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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív]  Under Fianna Fáil, anyone who bought shares in the banks that failed had his or her shareholdings wiped out. We did not guarantee shareholders in the banks and many ordinary people lost all of their money. With regard to subordinated bondholders, they received 10 cent in the euro and were virtually wiped out. Who did we save? We saved depositors in the banks. It is time for the Government and, in particular, the Labour Party to state they would have burned depositors in the banks. One might say we should burn tier one bondholders, but there are a number of snags with that theory. First, in Anglo Irish Bank, for example, some €50 billion of the funds belonged to depositors, as opposed to €10 billion in the case of tier one bondholders. Therefore, if we had burned tier one bondholders and the bank had been allowed to collapse, depositors would also have been burned. Furthermore, in law, tier one bondholders rate equally with depositors. Therefore, one could not burn one without burning the other.

With regard to Anglo Irish Bank bondholders, the Government knows now and could have known before the general election, if it had checked, that its bonds were not taken out in Ireland but in another jurisdiction. Therefore, there is nothing the Government can do to change the law and if it had defaulted, it would have been taken to court immediately in Britain for non-payment of the bondholders. Therefore, it has perpetrated a huge lie, shown by its own actions to be an untruth. The fact is that it has followed a policy of paying bondholders and renewing the guarantee. The saying goes: "Let me be known by my actions, not by my words". The actions of the Government have validated those of the previous Government and shown the falsity of its stance when in opposition.

The issue of promises has been mentioned by my colleagues. Let us look at three of the main promises made. A promise was made with regard to the student charge, but the famous promise made at Trinity College Dublin has been totally broken. A promise was made on child benefit, curiously enough by the Labour Party, but it has been broken and smashed. The effect has been cumulative, such that the bigger the family, the harder the hit. I will speak more about this issue in the debate on the Social Welfare Bill tomorrow. A promise was also made with regard to income tax. I did not realise how many of the current Government were educated by Jesuits until the past few weeks. In their nice Jesuitical minds there is a fundamental difference between changing PRSI rates and changing income tax rates. However, as the ordinary public see it, it is all the same. It is money that comes out of their wage packets. Because of the way it was done, the same amount of money was taken from the person earning €400 a week and the one earning €4,000 a week.

As I said, if the Government believes its programme is right and the one the people want and voted for, it should have the courage and go and ask them. It should have an election, not based on the false promises it made - probably the greatest ever made in an Irish election - but on the policies-----

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I heard somebody mention the 1977 general election.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The promises the Government parties made in the last general election place the promises made in 1977 in the tuppence ha'penny place.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Outrageous.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív If the Government really believes what it is doing is what the people want and voted for, what is its problem in asking them to vote on it? I know the answer. The answer is that it knows what I know, namely, that the people did not vote for what they are getting. They were misled in an outrageous abuse of power. However, as has been pointed out, the sheep will come here tomorrow and vote for the Government. I do not expect defections; I expect that they will hold solid. However, that does not justify morally the things done by the Government. In particular, it does not justify being elected with one clear mandate and implementing a totally different set of policies.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I do not believe anyone comes into the political arena to cause hardship and suffering, particularly to those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale or people with disabilities. The optimist in me believes in the essential goodness of people, which is why it is so difficult to understand the rationale behind some of the cuts introduced by the Government. I am not using this occasion to engage in political point scoring or trade insults or derision. However, I must think back to the short time I spent in the previous Dáil when the current Government parties were doing to the then Government what those on this side of the House are now doing to it. I wonder what it adds to confidence in the political system. I know difficult decisions must be made, but what proportionality and fairness lie behind the cuts the Government is introducing? It is creating a more unequal society.

The decisions to be made come down to choices. There are always choices, but some of the alternatives receive no airing or recognition. It was very disappointing to hear that organisations such as Social Justice Ireland which wanted to make lengthy submissions only received approximately six minutes to make two proposals. Therefore, there was no real engagement with civil society groups. However, there was real engagement with powerful businesses, lobby groups, interest groups and employers and we see how successful they were. This can remain a low tax country, while broadening the tax base and reforming the tax system to make it fairer. There are taxes on income, but tax receipts can be raised elsewhere, for example, through the 12.5% corporation tax rate. Even a small percentage increase in that rate and a modest financial transaction tax would have taken the vicious sting out of the budget and the harsh, pitiless decisions to cut the respite care grant, child benefit and other allowances to the needy would not have been required. There are alarming figures for what is being lost to Ireland and other countries in the developed and developing world because of transfer pricing and we are allowing the country be a tax haven.

I acknowledge one positive aspect of the budget, namely, the role played by the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, in keeping the budget figure for the drugs task forces at 3%. I know there are challenges for these forces, but this is a positive move. I look forward to the Minister of State taking on the issues of the below cost pricing of alcohol and a tax on nutrition. These two measures would be along the lines of prevention. We must also stand up to the powers that be in Europe and not pay what is not our debt. I want the kind of society in which we live to be socially inclusive and fair. Ach ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an buiséad seo cothrom.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I thank the Chair for giving me the opportunity to speak on the motion which expresses no confidence in the Government. I commend and thank Sinn Féin for bringing it forward because I, too, have no confidence in the Government's ability to fulfil its obligations to make political decisions and choices that will benefit the citizens of the State. I say this for many reasons, but mainly because of its failure to deal with the issues affecting people in their daily lives. The Government has penalised citizens for the actions and the greed of others. Is it fair that cystic fibrosis patients, for example, should be sent home from St. Vincent's Hospital in the middle of winter because there are no beds available in a new €22 million cystic fibrosis unit? Is it fair to cut the respite care grant by €325? Is it fair to cut the household benefits package? Is it fair to take €10 from the child benefit payment to the poorest families or low-paid workers? Is it fair to cut the telephone allowance by 50%, from €310 to €155 a year? Is it fair to cut home heating support payments for the elderly? Is this fair for the 57% of older people who suffer from a chronic illness, one third of whom have a disability? Is it fair to bring forward a budget that hits the poorest, while protecting the richest, making this a harsh society, and failing to stimulate our floundering economy?

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