think that every moment of every day is a time of judgment in that sense. In general, it is reasonable to regard it as that moment when a decision is taken which leads either to recovery from a disease or to death but, there we are taking the metaphor of ill health. There have been two critical moments for the operations of democracy in relation to economic management in the last decade, critical decisions made essentially by different people. The first was the decision with regard to this plan, the decision which was made honestly by a party led by men who wanted to make the right decision, receiving advice from a man who thought he was giving the right advice. I refer to Deputy Lynch and to the present Tánaiste, Deputy Colley, receiving the advice of Dr. Martin O'Donoghue, not yet a Deputy. That plan which was presented with great success was accepted with good intentions.

[715] I came on a quotation recently which said that the moral suffering of Oedipus was called forth by the fact that he had unintentionally and unwittingly done something which was objectively terrible. This was given as a description of Aristotle's idea of the deepest cause of tragic suffering. I hope that does not sound too heavyweight. I genuinely believe it to be the case here. The full extent of the tragic suffering which will result from these decisions we have not yet seen. That will be experienced during the process of correction which cannot be painless. One, way or another, whether it is a correction of free men or a correction imposed by disorder from within, or imposed by subjection to without that terrible suffering will result from something which is unintentional and unwitting. The second decision was also critical. It was the decision, whenever made, for the present Taoiseach to depart from the policy which he announced to the nation in his broadcast of Wednesday, 9 January 1980 when he said:

But taking us all together, we have been living at a rate which is simply not justified by the amount of goods and services we are producing.

To make up the difference, we have been borrowing enormous amounts of money, borrowing at a rate which just cannot continue. A few simple figures will make this very clear.

At home, the Government's current income from taxes and all other sources in 1979 fell short of what was needed to pay the running costs of the State by about £520 million. To meet this and our capital programme, we had to borrow in 1979 over £1,000 million. That amount is equal to one-seventh of our entire national output for the year. This is just far too high a rate and cannot possible continue....

We will have to cut down on Government spending. The Government are taking far too much by way of taxes from individual members of the community. But even this amount is not enough to meet its commitments. We will just have to reorganise Government [716] spending so that we only undertake the things which we can afford....If we do, I am certain the improvement in our affairs by the end of 1980 will have been dramatic and decisive.

The Taoiseach's thinking as expressed on 9 January 1980 was still the operative presentation when the second Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance whom we have had since this Government took office. Deputy O'Kennedy, introduced his budget for 1980 which he did on 27 February. The Minister said that the net result was that the deficit on the current budget emerged at £353 million compared with an actual deficit of £522 million the year before, and that it was his firm intention to resist any attempts by Departments to exceed the limits of the allocations provided for their Estimates.

At the moment, the Dáil is processing Supplementary Estimates, which the Minister was determined to resist, and which, he said in a reply given to a parliamentary question put to him by Deputy L'Estrange on 9 December 1980, totalled £463 million. If my understanding of the budgetary position is correct, that indicates the precise extent to which he failed to resist such attempts, because some £200 million of that figure had, in fact, been provided for in his budget speech.

There is figure of the order of £275 million which represents a failure of will by the Government to govern, because he did declare his firm intention to resist any attempts by Departments to exceed the limits of the allocation provided for in their Estimates. He did not keep to that intention. It has failed in an economy subject to the Government's management. The Government either had not the will to maintain their policy, which, of course, was the right policy, or they ran for cover. They changed their minds and we now are in the position in which we are facing into a general election. We do not know if the general election is going to be before the date projected for the budget or after it. We do not know when the decision was made which has led to a situation where the Taoiseach has to look at the result of his assets, and [717] when the estimated borrowing requirement for the year 1980 — again my quotation is from Professor Walsh and Mr. McCarthy — the forecast outturn is £1,155 million borrowing. The previous year it had been less than that. This, the Taoiseach said, was far too high a rate and could not possibly continue. It continued at an accelerating rate.

The Minister for Finance at the time told us in his budget speech that a major constraint in the Government's room to manoeuvre this year has been the need to reduce the Exchequer borrowing requirement. Borrowing in 1979 at 13.7 per cent of gross national product — incidentally not the figure which is accepted by Professor Walsh and Mr. McCarthy, who say that the outturn was 14 per cent — was far in excess of that obtaining in most other member states of the EEC. Central Government borrowing in these countries was generally 3 to 4 per cent of GNP. Roughly half of Exchequer borrowing was to finance current expenditure. He said he was determined to ensure that the burden of the taxpayer for debts created to pay for current services would not continue to grow indefinitely and that we could not ask the taxpayer of tomorrow to pay for the services we require today; this would be socially unfair and economically irresponsible. It may be socially unfair and it may be economically irresponsible but it is precisely what happened. We do not know at the moment whether this policy, which at the beginning of 1980 was regarded by the Minister for Finance as socially unfair and economically irresponsible, and which in the words of the Taoiseach was far too high a rate of borrowing and could not possibly continue, and which policy was by these two gentlemen, is or is not the present policy of the Government.

Of the borrowing forecast of £1,155 million for this year, if my calculations are correct, we have borrowed between State-sponsored bodies and Government, something of the order of £700 million. The national debt for 1976 was £3,612 million and, on 16 December, in [718] response to a parliamentary question, the figure for this year was given as £7,500 million. Between 1976 and 1980 the national debt has more than doubled. If my figures are correct, and I have faced into difficulties that may have been more formidable for me than for Senator Whitaker in extracting them, the cost of interest in 1976 was £278 million and in respect of this calender year was £666 million. It does not take long for the cost of foreign borrowing to begin to pinch the taxpayer. What would we not wish the Government to do if they had the difference between the interest of 1976 and the interest payable this year — £400 million would be available. It would mean they would start their opening borrowing requirement £400 million less. It would mean that if they were to reach the right decisions they would have that much less to tax for, or to reduce in public expenditure.

I say, and you can imagine the great cheers I get, at private sessions of the Fine Gael Party, tax for and cut — these are the only ways. One does not do it all in one year. You need a plan for this, a plan which you only properly make when you are seated there at the desk deciding priorities.

I do not think that is so. I am not making it as an excuse because I hope it will be possible to say more before there is an election. Essentially, the final decisions can only be made when we are in possession of the current facts. Let us look at one sector which is regarded as if it were some extraordinary “untouchable”.

In answer to a parliamentary question on 10 December the Minister said the number of non-industrial civil servants — and I hope all civil servants will know I am not saying non-industrious — increased in that year in which we budgeted for a current deficit and to finance it by borrowing in 1972 the number increased from 39,364 to 54,000, or by more than one-third. The monetary cost increased from £88.9 million to £345.9 million for this year. According to the very basic type of arithmetic which I apply, the real income received by the generality of the civil service, taking in [719] the increased numbers of more than one-third, has doubled in that time. We either have or have not a Government. We either have the power in Leinster House and we retain it or we give it up. There were more H-Block protesters in Dáil Éireann yesterday when they came into the Assembly than there were Deputies, if my information is correct.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Séamus Dolan  Zoom on Séamus Dolan  The Senator should not reflect on the other House.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  It is in the same House, why you have to refer to it as the other House I cannot understand. Anyway, I take the Cathaoirleach's chiding as being right.

Fianna Fáil speakers do not speak their minds to Opposition speakers and Opposition speakers do not speak their minds to Fianna Fáil speakers because we are all afraid that one or other of us will lose votes. Was Deputy Cosgrave right or wrong when he said in 1977 that we cannot afford to abolish rates? Was he right or wrong? Look at what the two parties have done. It was part of the policy of the then Government going to the people to abolish rates over a period of years. That is what we did to each other because of each other and for fear of each other, out of desire to get votes for the sake of the credits that are involved in this kind of operation. Rates required to be reformed. Did we fail to reform them? They still need to be reformed and restored.

I speak for myself, not for the first time, on this issue. I am satisfied that taxes ought not to be imposed on people who cannot afford to pay them in respect of their accommodation. I do not think that rates should be exacted from tenants with insufficient income. There are, alas, far too many tenants, far too many occupier-owners with insufficient income, many of them employed. In many cases employed workers of the lower grades are worse off than the unemployed; they have no provision of an adequate character to supplement their needs and to support their children. I am not talking about that, I am talking about the average industrial worker and [720] the more than average industrial earner. I am talking about him and I am talking about myself and the other Senators.

I do not see why we should be getting free water supply, or have no means test when it was immoral to give us a free mother and child service in 1951. It became strangely moral to give free sewerage and water when the two main parties started bidding for votes with proposals to abolish rates. We failed to reform the valuation system, in particular in relation to land which, as everyone who did any study in the area knows perfectly well, is full of all sorts of anachronisms as a result of the productivity of a particular year — 1854, 1855 or 1856, I have forgotten which, when the Griffith valuation was taken. But it was our party system which threw away the revenue which is needed for proper purposes and which we are now borrowing because we have not got it. We threw away the revenue which people can afford to pay in respect of this kind of accommodation.

What has happened to the £1,000 free grant and the abolition of rates? The average cost of a new house between the first quarter of 1977 and the first quarter of 1980 more than doubled. What happened to the position of the people who were tenants who were not protected in their positions? What happened to them? Even in the case of protected tenants, it is the landlord who has been getting the increase. It is the landlord who got the free gift of these rates. It is the property owner, and I agree with what Senator Robinson said earlier with regard to taxation changes. What have we done about capital tax? I do not know if there is a great income factor here in terms of revenue aid, but there may be more than one thinks. I argue that there ought to be the restoration of capital taxes in a form which meets the sort of criticisms that were properly made of some of them and which I expressed to the enchanted ears of my Minister for Finance in this House. I know that the people who own newspapers will not like this. I know of one political commentator who will not like it at all. But we have to get the capital taxes right even if it is only to discover who are not paying their income tax, even [721] if it is only to discover schemes of avoidance that could be corrected in the light of the knowledge that would be available to the Revenue Commissioners.

I attach a great deal of importance to the matter of imparting to people a sense of justice, a sense of the desire of those who have political power to run the State fairly. I do not say that the Government party are doing this in any intentional way. Because we are here and the Fianna Fáil Party are over there, neither of us can get down to the business of agreeing on what is the proper way to deal with this. It must affect the kind of criticisms which people make of a liberal society and a free democracy. It is all very fine if you have the right kind of foothold; it is not so good if you have not and nobody is concerned. That is not true of this free society because a large number in this democracy are concerned but they do not find political machinery by which they could implement the decision.

I am not going to bore the House with illustrations of the other kind of changes that have been made which favoured high income tax payers, because any Senators who are at all interested in pursuing that will find I made an analysis to the best of my ability, and I do not think I have to correct anything in it, when speaking on the Finance Bill earlier this year. Is it understood that people with high incomes who get sick, apart from the cost of their premiums to the Voluntary Health Insurance Board, that many can and do recover the entire cost of their hospitalisation and doctors' fees from the Revenue Commissioners, paid for by whom? It is paid for by all sorts of people with very small incomes, or borrowed for. I looked after a case where we are getting tax back at the rate of £85,000 a year. That change was enacted since I was elected to the Seanad. It does not seem justified that Senators, having served a certain number of years and Deputies in the other House, after they have served a certain number of years, should together with the civil service, presumably after appropriate service also, get inflation proofed pensions.

Who could provide himself with an inflation proofed pension when he is no [722] longer active and no longer able to use elbow grease to produce the necessary retirement payment? Who pays for inflation? People have retired thinking they had done very well for themselves. They had saved with prudence over the years and responded to the patriotic appeal of the Government to subscribe to national loans instead of investing abroad. They are the people who own and put their savings into rent controlled houses.

Through a strange quirk of our system they find what they thought as a comfortable position for their old age or for their handicapped child is now curiously restricted. What does inflation do to saving? I am sorry that Senator Whitaker has spoken because he would be able to tell me. The Government's borrowing is less inflationary to the extent that domestic savings provided it with its needs. I am encouraged by the nods of approval. People are discouraged from saving because of inflation. The Minister of Finance has tried in a variety of ways to match the inflation rate. That is an additional cost on the Exchequer.

I do not want to be thought of as a latter day Scrooge. I am talking about the preservation of freedom, the improvement of human conditions, the financing for the future educational needs of a growing population, their encouragement to conduct dignified lives freely. I am thinking of the necessary steps, but not the only steps, to get things right. Within the context of any given level of expenditure, or level of taxation, or type of expenditure or type of taxation, there are always choices which can be stimulating or depressing. I do not regard it as appropriate now to develop these points which will arise at another time. I would not mind, even in circumstances of considerable stringency, taking a chunk of young people with appropriate education and intelligence, and — at considerable cost, perhaps — send them abroad to acquire skills which if they were possessed by people in this country would mean that we could employ many more people than we can at present because of the lack of talents.

However, I will not develop that theme. There are plenty of other ideas of [723] that kind. All of that I regard as red herring stuff really because what is important is to control expenditure, narrow the deficit, and eliminate — that must be the first operation — foreign borrowing. I think the Economic and Social Research Institute recommended three years. They have not the business of managing the people — we have — and, even if we were all united, maybe three years would be too short. We have, first of all, to make all our political commentators more economically literate than they are. Unless we start doing that we are not going to be able to get any messages across to the people. They must be made to understand that the people who are looking for cheers are not necessarily those who are looking to do the best for them. There are periods—I am in danger of falling into paternalism now — when a father must be unpopular with his children. Perhaps that is the political duty at this time. I would invoke the word I used to cry all too frequently when engaged in fisticuffs at school years ago —Pax.

It is very important for our people that, some way or other, Deputies and Senators find a way to lead the people to what must be agreed by the generality of those concerned enough to have studied it to be the right course of action.

Mr. Mulcahy: Information on Noel William Mulcahy  Zoom on Noel William Mulcahy  I had intended to get dug into a few specific items in the Appropriation Bill, 1980. But the tone of the debate has shifted somewhat my original intentions. I have decided now that I shall talk about fundamental policies relating to management of the economy which lead eventually to the figures that appear in the appropriations list. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that the people who are interested, who are trying to understand the dynamics of our economy, are present here and listening to each other. Perhaps Senator FitzGerald is getting some of the pax he is seeking.

I am certainly very concerned about the policies that the economists are recommending for us: are we doing the right thing? I have said before that I should like to distinguish between the accountants' [724] approach and the economists' approach. The noises that I hear and the articles from which Senator FitzGerald quoted by Walsh and McCarthy — and there were many others published around that time; in fact I contributed an article myself which I think spurred some of the comment — are all very pessimistic. They are all recommending tightening up, balancing, as the right policy. I cannot deny that this is a very attractive and simple way to look at it. But I wonder — and I said this recently in a speech I gave to the Institute of Engineers — is there a danger that we will grind the economy to a halt with our eyes firmly locked on the rear mirror of the car. Where do we want to get to? The management approach is to look forward, if you like, to write a scenario for the future which would appear to be acceptable in terms of the economic and social requirements of any society.

