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 Header Item Economic Management Council Meetings (Continued)
 Header Item Order of Business

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 861 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] I do not believe he rang from a telephone kiosk, but he rang and said a bomb would go off. He said it would not go off in Frankfurt, but in Dublin, if any attempt was made to burn bondholders. That was not shared with the Oireachtas that day when the Minister came in late. The feedback to the journalists afterwards by the Cabinet Ministers was that they were taken aback and surprised. They were led to believe at the Cabinet meeting that there would be burning of bondholders and that the Minister for Finance would announce that. They were very shaken and surprised when he did not. There was a complete lack of transparency in the Oireachtas. This gives the lie to the rationale that the Taoiseach put forward for the establishment of the EMC, but it is Ministers themselves who have articulated that.

With regard to the bank guarantee, the Taoiseach keeps making charges. He voted for the bank guarantee and told the then Minister for Finance to do whatever it takes. He carries on as if he did not vote for it at all.

My view is that a guarantee was required at the time in question. It has been renewed by the present Government. The Taoiseach is on public record as accepting the position on bondholders was imposed by the European Central Bank on the then Irish Government. The Taoiseach said it publicly on the record, and repeated it in this House. Despite this, he comes in here and says different things when it suits him for cheap political point-scoring. He should be a little more honourable in regard to the bondholder question. The edict Mr. Trichet gave to the Minister for Finance demonstrates a similar position, by the ECB, on the burning of the bondholders and the failing banks. There was no bank resolution mechanism at the time in question and it did not want banks to collapse after the Lehman affair. That is the bottom line. In any event, those are the realities.

With regard to Irish Water, Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett is correct in so far as the Government now has to invent reasons to justify the expenditure of €500 million on water meters. The Taoiseach is now going around the place pretending the whole thing was about conservation in the first instance. However, if one looks at the original proposals, one realises the whole point of water meters was to deal with the allowances, thresholds of use and so on. The bottom line is now that the EMC agreed all this. It agreed with the off-balance-sheet method of funding and with spending the €500 million. The other Cabinet members just nodded this through without scrutiny or accountability. There was not even accountability in this House. Does the Taoiseach accept that? It was rammed through here in two hours. There was a walkout by all the Opposition parties on the day in protest over the Government's dismissal of democracy and the House itself in regard to the water charges regime to be introduced and the establishment of Irish Water, in particular. I do not believe there was any cost–benefit analysis undertaken by the EMC or the Government on water metering. I have not seen it.

The Taoiseach mentioned plans. There were lots of plans and more than €500 million was spent on water infrastructure. In my city, the main drainage project was built and this involved massive investment by the local authority. It was overseen by the then Government. There were similar infrastructural projects in other locations. Of course, much more remains to be done but there has been no plan presented in this House of which I am aware yet. There has been no plan regarding what is intended to happen and the priorities. Deputy Barry Cowen has been asking about this for 12 to 15 months.

To suggest, as the Taoiseach has done in his reply, that the EMC is just a mere Cabinet committee is to give a dishonest portrayal of what the EMC really is. The EMC calls the shots in this Government. Essentially, it represents a tier of decision-making that was never envisaged by the Constitution. I have one slight disagreement with Deputy O'Brien in that it is not the prerogative of the Taoiseach to do something like this. The Constitution lays down the framework for how Cabinet decisions should be taken. Essentially, a new tier has been established that is taking the real decisions, including fiscal and budgetary decisions, decisions on bodies such as Irish Water and decisions that affect every Department. One is required to accept them irrespective of whether one likes them.

The Taoiseach did not respond to my point on the health service. The former Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, was told to accept the medical card probity figure. That is what caused the disaster of discretionary medical cards being taken from children with life-limiting conditions. An arrogant edict from the EMC dictated the budget and that the Minister must stick with it. That is what happened in this regard.

Unprecedentedly and incredibly, the former Minister for Health came into the House on budget day and announced the figure was not accurate or real and that he did not come up with it. He said he was told to live with the figure. That is how undemocratic circumstances became within the Cabinet. The former Minister should have resigned on that day because he could not stand over his own Estimate. If he was given an Estimate that was inaccurate, dishonest and untrue, he should have resigned there and then as Minister for Health. We now know the figure was untrue, that the presentation by the Minister for Finance on the day was dishonest and that the Cabinet signed off like a puppet to edicts of the EMC on how individual departmental budgets were to be allocated. Now the largest Supplementary Estimate on record is to be allocated in the area of health because of the dishonest Estimate in question.

I remind the Taoiseach that his Cabinet colleagues were the first to raise the undemocratic nature of the EMC, and they were protesting loudly behind his back to anybody who would listen over the regime that had been introduced. Deputy Joan Burton, before she became Tánaiste, was very negative about the EMC. The Taoiseach now seems to have confirmed that such negativity is gone and that she is now a very positive contributor and has lost any reservations she might have had. They seem to have been passed on seamlessly to her rival in the leadership battle, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Alex White, who will now drum them up, perhaps for the next leadership battle in the Labour Party; I do not know.

Order of Business

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is proposed to take No. 15, Supplementary Estimates for Public Services [Votes 35 and 36], back from committee; No. 16, motion re membership of committee; No. 31, Water Services Bill 2014 - Committee and Remaining Stages, to adjourn after one hour if not previously concluded. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later and business shall adjourn on the adjournment of No. 31; and (2) Nos. 15 and 16 shall be decided without debate and, in the case of No. 15, Votes 35 and 36 shall be moved together and decided by one question which shall be put from the Chair, and any division demanded thereon shall be taken forthwith. Private Members’ Business shall be No. 175, motion re Palestine.

Tomorrow's business after oral questions shall be No. 32, statements on homelessness. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the following arrangements shall apply in relation to No. 32: the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and such members may share their time; the statement of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and such members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

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