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Confidence in Taoiseach and Government: Motion (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams] The Taoiseach stood by his former Minister for Health, even when primary care centres were conveniently located on the Minister’s doorstep.

Then there was the debacle about the removal of discretionary medical cards when citizens with acute medical conditions and disabilities had their medical cards taken from them. For a long time, perhaps over a year, the Government refused even to accept what its own backbenchers were telling it about this huge injustice being inflicted upon those families. First we were told that there was no such thing as a discretionary medical card. Who told us that? A Labour Party Minister. The Government capitulated and decided to return cards to some 15,000 people. It did not, however, decide to return the cards to all those from whom they had originally been removed. Last month we saw so-called reform of the medical card scheme, but citizens on discretionary medical cards are still in danger of losing them.

The troika is now gone, but I have my own little theory. When the troika was here and the Government just did what it was told, things were okay. However, when the Government had to deal with issues as they arose, it completely lost its way. According to the well known maxim, it is not what happens to you in your life but how you respond to it which is the important matter. This Government has been unable to deal in a competent, thought-out, strategic way with any event or crisis that has arisen on its watch. Its cutbacks to funding for health services, education and training, as well as the failure to deal with funding for drug and alcohol addiction services, are having dreadful social repercussions. So too is its refusal to build sufficient social housing to address the housing crisis and its refusal to stand up to the banks in defence of families in mortgage distress. That says it all. The Government is deferential to the elites and the big people while being absolutely dismissive of the small people. I have said that many times in this Chamber.

Sinn Féin does its best to voice the concerns of countless thousands of citizens. That is our mandate, but the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste will not answer a straightforward question put to them across the floor of this Chamber. People have seen through this because citizens are not stupid. They have seen through the patronising responses and insulting remarks. The actions of the Government in this Chamber in failing to be straight with the Opposition or with citizens is damaging faith in the political system. Every time the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste evade questions and duck and dodge their responsibilities, they merely expose this Government's arrogance and incompetence. It is the arrogance of power or what passes for power in this Oireachtas.

The Government has no progressive policy on the Irish language. The Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge is a non-policy. Gaeltacht areas are being subverted by the failure to look after what are essentially the wells of Gaeilge. According to a recent report, only 1,000 children are cainteoirí dúchais - only 1,000 native speakers in the Gaeltacht areas.

In his remarks, the Taoiseach never even mentioned the North. The last time he had to make a keynote speech here he did not mention the North either. The Government’s approach to the North and the peace process has been totally inadequate. He sees Sinn Féin as electoral rivals, rather than partners in peace-making. That is a profound mistake which fails all of the people in the North - Unionists and the rest of us - as well as citizens across this State. The Government has failed in its obligations by refusing to stand up to the British Government as equals on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements of which the Government is a co-guarantor.

For many Irish citizens, and particularly for people in the Six Counties, the success of the current discussions will be judged on whether they deliver justice to the many families injured and bereaved during the conflict. We have the Eames and Bradley reports, and most recently, the proposals put by Meghan O'Sullivan and Richard Haass. However, in a current paper to these talks, the British Government has invoked a national security clause to block victims and survivors from accessing information, thus keeping the truth hidden. This Government cannot be complicit in this. The Taoiseach must seek to have that national security clause removed because the families of Dublin and Monaghan, of Pat Finucane, of Ballymurphy and others expect nothing less.

The Government has no intention of properly marking the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. It has no plan and no vision. Under recent pressure from the relatives of the 1916 Leaders, the Government produced a glossy brochure which was, however, devoid of historical substance or details. The video which launched "Ireland 2016" made no mention of the Easter Rising or of the signatories of the Proclamation. The truth is that Government will not mark the Rising appropriately because it is opposed to the political, social and economic intent of the Proclamation.

The Government's imposition of domestic water charges in the face of such widespread opposition is proving to be the final straw for many families. Irish Water is this Government's Frankenstein creation and is a child of Fianna Fáil's. It has been characterised by excessive spending on consultants, bonuses and cronyism. In fact, it has become synonymous with everything that is wrong with this Government - political manipulation of State boards, threats to citizens, and escalating taxes on struggling families. Irish Water is now a toxic brand. The Government should reverse its unjust water policy and scrap water charges.

Tomorrow’s demonstration outside the gates of Leinster House will leave the Taoiseach in no doubt where citizens stand on this issue. I am sure he is in no doubt, anyhow. He has underestimated the level of public anger at the Government's record. The Taoiseach's attitude stands in stark contrast to the deferential way he deals with elites in the EU or the banking fraternity, as opposed to ordinary, decent citizens.

What is needed is a complete change of political direction and a realignment of politics in this State. A fairer way forward is required, involving economic stimulus, investment in public services, progressive taxation, and the abolition of water charges and the property tax.

The Taoiseach has said he sees the next election as a choice between Fine Gael or Sinn Féin. The fundamental ideological difference between Sinn Féin and this deeply unpopular Government is that we believe in a real republic - a citizen-centred, rights-based society. This Government believes in austerity, not rights, and in elites, not citizens.

The Taoiseach should take courage in his own hands. If he is really serious, he should resign, call a general election, have a real democratic revolution and let the citizens decide. I urge Deputies from all sides to reject the Government's counter-motion. They should reject the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Government generally.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy John Halligan is sharing with Deputies Finian McGrath, Richard Boyd Barrett, Joan Collins, Thomas Pringle, Shane Ross and Clare Daly. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan As the Taoiseach knows, I come from the Waterford constituency which has one of the highest levels of unemployment and lowest levels of investment. It has suffered severe job losses in recent years. In proportion to cities of the same size, Waterford has lost more SMEs than anywhere else.

I run 13 advice centres and I have two offices in Waterford. People from all walks of life seek advice in my offices, including employers, employees, the unemployed and families. In recent years, they have told me the same story of the pain and suffering that has been inflicted on many of them. I believe that unnecessary pain and suffering has been inflicted on the people due to greed and avarice, as well as reckless investment, spending and borrowing.

Those who have had to pay the most are not responsible for what has happened. The public are all too aware of the consequences of repaying this debt over the past six years. We do not have enough teachers in classrooms or beds in hospitals, and waiting lists for critical services are increasing.

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