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 Header Item European Debt: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2015: Message from Select Committee

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 866 No. 1

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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív] It was easy for those outside the system to come up with handy answers and say let Anglo Irish Bank go bust, but no one told us what to do about all of the depositors. Should we have let depositors with deposits worth €20 billion go bust? In the nationalisation the only ones who did not get their money back were the investors in the bank. We certainly were not bailing them out, or any other bank.

The Minister needs a backbone. He needs to go to Brussels to say there is unfinished busines, that the Irish people are very annoyed that they took the full hit and are now being punished by the Commission's logic in getting their house in order and that he and the Irish people want to share in any new deal done for Greece.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe The motion asks the Government to support holding a European debt conference. The Taoiseach has bluntly rejected the idea. The Minister for Finance also seemed to reject it. He also said making debt more affordable was a better solution than writing it off. It makes absolutely no sense for the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance or the Government of a state with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 111% to say "No" to the idea of having a European debt conference. I do not understand the logic of the Government’s position.

  The Government says ECOFIN is the right place in which to discuss the issue, but this is the group that promised in June 2012 the separation of banking and sovereign debt. It is made up of EU finance Ministers who are so out of touch with reality that they cannot, or will not, see the impact of austerity on the young, the elderly, the unemployed and those on low incomes across Europe. The Taoiseach says we should leave it to them to sort it out.

  A debt conference should not only involve Ministers but also people from civic society who have been affected by debt. The new Greek Government wants to get the European Union talking about debt and is calling for the adoption of a fresh approach. Why would anyone oppose this? When the Minister replies, he might answer that question. The Government should recognise an ally when it sees one. Instead, it seems to be blinded by misguided loyalty to those who forced austerity on the people. Its amendment to the motion promises more of the same. There is not one single word about poverty and the deprivation facing many Irish families because of debt. It affects families right across Europe. We are being presented with a benevolent European Union which has been kind to the people. The people should shut up and be thankful to the bondholders whom we bailed out. That seems to the attitude and the message we are getting.

  The Government's amendment also states the debt is sustainable. If one is wealthy, it probably is, under the Government’s policies. Last night 518 patients were on trolleys in hospitals. Is that sustainable? Hundreds of thousands, mostly young people, emigrate each year. Is that sustainable? It is inexplicable that the Government of a state as indebted as ours would close its mind and say "No" to a different approach. The Government should be standing up for the people and support the call for the holding of a European debt conference.

  Last September Argentina called for the creation of an ad hoc UN committee on sovereign debt restructuring that would negotiate an international mechanism to enable countries that were heavily indebted to default in a fair and just way. Ireland was one of eleven countries to vote against the creation of the committee and was the only heavily indebted European country to vote "No". The committee has been established and is meeting in New York for the first time today, but the Government seems to be staying away.

  The position the Government has adopted is against the national interest. Surely an international mechanism to resolve sovereign debt crises would make it easier for Ireland to seek a write-down of some of its unjust debts and, in particular, the Anglo Irish Bank debts which most Members agree are unfair. A new UN mechanism could support Ireland and some of the world’s poorest countries which are suffering under the burden of unfair, unearned and, in many cases, unpayable debts. It is supposed to be part of the Government’s policy for development to work towards helping countries in that position. The average Irish citizen, myself included, wants to know why the Government refuses to negotiate in a serious way, at an international level, in the best interests of the people. Why would it oppose the holding of a debt conference? I listened to the Minister for Finance speak and he gave no answers. The Taoiseach said during Leaders’ Questions that it was up to EU finance Ministers to sort it out. Surely we should consider other ways.

  Deputy Derek Nolan spoke about where Sinn Féin was going wrong. Like the bully in the schoolyard, he gives a few slaps, throws a few boots in and runs out. Many of the things he said were fantasies. He misquoted us. We want to see people move from their current position. The amount of personal debt Irish people have is astronomical. We all know this and if we work in our constituencies, we should know it.

  The debate needs to continue. The debt conference could be opened up to every individual and could come up with some serious solutions to what is happening across Europe. Like others, I welcome what has happened in Greece. It has a new government, with a new approach and a new way forward. The rest of us in Europe need to watch and learn lessons from what has happened there and perhaps open our minds to new ways forward to deal with the crisis facing people across Europe.

Debate adjourned.

Estimates for Public Services 2015: Message from Select Committee

Acting Chairman (Deputy Frank Feighan): Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan The Select Sub-Committee on Children and Youth Affairs has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimate for public services for the year ending 31 December 2015: Vote 40 - Children and Youth Affairs.

  The Dáil adjourned 9.10 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 4 February 2015.

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