We have got to think about this way in the case of our country which is a small, open economy. We cannot fully determine what goes on in economic terms by virtue of our economic interventions. It is debatable what goes on outside as well. But what we do know is that we have a duty to take whatever steps are required to employ as fully as possible our growing population. The population of this country is growing at 1½ per cent per annum. I would remind Senators that the immigration rate in the decade just complete was running around 10,000 a year. People were rushing back to the country; in other words, in some way we were the victims of our own broadcasted success. Of course, we want them back. The kind of people we want back are those who have learned more skills abroad, who will bring back with them the potential for further growth through the use of these skills.

I went to the bother of putting a few figures together on this. My scenario for 1990 — clearly these figures could be way out and the record of the House will show, in 1990, that is if we are not wiped out by wars or whatever else before then, please God if I am still around I will have to live with them — is that we will have a population of 3.9 million. Our labour [725] force will be 1.3 million, of which agriculture will be 140,000 compared with 214,000 now. Manufacturing will be 340,000, compared with 234,000 now. Construction will be 100,000 compared with 85,000 now and the services sector will be 620,000 compared with 515,000 now. The unemployed will probably be — depending on the structure of unemployment at the time — something of the order of 100,000. I know it is more now but I am assuming we will have managed things better up to that point. The gross national product will be of the order of £34,000 million. The tax revenue will be about £10,000 million. We will be investing £10,000 million in that year and our external debt might very well be £6,000 million.

The question we have got to ask ourselves is: can we stand that external debt then? If we can, what debt can we stand between now and 1990 in the interests of ensuring that we get that 340,000 people healthily employed in the manufacturing sector that is as healthy as the recent report from the IDA shows that it is beginning to be? The prophets of doom and pedlars of pessimism we have to put up with are getting it all wrong. I think that my children in 1990 will not reprimand me for putting them in the position in which 3 per cent of their wages will have to be paid to service that debt. I might point out to Senator FitzGerald — I do this in a helpful way — that the NESC report — Economic and Social Policy 1980-83, Aims and Recommendations — would help him with all the figures. They have been handily put together. There are some 40 tables at the back which would give him most of the information he sought.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  If it was one table only I would have been able to read it, but 40 finished me.

Mr. Mulcahy: Information on Noel William Mulcahy  Zoom on Noel William Mulcahy  The ones for which the Senator is looking are there in a nice, handy fashion. They would show that the interest we have to pay to cover the existing debt on external borrowings is of the order of £140 million. It is not £400 million; that is, total borrowings and the [726] interest paid on them remains at home, and is recirculated in the economy. That is a different matter. The one we have to be afraid of is the foreign debt. I accept that. It stands at about £2,000 million at present but will rise to £6,000 million by 1990. Could we carry that level of external debt of £6,000 million in 1990 in the interests of getting our level of economic output up to the point at which we can fully employ our growing population? Given that we have a population of which younger members constitute the greatest proportion it is a big weight for the working population to carry. We have a bigger proportion than any other country in the EEC. This is our problem. Therefore, my answer is obviously that we invest heavily — and we have to invest something like 30 per cent of our GNP every year in productive investment where the capital goes into ventures which in themselves will produce the flows that are self-financing. We have to look at that. But we do it in those terms. We do not do it by saying that we will squeeze the life out of the economy, wring it out so that we will all be full of post-confessional enthusiasm when we can get back on the road again. It is not going to work that way. I do not think that our younger people will thank us for running it that way.

I looked at some of the things I said in a debate in the Seanad in May 1978, when we debated the White Paper on National Development, when the theme was the same. At this point I would change some of the things I said then. Basically, my theme was similar. I do not see that it is necessary to grind things to a halt. That is what worries me. The NESC recommendation is a very reasonable one, if I can find the relevant reference. One can see from the NESC report that the trade union group were unable to reach a consensus with the rest of the council. Basically what the council were saying was that over a period of some three years the current deficit has got to be brought back into balance. As a member of the council I agreed with that recommendation. I think it is the prudent approach. In the meantime, let us get on with private investment, more private investment, [727] if we can, as a means of taking the weight off the Exchequer of some of the infrastructural developments that will be required to support the economy at the level at which we are talking. I made this point yesterday on the Local Loans Fund Bill debate. I pointed out that, in the housing sector — which is responsible, as the Minister told us, over the years in terms of local loans for about £760 million of a total amount of £1,000 million — there are many ways in which private investors could be encouraged to finance a large proportion of the housing requirement. These schemes are in operation in other countries such as the United Kingdom.

I was very heartened to learn from the debate in the other House that the Taoiseach was saying today that an investment plan will be published early next year. One of the points he made is that that investment plan will contain schemes to allow of more private investment as a means of providing the infrastructure that we require. That is exactly the same theme I followed on this paper when I drew this scenario.

I was less than heartened to hear that when I had to leave the House after I had spoken somebody made some comments about Fianna Fáil people being involved in private firms and what influence that might have. I do not know. Certainly the suggestions I was making had nothing to do with whatever Fianna Fáil people might be involved in. They have to do with the principles of managing the economy. I would see this fundamental adjustment of the economic strategy as being the right one. I am certainly looking forward to the publication of this investment programme as being what I would see as being the right steps in maintaining the investment level required in the country, to lift the economy to that level of output that will employ our young people. I do not want to bore the House with long discussions on economic principles. But I would say that if we do not do that, if we do not produce that investment, 1990 will be a very sad time. If we have a country full of accountants running nice tight operations, with the ships full of people emigrating, then nobody [728] will thank them for that articulation of economic principles.

The biggest problem in trying to get our finances into a healthier shape is to be encountered in our incomes policy. Until such time as we can get — and the politicians have to get this across to the people — our income increases, wages and salaries, in line with the wage and salary increases of our colleague countries in the EEC then we will never be right. If it is the public service wages and salaries bill which is going to lead the economy, and have manufacturers borrowing and trying to adjust, then matters are made even worse. As I see it, it is not that borrowings are choking the life out of the economy. Rather is it that our investment policy has got to continue at the high level it has been at over the last few years, it has got to adjust so that more private investment will come into infrastructural expenditure and, on top of that and going hand in hand with it, a more realistic incomes policy.

Whatever one may say about the manifesto and about the advice given to various people, as Senator FitzGerald put it, I believe that the gross national product of this country is now, as a result of the steps taken over the last few years, at a level which has some hope of providing the employment for the employable group of our society. Therefore, we have had success in the last few years. I have no regrets. I certainly do not want to arrive at 1990 with a lot of regrets about bringing the economy to a halt because of the inability to understand the way that borrowings work and the way that economic managment should take place, not over 12 months, but over, say, five years and, in a broader way, over the decade. We have got to manage it over that period, not year by year.

It is probably one of the problems of our society and our democratic system that we must for all kinds of reasons — political as well as basic economic ones — take a year by year view. It would be nice if we could take five year views and so adjust our investment properly. We cannot do that. But that does not mean we should not talk about it. That does not mean that we should not draw scenarios [729] to ascertain the implications of our policies. Think of what the figures might be in 1990. I would remind the House that I am talking about £34,000 million GNP. I am talking about £10,000 million tax. I am talking about spending 3 per cent of the average wage to cover the interest costs on the external debt. Based on some assumptions — about which, I am sure various people, including Senator Whitaker, would argue with me — for that level of debt, on average, each member of the work force would have to carry responsibility for an interest payment of £500 at that time, in 1990. That may sound huge, but the average earnings in 1990 will be around £20,000 so that the £500 will comprise about 2½ per cent. At present the interest on foreign investment is £150 and the average earnings now are about £4,800, leaving an interest charge of 3.1 per cent. What parent here would deny his ten-year-old children the opportunity to work in 1990 because of a 2½ per cent charge?

Professor Murphy: Information on Ciaran P. Murphy  Zoom on Ciaran P. Murphy  I want to make a contribution on certain specific topics and I will try to be as brief as I can. I am content to leave the discussion of the economy in such capable hands as those of Senator Mulcahy, Senator FitzGerald, et al. Nor on this occasion do I propose to discuss educational issues since, in one way or another, we have been dealing with a number of Bills concerning education and we are promised more of the same in the near future. But I want to use education as a lead-in to the first topic that concerns me here: that I share the resentment of all those people who have been active in the combat poverty scheme nationwide and who are now faced with an unexplained withdrawal of Government support from this scheme. Senators will have seen the remarks, the spirited and passionate criticisms of Sister Stanislaus on this issue in yesterday's papers. In the city of Cork also there is very deep concern, as was indicated only last Saturday night at a meeting in Connolly Hall, because the combat poverty scheme in Cork was really opening up new territory. Perhaps this is why, fundamentally, the Government are not interested in the [730] continuation of this scheme. Perhaps it is, in the deepest sense, revolutionary. What is very interesting about this is — and I am sure it will gladden the heart of Senator Alexis FitzGerald — that the presence of numerous young members of the legal profession in that scheme is especially laudable. Indeed, there was a time when I did criticise that profession as being an especially privileged and self-perpetuating one. However, I think it is beginning to develop a real social conscience, and all credit to it. These young lawyers were particularly concerned about the cessation of the combat poverty scheme. They point out that it takes a long time before the first fruits of such a pilot scheme can be seen. Poverty, by definition, is deeply rooted in our society. There is no facile analysis of it overnight; that is not possible. So progress is slow and difficult. Of course, such schemes begin to root out the opposition of those who have a vested interest in maintaining poverty. There is no doubt that some of that happened in Cork as well. I say that this is connected basically with education because to talk about equality of opportunity——

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  I do not want to interrupt the Senator, but I should be particularly interested if Senator Murphy could develop his statement. Who has a vested interest in maintaining poverty? It may well be so.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Senator Murphy should be allowed to continue without interruption.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Information on Alexis Fitzgerald  Zoom on Alexis Fitzgerald  I do not mean to interrupt.

Professor Murphy: Information on Ciaran P. Murphy  Zoom on Ciaran P. Murphy  I might give Senator FitzGerald some of the basic facts of life later on, but please, not while I am making my contribution. I am making the point that education is basic to the rooting out of poverty, the eradication of poverty. It is really starting at the wrong end of it to emphasise the need for all children to get a fair crack at third level education. It seems to me that the real chance of equal opportunity in education [731] begins, in fact, in the reformation and transformation of Churchfield, Gurranebraher, and Ballyfermot and, in a small way, this is what the combat poverty scheme was beginning to do.

What annoys them as well as the cessation of the scheme is the almost total silence on the part of the Government in attempting to explain this extraordinary reversal of Government policy. As well, it is a betrayal of a fundamental injunction in the Constitution. The Constitution enjoins on Governments the promotion of the common good and the attainment of the dignity and the freedom of the individual. The combat poverty scheme was imaginative and crusading and it excited the best talents and motivation in social workers. It is a shame to see this reversal of Government policy.

The young members of the legal profession are also concerned about the obvious failure of the free legal aid scheme in its operation to date and, indeed, in a dignified protest outside this House in recent days, young barristers and solicitors demonstrated their concern that the free legal aid scheme has not been operating satisfactorily. Excessive bureaucracy, they say, a means test set almost below subsistence level, combined with compulsory contributions set at totally unrealistic rates, the many important areas of law excluded from the scheme, and the impossibility of serving the whole State from seven centres in towns. My recollection is that quite a number of us here in Seanad Éireann anticipated these defects in the scheme in a discussion we had some months ago, or perhaps a year or so ago. Once again the commitment of the Government to justice in our society is seriously questioned. Perhaps it is that such a sea change has taken place in the Fianna Fáil Party over the past 50 years that we should not be too surprised.

When I was a very small boy one of my first memories is my father's contributions, indeed the labourer's mite it might be said, to the annual Fianna Fáil collection and his obvious sincere belief that that party were committed to social justice. There was not very much to share [732] out in the thirties. There was not much of a national cake in the thirties but fair play to Fianna Fáil in the 1930s, they tried to share out the national cake. Alas, they lost that crusading fervour long since. So perhaps we should not be surprised at the Government of such a changed party acting in this manner. After all, why should we be surprised at this Government's lack of commitment to poverty? Are they not a multi-millionaire Government? Are they not the wealthiest Government in the history of the State?

Maintaining law and the Department of Justice as some kind of relevant thread in my contribution, I want to refer briefly to an issue that has surfaced recently. I hope it is not sub judice. The principle is certainly not sub judice. The issue of the death penalty has been occupying the public mind again in recent months. I want to go on record here as saying that I share the view of those who say that execution, hanging in particular, is barbarism and that the State cannot atone for murder by committing murder itself.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Chair would like to point out to the Senator that it is not in order to advocate legislation or, indeed, to criticise legislation already enacted. The debate on the Appropriation Bill gives the House an opportunity to discuss the administration and expenditure of all Government Departments in 1980. The scope is absolutely wide there and I am sure the Senator will be able to fit his views into it.

Professor Murphy: Information on Ciaran P. Murphy  Zoom on Ciaran P. Murphy  In fact the Senator has already finished that irrelevant part of his contribution.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Good.

Professor Murphy: Information on Ciaran P. Murphy  Zoom on Ciaran P. Murphy  Under the heading of Foreign Affairs we have discussed here recently matters such as Third World deprivation, the Brandt Report and associated matters. I want to express my gratification that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has given a very good impression in recent months of really being concerned, and seriously concerned, about [733] the problem of disarmament. I congratulate him on that as I do, indeed, our new ambassador in the United Nations who has restored to Irish participation at the United Nations something of the independence which was formerly ours but which has, alas, long since been subsumed in a so-called harmonising of foreign policy with the EEC.

At the same time, there is an opportunity for our Ministers, and our civil servants perhaps, to do much more in the line of promoting diasarmament. There are all kinds of obvious fora where this cause must be promoted. This is an issue which is deeply associated with Third World poverty and deprivation. The colossal expenditure on armaments is not simply the exercise of the super powers, but of many small countries who can ill afford to go in for this kind of activity. In the various councils—and I use the word in its general sense — of the EEC, there should be plenty of opportunities for our Ministers to encourage our EEC partners, for example, to commit themselves to disarmament, instead of which we have a scandalous and cynical and profitable explotation of the arms industry by countries like France particularly. It seems to me that in a real Community, talking to our partners, as we are pleased to call them, we could hope to do something to promote disarmament.

By the same token, I must again express my concern at the new rumblings, “rumblings” is perhaps the mot juste, about the prospect of this State's possible involvement in a military alliance. A parting shot was fired from Brussels in recent months by the now retiring Commissioner. He suggested that a debate should commence on neutrality. What he really meant was that we should consider geting involved in a military alliance. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the other day in the Dáil, repeated a line which goes back to the President, Dr. Hillery, when he was in Government, and before him to the late Séan Lemass, namely, that we are not a member of a military alliance; there is no pressure upon us to become a member of NATO; but, if the requirements of the European good, so [734] to speak, demand it, then we will not be slow in playing our part.

