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Leaders’ Questions

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Last week in this House, the Tánaiste acknowledged that there have been difficulties, including communications difficulties, with the payment of the household charge. On reflection, he will have to agree that what he said probably represents one of the understatements of the year. Unfortunately, the entire project has been a bit of a debacle. It has rightly been described today in a number of editorials as a “fiasco”. The Tánaiste also said last week that it is possible to make this payment at a post office. Of course, it was not possible to make the payment at a post office and it is still not possible. Forms are available, but people have to write to the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Department. To compound that and add insult to injury, the Minister, Deputy Burton, repeated that error on an RTE programme on Sunday. She had to be corrected by the Minister, Deputy Hogan, later that afternoon. The Minister, Deputy Hogan, is not making it easy for people to pay this household charge. He has steadfastly refused to extend the 31 March deadline, even though just 23% of the 1.8 million people who are obliged to register have done so. As I said last week, the Minister has taken an “Orwellian” approach. Big Phil is intent on marching on.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath He is not that big any more.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is not just utility bills. It is not just the kind of sense that “we are watching you and we are going to get you”. It is not just the “you can run but you can’t hide” approach. He has added to that now. This week, we were told that local authority officials [617]would be knocking on doors to collect the charge. No one really or seriously believes that is a good idea. In fairness to the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, she came out quickly last evening, with her commendable common sense approach, to say that was never a prospect and could never be a prospect.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney It took someone from Cork to show some common sense.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin All of this is undermining the credibility of the household charge in the public mind. Does the Tánaiste really believe there will be such a rush to comply with the requirement to pay the charge that up to 1.5 million people will register to do so before next Saturday?

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae It will have to be some rush.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister, Deputy Howlin, basically put his hands up this morning and said this has not been handled well. I ask the Tánaiste whether he thinks this is fair.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I did not say any such thing.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister said it on “Morning Ireland”.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I did not say that.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Minister was hung out to dry.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly Deputy Martin only hears what he wants to hear, just like with the Mahon report.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Is it fair that fines will automatically apply to those who do not pay the charge by 31 March, even though they have yet to receive a leaflet explaining how to pay the charge and Labour Party Ministers agree that it has been badly handled? Will the Government reconsider the matter? Will the Tánaiste confirm to the House that the timeframe within which people have to pay the household charge will be extended?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Deputy Lyons is very upset.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I doubt there is anybody in the country at this stage who does not know about the household charge and the fact that it must be paid by 31 March.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I got my leaflet only yesterday.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore When the charge was introduced, the deadline set for payment was 31 March. That remains the deadline. The charge can be paid online at www.householdcharge.ie.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Not in the post office.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore It can also be paid by post to post office box No. 1268. It can also be paid through the local authority. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has asked local authorities to extend the range of offices at which the charge can be paid. It can be paid by postal order or other means on getting a form in the post office and forwarding it from there.

It is important at this stage that there be no misinformation or confusion among the public.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher There is no information at all.

[618]The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The charge is payable by 31 March. There has been quite a degree of public awareness of the charge over the course over the past couple of weeks. At this stage, the best advice any Member of this House can give to a member of the public is that he or she is liable to the charge and that it must be paid.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That does not really answer the question. The matter has not been handled well. People should simply be able to go to their post office to pay the charge. Many people cannot pay online and some are being penalised because they cannot pay online, as we heard this morning. The Government should have broadened the exemptions from the outset, as my party proposed. We suggested a number of amendments affecting welfare recipients and those in mortgage arrears and others with significant difficulties.

The bottom line is that the matter has not been well handled. The Tánaiste may talk about it being in the public consciousness but people have not been well informed. Leaflets are still coming in the door in the last week before the deadline.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Could we have the Deputy’s question please?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There clearly has not been a proactive, energetic, committed campaign by the Government to communicate to the people and get an effective response on the charge.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte A last-minute drop.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We are on supplementary questions.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Last evening, Ursula Halligan reported on TV3 that she was being briefed by very authoritative Fine Gael Ministers and sources that there would be an extension.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Could the Deputy please put a supplementary question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It may not be announced, we were told, but that it would kind of seep into the public consciousness again, such that we will somehow discover——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy has exceeded his time; I ask him to put his question.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Is that the case? Is the Tánaiste aware that Ministers are briefing RTE and TV3 journalists and senior political correspondents, who have their sources? The Government has been very good at spinning and media management and I suspect this is another clever game at media management.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Like Dermot Ahern.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin If the Tánaiste is not prepared to make an admission today, will he state whether it is his view that the deadline should be extended or whether the Cabinet is now contemplating this? Does he honestly believe it is fair——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will the Deputy please put his supplementary question? He has exceeded his time.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin ——that people will have to pay fines despite his acknowledgement and that of many Ministers of the bungled nature of the management of the household charge?

