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Confidence in the Government: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Sinn Féin is a party that complains about political decisions but has shown little or no capacity to make any decisions. Its policies are the stuff of fantasy. We can provide the policy document.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Which part of it?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin That party claimed it would not accept one cent of EU or IMF funding.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris We did not.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin When it comes to decision making-----

(Interruptions).

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

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We do not use vulgarity in this House, normally.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Minister has no problem cutting the carer's allowance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt We have had an orderly debate up to now.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I know. Deputy O'Brien has no standards at all. When it comes to making decisions, Sinn Féin will not make them, at least in this part of the island. It makes decisions in Northern Ireland but its members do not like to be reminded of them down here.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris Does the Minister know where that is?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin In Sinn Féin land it is always someone else's fault. The Government has been in office a mere eighteen months.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien That is too long.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It inherited an economy in an EU-IMF programme. Even in the awful days of the 1980s we avoided that. It was an economy unable to sustain itself. It was an economy which, until that programme was agreed, would have run out of money to pay the wages of teachers and gardaí. It was an economy which would not have been able to pay any child benefit to any of its citizens or any pensions to its elderly. All of this was largely as a result of a decision taken by the Fianna Fáil Party when last in government, and supported by the sponsors of the motion, to socialise private banking debt and place it upon the backs of the people. Sinn Féin has a brass neck to move this motion.

After 18 months the Government's stewardship is changing the country. The economy is on the road to recovery. Economic growth returned last year and the economy is set to grow again this year. Every programme target set has been met. Our deficit is coming down. This year's target of 8.6% of GDP will be met. Our tax revenues are growing again. Our public sector is being modernised and industrial peace has been maintained. Our international reputation has been rescued. Our bond spreads have come down and we have secured independent funding in the markets for the first time in four years. We have introduced a jobs initiative and an action plan alongside a stimulus plan to invest in vital infrastructure and jobs. The last CSO quarterly household survey shows unemployment coming down for the first time in many years.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris That is because people are emigrating.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The recovery is under way precisely because the Government has taken difficult decisions. No one on this side of the House takes any pleasure in what has happened to our country or in the decisions we have had to take since coming into office to begin the process of rebuilding and recovery.

I stated in my budget speech last week that the people have endured a fiscal correction without precedent in any modern western economy. The people have done so with an amount of dignity and courage. Most independent commentators agree that the burden has been shared progressively throughout the social spectrum. Not every decision made by Government has been perfect; it never could be and never will be.

The State has responded to the crisis. In a recession, more is asked of the State and its public services, not less. We have tried to ensure the least well-off are protected as much as possible. I use the term "protected", but no one has been immune. The scale of the crisis has ensured that much. Anyway, the people know we need to get out of this programme. They realise that failure to do so will not only delay restoring our economic sovereignty but will see further financial correction imposed upon us from outside the State, with little or no freedom and without the possibility of any Irish Government resisting. We need only look elsewhere in Europe to see that this is an inescapable fact. Moreover, the people realise that when the future of Europe is being discussed, Ireland needs to participate in the discussions without the constraints of being a programme member dependent on others. They know, too, that we are making slow and painful progress and that this crisis has brought down an awful burden on the young people of our country. The people have no intention of allowing the agony to be prolonged. They expect, rightly, some generosity from our European Union neighbour countries because the young population of the State has paid the greatest price for the stability of the European banking sector. While the solidarity received thus far is welcome, it falls short of what we need and deserve.

We know that Ireland bears its share of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. Our people are paying a heavy price for these failures. However, the people know that systemic European weaknesses played a part in our banking and property bubbles. The Government expects our European partners to acknowledge as much.

The people know we have other problems to tackle and that the fiscal crisis is only the first of the hurdles we must overcome. Our unemployment problem remains. Today's ESRI report reveals a particular problem involving non-working households which goes beyond the fiscal crisis and requires a measured and considered response. The people know that this fiscal crisis has caused legacy issues that will take us years to address. They know that what has happened in Ireland is both tragic and complex. It is trivialised by the motion before the House.

No change of Government would change the problems we must address as a nation. Are Sinn Féin or Fianna Fail or both together offering such a solution to the people? Even after last week's budget and the difficult decisions we made, we will borrow €1 billion plus per month next year to pay our bills. Sinn Fein's response is denial. Its position is to ignore the problem, to hope it will go away and to tell the EU and IMF, as per the Sinn Féin pre-election submission, to take a hike and that Ireland will mind its own business.

This is a national Government committed to restoring our county's fortune.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris No, it is not a national Government.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Two parties, of different ideological perspectives, have come together.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien It is not a national Government.

(Interruptions).

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

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin That party believes it owns the word "nation" as well as our flag, but it owns neither. Two parties of different ideological perspectives have come together to pursue a single shared aim. Deputies on this side of the House who support the Government do so not because it is easy. It is not easy. They do so because they know the long-term interest of the people requires decisions to be taken because the country does not enjoy the resources it once had. They do so because they know the national interest is more important than their own careers or the advance of their party. They do so because they recognise the world that faces us as it is, not as others would pretend it to be. They are putting their shoulders to the wheel, not hurling abuse from the ditch. None of that can be said about this motion or the party that has moved it.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I wish to speak against the Sinn Féin motion and in favour of the Government amendment which expresses confidence in the Government as it deals with the current economic crisis. This is a good Government. As the Minister, Deputy Howlin, noted, it is a Government of national unity and is, therefore, unprecedented. For the first time in the history of the State, the two largest parties in the Dáil have come together to form a Government. The main party on the centre right and the main party on the centre left have come together to form a Government. That is not a normal thing to happen in a democracy but we do not live in normal times. We live in very difficult times and we are doing what is necessary. In coming together the two parties have given political stability to the country through to 2016. We have provided a strong enough majority in this House and the other House to make the necessary changes. It may be the case that along the way we lose some people, but we need to be in a position to be able to do that. We cannot have a Government dependent on a few Independents or in a minority position.


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