I must say there is a large body of people in this country who totally reject, under any circumstances, our membership of a military pact and I fully support them. It is not a form of withdrawal from reality or burying one's head in the sand. It is in every possible way this country's best and most prudent policy to pursue its neutrality in a positive sense of encouraging peace in the world and of being seen to be setting an example. How can we abandon our neutrality and still hope to retain the confidence of Third World countries? It may well be that one of the few bridges we can build to Northern Unionists is the firm maintenance of this policy, a firm rejection of the possible placing of nuclear missiles in Northern Ireland. The retiring Commissioner suggested that somehow we would be more acceptable to Northern Unionists if we joined a military alliance. There is much more reason for supposing the reverse.

I should like to refer Senators, as I have been referring other people, to the admirable argument upholding neutrality made by Deputy Richie Ryan in Dáil Éireann, as reported in Volume 314 of the Official Report of 31 May 1979, at columns 1943 to 1945. In a debate on the Estimate for the Department of Foreign Affairs, about a month or so before the direct elections to the European Community, Deputy Ryan came down absolutely firmly on the side of non-military alliance, joining no military alliance in any circumstances whatsoever. That was a very courageous and independent statement from a man who was to be a successful candidate in the direct elections. I only hope it represents the policy of his party. I wish I could be sure that it represented the policy of the Government.

One of the points he made — and it is a very good point — is that if we are really interested in a real Europe being created, not simply nine or ten states in a part of Europe, if we are really interested in a real Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, we still have that kind of role to play. Our neutrality will enhance whatever faint possibility there is of widening [735] the Community into a much more comprehensive association.

In recent months the time of the Taoiseach, the Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice, other Departments and, indeed, our Army and Garda and security forces, has been taken up considerably with Anglo-Irish relations and associated matters. I will not go into the conflicting versions of what happened or what was said in Dublin Castle very recently. I do not think it is over-cynical to bear in mind that any good politican — and the Taoiseach's skilful operation in this respect makes his predecessor seem like a blunderer; and that is saying something — will milk such an occasion for all it is worth, especially with a view to maximising its propaganda in a forthcoming general election. That is quite understandable.

Mrs. Thatcher doubtless has her own reasons for maintaining an extraordinarily taciturn approach to the whole matter. I do not think that, at the end of the day, it matters all that much. It is naive and it is self-deception, if not cynicism, for a Government to maintain that the solution of this country's problems lies somehow in an agreement between the two sovereign Governments. Of course, Britain is responsible both in the long-term and in the short-term for Partition, and for much of the troubles that surround that division. Of course action by Britain will be necessary in the heel of the hunt to initiate legal changes. All that is perfectly true. But that does not mean that somehow a magic formula will be found by the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister at one of their meetings.

May I quote briefly from a speech by a Government Minister which illustrates this kind of naivete? Deputy Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, Minister for the Gaeltacht, addressing members of the Galway Association at their annual dinner in London — the source of the report is the Sunday Independent 14 December 1980 — said:

We believe it is essential to move away from proposals in a Northern Ireland context alone.

[736] That is a very dubious proposition. Somehow ignore the North itself, and let us get talking between Dublin and London. Then she went on:

By building on the unique relationship between Britain and Ireland we can reach a lasting settlement of this tragic question.

Did anyone ask the Minister how or why? What does that mean? When will the magic moment be reached? No. I suggest that if it was easy to solve it by top level talks it would have been solved long since, even before the foundation of the State. Most historians would now agree that even Lloyd George, manipulator and Welsh wizard, and so, which nationalist tradition points him out to be, would have favoured Irish unity. Certainly he wanted a subordinate Ireland, and strict limitations on Ireland's military and political independence. So did all British Prime Ministers. It would have suited British Governments far better, right through from Gladstone to Lloyd George, to have a peaceful united but, of course from their point of view, subordinate Ireland.

That was impossible of achievement simply because in every chance that Northern Unionists have had to demonstrate their attitude to anything like a United Ireland, from the election of 1886 onwards, they demonstrated massively their hostility to Home Rule and afterwards to participation in an independent State. That is where the problem is, and not in spectacular summits, no matter what good election material they make. I am pleased that there are these summits. They are obviously a good thing, and it is good to see Anglo-Irish relations on an excellent footing.

I am also amused by the delicious irony of the situation that the last Taoiseach was pushed because he could not stand up to the Brits. The present Taoiseach was pushed in because of his alleged toughness with the Brits, and now he has the problem of selling to some of the very people who put him in the idea that the most important thing is this unique relationship [737] between Britain and Ireland. Apparently, he has no difficulty whatsoever in selling it, except to a very few with whom he will have to deal sooner or later. There are people in the party who imagine that, like Joan of Arc, they have private revelations. They hear voices, in fact. Such people are heretics and have always been a threat to their churches and, so sooner or later, our Joans of Arc will have to be dealt with as well.

I believe in the last analysis that Britain will not solve the basic problem. Nor do I believe as a historian and as a politician that Partition is the cause of the trouble. It has become quite fashionable recently to say this. In speech after speech by certain politicians Partition is the cause. Partition, of course, has created new problems and that actual partition in 1920, which was copperfastened in 1925 by the Boundary Commission, has created particular injustices and problems, because it was an unjust and harsh partition. That is not to say that there was not a need for some expedient of that kind in 1920, because nobody could think of anything else. Partition is not the cause. It is not again the fundamental or primary cause. It is simply the short-term British expedient to deal with this problem. These are the unpalatable facts to which we are not facing up. A Member of this House who, because he is not present shall be nameless, made a speech in Fermoy earlier this year — oh Liam Lynch, what sins are committed in thy name? — in which he referred to the nub of the problem as having to do with an intransigent few. Alas, that is the most deceptive unction to lay to our souls, that the only thing that is preventing a solution is an intransigent few. The few amount to at least a million.

Strange as it may seem after 11 years, we still lack a Fianna Fáil policy on Northern Ireland. I remember about two years ago that Senator Seamus Brennan started angrily and said “We have a policy”. The policy, on closer questioning, simply turned out to be negative preconditions which everyone but a lunatic would accept anyway. In other words, the cliche: unity by peaceful means. That is not a policy. That is an essential element [738] of sanity. Beyond that, no policy. Where is the Fianna Fáil Party document on the North that was promised? I did not hear any reference to it. Why should some initiative not be made from Dublin? There has been no reference to that.

When the Taoiseach assumed office he said — and he was echoed by the Minister for Foreign affairs — that the Northern Unionists would be astonished at how generous we would be. OK, how generous are you going to be? Are you going to wait for a bargaining session? That is not the way to conduct reconciliation and unity with the brothers and sisters you want to bring into your house. My shrewd suspicion is that there is nothing behind that statement whatsoever. A year previously if Northern Unionists had been taking any interest they would have been astonished at how ungenerous we were. The same Taoiseach, who was then Minister for Health, pushed through this House a frankly denominational Family Planning Bill. That does not look to me like an indication of future generosity.

Might I commend in this House the activities of the body known as Co-operation North, of which I believe one of our distinguished Senators is a member, in concentrating on areas of common ground, of mutual benefit North and South, while strictly avoiding any political context whatsoever? I believe Cooperation North is promoting the real unity, the only unity that matters in this island. Territorial unity is pretty well down in my list. I applaud the work of Co-operation North.

Modesty should prevent me from mentioning that I am a member of a similar body called Working Group on Cultural Streams. I say modesty should, but I have been warned by more experienced Members that modesty has no place in a politician's armoury. This Working Group on Cultural Streams hopes to show each other's culture one to the other, to say to interested Northern Protestants; “Do you want to see the Dingle Peninsula? I mean to see it in its rich, archaeological and literary heritage, no strings attached, and we will make sure that you will not be insulted.” But can we make sure that they will not be insulted by stupid slogans [739] painted on gable walls? The idea is to emphasise at a voluntary level those things which we share in common, and which should not excite animosity.

One of these strangely enough is the Irish language. I say “strangely enough” because there is a kind of unthinking coupling of the term Gaelic with Catholic, even on the lips of such experienced commentators as people like Deputy Dr. Garrett FitzGerald and Conor Cruise-O'Brien. The assumption there is — and it is a wrong assumption in my view — that the Northern Protestants find the Irish language and the Irish culture as objectionable as what they believe to be Catholic power, and so you couple Gaelic and Catholic together as twin bogies of the Northern Protestant. I believe that if the Irish language and its associated culture is distasteful to Northern Protestants it is only because it has an accidental association, if you like, with the kind of State we allowed to develop here. If the Irish language could be disentangled from its political and nationalist context it would serve, or what is left of it would serve, as a binding force for people interested in the genuine cultural heritage of this island. I was greatly heartened to hear from a fellow member of this Working Group on Cultural Streams that, in late 1980, in the city of Belfast, after 11 or 12 years of trouble and polarisation, there are still Protestants from East Belfast, a handful maybe, coming in to Irish language classes in the “Open College” in Belfast. That is a significant pointer to what might be done. On assuming office the Taoiseach said it would be his objective to promote everything which unites us as Irish people and to reject everything which divides us. A totally admirable sentiment. I only wish he had put it into practice.

I also have to refer — and it is painful for me to do so — to the agitation which has again occupied the time and money of this State in terms of security and Government attention and which, therefore, a Leas-Chathaoirleach, must be relevant, that is, the H-Block campaign. Yesterday, indeed, we had a forceful example of the strategy and methods of [740] the people who pursue this campaign when they violated the precincts of this House, an action which should not surprise anyone with a knowledge of recent Irish history, because the movement they represent never had anything but contempt for Parliament and its institutions.

If the Provisional IRA are allowed to complete their work in the North, make no doubt about it, the next target on the list is us — this State and its institutions. The contempt of the military mind for the politician in Ireland goes back to the Fenians and can be traced right down along the line. The very phrases that the Provisionals use about politicians were used by the Fenians about moderate constitutional nationalists back in the 1860s.

What I have to say is this, and it can be said quite simply, though it is painful to say it but I have to go on record as saying it: the essence of the issue is that those who support the campaign for political status for the H-Block prisoners are supporting the grisly and murderous compaign of the Provisional IRA. The cry of “political status” is a desperate attempt to give prestige and respectability retrospectively as well as everything else to the Provisional IRA campaign. Let us remind ourselves that the Provisional campaign is obscene thought not so much because of the methods it uses, because it seems to me always to be an irrelevance to stress the violence factor in the Provisional campaign. The obscenity is that the Provisional campaign is a war against a million Irish men and women of a different tradition, a different allegiance, a different religion: the Provisional campaign is a total contradiction of the true republican tradition which stretches from the United Irishmen through the Young Irelanders down to some of the best men in the War of Independence but, alas, at that stage only some.

This represents the real heinous nature of the Provisional campaign and I say again that talk of humanitarian reasons — it is difficult to say these things today particularly — seems to me to be completely irrelevant, another form of self-deception. I can only say that I regret that so many well-thinking and well-motivated [741] people have been misled by this campaign — eminent men of letters, churchmen, newspaper editors. Let me say in the case of the last two groups that those newspaper editors and churchmen who predict doom will have a partial responsibility for that doom if it materialises. I must express my regret, for example, that my good friends in the Irish Sovereignty Movement who care for so much that I care for in this country, for its independence, its neutrality, have been misled too. I regret deeply that they have lent themselves unwittingly to the nefarious strategy of the Provisional IRA.

Sooner or later we will have to put the issues of Northern Ireland to the people. There has not been a single election in which Northern Ireland has been an issue. It is easy enough to be wise after the event and to say that the people voted in a particular way in 1977 because of national issues but there has not been a single campaign in which the issues of Northern Ireland, of unity — I am talking about recent years — were put to the people as election issues. I suggest it is time that this were done because you can have all the survey polls you like and we can all take soundings on the ground but if this is the most pressing problem in the country, and the Taoiseach says it is and I believe it is, then surely the people must be consulted about it and make up their minds about it.

Mr. Lambert: Information on C Gordon Lambert  Zoom on C Gordon Lambert  Whatever the arguments about the latest NESC report its main theme is no different from what is being reported in the Press and on radio and television, that is, that we cannot afford to go on spending more than we have earned. We must squander less and produce more. It has been quite obvious in recent years that successive pay agreements have greatly fuelled inflation and led to job losses, closures and redundancies in many areas. It is easy to blame the Government but we are all to blame for not learning this lesson fast enough, employers, unions and employees in both the public and private sectors.

What is worrying is the rise in public sector deficit through the seventies which has been alarming and the inability of [742] successive Governments to curb the voracious appetite in the public sector for money, has given rise to a new phenomenon. Public deficits have acquired a life of their own. Each year they appear larger and larger and seem to become inflexible to the will of governments. The size of these deficits must put an end once and for all to the myth that public enterprise succeeds where private enterprise fails, or that there is any distinction between the accounting phrases, profit and loss and surplus, or deficit. It has also become obvious that this situation cannot continue over a time for if deficits, borrowing and the indedbteness of the public sector are allowed to continue expanding at the rate that they were in the seventies, they will soon envelop all resources leaving nothing at all to the private productive wealth-creating sector.

The trend must be arrested. I know that the Taoiseach is conscious of this and has said quite frequently that the community must live within their means and that it is Government policy to bring the situation under control. The initiative must come from ourselves and with the support of all parties. No one can doubt that dealing with the problem is a complex one where administrative, political and economic strands are all intermeshed. The acceptance that there is no simple solution does not mean just leaving things alone. Just as in private enterprise, however difficult things are, one must plan for the future despite the uncertainty that it holds. I would argue that in the realm of economic policy we have for far too iong been prisoners of the past.

Immediate ad hoc decisions are sought for short-term problems and tinkering with the existing mechanisms rather than asking if the mechanism is right or is it at fault. This, as other Senators have said, superimposes bureaucracy in an everforming rising mountain. The ordinary man in the street becomes completely bewildered and is alienated as to what the public sector is all about. We have a new Minister for Finance and I would hope that he would bring a new approach to the budget by streamlining the presentation of the budget so that it corre- [743] sponds with modern conditions, just as we have to do in private enterprise. A straightforward division between current and capital budgets with no overlapping would be a worthwhile innovation.

With regard to the substance of public policy there are three areas to which I would like to refer. These are the current budget, the public sector pay and the capital budget. On the current side I would agree with those in Government who planned that the deficit must be phased out over a short period of years. Nothing can be more wasteful than going on borrowing in the way we have been borrowing, particularly from foreign sources. This is an extravagant way of throwing money down the drain. However, phasing out the current deficit is not by itself sufficient. The way it is achieved is crucial. I know that everyone in the House is concerned that those who cannot help themselves should be sufficiently provided for. Therefore one has to be aware of the cutting back in public expenditure in order to help those who are poorest.

Senator Robinson has covered many aspects of this problem, admittedly to her own point of view, but there are certain truths in what she said. For instance, she said that we must have another look at how State subsidies are granted and whether there are people who can afford to do without some of these subsidies. Provided taxation is equitable there is no case for many of those earning adequate incomes to draw scarce State resources as they are doing at present. Further study of the transfer of resources is badly needed.

