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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 Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald] It means families living in poverty. It means vast numbers of people struggling just to get by, worrying night after night about their basic household bills. That is the collective achievement of Ministers opposite. If this is what they call success, I only hope we never witness what they might regard as failure. I note that the Minister, Deputy Howlin, in confessing to having made some mistakes, vows that the Government will go and make some more. I have no doubt that will send a chill down many people's spines.

  The Taoiseach harked back to 2011 in his opening remarks, recalling a time when people were "dazed" and "horrified". It might interest him to know that people remain dazed - dazed by his relentless austerity, dazed by his detachment from the real lives and struggles of ordinary people. The public also remains horrified - horrified, above all, at the prospect of another year or more of this Government. The people want the Taoiseach and his Ministers to go, and they would like them to do so quickly and with some grace. However, the people are also prepared to face down the Taoiseach and his Government. The people are defiant and they have had their fill of Ministers' soundbites, negativity and misinformation. Tomorrow, Members opposite will see, at the gates of this building, the latest manifestation of that defiance. In order to prevent panic among the ranks of Government, I assure the Taoiseach, on the people's behalf, that this is not a stunt designed to distract attention from other pressing matters. Tomorrow will be a day of reckoning when the people's demand for the abolition of domestic water charges will ring across this city. Tomorrow, the people's demand for water as a human right will echo across Dublin and beyond. Will the Taoiseach and Tánaiste listen to that message? Will they hear the people's simple messages or will they consider their demand to be ill conceived, as ill conceived as this motion which proclaims this Administration's competence to govern?

  The Minister, Deputy Howlin, always strikes a very lofty tone when he talks about reform. However, what is notable in the response from the Government is the almost hysterical reaction when it is challenged and called to account. The Tánaiste congratulated herself and the Taoiseach earlier on their fight against unemployment. Both she and the Taoiseach placed inflated figures regarding job creation on the record. The fact is, as the Taoiseach knows, that for every job created by this Government, five people have emigrated. The number of young people in employment is 15,500 lower than it was in 2011. We have the highest rate of low-paid jobs in the OECD. We have the third highest rate of underemployment across the EU 28. How is that for Toytown economics, to use the phrase of the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald? For people who live in the real world, these facts are the evidence of poor economic policy, poor economic planning and poor economic delivery.

  The Taoiseach's soundbites regarding Ireland's "cold and heartless past" and his claim to have dealt with past injustices inflicted by the State on the watch of his party and others do not tally with the reality. He mentioned the women of the Magdalen laundries. The truth is that the McAleese initiative and report was a whitewash. The United Nations has recognised that. The truth is that the penny-pinching ex gratia scheme the Government has offered to these women is utterly miserly. The truth is that the similar ex gratia scheme afforded to survivors of symphisiotomy demonstrates again a disregard in real terms for the experiences and trauma of the women affected. Needless to say, this Government's treatment of Louise O'Keeffe and her pursuit of justice laid bare its attitude towards dealing with victims.

  I have been and remain a champion for all those who have suffered these types of injustices, every single last one of them. I have made that repeatedly clear on the record of the House, but the Government does not want to hear it. It is more convenient for Ministers opposite to attack Sinn Féin and, in a very personal way, to attack me. If that is the route they choose, it is of course their choice. However, it will not deter me or my colleagues from doing the right thing. When it comes to dealing with victims of mother and baby homes, county homes, orphanages and children's homes - Catholic, Protestant and State-run - we will be holding the Government to account to provide a fully inclusive scheme to bring truth and justice to those people.

  The central catch-cry for this Government was a democratic revolution and the notion of political reform. I have not seen any real evidence of that. The instinct of the Government remains one of absolute conservatism. When challenged, members of the Government close ranks. In fact, it is nearly regarded by them as something of an insult or presumption should somebody on this side of the House challenge the Government on the way politics operates and who are the political insiders as against the political insiders. That is very revealing and it has been revealed again in the course of this debate. The Taoiseach's colleagues in government have been hysterical in their attempts to defend him and his Administration. They demonstrate not just sensitivity but hyper-sensitivity to any form of criticism. Above all, they utterly discount any notion that there is an alternative to this Government. Indeed, that is really their problem with Sinn Féin and with people in the Independent ranks. They do not like the fact that a coherent alternative to their failed Government is now emerging.

  I have no doubt that in the run-in to the election, Ministers will move heaven and earth, do and say anything to convince the people that as bad as they are, they are as good as it gets. Let me tell them that is not the case. Let me tell them that the people, in increasing numbers, are on to them and their scare tactics. They talk about "sinister fringes" when referring to decent citizens who come out and stand up for themselves and their families. The Taoiseach should call it a day now. He would be doing everybody a favour of he did. If he shares the commitment to democracy about which the Minister, Deputy Howlin, waxed lyrical a few moments ago, let him test that democratic principle. Let him go to the people and show he trusts their judgment and their capacity to make the right decisions for themselves, their families and their communities. The Taoiseach and his colleagues referred to the instability a political alternative might represent. The only instability that bothers any of them is the possibility that they might be removed from their cushy jobs. That is another fact which is clear for people to see.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, are sharing time.

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I rise to support the motion of confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government. When we assess the contribution and performance of any government, we must look back to what its members said they would do if they were trusted by the people with the reins of office. We said we would repair the public finances and do so without increasing income tax. That has been done and our public finances are now in good order. Not only have we not increased income tax, we actually reduced it in the latest budget. We said we would create 100,000 jobs. We are now up to 80,000 and set to reach our target before the next election, with unemployment having fallen 24 months in a row. We said we would bring about a smaller and more efficient public sector, and that has been done. We said we would bring about fair care.

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