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

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes That is a tax on wealth.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White He relented some minutes later, presumably out of sheer embarrassment, having heard Deputy Fleming praise the measure as "taxation on people with large amounts of money sitting in the bank". It then dawned on the Sinn Féin party that this was perhaps a measure taxing wealth.

I accept that the Labour Party has not been able to do everything it advocated in the manifesto it put to the Irish people. We obtained 19% of the vote and had 37 Deputies elected. It was not realistic for us to form a Labour Party Government. No party was in a position to form a Government on that occasion.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Labour's way or Frankfurt's way.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White There had to be compromise and there has been. I have no doubt there were difficult negotiations leading up to this budget. The people of Ireland expect the parties in government to work together in a coherent way.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis They expect honesty.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White Who is up or down and which policy was or was not implemented is not important. This is about the serious business of government. Fine Gael and the Labour Party is the only combination of parties that can deliver that.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Liam Twomey): Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey The next speaker is Deputy Mary Lou McDonald, who I understand is sharing time with Deputies O'Brien, Tóibín and Stanley. Deputy McDonald has ten minutes, Deputies O'Brien and Tóibín have five minutes and Deputy Stanley has ten minutes.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald On the first day this Dáil met we were urged by two young first-time Government Deputies to hang out our brightest colours to welcome the election of Deputy Kenny and Deputy Gilmore as Taoiseach and Tánaiste, respectively, and to embrace the historic moment that the Fine Gael-Labour Party union represented. While the naivety of those Deputies is one thing, the calculated cynicism of their senior colleagues is quite another. Twenty months on and two budgets later, that cynicism is writ large. The promise of the democratic revolution was patent nonsense. So many of the promises made during the last election and on the formation of Government have been dumped as the Labour and Fine Gael parties adopt the failed policies of their predecessors. We now realise that this Government is actually Fianna Fáil in all but name. Different personalities, but the same bad political choices; different voices, but the same message. Following the Taoiseach's statement that we will not have the word "defaulter" written across our foreheads, the bondholders have been paid in full, the banks and bankers have been propped up, there is no deal on the debt and no deal on the Anglo Irish Bank promissory note. The Government of tough decisions meekly submits to the will of the big boys at EU level and the troika. High rollers in the public sector, high earners across the economy and the wealthy are all unashamedly and unapologetically protected. Same old, same old Fianna Fáil.

  The middle classes have been abandoned by this Government, left struggling with unmanageable debt, loss of income and loss of hope. The Government, it seems, could not be bothered to shape policy and budget decisions in favour of middle Ireland. That was too much trouble. Its promise of jobs has come to nothing. This Government continues to kill off confidence and demand in the domestic economy. The low-paid fare no better. The changes to the PRSI income disregard in the latest budget screams out the Government approach: protect the rich and screw the rest. Same old, same old Fianna Fáil. Deficit reduction is to be achieved by hammering citizens of modest means and cutting the meagre supports that are afforded to the sick, the elderly, the disabled and children. The Taoiseach, echoed by the Tánaiste, makes no apology for this. This is toxic stuff. It is by any stretch maladministration. It is incompetence. It is the Labour Party and Fine Gael echo of same old, same old Fianna Fáil.

  Sinn Féin moved this motion of no confidence in the Government because confidence in this Administration has run out. This Government should go. Never mind the reshuffle signalled by An Taoiseach; this Government should reshuffle itself out of office and allow a fresh election in which the electorate will have the chance to return a Government that will actually protect the common good, defend the collective interest, stand up for citizens and lead from the front. Twenty months on, it is clear this Government is incapable of doing any of this.

  The Government slaps itself on the back for dealing with the economic crisis in, to borrow the words of the self-congratulatory amendment tabled by it to this motion, "as fair a manner as possible". Listening to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, extol the virtues of this Government was pretty nauseating. The boys are clearly not in touch with reality. The truth is that this Government is not interested in fairness. That is what all the evidence indicates. The Government lives in a bubble. It occupies a parallel universe and has a truly distorted sense of reality. This Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition is a coalition of the heartless leading the gutless. The self-righteous bleating of Fine Gael is rivalled only by the snivelling submission of the Labour Party.

  Senior Ministers make all the noises about fairness, understanding the hardship endured by carers, the pressures that parents are under and, of course, the rights of children. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, did so last night as she introduced the welfare cutbacks. All noise and empty rhetoric which means nothing. When it comes to it, this Government has no problem punishing carers by rushing through a cut to the respite grant. When it comes to it, all the solemn promises made to children mean nothing. The Government has cut child benefit and the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance again. The family does not really matter to the bleeding heart of the Labour Party or conservative Fine Gael. Protection of families and family values can be invoked and dispensed with as this Government deems appropriate and politically advantageous. That is how this Government operates. Sinn Féin is on to it. Parents, carers, mothers and the women of Ireland see this Government as it really is, and it is not a pretty sight - a grey cabal of pompous ego-trippers who beat their chests and lecture us about the tough decisions they have to make. This Government comprises people with no clue of what it takes to care for and love a chronically sick or profoundly disabled child. It has no respect for carers and no regard for what the loss of €325 means to a carer. It has imposed cuts to jobseeker's benefit, a tax on maternity benefit and cuts in services, has heaped charges on the ordinary citizen and has brazenly defended the very well-off. This Government is not worthy to govern because it is hopelessly out of touch.

  Last Friday, while listening to an interview with the parent of a child with spina bifida, I was reminded of the utter disgust and despair engendered by the previous Government. This woman, who cares for her beloved child 24-7, and in doing so does a service to her family and this State, cried bitter tears of frustration, impotence and anger on the steps of Parliament. When the mother of a child with spina bifida is reduced and degraded to tears outside this Parliament that is the clearest evidence that this Government must go. Thus far and no further; enough is enough. The Government has pledged to protect the strong and punish the weak. The motion clearly states that this is not acceptable, not only to Sinn Féin and those it represents but to those who gave the coalition parties a mandate to govern. The Government's time is up. It should do the decent thing and go.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien There is a certain irony in our being lectured by partitionist politicians on the importance of country.

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