The other large element of public spending is public sector pay. In recent years this has increased by a vast amount as public servants have negotiated their own special pay increases, in addition to increases laid down by the series of national pay agreements. Not only does this swell the Government current spending, but it has led to a distortion of differentials and relativities between public and private sectors. In this period of recession it is timely to ask whether there should be a different set of arrangements governing the public sector pay, given [744] the undisputed job security and indexed-related pensions. Once pay arrangements have been settled in the open trading conditions in the Irish economy, then the pay norm should be agreed by the public sector and a formula found to deduct a certain percentage for the job security and the increase in the indexation of pensions which every increase in public service pay brings with it. It would be interesting in studying this to compare in recent years the job losses in private enterprise and those in the public enterprise. In other words security and indexed pensions should be taken into account as a percentage in arriving at the increases in the public sector in the future. It would be impossible for private enterprise which must work in accordance with commercial standards, to fund the type of index pensions which are now committed by the Government to the public sector. These go on increasing with every pay agreement.

With regard to capital spending, most businessmen would believe that too glib a distinction is drawn between capital and current spending by Government. While it is true to say that current deficits represent immediate consumption, capital spending depends on how the capital is spent and what return it yields. We have to try to find how these two things shine, whether the Government must provide services which the private sectors cannot provide such as defence, gardaí, public lighting and so on, but there are other cases where perhaps the private sector could join with the public sector. They have offered to do so. There is a case for interpolating a new type of co-operation between State-sponsored bodies and pure private enterprise. Such corporations could be jointly financed by the State and private enterprise but they would operate on a purely commercial criteria and would have boards responsible to their shareholders.

Listening to the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism speaking on the Film Board, I think what he has in mind is that once the Film Board start earning a revolving finance then it could be opened up to private enterprise and both the Government and private enterprise [745] could take a share in the equity. This is what is needed to enhance the supply side of the economy to make more rapid growth possible while at the same time providing private investment funds with new opportunities. I do not wish in any way to diminish the contribution which State bodies have made to the economic development of this country. But there is definite room for improvement particularly in undertaking new capital projects. When I was in the ESB there was much improvement in the communication with the Government on the planning for future projects and also in informing them of the escalating costs in relation to the various projects. The recent losses by the various State bodies would seem to indicate a need for a new and more rigorous survey of their reporting systems and detailed cost increases. The reasons for cost increases should be detailed and the boards should be given more precise terms in which to operate. There have been grey areas with many of the State bodies for far too long. For instance, if a State body is to provide a social service, then they should be regarded by the Exchequer as a social service and subvented in that way. In the other areas normal criteria should apply. Where a State-sponsored body is performing a social role, the social benefits anticipated should be detailed in cost-related terms. Too many excuses in the past have been levied to convince the Government that the State bodies are different from the private enterprise operation. The excuses are used to say that they do not have to perform or operate quite so efficiently and successfully. Only when commercial criteria are brought to bear on the State sector will enterprise be put back into public enterprises.

Mr. Staunton: Information on Myles Staunton  Zoom on Myles Staunton  I should like to take up particularly where Senator Mulcahy finished. To an extent he dealt with comments made by Senator FitzGerald in his speech on the economy and the position as far as the Government are concerned. It seems to me that the thrust of Senator Mulcahy's speech was that the commentators are all pessimistic these days, that they are possibly getting it wrong, that [746] the prophets of doom are getting it wrong, that the people we have been listening to in the ESRI and the economic commentators writing for national journals and national newspapers are out of tune with the reality, and that the economy as being managed by the present Government is in good shape. That is much too facile in its approach. It is unacceptable. It seems to be an attempt to paint black white — to suggest that these commentators are wrong. What we can relate — I will not say policies — but present operations to — is even the guideline set by the present Government, the guideline set by Deputy Colley as Minister for Finance, the guidelines set in certain areas by the manifesto prior to the last general election and the guidelines set by the Taoiseach when he assumed office in January of this year.

Senator Mulcahy, dealing with matters such as the extent of the national debt of this country and speaking about the nineties in his final note seemed to suggest that parents should make certain sacrifices when the price for that sacrifice would be a job for their child in ten years' time and when the contribution by that child in ten years' time would merely be a 2½ per cent charge on his salary in 1990 terms to pay for his proportion of the national debt. That is fictitious because underlying what he says is a presumption, and it has to be hailed as a presumption, that the policy of a Government with a massive lack of income constraint, with the inadequacy of an incomes policy where inflation is rife, with a proportion of national debt which is out of all proportion to any developed country in Europe, is of itself expansionist — expansionist in terms of providing employment. That is completely fallacious. I do not think we dealt adequately with the inherent evils of inflation. What does inflation mean? It is a word, possibly misunderstood by many people, but at the end of the day it means inflation running at nearly 20 per cent, a situation which makes this country particularly uncompetitive, uncompetitive in the area of agriculture, in terms of industry, including the tourist industry, making [747] this country much more expensive to visit than it might otherwise be. It is utterly presumptuous and wrong to imply that this extent of borrowing for short-term gain will ensure in 1990 that our children will have jobs.

It is not just a question of the commentators being pessimistic. Of course, the commentators are all pessimistic. Looking at the normal barometers of any economy, they have to be utterly pessimistic at this time. It is not just a question of them being pessimistic. There must be a reason for pessimism within Government circles because the targets set out by the Government are by no means being achieved. There is a dramatic short-fall. The level of borrowing as a percentage of our gross national product has been rising. In difficult circumstances it would have had to rise to a certain extent, but looking on the borrowing requirement as a proportion of GNP against a background where in the average Western European country the figure averages something between 3 and 4 per cent, we are talking about something in the order of 14 per cent. If this is a debate to an extent on the Government's handling of this country let us look at their manifesto of 1977. The target for 1978 was to be 13 per cent of GNP. For 1979 there was to be a reduction to 10½ per cent of GNP, while the target for 1980 was for a further reduction to 8 per cent of GNP. The out-turn was a figure of 14 per cent in 1979. The figure is the same for 1980; and for 1981, if there is no change by way of taxation rates or real expenditure levels, the estimated borrowing is of the order of about £1,500 million or approximately 15 per cent of GNP. This means that we are wildly out of line with the very targets set by the Government in the manifesto. There are speeches to which I could refer, by Deputy Colley initially as Minister for Finance, in the Dáil, referring the totally unacceptably high level of this borrowing at that time and of his determination as Minister to have it reduced.

After the change in the leadership of the Government early this year, people, especially in the business community, [748] seemed to assume that since the Taoiseach had a certain background in the business community, there might be a greater reality brought to bear on matters such as public finances and matters to do with borrowing levels. We had the Taoiseach making his speech in RTE and committing himself to correcting what he saw as the fault in this policy where he spoke of the £520 million short-fall, where he spoke of the fact that in 1979 there had been the necessity to borrow over £1,000 million, where he spoke of the fact that this was just far too high and could not continue, that we would have to cut spending, that we could only live within our means. We are in December 1980 having had a year of the new Taoiseach in office and we have no indication whatever that there has been any change of policy on the economic front which is lessening to any degree the colossal expenditure in the public sector, lessening to any degree State borrowing both outside the country and within it. We have had no indication of an incomes policy whereby this State is seen to grapple with the greatest evil of the modern world and that is inflation. The recent national understanding, in common with parts of the budget this year, will fuel inflation again and help to create an environment in which the people in the nineties who according to Senator Mulcahy will be the beneficiaries, will in fact be robbed again. The present policies will diminish greatly the prospects for our children in future genertations.

Apart from the question of borrowing, the external borrowing level for 1980 is estimated at about £500 million by Government but it is not just as narrow as that because in addition we have direct borrowing outside this country by semi-State bodies to the tune of something over £200 million. This brings borrowing outside this country, according to the 1980 estimate, between Government and semi-State bodies, to about £700 million. We have a balance of payments deficit which was estimated by some economist in a newspaper article last August to run at £600 million. There is confirmation in one of today's national papers that this will be the level. We have borrowing [749] within this country referred to in today's national press. The extent of Government borrowing from the Irish banks in the eight months ended October has increased by over £400 million to a sum of over £1,500 million. That is an increase of 37 per cent.

This is the operation of the economy and the management of the capital and current accounts by a Government exhorting the private sector to play their role in developing the country. This increased borrowing from the Irish banks is in contrast to the directives being given on broad Government guidelines to the associated banks to limit their lending to the private sector to 13 per cent increases. The leadership being given by the Government is simply to increase by 37 per cent what they are taking out of the banking system. In normal circumstances this would have led to the greatest credit squeeze of all time on the private sector. This year the freak circumstances of the incredibly poor shape business is in, where people are running into a great many difficulties, is the only reason the private sector are not being squeezed by the banking system. I am not just labelling the present Government with all of this. There is a lesser demand by the private sector because of the enormous downturn in trade.

Senator Mulcahy remarked about commentators being pessimistic and the danger that we will grind the economy to a halt if we look backwards. How on earth could we attempt to be other than totally pessimistic when we look at all the facts before us. We cannot attempt to lift the gloom and suggest that this policy we are drifting through is not just in contrast with the views of objectives commentators but with the stated objectives of the Government party, past Ministers for Finance and the stated objectives of the present Taoiseach. We are talking about a propaganda operation in which we are all expected in future to believe that black is white, that red is grey or that a car is a donkey. It is as simple as this. We have not yet reached the stage here of not seeing things absolutely straight and as we should see them.

Elements in the budget helped to fuel [750] inflation as well. The increases in indirect taxation and the abolition of food subsidies were a grave mistake. One might on philosophical grounds, in terms of the war between capitalism and socialism, suggest that the State should not get into the area of subsidising essential food stuffs. However, this was an essential part of the Coalition Government's policy which helped to keep inflation at as low a level as was possible at that time. Psychologically, this policy was extremely important in helping to convince the trade union movement of the time of the Government's deep concern in that in containing inflation we were attempting in some degree to lessen the blow against the weakest section of the community by making the burden a little bit less difficult in areas where essential foodstuffs were concerned. In the coming budget resort to such delicate options, to lessen the pressures which fuel inflation would be helpful. However, I am not convinced that the will is there to do this.

Inflation is affecting the tourist industry as is the cost of petrol, the cost of drinks, the overall cost of services and the extent to which we are offering lesser value than we did in the past. There has been a substantial downturn in tourist revenue this year. Certain policies adopted in the budget in relation to manufacturing industry were disastrous, particularly the decision by the Minister forFinance to increase duty on hydrocarbons, expecially on old for industry. That was a grave mistake because energy is a major factor in production costs in manufacturing industry. Here we were talking about oil against a background of staggering price increases over the last few years, making industry less competitive on export markets. In the midst of all this we had a Government adding duty in a budget to these very hydrocarbons thus increasing the uncompetitiveness of manufacturing industry. That is one of the principal reasons for dissatisfaction listed in a recent submission by the Confederation of Irish Industry to the present Government.

The extent to which the public sector has grown and the consequent financial commitment has been out of proportion [751] to what this country can afford. It is obviously another major factor in the question of expenditure, both in terms of capital expenditure and in terms of current account. For the first couple of years of the present Government credit was taken for the creation of 25,000 jobs. Statistically, about half of the jobs which the Government took credit for creating were created in the public service. At the stroke of a pen a Government or a Taoiseach can create jobs in the public service. They can go to Germany, France or Japan to borrow the capital with which to pay these civil servants. However, the cost to this nation is dramatic although credit is taken for the creation of 12,500 jobs in that couple of years in the public service. If one computes 12,000 jobs at an average cost of £5,000 a year, one is talking about a wage bill per annum in 1979 and 1980 in terms amounting to about £60 million. Where does the £60 million come from? It comes from the taxpayer. Ultimately, the money is borrowed or the taxpayer pays it and, even if the money is borrowed, the taxpayer will have to pay for it out of his income tax. This leads to the most serious problems.

The foreign trade position is not encouraging. I am certain that the fact that we have not come to grips with inflation in the last year or two is a major factor there. This country over the last 18 months would have had a tremendous opportunity in normal circumstances. The breakaway from British sterling has had certain bad effects for us because of our participation on the EMS, in which Britain did not participate, and the fact that the British £ strengthened. One does not look at a gift horse in the mouth, however, and one of the side effects of the British £ breaking away from ours should have been an increase in competitiveness for our manufactured products and other products on the British market, which still takes about half our produce, because at present an Irish £ is discounted to the tune of about 20 per cent of the British £. It should be a remarkable opportunity to us to get over the abnormal world circumstances because of this [752] windfall. Yet the foreign trade deficit for November, announced in the papers yesterday, shows that imports over exports were £137 million. Exports for November accounted for £373 million, £21 million below October and only a 2.8 per cent increase over a year ago.

We are talking about an inflation rate of about 20 per cent and, if our exports a year afterwards are running at a level of only 2.8 per cent over the previous year, it is an extremely serious matter. There is declining competitiveness, again due to inflation, which is the central and fundamental evil. This trade position is set against this present opportunity for competitiveness on the British market but which we are not in a position to avail of to the degree that we might because of these policies which are fuelling inflation and which are putting up our costs to a much greater extent than people here imagine.

If one could only show the man in the street the dramatic effects of inflation on the prospects of jobs in Schull, in Monaghan town or in Tipperary town, the effect might be much more dramatic in terms of the political response to the problem. Apparently what we will produce this year will buy us less than what it bought last year. This situation has arisen for the first time in 20 years. Investment will decline by about 5 per cent, according to the Central Bank. To give an indication of what seems to have been happening, inflation at the end of May 1978 was 6 per cent, at the end of May 1979, it was 13½ per cent and at the end of May 1980 it was 20¼ per cent. Of course external factors account for part of this inflation and nobody will suggest that there are not external factors, particularly the energy crisis in relation to oil and the component this represents in inflation. Most Commentators who attempted to quantify inflation, and the extent to which it is related to external or internal factors, will say that a very siginificant part of that inflation is related directly to internal Government decisions here that had nothing to do with external issues. For example, the wage increases negotiated in 1977 went to [753] about an estimated 7½ per cent. Now we are talking in terms, of 13 per cent.

There was confidence in the trade unions, when we were in Government, that inflation was being tackled. I get the feeling that that confidence is not there at the present time. Any notion along the lines of Senator Mulcahy's speech — that all is sound, that the present operations of Government are as one should plan them, and that inherently these policies are the correct policies if we want employment through the eighties and in 1990 — is absolutely fallacious. It has no foundation whatever. The Government, whatever the political realities facing us in 1981, must get to grips with this issue. We must get back to thinking in terms of the necessary deflation which of course will cause pain in the short term. Such a policy would be a complete departure, not so much from the objectives of the present Government as stated in the manifesto, not so much from the stated objectives of Deputy Colley, when he was Minister for Finance, and not so much from the stated objectives of the Taoiseach in January, but from the incredible position where events are running totally against stated objectives. Until these operations of Government are reversed by effective leadership, we will have continuing trouble.