[619]Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath September.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore As Deputy Martin said, I acknowledged last week and repeat that there have been difficulties associated with people making arrangements to pay the charge. It must also be said that nobody likes paying a tax or charge, particularly if it is new. In this case, as Deputy Martin knows, the charge has been introduced because the agreement his Government made with the troika provided for the introduction of a property tax in 2012. It would not have been possible to introduce a property tax in 2012 because of the preparatory work that must be done to establish the basis on which it would be charged. The Government’s intention is that this household charge will be replaced by a property tax. In the meantime, it must be paid. The deadline set is 31 March. That deadline has not been changed. The best advice anybody can give to households is that the charge must be paid, before the deadline of 31 March.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Will it be changed?

(Interruptions).

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I am waiting to see which way Deputy Finian McGrath will go. The way he goes will swing it.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I am with the people.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Tánaiste said that one is liable to the household charge, it is due and must be paid. Many Labour Party and Fine Gael Party members have acknowledged that the charge is unjust. It is another aggressive tax from the Labour Party and Fine Gael. It punishes citizens for the failure of government and the greed of bankers, developers and corrupt politicians. It targets especially those who are disadvantaged and those on low and middle incomes who are struggling to make ends meet.

It is very clear, just four days before the deadline, that the majority of citizens reject the financial and legal threats and the moral blackmail of this Government. The Government will not stand firm against the payment of the €3.1 billion promissory note but can impose a succession of new taxes and charges on those who can least afford them while the rates of unemployment and emigration continue to increase. Is this the role of the Labour Party in government? Will it pursue tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of citizens considering that not one banker——

Deputy Robert Dowds: Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds These are Sinn Féin’s partitionist policies.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams ——or crooked politician has faced due process? Is the Labour Party so bereft of ideas that it cannot conceive a reasonable alternative to the household charge?

Let me give the Government one suggestion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Very quickly.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams It should abandon the household charge and introduce a cap on wages in the public sector at €100,000. That would raise €265 million, €100 million more than it is envisaged will accrue from the household charge.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Deputy Adams shows up here only the odd time——

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher More often than the Taoiseach.

[620]The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore ——so he has probably missed the statement made by the Minister for Finance here last week in which he made it clear that the Government intends to settle the promissory note issue by way of a long-term Government bond. That is a matter we will be returning to.

Deputy Adams describes the household charge as unfair but it is not quite as unfair as the household charge his party and Ministers in Northern Ireland charge. The average annual household charge in Northern Ireland is £1,259.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Oh, no.

Deputy Dinny McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley How much does Deputy Adams pay himself? He should stand up and tell us how much he pays on his house——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Members should speak through the Chair.

Deputy Dinny McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley ——not to mention the one up in Gortahork.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte He has more houses than Pádraig Flynn.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore That, in the currency that Deputy Adams would like to put at risk, is €1,428. It was increased by 2.5% by the Deputy’s colleagues in the budget they voted through. In February 2012, there was another round of increases, some as high as 5.9%. Deputy Adams is very quick to draw attention to what my party colleagues have to say about the household charge. When his colleagues in Northern Ireland bring the charge there down to the level in this State, he may come in here and feel free to accuse us of being unfair.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I see the Tánaiste totally avoided the question.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg Zoom on Emmet Stagg Deputy Adams is going to avoid the answer now.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Government is going to pay the promissory note, although it might take longer, because it has not got the wherewithal to stand against it.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputy wishes the country ill.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Tánaiste knows all about currency, including the printing of currency.

A Deputy: Deputy Adams knows all about sterling.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan What about Northern Bank?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams In terms of the Tánaiste’s new found interest in the North — he knows he is not comparing like with like — it is a great boost to citizens there. He would be better off dealing with issues about which he might know something such as breaches of Government policy by the Government. The Tánaiste may have noticed——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett He may have noticed nothing. This is a supplementary question. Will the Deputy please put it?

