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European Council Meetings (Continued)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] If a person with a very high level, productive farm of, say, 400 acres of intensive dairy production, were to be paid on the same basis per hectare as a farm of 400 acres of poor ground with relatively little activity, that would destroy the level of productivity. Some of the other countries in eastern Europe are of massive scale and size and they clearly have a great deal of potential up front. That is why what Glanbia did in its decision to invest very substantial moneys in the south east is a recognition of its confidence for the future, when quotas go, and its confidence on where future productivity can actually come from. The projection of 1,500 jobs on farms is exceptionally welcome.

Everybody would like to see a situation where economic stimulus is provided and jobs created. One could say that, five years ago, this country was certainly Europe's problem but it is important it is one of the few with a positive growth projection regime, which is expected to grow further, and where confidence is beginning to return to the private sector in particular. In response to questions in the last fortnight, I pointed to the presentation given recently by Mr. Alan Gray in respect of the international economy in Ireland, the multinationals, the growth in numbers and the growth in exports, which are very important in the context of the continued strong line of investment into Ireland. The challenge is to deal with the indigenous economy, part of which is to get our public finances right. We are borrowing just over €1 billion a month to pay for social protection, public services and public service salaries, which is unsustainable, so that has to be dealt with. It is not an easy challenge, as the Deputy is aware.

I cannot recall tabling specific documentation here but, clearly, there would have been correspondence between the Permanent Representation on behalf of Ireland and the different committees. Whatever is relevant there, I can supply to the Deputy.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Just to be helpful, austerity is widely understood as an economic policy where governments slash the living standards of ordinary people through income cuts and higher taxes to pay for the bailout of bankers and speculators when their casino-like money market system fails. People throughout Europe will find it amazing that the Taoiseach or Prime Minister of the country that holds the Presidency either denies that it exists or is not fully au fait with it, judging from the Taoiseach's earlier remarks.

  Has the Taoiseach discussed this whole issue of austerity throughout Europe with the President of the European Commission, Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, since he made his recent remarks which raised serious reservations about austerity? Does the Taoiseach not feel that people like President Barroso should be called to explain, if he has these reservations, what is the alternative and what is the logic of having such reservations if he and the Commission continue, as part of the troika, to impose a savage regime of austerity on the people of Greece, Portugal, Ireland and other countries? Does the Taoiseach, who has the Presidency of the EU, have a particular responsibility to demand straight answers from those who wield enormous power within the European Union at present, or are words cheap and mean nothing, and people just sound off and feel no responsibility to honour what they say? This applies to the Minister for Social Protection. Should she not resign rather than implement any further savage austerity by the Government? If austerity is a deeply damaging and immoral hegemonic model, should there not be a refusal by the President to sign into law further tranches of that austerity from the Government, like the property tax, which is hugely damaging living standards and causing huge angst? Do words mean anything in this day and age if people feel they can just make speeches and try to enunciate the feelings of tens of millions of people throughout Europe, but then not stand behind them?

  The Taoiseach has less than two months to the exit of Ireland from the EU Presidency. Will he not find it shameful if, even once, he does not stand and challenge this disastrous policy that is being inflicted on tens of millions of ordinary people throughout Europe, given he has not challenged it once? He should use his international platform to challenge it on behalf of the Irish people, who are victims of this austerity which he is implementing, as well as on behalf of tens of millions of people throughout the EU. Will he not have a sense of shame or failure that he is not in any way challenging these effects, which are now commonly accepted and understood, not just by the real left, which has exactly spelled out what the disastrous consequences would be, but even by right wing economists, who are now arriving at this conclusion as well? The effects of this policy are emblazoned on society and on the lives of our people to their great cost.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Deputy will recall me saying on more than one occasion, as many members of the Government have pointed out for quite a long time, that we cannot tax our way back to prosperity and we cannot cut our way back to prosperity. We have a set of problems here that we have to deal with because nobody else is going to deal with them. As I have said on many occasions, from a point where we were losing 7,000 jobs a month in the private sector, it has now come to a point where 1,000 jobs are being created every month, which I believe everybody could welcome. While it is clearly not enough to do what we need to do and get where we want to be, it is a good start in the reversal of the direction we were headed in.

Let us be clear. In so far as my contributions at the European Council are concerned, with regard to this philosophy of saying we cannot and would never be able to either cut or tax our way back to prosperity, what we need to do is to set out a strategy for the development of the Union and the eurozone as we see it, and follow those things through. Yes, it would be lovely to have mountains of money to throw into stimulus of one sort or another, but let us consider the circumstances we found here, as well as the fact all of these facilities that are now becoming available were not available then. Our debt to GDP ratio would be below the European average had we not had to deal with the catastrophic position in regard to the banks and their recapitalisation.

President Barroso understands very well what is going on around Europe - he is a former Prime Minister of Portugal. As I said to the Deputy in my reply, President Barroso gave a presentation to the European Council meeting on growth, competitiveness and jobs, and the priorities for the European semester for 2013. If the Deputy does not have it, I will forward him a copy of that presentation as it may contain some paragraphs of interest to him. It points out the opportunities for competitiveness and, arising from competitiveness, for growth and jobs, which are the fundamental issue here.

It is not true to say we live in some kind of pretend world. Rather, we live in the world of reality which walks in the door to everybody in government every day, with unemployment, lack of economic activity and, as a consequence, lack of hope - I am sure the same applies across Europe.

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