Ruairí Brugha: Information on Ruairí Brugha  Zoom on Ruairí Brugha  The debate on the Appropriation Bill affords this House an opportunity to range right across the area of services set out in the Bill. One could speak at length on such questions as the current employment situation, the extraordinary rise in crime set out by a recent report, the questions of alcoholism, particularly among young people, and the overall very serious problem in relation to the Northern part of the country. But the debate so far today has tended to centre around the current state of the economy and the defects of two aspects of it that are of great significance: the effects of inflation and the effects of current deficit borrowing. Many of the views expressed are relevant and significant and merit very serious consideration. One has to keep in mind that one of the obligations of Government is to keep [754] the economy moving, to provide very many services and to try to keep as many people as possible in employment. The scope for curtailing or reducing expenditure is very narrow and drastic means are simply just not open to Government.

This Bill tells us the expenditure by different Departments during the year but it does not tell us where the money comes from. I suppose it is not part of the appropriation machinery. Looking at the subheads for some of the Departments we see, for example, under Garda Síochána, £118 million, the different sections of the Department of Education almost reached £500 million, the Department of Social Welfare also very nearly reached £500 million for this year, and the Department of Health reached well past £650 million. One of the problems is: what will be the amounts under these subheads next year? We know that many additional young people will be going to school, so we can guess that the overall cost of education will increase, not fall. Indeed under all of the other subheads one can foresee that it will not be a question of reducing present costs but rather of how we are going to meet the increasing costs.

However, I think it is worthwhile to point to a few of the current difficulties the Government are faced with. First of all, the Government have the duty to try to maintain as many people in employment as possible at a time of recession. Under the heading “Causes of Inflation” are the increasing costs of public services, what one might call the very broad range of public salaries ranging from the Departments of State down through county councils, the health services and so on. In calmer days in earlier years, when these subheads were not as great and did not form such a large portion of the overall salary and wage payments in the State wage negotiations were conducted more on the ordinary management-worker, employer-labour level, where such issues were decided on the basis not of what was being sought but of what the till could carry, so to speak. Unfortunately, over a considerable number of years now, we have had a situation where the level of salaries and [755] wages on the public side has been to a considerable extent decided in negotiations where, to put it bluntly, the payer has not been consulted.

Anyone working in industry knows that if one goes into negotiations on a wages question one has to refer back to one's ability to pay that wage. These on the union side also are constrained by the fact that they know that if they overdo it then there may not be jobs. But unfortunately, right across the public service end of things, there has been failure to refer back to the taxpayer, or to the ability of the taxpayer to fund increases. That is a part of the overall picture that we are dealing with today. Also, in the public consciousness, particularly amongst a very large number of workers, there is a fairly strong feeling that no private employer can afford to provide inflation-proof pensions. These are factors that we have to begin to face up to if we are to provide a sensible way forward.

It was said during the debate that mistakes have been made. I am sure they have. The question of deficit budgeting on current expenditure has been raised and there has been some debate about it. My recollection of that type of budgeting some years ago was that where one had a level of deficit budgeting the deficit was always budgeted for in the following year. It is only in the past eight or nine years that we have slipped into the EEC way of providing for some of current expenditure from borrowing. That is a policy we cannot afford to continue to follow but, being realistic, I appreciate that one cannot correct a policy of that sort overnight when one has these headings to meet in the Appropriation Bill. Sooner or later we have to face up to the ordinary standard of conduct that is required. Budget deficiting to cover, for example, interest on debt, is justifiable because it is the capital that one is paying on. A certain degree of that in time of recession is probably justifiable but a line has to be drawn at some stage.

The public must be prepared to make some sacrifices in this area in the understanding that it is necessary in order to [756] maintain employment and in order to maintain a viable economy. However, the general level of public behaviour, particularly the demand for salary increases right across the public and in some cases the private sectors, does not suggest that very many people are prepared to make sacrifices or, indeed, believe that it is necessary to do so. In that context, the responsibility must lie on all of us who are involved in public life at least to begin the process of educating public opinion on the need for restraint.

If I might touch on a more cheerful topic, I hear all sorts of talk about the possibilities of an oil find off our shores. If that happens I hope we will have the good sense to learn from the mistakes of other countries in similar situations. I hope that we will have the discipline to employ any additional assets that might accrue to us to basic infrastructures, to the things that we need here badly, such as a modern road system, sewerage services, housing and to the promotion of industry, which is the really productive asset that can provide the sort of employment that we want to see here.

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  I heard some very interesting speeches today, both here and in the other House. In the deliberations of this House today we are talking about vast sums of money, the kind of money which it takes to run this country. As Senator Brugha said, we should spare a thought for where that money is coming from. The expenditure on the Houses of the Oireachtas is the vast sum of £5½ million for the salaries and the expenses of the Houses of the Oireachtas, including certain grants-in-aid and certain expenses in connection with the European Assembly.

We are approaching a crisis in the Houses of the Oireachtas. We are sinking underneath a growing pile of paperwork, we are trying to fit more and more into a space which is less and less efficient and which is insufficient for what we are trying to do. It is astonishing that there should be any good speeches made in this House or in the other House at all, given the circumstances in which the Members are trying to work and given the [757] circumstances in which the staff, who work in these Houses to help the Members, are trying to work.

Yesterday, we had a dramatic intervention on the floor of the other House and of course once the horse has bolted we are all running around trying to lock the stable door. The intruders came over the railings of next door.

For some time now we have been told that we are going to have the use of the College of Art for the Houses of the Oireachtas but it has not happened. When I was a member of the Independent group in this House, five of us were told we could use a room, which was out the front door, out the main gate, across the road in another office building. I hope Senators Murphy and Martin will forgive me for saying that because we were all members of the same constituency and there was no way at all that we could work in comfort in the same room. How could one work in a room with five people in any privacy? It was a ludicrous idea from the word “go.” What happened eventually was that one person more or less made his home in that room and the rest of us were wandering around in the wilderness.

Since I left the Independent group I find myself with a desk in the corner of another room where there are several other Members. There are several secretaries, several telephones ringing, several machines clattering. It is either too hot or too cold and it is an absolutely impossible place to work.

There are many Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas who have ancillary occupations which provide them with offices and secretaries in some other part of the city or some other part of Ireland. The present system here discriminates very much against those people who do not have the wherewithal to provide themselves with expensive offices and secretaries in other places. My other occupation, apart from being a politician, is that of housewife which does not usually run to a secretary and an office. There are other people in this House who do not have the use of secretaries either. The present system perpetuates a favouritism [758] for the better-off to be Members of this House or encourages the wrong kind of attitude towards politics among the people who are in this House.

I want to talk about the actual facilities with which Members of the House are provided out of this £5½ million. The unfortunate people in the Oireachtas Library are trying to provide us with a research service with methods which are as antique as some of the furniture in the Library. It is impossible for them to react swiftly to a request for information. They make enormous and expert efforts to help us but they simply cannot do so. The technological revolution in information has absolutely passed us by. If that has passed us by, a great deal more is going to pass us by and we might find ourselves irrelevant.

The question of putting newspapers on to microfilm is only one aspect of the kind of instant information which should be available in a modern parliamentary system. I pay tribute to the people trying to run the Library but I find that it is not good enough. The research efforts involved to try to prepare oneself for a debate in this House very often defeat one and one decides not to speak at all. Perhaps some Members may feel quite relieved that people decide not to speak at all. However, one is conscientious, one tries to speak on items which are important. The facilities with which we are trying to work are antiquated. The offices in which the Members and the staff find themselves are either grossly over-heated and impossibly stuffy or freezing cold. We would be very happy to dress ourselves more warmly in order to feel slightly fresher than we can in this House.

These complaints have been made before but nothing seems to happen. There also seems to be an attitude abroad that we must not improve anything for ourselves because there will be a howl from the media who will say “There they go again, those people cossetting themselves at our expense”. The present very inefficient and out of date system is costing the taxpayers far more than they possibly realise.

I do not know the detailed breakdown of that £5½ million. Certainly it is not [759] being used efficiently. Today, which is a very busy day as well as yesterday, the restaurant is a hot, steamy, crowded place where the staff are running around in circles and where you are lucky if you get a cup of tea. When you do get it it is very nice and it is very cheap but it costs a great deal of money to keep it that cheap. On Mondays and Fridays and part of Tuesdays the restaurant is empty but it is open, all the white table cloths are there, you can order a nice meal and it is still cheap. There is something wrong because we were circulated with exiciting documents some time ago about the wonderful things that were going to be done with the restaurant. They were going to have a very small grill snack bar arrangement and a diningroom. This was going to be a step into the 20th century. When the place was very busy there would be a big area working and when the place was not busy there would be a small snack bar available. It would have been an excellent arrangement. But nothing happened.

We should not be subsidised for the food we eat in this House. We should pay the going price. We should regularise the staff arrangements so that they are working when the place is very busy and not working when it is not busy. The trend and the desire of many people to have part-time work would fit in extremely well with that system. The restaurant is another area which needs examination. I am unhappy about the way this place is run. It is extraordinarily inefficient. Perhaps there should be a new committee established called a “Management Committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas”, which would oversee all the other committees which are supposed to be running the Houses, and run it on an efficient management model.

We should give the students and the staff of the College of Art a really good national college of art and have this establishment working the way a modern parliament should work.

If the Members had proper facilities and back-up arrangements they would not be worrying about having more pay because they have to use so much of their [760] pay at the moment in trying to provide themselves with some kind of back-up facilities. They would be very happy if they had efficient back-up facilities to have the pay they get, insufficient as it is.

What goes on in these Houses is an irrelevancy to the vast majority of the population. The Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas are, in the main, middle-class, middle-aged men. They are the vast majority of the Members of the House and the other House. Who are the Members of the House talking to? They are talking to their friends, their middle-aged colleagues. Unfortunately, they are not talking to the majority of the population who are not represented in either of these Houses, young men, young-women and most other women. They are simply not present in these Houses in any numbers. I do not need to repeat the numbers again. I was astonished to find that one of the premier magazines in the country, at least it purports to be, Magill magazine, today had a question in its Christmas Quiz: how many women are there in Dáil Éireann? They gave six as the answer and they were wrong. This goes to show how much people in general know about what goes on.

In Dáil Éireann there are seven women and in Seanad Éireann there are also seven women. That is just over 7 per cent of the elected representatives. There are something like six Deputies under 30, if that many, out of 148. These middle-aged, middle-class men turn out endless verbiage. Obviously, that is what the Houses of the Oireachtas are for. Today I heard some very good speeches and I heard some very good speeches in the other House, too.

Who else is going to hear these very good speeches? The gentlemen and ladies of the press will send in reports to whoever edits parliamentary reports and they will try desperately not to offend too many people. They will cut it all down to one, two or three sentences from some of the major speeches and will have to put up with complaints of people who felt that they spoke extremely importantly and were not reported. The reporters [761] from RTE will likewise prune the very long debates which were held today and proceedings in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann will be cut to about eight minutes of “Today in the Dáil” for the radio. Perhaps an idea or two will surface into a discussion programme or current affairs programme on radio or television. Out of all the Senators who spoke here today four or five will be reported.

The newspapers will carry brief reports and some people will read them and will wonder what on earth all these people who were attacked yesterday in Leinster House do all the time. We are hidden in Leinster House. What are we hiding from? What are we afraid of? Why do we not want to communicate what goes on here to young people, to people in their homes? Why have we not made real overtures and had real discussions with the national broadcasting service to see how we can become more relevant? Why do we not de-mystify what goes on in here? Is it because, like some professions, we feel if we keep it secret and speak enough jargon people will think that there is something really very fine and important going on here, if they do not inquire too closely? Are we not convinced ourselves that these Houses are important? Having spent three years raising this question at the Committee of Procedures and Privileges, trying to have it discussed in this House and meeting an absolutely blank wall, it seems there is some problem, some fear, that stops us using the broadcasting medium. It should be investigated.

Obviously RTE do not want to beam out endless hours of debates to what probably would be an unwilling public. We do not want á situation like the cultural revolution in China when the loudspeakers were attached to lampposts, began at 6 o'clock in the morning and turned off at 12 o'clock at night with the thoughts of Chairman Mao. We should have recorded programmes and recorded debates, both on television and radio, and we would have to allow for proper editing by the people who are employed by the national broadcasting service to do those jobs.

RTE seem to have offended every [762] party in the House at one time or another. If you offend all the people you are obviously doing a fair job.

RTE's microphones and cameras should be brought into these Houses, exploring with them ways of using modern technology to bring politics home to the people. Fears have been expressed by some people that that should not be done because some people who are very good show people would hog the camera and that honest, sincere and inarticulate politicians who work very hard would get a raw deal. I do not believe that those fears are justified. In a televised or recorded debate, sincerity and honesty and the well researched speech will always come out best. It is quite different when you are faced in a studio with an expert political reporter whose job is to ask the difficult or embarrassing questions. That is a skill which has to be very carefully studied and any politician worth his salt studies that skill. Anyone who is faced with that situation does not expect Brian Farrell to be polite. In debating and discussing the political issues that come up in a debate on a motion for three hours where each person has a limited length of time, people who are sincere about what they are saying and who know what they are talking about come out very fairly.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  The Chair is very loath to interrupt the Senator but the matters at present mentioned would, more appropriately, come before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in the House. The Appropriation Bill deals in the main with the appropriations for all the Departments for the year in question, 1980, and deals absolutely with administration, policy and public expenditure in general.

Mrs. Hussey: Information on Gemma Hussey  Zoom on Gemma Hussey  I accept that. There should be posts created in the Houses of the Oireachtas of officers who would be specifically employed to liaise with RTE in the setting up of this broadcasting that I am talking about. I hope we will not be standing up here next year and deploring once again the fact that nothing has been done about making the Houses of the Oireachtas more relevant. I thought this [763] Taoiseach, who was the Taoiseach of the communications airwaves, would have sorted this out by now. Perhaps he is hiding too.

We discussed yesterday the Casual Trading Bill and I expressed my concern about the debris and dirt which was one side-effect of casual trading. There has been obviously a crisis in tourism in the last few years. Tourism here has been buffeted about just as much as the tourist industries of other countries. Ireland has suffered particularly because we do not have stable weather to offer to visitors from abroad, and we have staggering inflation which surpasses anything that most other countries have. This has hit a market which we hoped would have expanded enormously, the market from the United States where now matters are quite reversed and the Irish tourist can look towards the States for a holiday which might end up cheaper than he could have here.