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett He has one minute and two seconds left. We are not here for statements.

[621]Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin If only the Tánaiste answered the question in the first place.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams According to the outgoing head of resources in the HSE, up to 500 hospital consultants are earning substantially more than the €200,000 pay ceiling the Government imposed last year on public service salaries.

Deputy Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash That was part of the Croke Park agreement.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will the Deputy co-operate?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Some senior doctors take home as much as €400,000 of taxpayers’ money. What will the Taoiseach, I mean the Tánaiste — I know he wanted to be Taoiseach but the people had a different view. Will he apply Government policy?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin What did the people say about Deputy Adams?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Only one question can be asked on Leaders’ Questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is a different question.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams By applying Government policy in this area, it will save over €50 million a year. Will the Government pursue these consultants with the same——-

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is an entirely different issue.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams ——aggression as it will those who cannot afford the €100 household charge?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask Deputy Adams to respect the Chair. I call on the Tánaiste and he has one minute.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I am not quite sure which of the many questions Deputy Adams has asked or the different issues he has raised——

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Will the Tánaiste try and answer one anyway?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams One will do.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher He could start by answering the one about the printing machines.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The Hewlett Packard ones?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The Government has introduced a cap on public service pay of €200,000. It is the first Government to have done so and naturally it wants to have it retained.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Is there a deadline?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore As I have said previously, no one likes paying taxes, particularly new taxes. The household charge had to be introduced because the previous Government gave a commitment that it would introduce a property tax in 2012.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The big boys beat the Government to it. Bertie beat it to it.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore No. The household charge has been introduced by the Government as an interim measure. It will be replaced by a property tax. The Government is working on its [622]proposals for the property tax as to how it will be calculated, what sizes of property will be taken into account, arrangements on ability to pay and so on.

At some stage when Deputy Adams gets around to it, I would be very interested to hear Sinn Féin’s proposals on a property tax.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh We have proposed a wealth tax.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Does it agree with the introduction of a property tax? If so, at what level should it be set? It would be useful for Sinn Féin and for reasoned debate in the House for it to put on the table where it actually stands on the issue of property tax.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Thank you.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore While Deputy Adams is at it, he might also tell us where he actually stands on advising people whether they should pay the household charge.

Deputy Robert Dowds: Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds Will Deputy Adams say that in the North as well as in the South?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We are over time.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore There is a considerable degree of ambiguity in Sinn Féin’s position on this. One day it is running with the hounds and chasing with the hare — I mean running with the hare and chasing with the hounds.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae The Tánaiste mixed that one up.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin That is the Tánaiste’s game.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams That is very clear. The Tánaiste is still running with the rabbits.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore Sinn Féin is running with the hare and chasing with the hounds as to whether it will advise people to pay the charge or not. What does Deputy Adams say to people when they attend his constituency office to ask him whether they should pay the charge?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Thank you.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin The Tánaiste should sit back there with the mongrel foxes and he will be grand.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Deputy Ó Caoláin will have to come back as Sinn Féin leader. He is so good.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett To give other Deputies a chance, I ask both sides of the House to respect the time limits set by the House on Leaders’ Questions. I am only applying those limits. I call on Deputy Higgins. He has two minutes.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The conclusion of the planning tribunal found that corruption in Irish political life was both endemic and systemic. Does the Tánaiste understand that this has enormously increased the anger and sense of aggrievement of the majority of ordinary decent people? Is he aware that it has also enormously strengthened the boycott of the regressive household tax this week? Is he aware that those boycotting see the hold developers had over the previous Government, the very hold which allowed the racketeering that blew up the property bubble that brought the crash and that in turn led to the disastrous austerity policy [623]that this Government is implementing which is destroying living standards and services? Is he aware this new raft of taxation is being put on the shoulders of the innocent majority to bail out the failed property gamblers? Does he see the connection?

Did the Tánaiste see reports of a major rally of thousands of ordinary people from across the country in Dublin on Saturday last demanding the Government withdraw the household tax? Is he aware further thousands will also protest this Saturday at the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis in a peaceful and disciplined display of people power?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can I have the Deputy’s question?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Does the Tánaiste understand that a fully fledged revolt of people power is under way? Does he understand that this day, four days from the deadline, 1,400,000 households out of 1,800,000 still have not registered, not for the reasons his backbenchers trotted out on the radio this morning but because a fully fledged revolt is underway?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins When will we hear an end to the excuses and have an acceptance that this tax is not acceptable to the majority of people? They know it will go to €1,000 and beyond which they cannot afford. They are also demanding a change in the Government’s disastrous policy of austerity. Will the Tánaiste withdraw the tax and listen to them for a change?

