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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 Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] Sinn Féin, the party led by the "Leader for Life", the Enver Hoxha of Irish political life, voted for the bank guarantee, socialising banking debt on the backs of the Irish people. Far from the radical party of the left, it proved to be the bankers' poodle on the one occasion when it really mattered.

It is joined by the real author of our financial collapse, Fianna Fáil, which is led by a man who almost stuck it out to the end before deserting that particular sinking ship. Having joined together to back this motion, are they offering an alternative Government? Should this Dáil vote itself into a general election today? They are not. Their policy alternatives are not real, but they know that. Nor are they even prepared to ally themselves together to form a Government. Hardly a day goes by when the leaders opposite rule out sharing power with each other. It is bizarre that the only party that all of the parties opposite want to share power with is my own. They are joined by the Independents, who seem to spend most of their time discussing how to lose their independence through some form of alliance. I listened with interest to their new apparent leader, the reinvented cheerleader of Anglo Irish Bank, Deputy Ross.

The Opposition tabled not so much a motion of no confidence in the Government as a motion rejecting governance itself. Government is a place where hard decisions are made. Democracy is not some form of juvenile game where individuals pursue heightened forms of personal purity. Democracy is the process by which people with competing interests and perspectives come together as adults to resolve real differences and take decisions, supported by the majority and protective of the minority.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams And keep their mandate.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputies opposing this motion are asking the people to embrace anarchy and to take another chance with chaos. As a people, we have stared down that barrel before, we have seen the track record of the people opposite, and we will not be going back there.

This Fine Gael-Labour Government has made real mistakes. We know and have said that. No doubt, we have actually made more. However, on the big question, the most fundamental challenge that faced this or any Government of recent times, we have steered the ship of State into the harbour from the rocks on which it was left foundering by our predecessors. I, for one, am proud to be part of this Government.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Nonsense.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan Is the Minister sure it is Ireland he is talking about?

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I honestly say that the Taoiseach has exceeded all expectations. I can say that with some justification, as I have previously been one of his critics. He has been immensely strong at a time when we needed someone to step up, make hard decisions and understand people. There is no one better than the Taoiseach at understanding people, be they the women of the Magdalen laundries or the homeless on our streets. He is willing to go out and talk to them. He does not hide away. He is not out of touch. He has that humanity, but he also has an understanding of the considerable task that we faced as a country three years ago. It was an extraordinary time. It is easy to forget that 300,000 jobs had been wiped out. Some 20% of private sector jobs disappeared overnight. We were on the hook for €64 billion and were spending 50% more than we were taking in in revenue.

Parties opposite state that they are anti-austerity. Everyone is anti-austerity, but policies based on spending one's way out of trouble when one is already spending 50% more than one is accruing in revenue are madness. Those were the strategies being offered by the benches opposite. They continued in that vein. Year after year, Sinn Féin has stated that it would make 80% of the adjustment on the tax side. This would have meant the extraction of €5 billion more in taxes from our people and businesses during the past four years. We would not have had an economy in recovery.

Instead, the Taoiseach understood that we could not build over the old fault lines of the property culture left by Fianna Fáil. We needed to create entirely new sectors. He has driven the hunger to find those sectors and to build a strong economy on a sustainable basis. Not only have we created 80,000 jobs, which the rhetoric of those opposite completely denies, but they are located in every region. Some 94% of these are full-time jobs in sustainable sectors, not part-time, yellow pack jobs. We will create more. These jobs are fixing people's lives. This is not just about statistics. It is about people who can get up in the morning with a purpose and the ability to fulfil their potential. They can provide incomes for themselves and their loved ones. They can also provide money to help us as a Government to address some of the issues on our streets. We see them all of the time. Homelessness is the issue of today, but there are many others in the health sector that we need to be able to fix.

Remarkably, the recent budget, which was slated by the troika for not taking a further €2 billion out of our economy through taxes and spending cuts, saw us restoring €1 billion thanks to our progress. It is not a lot and people's patience is strained to breaking point at times, but it points to the direction in which the country is going. We can realistically have confidence in the vision that the Taoiseach so often articulates about wanting a country in which people can live and grow old in dignity and our young people have a future. We are creating that. When we entered office, net emigration was 34,000 people. That rate has decreased by 30%, but we are nowhere near where we need to be. We want the elimination of net emigration. We want any young person who wants to make his or her future in Ireland to have that opportunity.

When I listen to the parties opposite, I never hear a word about the importance of enterprise. The truth is that it is enterprise that will create employment. There is no Sinn Féin policy on enterprise. There is no Independent policy on enterprise. They believe that it just grows on trees, that they can load more taxes on employers and workers and do not have to create an environment that is good for start-ups but that it will all still happen anyway. They do not believe that they have to create an environment in which external investors, who once fled the country in their droves, are willing to invest money. One must work at these factors day in, day out. That is what the Taoiseach has driven in our economy. His enthusiasm and commitment have rallied people to find the energy to drive change. It is remarkable.

I am a long time in politics and have seen many glossy statements of intent being published by Ministers in a blaze of glory, only to see them shrink away when things fail. Under the Taoiseach's guidance, everyone is held to account for delivering on commitments. That is at the heart of our Action Plan for Jobs, Pathways to Work and every one of our strategies. Accountability represents a major change. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, is driving real change in our public service. We can be confident that we will not only have more resources, but that we will have a public service that has the ability to be performance driven. This is a fantastic achievement of the Government. It is what we will need in the coming five years as we continue to grapple with high levels of unemployment and create enterprise in new areas that are as yet undreamt of. We need the sort of Government that the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have been offering. I am proud to be a part of that and to vote and speak in support of it.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Despite the Taoiseach's best efforts today, his language is jaded. So is his Government. The one point of clarification that has emerged is that all is well with him and the Tánaiste. I can only anticipate the sigh of relief across the country that they are playing happy families and having robust debates while none the less coming out on the same side of every argument. If backslapping was an Olympic sport, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste would undoubtedly be gold medalists. I dare say that their Front Bench would take silver and bronze, too.

The Taoiseach clings to empty, meaningless refrains, asserting his commitment to fairness, social recovery and a social dividend. Who exactly does he think he is fooling? The Government's demonstrable track record is one of deepening inequality. This means children living in poverty and sleeping in bed and breakfasts, hotels and hostels. It means people sleeping on the streets.


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