Because Ireland is an extremely special country—it is completely isolated on the edge of Europe without the balmy climate to attract people to lie in the sun—we should very carefully examine the kind of country we want to be, the kind of image we want to have in the minds of visitors. I do not think that we should try to sell ourselves as something that we are not. It is wonderful to see in the Egon Ronay guide to British and Irish hotels and restaurants so many very good Irish establishments offering really superb cuisine and comfortable lodgings. Most of these places are not in the big cities. They are situated in the rolling green countryside. They are doing very well and are full most of the time. They do not have a tourist crisis. There is a great lesson to be learned from looking at that sort of establishment about the kind of tourism we should be trying to attract because we could very quickly kill the goose that lays the golden egg if we attract the cheap package type tour. Now, when tourism is being debated and discussed, and when plans for the future are being talked about I hope we will attract the tourist who wants to find something quite different, who does not [764] mind if it is a bit more expensive than the Costa Brava and who will not be disappointed when there is a soft day or two because he will appreciate the beauty of the countryside.

As part of the excellent services carried out by the Department of Foreign Affairs they issue and send to our embassies and consulates all over the world fact sheets on different aspects of Irish life. These are excellent documents and I always asked to be put on their mailing list because I found them extremely valuable and also I was very interested to know what information was being handed out all over the world about Ireland on various topics. Therefore, I was extremely honoured in 1977 to be asked to write the document for the Department of Foreign Affairs on the status of women in Ireland. In conjunction with some women's groups and organisations, I set about it and we wrote what we hoped was a good factual description of the position of women in Ireland and how it was evolving. The Department, very generously, made available to me quite a number of the copies of that fact sheet and because it was indeed the first such official document of its kind in the country it aroused a great deal of interest and was read widely by women's organisations, by schools and was something that was a new departure for any Government Department.

Time passed and I realised in 1979 the document needed to be updated. I approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and duly updated it, giving credit for changes which have happened and discussing how the situation had further evolved in those years. That was printed in January, 1980, and when I visited the United States in February as a guest of the United States Government I was glad to be able to bring a great many copies of that with me and distribute it widely in the United States. It was printed in January and in March. I had had a great many more inquiries from the United States and other places for this document. So I asked the Department of Foreign Affairs if I could possibly have some more copies to send to these inquirers from abroad for whom this document was [765] written in the first place. To my surprise I was told that it was out of print, unavailable. I must remind the House it had been printed in the first place in January 1980, two months before; yet it was suddenly out of print. However, I was told it would be available to me in a couple of weeks.

In April I tried again and it was not available. I tried, I suppose, once a month since then until I was told quite firmly that that document and all the other fact sheets had been withdrawn, they were all going to be rewritten, that none of them was available and had not been available since the early spring. Apparently, therefore, the Department of Foreign Affairs had no fact sheet at all in circulation for several months of the year, if not most of this year. I find that quite an extraordinary position for a country which desperately needs to make itself felt all over the world, which has a very efficient and hardworking Department of Foreign Affairs, who are probably frustrated at not having this document. That is a really bad state of affairs.

My most recent inquiry elicited the information that they are not going to have any documents written by outsiders any more, they are all going to be written within the Department of Foreign Affairs. But that has not happened yet. So the documents are still not available. I mention this because I am wondering what is the explanation for the withdrawal of all the fact sheets about Ireland which go out all over the world, for their withdrawal in the early spring of this year and apparently their non-availability. Who took the decision to withdraw them all and why? I do not accept the explanation that it was a sudden decision of the Information Section themselves.

I do not want to detain the House any longer on the Appropriation Bill. I should merely like to stress that I feel it is time for a breakthrough in communications between the politicians and the people. It is time that young people understood the relevance of parliamentary democracy to their lives. Bringing groups of school children in here is not the way to do it. I believe the way to do [766] it is to use the medium with which they are mostly concerned, that is, broadcasting.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  I shall not detain the House very long. I was somewhat staggered when I realised that the Bill we are debating today — and it is a Bill in the real sense of the word — comes to £4,300 million. It is a staggering figure. It is a debate we do and should always take seriously in this House. The Government have performed well in what I would regard as very difficult circumstances. It is now generally accepted that the economic storm which is sweeping the world is quite a serious one. I believe the Government are coming through this storm as well as any country can and perhaps a lot better than most, so much so that, when it is over, we should be ready to take off again. I said in this debate 12 months ago, and I still believe, that the foundation of this economy, is basically a confident and sound one. Because of that I feel the Government have performed very well in the past 12 months.

I want to refer briefly to one or two points Senator Hussey made. Everybody agrees that we should encourage the participation of women in Irish politics. Most parties — and I can only speak for our party — have made efforts. Recently we formed a national group of women politicians who are in these Houses to advise the party on how we might do more. We have been trying to encourage women into politics. On a personal basis I believe it is not just a matter of that, that it is a broader, more difficult question. It is a matter of trying to free the hands of Irish women, as it were, to allow them participate in politics. It is not just a matter of encouraging them to come and join us or nominating them as candidates for the Houses. It is not as simple as that because then one starts dealing with perhaps an élite within the women's group. What I mean by that is that our finances and our minds — it is a principle with which we all agree — should be turned towards making it economically possible for women to enter Irish politics and to progress in that sphere. That means discussing in the future the provision of créches, the [767] advancement of the equal pay situation and general equality. Because only when women are free to participate in politics on a day-to-day basis, will there be greater numbers availing of the opportunities that exist. The opportunities do exist for women but most women are not in a position to avail of them for domestic, financial reasons. We should tackle these domestic and financial reasons. Senator Hussey is probably correct on that.

I want to point to the progress made by this nation. An appropriate time to do so is when we are considering how we are going to spend £4,300 million and ask ourselves what kind of use has been made of that money in the past and what use we might make of it in the future. Most politicians would quibble about the emphasis placed on day-to-day policies, the details of policy. Perhaps we would all agree that the progress made by the Irish nation in the past decade has been phenomenal. In sharp contrast to previous decades the seventies have shown that immigration has exceeded emigration by 109,000. That decade has also shown that the population of Ireland has risen by 13 per cent since the year 1971. What this means — and we should continue to say it because it is proof of the advances this nation has made in the recent decade — is that the national haemorrhage of emigration in a general sense has been totally reversed. That has been occasioned by the economic and the social growth of this nation during that decade. It is not just individuals who are returning. If one examines the figures fairly closely one will see that whole families are returning to our shores to make their livelihood and a future for their children. They have done that because they have confidence in the future of the nation. While we can all argue and debate the details of Government policy, we can take the Opposition to task for not having specified details of their policies. In a debate such as this we should try to get a broader perspective and remind ourselves that throughout that decade we made that kind of progress.

I believe that the conflict in our society [768] now and the problems in our society are not so much, although they still exist, those of poverty, the problems of not having enough; more and more we seem to be dealing with the conflicts of affluence. Perhaps that is also a measure of the nation's development.

Taking a broader look at the overall spectrum there are certain pluses and minuses as we stand here at the end of 1980. We have had very good growth rates throughout the decade, better than most countries in Europe. We have a very young exciting population who I believe will give more to this country than they will take from it. Our industrial investment throughout the years and again this year, has been at an all time high.

Despite a number of challenges on this front I believe there is still a great respect for and love of our culture and heritage. If they are some of the pluses of the past year and decade there are, of course, problems and minuses ahead. The largest ones, both in terms of Government expenditure and in a national sense, are the very real and personal tragedies in Northern Ireland, the housing situation, the employment situation, the inflation situation, indeed the poverty situation which is still unacceptable to any politician in this country. They are the kinds of difficulties, the kinds of minuses that face us at the end of 1980. As a House of the Oireachtas it is only sensible that we endeavour to take stock of where we are going, and where we have come from in a very general sense.

One matter I wanted to raise in the House is — I suppose a sort of national cancer would not be putting it too strongly — the alarming rate of absenteeism now existing in our economy. The FUE have estimated that we lost in 1979, 4.6 million man-days because of absenteeism. They compare that with 158,000 man-days lost because of strikes. 1979 was a bad year for strikes. What that means — and we should write it large so that we can ponder it — is that this country loses 29 times more in terms of money and effort through absenteeism than we lose through strikes. One must remember how agitated we all become about strikes, [769] how much we all speak about strikes and how much we call for action. But we have a problem here which causes our economy 29 times more trouble and financial and personal loss than strikes to which we give so much attention.

It has been suggested — but one would need to be an expert accountant or economist to check this — and estimated that it amounts to something like the manufacturing employment of the nation being on a four-and-a-half day week. That is what it amounts to in very rough terms. I know it is a very complex, difficult problem. Indeed, it is rendered even more complex because there are no studies or documents which have examined this problem in any great depth. I would hope to see some studies of that absenteeism emerging in the future. Neither do I believe that it is just a matter of the Monday syndrome, as it were; it is more deep-rooted and difficult than that.

One occupational health consultant whose views I was reading recently was convinced that the largest proportion of people responsible for this absenteeism are probably fairly fit for work. But lack of studies in this area make it difficult to be adamant about facts and figures. This consultant says also that there is evidence that some half of those who are called by the social welfare to be examined return to work rather than face that examination. I am contending that there is clearly in this area a correlation between the development of the social system and the level of absenteeism. In Sweden for example, absenteeism is running at almost 14 per cent. Here we are talking about a figure of 9 per cent. Sweden is a nation with a highly developed social system. In Japan and the United States the figures are 1.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively. We should certainly devote our attentions to this problem in the future.

The taxation system also has a bearing on this problem of absenteeism because it can be used to discourage absenteeism. It is easy to point to this problem but not so easy to say how we should tackle it. It is a very sensitive and personal area. I shall attempt merely to put forward a few [770] suggestions.

First of all, we should try at some stage, either through a committee or the Department — and this is not a short-term policy, it is obviously a longer term, most strategic one — examine the relationship between, for example, pay-related disability and the take-home pay packet, not in any great sense of weeding out people or witch-hunting, not in that sense, and I would be disappointed if I felt what I am saying were interpreted in that way. The reason I raise this issue is to appeal that we establish some levels so that at least the genuinely ill people who cannot go to work will have a sensible, reasonable income. If such levels were established we could achieve that aim without losing on our efforts to maintain an incentive to work.

It has been pointed out before that the operations of the medical certificate system should be examined. In fact I think that is being examined by the Department. The trade unions have a role to play in tackling this problem. Indeed, perhaps joint studies could be initiated as to whether it is because jobs are boring or repetitive. Perhaps we should endeavour to put more effort into enriching the kind of work people do. It is not a problem we should run away from because it is too sensitive or personal. it is a problem that constitutes a real national malaise at present. All of us could help to fill up this spare capacity and return a real work ethic, I suppose, to the nation. We have the kind of pride in ourselves that would not allow us to drag our feet in this area.

I am suggesting that that is perhaps an area appropriate to this Appropriation Bill debate and the level of Government expenditure it involves. I do not expect the Minister, or any Minister, to be able to give any reaction straight off to this type of problem. It is a difficult social area and should be taken out of the political arena. It is not just a matter of a political football between parties. It is a difficulty that is growing and which perhaps should be calmly and cooly resolved outside the political arena, at least the party political arena. It should be looked at cooly and soberly and we should do [771] something about it as soon as we can.

I want to mention also the recent headlines in regard to the oil situation. Senator Brugha mentioned something of this nature. Again this affects the level of Government expenditure in a very dramatic way. If the headlines which I read during the week, or the articles I read in the newspapers, are any way accurate — and I have to say that it was early days in the OPEC oil debate when I picked out the figure — they seemed to imply that our oil bill would go up by £120 million next year, from a figure of £800 million to close on £1,000 million. That is a staggering figure. If that rate of increase in the price of oil products continues nothing this Government or any Government can do in terms of economic management would be really effective. Their efforts will be negatived by this constant dramatic increase in oil prices. I suppose oil has helped to bring most western nations to their knees since 1973. This House, this nation, should be alarmed at that kind of increase. What one does about it is a very difficult political question, because clearly we do not have the economic muscle to influence the level of increases in oil. I wonder if the EEC and America — the western economies combined into one huge consumer power — could do more through their combined economic force to prevent the Western world from being held hostage of the Middle East. In my view that is what we are becoming more and more. Overnight we are confronted by a huge increase in our oil bill. All the efforts of the Government to cut costs, increase employment, and increase national productivity — and those efforts have been great in 1980 — can be negatived by one meeting of oil Ministers.

There is one final point, the matter which Senator Hussey raised about the irrelevancy of the Oireachtas. I have been saying for some time that the Oireachtas Eireann has to be continually vigilant that it holds the centre of the political stage in this country. Only by doing that will we hold the respect and confidence of the Irish people. Senator Hussey's point about broadcasting [772] should be considered as part of a more general overall study of the role that the Oireachtas would play in the years ahead.

We have been in the EEC for ten or 11 years and the time has come to study closely the operations of the EEC and its Parliament to see if we can learn from their experiences. I know people suggested from these benches down through the years the use of the committee system. We have experimented with this successfully. We had the Misuse of Drugs Committee, under the chairmanship of the then Minister for Health, Deputy Haughey. That was a very good committee. We have the Committee on State-sponsored Bodies operating now. It seems to me to be very effective and working very well. The Public Accounts Committee seems to be a very active committee. I do not see why we cannot continue to develop this system. Perhaps that is the way to try out our communications with the public.

In conclusion, I want to say that I recognise the difficulties ahead for the Government and for the nation. I am proud of the achievements of this nation and of the Government in the past 12 months. I hope that every single penny of this huge sum which we are now passing is put to very good use, and I have no doubt it will be by this Government.

Mrs. McGuinness: Information on Catherine McGuinness  Zoom on Catherine McGuinness  I shall try to avoid the endless hours of verbiage Senator Hussey was talking about, if only because I am not a middle-aged man and also because, as Senator Brennan said, the freeing of hands has not quiet reached me to the extent that I do not have to go home and feed my family.

There are a number of points I should like to make. I welcome what Senator Brennan said about the participation of women in politics and the necessity to free their hands to do so, because this is the crucial issue. It is not a question of whether a few lucky people who have sufficient ambition or sufficient push can make it, but of whether it can be a grass roots operation, so that the female half of the population has a similar sort of representation to that of males. While I agree with Senator Brennan about that, [773] I could not say that I really agreed with him about the idea that people in general feel that our economy is sound and that everything is going perfectly. I agree, of course, that our population has risen very considerably. But that carries very great problems as well as very great signs of hope. I agree, too, that emigration has fallen off to a minimal extent, although there are some signs that it is starting off again. I would point out that this lack of emigration in the present recession is due not entirely to improvements in our economy but to difficulties in other peoples' economies, where there is little use in trying to emigrate when there are fewer opportunities in other countries. It is no longer the case, as it used to be in the fifties, that the United States or Britain can simply absorb the people we have to spare. They, too, have their economic problems. There is a danger here that, with our increasing population and the lack of the safety valve of emigration, we may be creating an almost revolutionary situation in which the large number of unemployed people and economic difficulties will bring more and more pressure to bear on organs of government and of administration.