Deputy Robert Dowds: Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds What is the Deputy’s view on the tax?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin He must be the first socialist who is against a property tax. He used to say property was theft.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I agree with Deputy Higgins that what we read in the report of the Mahon tribunal, which described the corruption in the planning system as systemic, was absolutely disgusting. We will have the opportunity to have a debate on the report later today when we can set out what needs to be done.

The Government is committed to acting on the Mahon tribunal report. We have already referred it to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Revenue Commissioners, the Standards in Public Office Commission and the Garda Síochána. The Garda Commissioner has, in turn, referred the report to the head of the Criminal Assets Bureau. Just as the Government committed itself to implementing the measures and recommendations contained in the Moriarty tribunal report, today the Cabinet discussed the Mahon report’s recommendations. It was agreed the various Ministers with responsibility for bringing forward these recommendations will come back by the end of April with the actions that need to be taken. The Government will then bring forward the recommendations that need to be progressed.

Looking at the reports of the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals and all that happened over the period they were investigating, the biggest casualty in politics was truth. People were clearly on the take, lying about it, as well as not giving honest information to the Mahon tribunal. If there is a parallel to be drawn, then it is that public representatives need to be straight with the public. Deputy Higgins going around telling people that they will pay €1,000 in the household charge is not telling the people the truth. The household charge is €100 and is due by 31 March. Everyone in this House should tell the public the truth about it.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Does the Tánaiste know the Commission on Taxation recommends a charge of €560 per household for the ordinary person’s house? Does he know the ESRI wants a water tax of €500?

[624]Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney That is a half-truth.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris They are not in government.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Well, €500 and €560 comes to €1,060. That is what is down the line and what people see. When the Tánaiste is threatening people with court action, they ask why he invited to his global economic forum as a guest of honour a billionaire which the Moriarty tribunal said acted disgracefully in being facilitated by a Fine Gael Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Sorry, Deputy, but will you please stick to the question?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins ——in getting privileged information to command a massively lucrative licence. In view of that, does the Tánaiste think he can, with any credibility, threaten the ordinary decent people who form the backbone of this country to drag them before the District Courts, the very people who paid their taxes for decades while the elites salted theirs away in Ansbacher and other offshore accounts? The Tánaiste must understand the anger that is out there, but he does not. Those who crashed our economy are swanning around the world on pensions of €150,000.

Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor They can make homemade bread with the Deputy.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins On behalf of the Labour Party at least, will the Tánaiste withdraw and condemn the disgraceful suggestion that local authority workers be abused by sending them out to hound pensioners, the unemployed and decent, compliant taxpayers——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy has gone over time.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins ——for this regressive household tax?

(Interruptions).

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The Government should stop its bullying and listen to the people.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly Will Deputy Higgins listen to himself?

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins Democracy needs the consent of the governed, but the Government does not have it. The Government should withdraw the suggestion.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán It was the Deputy’s pals who made them redundant.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore I am not bullying or threatening anyone. I am stating what is a fact, namely, the Government introduced a household charge of €100. This was not recommended by the ESRI or any other body cited by the Deputy. It was the Government’s decision to impose a household charge of €100 and to introduce a deadline for payment. No value is gained by bullying, threatening or exaggerating, as the Deputy has been doing in terms of the size of the charge.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly Hear, hear.

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore The guest of honour at the Global Irish Economic Forum was President Bill Clinton. Subsequently, he organised a successful investment event for this country to attempt to bring jobs——

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher He would not have been here if not for Denis O’Brien.

[625]The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore ——and investment to Ireland so that our economy might recover.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins I did not realise that giving over information——

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore At the end of the day, what really matters is that we get our economy to recover.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath What about honest politics?

The Tánaiste: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore We will do that by attracting investment and getting the jobs that are required. In the meantime, we have a difficult road to travel to bring about economic recovery. Part of this difficult road is the introduction of the household charge. No one likes additional charges and we would all prefer if we did not need to introduce or pay this one, but it is a reality and must be paid by 31 March.


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