I am not an economist and I am not about to quote a large number of figures because I am not particularly good at that kind of thing. But just talking to ordinary people in this country, people who are trying to bring up a family in an ordinary way, I find there is a great deal of almost hopelessness or apathetic despair about the way the inflation and unemployment situation is going, in particular about the way the industrial relations situation is going. People feel that not only is there nothing they can do but that nothing has really been done to deal with these enormous problems. I find to my regret that this is particularly prevalent among young people just reaching the school-leaving age. If one asks: “What are you going to do when you leave school?” they reply with complete cynicism: “Be unemployed”; “What is the point?”, or “Why should I try to pass the Leaving Certificate, there will not be a job?” I am not exaggerating this. I have children of this age. I have met this among them and [774] their friends. Of course, it is not completely what they feel, none of them wants to feel like that, but they look at the economic situation and say to themselves: “What am I trying for?”

Of course, I realise that this current rate of inflation, recession and so on is not a problem unique to this country, and one cannot say that this is all the fault of our present Government. That would be only foolish. But one does get an impression of lack of initiative and leadership sometimes, a lack of inspiration, the kind of inspiration that would make us want to undertake the sacrifices Senator Mulcahy was referring to, sacrifices that would benefit our children in the nineties. I do not think you will find that kind of attitude among the ordinary population. There is a lot more of the attitude: “What more can I possibly get out of it?”“What can I do just to benefit my own situation?” To inspire that sort of sacrifice there is needed a feeling of leadership and of inspiration which I do not find. Generally public feeling is fairly cynical about the Government at the moment.

I should like also to refer, as Senator Brennan did briefly, to the Northern Ireland situation which, naturally, is a tragedy which I feel particularly being a Northern Ireland person myself by birth. Although the situation continues as tragically as it does, there seem to be some signs of hope, both in Britain and here, that perhaps different political initiatives may be explored, that at last we may be getting out of the kind of straitjacket of historical feeling from which so many of us suffer. It is of first importance to maintain this type of open mind, because we have been far too bound up in a narrow outlook on one side or the other. This is common to both sides in the struggle. We find it very difficult to make an effort to grasp what it actually feels like inside a person on the other side, that imaginative leap for someone here who has been brought up in a Republican tradition to try to see what it feels like to be someone who has been brought up as a Northern Orange Protestant, and vice versa.

I found this over and over again when I went to Northern Ireland to talk to [775] groups like Protestant and Catholic Encounter, and so on. I was trying to bring a sense of the situation in this country to people in Northern Ireland, to disabuse them of some of the fears that they quite genuinely feel, whether or not these fears have any basis. We need to do this, too. I say this precisely because I represent constituents in the whole country and because, having been born and brought up in a Northern Ireland Protestant society, I can see both sides from the inside fairly well.

Recently I read a series of articles in The Irish Press about this Northern situation and, in particular, an article by the Reverend Heuston McKelvey, the editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, in which he set out the basis of the ordinary, average, Protestant feeling in Northern Ireland. He set it out very well. He comes from Muckamore in County Antrim, which would be a typical small Protestant community in a fairly rural area. I have spoken to people in Dublin who read this article and who simply suffered a kind of state of shock when they read it. One could hear the doors of their minds shutting with a clang while they refused to accept that anyone could possibly feel about the hunger strikers, or about the situation here, about the Church and the Government here, in the way in which Heuston McKelvey did. This is part of the tragedy. It is very important that we should study that kind of article.

I saw this kind of friendship being started at the reception which the Taoiseach held for the new Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Armstrong, where people genuinely met and expressed their feelings to each other. That kind of step is very important. Now, we have a chance to take some kind of new initiative in trying to show something that has not been shown before, to make choices that have not been looked at before. It is very important that we should have an open mind about these choices and explore fully all the possible solutions.

I should like to turn to one or two detailed matters which arise on the Bill. On Votes 29 and 30 for Education and Primary Education, I should like to draw [776] attention to the fact that expenditure on primary education in this country has always been low by world standards. Certainly as regards the administration of primary education, we have never hesitated to make full use of the free labour given to us through the old clerical managerial system and now through the boards of management. A great deal of administrative work is done for us by voluntary people.

We are now coming into a situation where it appears to me, as a member of a board of management of a primary school, that we are becoming more and more dependent on the local contribution, not only for the capital cost of acquiring a site, or building a school, or building an extension, but for the current cost of capitation, the maintenance, the heating, the lighting, dealing with vandalism, which is so prevalent in our school buildings, and so on. Yet, I do not think that the Department of Education have a thought-out policy on how to involve the pipers in calling the tune for which they are paying.

In fact, having set up the boards of management, which gave at least the minimal representation to parents, the power of this representation is now being considerably lessened through negotiations which were carried on between the Department, the teachers' union and the church authorities, without ever discussing with the parents whether they wished to be removed from the selection of teachers or whether they did not. They were simply told that a fait accompli had occurred, that agreement had been reached and that this was to happen.

If parents — and parents have rights under Article 42 of the Constitution in the education of their children — are to be asked to make up what is lacking in the State financing of education, they must be granted a real voice in what happens to their money. This applies at all levels of education as well as the primary school level. We see it in the management of the community schools and colleges, where difficulties have arisen as to the representation of the whole community. I do not want to go into details about what happened in the Balally [777] school, but we saw the Department facing up to something they simply had not thought out how they were going to manage to begin with. They have not got a philosophy about how parents are to be involved in schools and in the education of their children. Until they sit down and think very hard about this, we will not solve this problem.

It is no use referring back to previous models and saying: “Well, this has always been the way the patrons have done this, and the parents have done that, and the clergy have done this, and that”. Times have changed. We are no longer in an era where the bishop and the clergyman and the teacher were the only educated people in the community. Parents are different now, and they look for more. It is very foolish for the administrators of our education to do what happened to me one time when I went on a deputation to the Department of Education about comprehensive schools. They said: “We cannot do that because that would involve changing the rules of the national schools”. When asked: “Why not change the rules of the national schools”, they said: “You mean you are suggesting we should change the rules”, as though they were the law of the Medes and Persians. Change is needed. Unless parents feel they have a genuine involvement, sooner or later they will get very tired of having to foot the bill.

I should like to turn now to the Votes for the Department of Justice and the Office of Public Works, Votes 22 and 9. I want to refer to something which strikes me particularly professionally, but which I know is felt widely among members of my own profession, that is, the state of the court buildings throughout the country which are the responsibility of the State and in particular the district courts. This arises in a very acute form at the moment because we are expecting legislation which will vastly increase the jurisdiction of the District and Circuit Courts and, in particular, will move cases of family law and the custody of children into the District Courts. The legal profession has repeatedly complained, through the Bar Council and the solicitors' organisations, [778] about the state of these buildings, the lack of waiting rooms, the lack of public toilets, and the general squalor of the buildings.

One has only to think of Rathfarnham District Court where one of my clients actually stated to me that she had driven past the court thinking that it was a gentleman's public lavatory. Mind you, I could see what she meant. The justice has found it very difficult to sit in the court because it has been rat infested from time to time. On the other side of Dublin, in Sutton, we have the district justice sitting in the bar of the rugby club with an advertisement for Beamish over his head instead of Harp. We are now asking these courts to take on cases which they have never dealt with before. I feel sure I will be told that this is not relevant to the Appropriation Bill but it is State expenditure.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  It is the responsibility of the local authorities to provide courthouses and to maintain them.

Mrs. McGuinness: Information on Catherine McGuinness  Zoom on Catherine McGuinness  Nevertheless, the matter must be under some sort of supervision from the Department of Justice. However, I will pass on to another matter which is definitely under the Department of Justice. I wish to say something about the operation of the new civil legal aid and advice schemes which have been operating through the new law centres. I am not here, not have I ever been here just to knock the new civil legal aid scheme or to say that it is a bad thing. I have always felt that it was good to make a beginning. I did not expect the whole thing to be perfect from the word “go.” It is much better to make a start rather than to wait and say we cannot afford to provide the perfect thing.

I would also say a word of praise for the solicitors who have been employed through this civil legal aid scheme, whom I have found to be an excellent body of people, very committed indeed to the work they are doing. They are working long hours and putting in a lot of extra work. The scheme could be improved vastly with comparatively little extra expenditure if the back-up services for the solicitors were improved. At present, [779] certainly in the Dublin centres, there is not one typist or secretary available for each solicitor. There is very little in the way of typing back-up and the kind of technical services which are highly necessary.

The situation now is that when one has a consultation with a client it can take weeks before draft proceedings are actually typed and before they come into the court. Therefore, the public's access to the courts is being delayed and problems that were bad at the start are getting worse.

The Minister for Justice has said repeatedly that he wishes to improve the scheme, and I accept that he has the goodwill to wish to improve the scheme. I am not saying he has not. He has changed it in certain respects already. I would ask him to try to think about this. The technical back-up for the solicitors in the centres could make a very big difference to the kind of service offered to the public.

With regard to prisons and centres of detention for juveniles I would make a plea for less of Loughan House and new women's prisons and more for the welfare services, because the welfare services, through the courts, are achieving something very positive and are doing a very good job of work on very limited resources. It is much less financially wasteful, apart from humanly wasteful, to provide welfare services which will prevent the need for shutting people up, than to provide prisons at vast cost to keep them shut up. The enormous cost of looking after the unfortunate juveniles in Loughan House is very well known. Perhaps a little bit more spent on keeping them out of it would be a good investment.

Throughout this whole system a more positive attitude towards helping people either in criminal situations, in juvenile difficulty situations, in family and matrimonial difficulties, more invested in welfare, help and reconciliation, and less in the kind of punitive side of things would be an extremely good investment of the State's money, apart altogether from being extremely socially desirable.

[780]Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  I should like to sympatheise with the Fianna Fáil Senators in today's debate because they are in somewhat of a dilemma. If they criticise Government policy, or the lack of it, they have to face the party, and if they paint too rosy a picture they have to face the music when they return to their constituencies.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  The Senator should worry about himself.

Mr. McDonald: Information on Charles B. McDonald  Zoom on Charles B. McDonald  It is a difficult problem. Nevertheless, the debate today has been most interesting. I should like to deal with just a few aspects of the Bill in general — matters which have not been too often stated in the debate. I compliment Senator Brennan on his contribution. Some of the figures that stick in my mind are rather startling revelations. I quite agree with him. It is frightening to think of the problem we will have in endeavouring to pay for the importation of oil. I compliment the Minister for Energy on the work he is doing in his Department. He has worked hard to create an awareness of the problems we face and I am not being political when I say that. Unfortunately, his Department have not got money to spend. He is giving good advice and he is getting a hearing from the general public.

There are a few areas which need to be tackled by the Government. The statistics mentioned in the House are frightening and yet there is no Government policy to offset them. It should be possible to persuade people to convert from oil to solid fuel to heat their homes. The stoves or cookers made in Waterford which create good employment carry VAT at 25 per cent, which is a luxury tax. I would ask the Government to encourage people to change their heating systems from expensive imported oil to solid fuel and in the process, to use appliances manufactured in the Republic.

The reconstruction grants have gone and these appliances cost several hundreds of pounds. Then there is 25 per cent tax to be paid. That is not sound policy. The extra tax tends to make these [781] appliances that little bit too expensive. I know it is affecting one firm. Perhaps it is not right to mention firms. I read in Export during the summer that a firm in Waterford had a tremendous output in sales to the US. It is a high quality product. Yet the number sold on the home market is quite small because the tax is too high. I hope the Minister will look at that aspect of policy in the new year. These Waterford appliances are well and truly tested. It would be a practical step towards encouraging people in the interest of the national economy to change from using expensive imported oil.

I should like to deal with Vote 49 which covers Agriculture. Agriculture got a rest here today. There were very few references to it. Therefore, perhaps the Chair will forgive me if I deal at some length with it. I do not have to tell the House that the farming industry is going through a severe time, a difficult time. There is certainly a lack of Government policy on agriculture. Prices are inadequate. There is certainly an absence of direction, and this includes ACOT.

It all adds up to a lack of confidence in the prospects for the future. According to the statistics from the banking institutions, almost 2,000 farmers are facing bankruptcy as we knew it in the thirties. I do not wish to make a political point out of that, but to endeavour to impress on the Administration the need for urgent steps to be taken to try and salvage this industry. Unfortunately it is having repercussions especially in the county towns. It is not just a matter of X number of farmers being either over-borrowed or under-developed, or whatever the phrase is. Both the input of industry into agriculture and the output, which is the processing agricultural industry, are hard hit.

In my own county, Laois, in the past six months 18 small industries have closed down. A lime works at Lisduff, Laois, which was owned by Comhlucht Siuicre Éireann, closed down with a loss of 20, jobs by virtue of the fact that there were no sales. In Erin Foods in Carlow we had a loss of 80 jobs. I am not blaming the Government for that. The fact is that there are inter-plays and reactions and jobs are lost. In Erin Foods, the most [782] disturbing aspect of that entire disaster is that we spent £7 million on importing vegetables into the Republic this year of which £3 million went for potatoes alone. Take the Erin Foods strike during the summer. Most people hoped that worker participation on boards would make a contribution to stability in industry but we found that the worker director of the board was leading an unofficial strike in a semi-State organisation. I am not saying that the loss of 80 jobs was a direct result of that, but contributed to it in no uncertain way.

For the past 20 years large numbers of farmers in the midlands have been successful contract growers of vegetables and fruit for that organisation. A strike has a boomerang effect right across the midlands. I do not know where it will stop, if people cannot see further than the short term, and if profitability in public companies means nothing.

How long can public companies be expected to continue from one year to another without making a profit? There are few taxpayers left when you think of the huge numbers of people unemployed. As it is, the citizens are being overtaxed. However, quite a number of people are receiving benefit or assistance and working full-time nixers as well. This country cannot afford that. Politicians who make speeches in that vein do not last very long; nevertheless, people should be honest and say what they know to be right. In the midlands one factory closed down during the summer and one of the contributory factors which affected the profitability and the viability of that company was the fact that there was something like 17 per cent absenteeism any day of the week. This affects a production line industry. They were not able to meet their commitments or their orders. They were not as efficicent as they should be.

The Government have a role to play as well as the workers and the employers. You cannot point the finger at one of the various interests concerned. The Government are elected to give leadership and, in all these areas, there has been a lack of leadership. There has been absolutely no hard and fast leadership or determined and clearcut policies from the [783] Government. In agriculture this year farmers have been finding it very hard to meet commitments entered into some years ago when it was viable and economically profitable for them to embark on heavy borrowing. Their difficulties have been increased this year because the Minister for Agriculture has a policy of a 12-week delay on the payment of grants. From the time the file was sent up to the payments section of the Department of Agriculture until the cheque was sent out, it was an acknowledged fact and the policy that it would take 12 weeks, at a time when farmers waiting for grants were paying interest rates of from 20 to 22 per cent, depending on the kind of accommodation they had.

The Government have failed to recognise the urgency to the situation and the problems people are facing. I have great sympathy for the farming community, for the developing farmers who took the advice given to them over the past decade to develop and to expand agricultural production in the interests of the national economy and in their own interests as well. It was Government policy. It was the policy of the advisory services. Farm plans were drawn up and people tackled them with determination and with drive. Interest rates doubled and prices have remained static unlike any other sector of the community.

We have national wage agreements and there may be a strike if the full agreement is not implemented. Over the past two years, not only did farmers not get a wage agreement, but they suffered a reduction of 50 per cent in their incomes. I would ask the State servants, or civil servants, or people working in industry, how they would react to a 50 per cent reduction in their take home pay compared with two years ago. Would they smile and suffer on? The policy of the Government this year in the budget has been to increase the taxation burden. In 1973, milk was delivered to creameries at roughly 20p a gallon. It would take the price of something like 1,300 gallons of milk to purchase a ton of nitrogen. This year when the price of milk is 55p or 56p a gallon, if not more, it takes 2,500 gallons [784] to purchase the same ton of nitrogen. That is the produce of two additional national average cows. This is an indication of the problem farmers are facing in relation to increased costs and inputs. Nitrigin Eireann have a national raw material in the form of natural gas. According to the reports that emanate from the company they are supposed to be getting the gas at knocked down prices, nevertheless, it is going to be difficult for the farmers in the coming spring and during the coming year to avail of any of these fertilisers because they have not got the wherewithal to pay for it.

Regarding those people who are indebted to either the ACC or the banks if one looks at the national herd one finds that it has almost halved in the past year-and-a-half. If one drives through the countryside one can see the reduced numbers of cattle in every area. People have sold off their breeding stocks in order to meet their commitments this year, but what they are going to meet them with in May and October next year is difficult to know. There should be a re-think on Government policy in this whole area. The agricultural policy, and, indeed, the advisory services have been noticeably slow in coming to the aid of farmers who are in difficulties in pointing the way to success. I should like to challenge the Department of Agriculture to produce a working plan for an average 50-acre farm with a debt of £30,000 at current interest rates, and let them have the benefit of average management intelligence and an average type of a good-medium loam. This situation will have to be resolved because not only are we talking about the farming community but in any of the country towns one finds that grocers, hardware, seed and fertiliser merchants are almost closed down. These people have high rates, taxes and VAT to pay and their income is diminished. Not only are their customers under pressure and possibly not able to meet their bills or commitments but in every town in the Republic you have the big supermarket chains who have moved in, such as, Penneys, Tescos or Dunnes, and these small merchants are absolutely squeezed out.

[785] This is a considerable change in rural Ireland and there is absolutely no Government policy to combat that or to offer aid. There is no one pointing the way out for people who are facing bankruptcy at the present time through no fault of their own. The price of land has fallen by half. It is difficult to dispose of land at present. The national herd had diminished. There were over 70,000 more cows slaughtered this year than in any other year. This means that in 1981 there will be large redundancies in the meat factories. That puts more people on the dole and, consequently, impose a greater burden on those who must maintain the unemployed.

What is unfortunate is that there is no sign of a sense of urgency from any of the Departments as to how they can assist people out of this difficult area. I would venture to say that there is almost a conspiracy of silence. The co-ops are not even making the noise that they should make in this situation and the banks are keeping a low profile. I would not be surprised if ACOT were directed by the Minister for Agriculture to play it low because they have not as yet even admitted that there is a crisis in the agricultural industry. They would almost ask, what crisis?

I must admit that I am influenced by what is going on in my own constituency, We have in Laois-Offaly the lowest incomes per head on the population. According to recent figures we have something like between 7 and 11 per cent industrial labour force so that we are very dependent on agriculture. Of the few industries that we have had eight have gone since June. This is not a pretty picture. We succeeded in getting the IDA to bring one itinerary to look at some of the vacant and new advance factories that are in the county this year. That is an indefensible situation to have. We are talking about £3,000 million expenditure but it is certainly not being spent in our area. We have a right to expect the same sort of services that we would have if we were resident in the greater Dublin area or in the west of Ireland. We certainly have been ignored and denied the development opportunities that other counties [786] have enjoyed for a number of years.

As far as we are concerned in the midlands the present Government have no policy on forestry. They have no policy either for the ordinary products or for the cultivation or maintenance of the forests and yet we have imports of over £1 million worth of sawn timber a week while the Department of Forestry are able to pay their most favoured friends £6 a ton to extract the timber and have it processed in Sweden and dumped back again here in the form of either wood products or ordinary timber. This again is intolerable. If an ordinary family sawmill — and there are 164 of them in the country — wants a few trees from the forestry they must tender for them. Yet we find the Department paying their best-favoured customers £6 a ton to extract the thinnings or the timber they want.

This is placing industry based on local raw material in an impossible situation. They have competition from Romania in the form of dumping and also from Sweden and Spain and some of the African countries. We have seen again in my own county Irish Board Mills closing last year with no replacement industry. In the last 18 months we had the entire four wood-processing factories in the Republic of Ireland closing down and no sign of a policy to introduce industry to replace them. Our afforestation programme started here in the early forties because of the far-sighted approach of the then Government and there have been huge tracts of land under forests that are now maturing but with absolutely no outlet for their products. This is deplorable. Only this week we have a joinery factory closing in Tullamore with a loss of 80 jobs, and the Government have not even recognised or utilised Article 90 of the Treaty of Rome to stop or to slow up or hinder the dumping of made-up components, doors and windows, that are put into houses right across the country and which are imported. By this time next year there will not be one Irish-made door or window utilised or built into any new or reconstructed house in the Republic because there will be no joinery places left simply because they will not be able to compete with the dumped [787] products from Romania and Eastern Europe, countries who are able to sell their products at prices less than the Irish joinery establishment can pay for the raw material. The machinery is there, the legislation is there and yet the Minister has so far not found it possible to take any corrective measures. This shows a lack of Government policy and a disinterest on the part of the Government in the livelihood of Irish workers. A few years ago if one wished to build a cattle shed or a lean-to, before one could get a grant it was necessary to prove that the timber or the galvanise being used was Irish, had been made in Spike Island or Haulbowline. Now one can use doors and windows made and fabricated in Romania. The reconstruction grants are gone but for the new house grant the same regulations should be in force. I see no reason why Irish workers should have to forego their livelihood and join the dole queue just because countries who want to dump stuff on our markets can do so.

There is certainly a great need for Government policy for the revival of the agricultural industry. Last week saw the introduction by the Government of a White Paper on land policy. Though I have read through it a couple of times I see nothing in it that would be of any benefit to the farmers in this country. It does not contain anything that is not already available through the Irish Land Commission. What I see is a surcharge on land purchase; 60 per cent on purchases of land by non-nationals and a 50 per cent surcharge on second sons or subsequent sons and daughters of farmers who want to go into the farming profession. This type of surcharge scheme failed before. It was introduced in 1965 and it was operated. The Minister had the power and the will with the Revenue Commissioners to write off the 25 per cent surcharge if he felt inclined to do that. But if it did not work before, it is not going to work now. At present when it is almost impossible to sell land in many parts of the country and when the price has almost halved compared with the record prices that perhaps were a little unrealistic but which operated for [788] a while two or three years ago, at least that aspect of this land policy is useless.

Another plan in this policy that has not been mentioned and has not been taken up by the papers in which it was reviewed, is the fact that there is a proposal to introduce a £5 per pound land tax on poor law valuation. Again a new tax is being introduced. In the very same week in my own constituency in the allocation of an estate in County Offaly two members of the Garda Síochána were allocated land. Both of them got 30 or 40 acres. One of them is a sergeant here in Dublin and neither of them lives in the constituency.

Inspectors of the Land Commission eliminate people who reside more than a mile away from an estate, yet you find that land is allocated to people living 50 and 60 miles away from it. It just beats me. The Government have the nerve in the same week to bring out a new proposal for land reform. I am against this proposal for the simple reason that anything that erodes the rights of the Irish farmer, erodes the principle of the three F's, is a retrograde step and it is one that I will oppose to the last.

I do not think we have come to a stage in the development of agriculture when we can tolerate the erosion of the rights of our farmers. It is bad enough to have their incomes scuttled and absolutely no regard paid to their welfare but when the actual ownership of the land is being dictated by a civil servant, no matter how well-intentioned, from Kildare or Mount Street, it is the last straw. I want to say that as far as I am concerned I am against the proposals. They are unnecessary and I do not think that their implementation will solve any of the difficulties under which the Irish Land Commission are working.

If the Government were serious about agricultural reform they would continue on a policy of acquiring land that comes on the market and they would pay for it either at the going market price or at least would guarantee the land bonds with which they pay the farmers, guarantee them at par value to the first holder so that the public would have confidence in the land bonds.

[789] During the past couple of years the public have had a higher regard for land bonds. It is not as difficult to sell them. However, it is tragic that after the Land Commission have commenced compulsory acquisition proceedings against, say, an elderly farming pair in any part of Ireland, that a year or so afterwards they hand the couple a bundle of land bonds in which they have no faith. This wrecks their sense of security. I sincerely ask the Government to change the policy a little so that the bonds held by the first holders would be guaranteed by the Government at part until the first change of surrender of those land bonds. Such a scheme would not cost the Exchequer very much, if anything at all, but it would give that little bit of confidence to the people from whom the land was taken.

The proposal to subsidise the exchange or the sale of land to developing or under-developed farmers is not a new proposal because in the 1965 Land Act the Land Commissioners have the facility to subsidise the interest rates and the rent that farmers can be charged. Indeed, last week, to go back to the same estate, the Minister's most highly-favoured beneficiaries have been offered land at £60 an acre while those at the bottom of his list are asked to pay £120 an acre for the same type of land in the same estate. This is something that causes disquiet and one is annoyed when one hears those complaints coming from a rural area where the population is inclined to be rather close. It is upsetting if one developing farmer is being charged what amounts to an uneconomic rate for his allocation while his neighbour appears to be highly subsidised.

Regarding Vote 22, Justice, occasionally I look at the television programmes and I see the Film Censor in all his glory acting the comedian on one programme in particular; perhaps, he has a part-time job. I should like to draw the attention of the House and the Minister to a new phenomenen in the country, the video recorder which people attach to the television. The people who are selling these machines circulate a catalogue of films that are available for sale or for rent or for hire. They cost from £24 to £58. I do [790] not have one of these machines and I have no intention of acquiring one. But I have looked through the catalogue which was passed on to me by a trader and I have found that in this catalogue there are two pages listing films with an A certificate — films of general interest or comedy. There are three pages devoted to children's films, from Laurel and Hardy to Charlie Chaplin and cartoons. But there are 12 full pages of pornographic X-certificate films. I do not know what the law is on this but the Film Censor should have some view on these and there should be some control on their availability. I have seen these video machines in a number of public houses. I am not suggesting that publicans would avail of this particular way to entice customers into their pubs but the fact is that the vast majority of films available for hire or for purchase are X-certificate, uncensored films. I just mention that in passing. It is something which should be looked at because it is an area of activity which the country could well do without and I hope that the Film Censor will busy himself with that problem. If he has no jurisdiction over that, then it is for the Government to devise a policy in order to protect the population in general.

Dealing with the large amount of money in the Appropriation Bill, £3,400 million, it is difficult to spread the money around. In practically every area in which the Government have a finger at the present time there is a shortage of money. Many speakers have lauded the fact that we have a young population and that we have in that a great benefit. It is a tremendous resource for Ireland, as a small country, to have. Unfortunately, that fact is not reflected in Government policy in any aspect. For instance, in regard to education, there is hardly a town in the Republic, and certainly not in my own constituency in towns such as Tullamore, Portlaoise, Mountmellick or Abbeyleix, where there is not pressure on school space. In Tullamore the CBS school was built for 140 pupils, but there are 360 pupils in it. They are waiting for the go-ahead to build an extension or a new school. One swallow does not make a summer but in Portlaoise the children [791] must be seven before they are admitted to the infant school. This is a developing town. The proposed new 16-room school required for the area at the present is waiting for the go-ahead from the Minister for Finance and from the Board of Works.

This is a big problem. If we recognise that we have a young expanding population — Senator Mulcahy's figures were very interesting and I compliment him on his projection — we must give a higher priority to the provision of educational infrastructures. If we do not provide the educational infrastructures for the national schools, what is the use in talking about second- and third-level streams. Children are too old starting school at seven years of age. If they start school at that age and then go to a vocational or secondary school they will find that by the time they have their group or leaving certificate they are too old to go into apprenticeship. It is a matter of great urgency that the school-building programme be looked at. I am glad that the Minister in charge of the Board of Works is here. Perhaps he will, in the coming budget, ensure that his office is adequately financed to guarantee a measure of priority so that all these schools will be built on time. It is unacceptable that children should be denied access to national schools before they are six-and-a-half or seven years of age. That regulation is being applied in a number of schools. It is unfortunate. The managements cannot do much about it. There is just no space. It is a matter of re-ordering the priorities. I have great sympathy with the Minister for Finance. I am sure there is pressure on him from every corner for increased funds. However, Education must be a priority. It is necessary that school buildings should be such that pupils have adequate space and are educated in surroundings that have a positive effect on them.

Senator Murphy made a speech which I found very interesting. He expressed very strong views on the country's role as a neutral State. He was against the Minister for Foreign Affairs or anybody else even considering a change in the traditional [792] neutral status of this country. I would like to put on record that I do not share that view. We should be part of the North Atlantic Alliance. This is purely a personal view but I believe that our participation in NATO would add a new dimension to our Defence Forces. Such a positive line could not be taken by any power as a sign of weakness. It will come to the time when we must align ourselves and be prepared to defend the principles for which we stand. We must be prepared to throw in our lot, small or weak or powerful or whatever it may be, with those who are prepared to defend the rights of small nations, to defend the rights of people to determine their own standing in the world. I would like to put on record that, having regard to the fact that there would appear to be a new world order and if we are to look at the north-south dialogue in the various international forums, it is important that a country such as ours, with our heritage and our background, should be at those conferences and that our voice should be heard.

I wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs well in his important role in the United Nations over the next period and I compliment him on our election to the Security Council. It is appropriate and important that we should have a voice there. I do not expect that our Minister would be a hawk, neither would I like to see him an absolute dove. The Minister should make a contribution which would reflect the aspirations and all of our people for fair play and for freedom for all the peoples of the world. It is important that we should be part of these organisations and of NATO. Our participation in the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces has not affected our standing. The Russian bear is not a dormant power, and if the West becomes too docile and weak there can be significant and very fast movements. I would not like to be living under any of the Eastern regimes. One only has to look over the Berlin Wall to see the stark reality, the difference between living free, with freedom of expression, and living under the totalitarian regimes where one has to queue up even for milk. We do not have those [793] problems here but we have to work to defend ourselves, and we must always recognise that the price of peace is eternal vigilance.

The greatest problem that the country is facing at the moment is unemployment. As we face into the New Year, those with jobs, the employers and the workers, should rededicate themselves to redeveloping and expanding our country. There should be a new definition of partiotism and we should think on the lines of working for the country and of taking an interest and even a joy in our work.

Debate adjourned.


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