Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
Deputy Micheál Martin: He decided for some reason - and I do not know why - to switch this on the eve of a Cabinet meeting after the Taoiseach had signed off with the Tánaiste on 33, not including these two.
Deputy Micheál Martin: No one knew up to the Monday evening or indeed Tuesday morning. The Labour Ministers clearly did not know either, but for some reason they allowed their Minister of State to take the fall and resign.
Deputy Micheál Martin: There is something wrong here. At the very minimum it is wrong for a Minister to interfere in moving a project that is significant for private sector stakeholders from one model to another which confers a better benefit ultimately.
The Taoiseach: First of all, I do not cast any aspersions on Labour Party Ministers about what they do or do not do. They are part of a Government that is focused on rectifying our economy, putting smacht again on our public finances and providing an opportunity for people to have jobs and investment in the country.
The Taoiseach: The function of my interest in this is that it was part of the economic stimulus package of €2.5 billion introduced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. It included health areas, education, justice, transport, and the major development of Grangegorman in Dublin city centre. My interest was in seeing that these proposals were signed off in terms of the stimulus package.
The Taoiseach: I hope the Deputy reads it. There was a time when he was on the Government benches and refused to acknowledge that he left behind him a budgetary deficit of €646 million in the Department of Health.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Today our people face the sixth austerity budget since the economic crisis began. In that time, some €25 billion has been taken out of the economy in cuts and taxes. Today, another €3.5 billion will be taken out. In all this time the dig-outs for the bankers and bondholders have continued. Some €64 billion of the €67 billion that was borrowed from the troika has been given to the banks. There has been a bailout for bankers but no dig-out for ordinary citizens. The Taoiseach knows who is paying for this. They include the elderly and the sick, those who have lost their home help care, people with disabilities, the unemployed, lone parents and those who have been forced to emigrate.
The Taoiseach promised a democratic revolution but what we have got is Fianna Fáil mark 2 or Fianna Fáil light. He promised no more blank cheques for banks and progress on legacy debt. He is making the wrong choices and must know that in his heart. He must know - and certainly Labour should know - that he is making the wrong choices. He is ignoring the social consequences of the actions he is taking. Mar a deir an seanfhocal, is cuma le fear na mbróg mór cá gcuireann sé a chos. How can the Government stand over cuts in child benefits or introducing new property taxes while giving the bankers a dig-out? Was this budget equality-proofed and, as I asked about the previous budget, was it poverty-proofed?
The Taoiseach: Everybody in this House shares the view and objective of restructuring and re-engineering the scale of bank debt that was inherited following the incompetence of the previous Administration. It is not as simple as just pressing a button and saying it is over. Ministers and Department of Finance officials have undertaken direct discussions both at the European Council and the European Central Bank. I have been through this before and a great deal of work has been done. I do not want to see a situation where we have to pay out in excess of €3 billion next March, as is the requirement following on the introduction of promissory notes. Deputy Adams is aware of what the Government did this year in respect of the payment which was due in March 2012. I am being serious with Deputy Adams. Some very clear discussions have taken place and are taking place at ECB level with our Minister for Finance and his officials. We have had support for a restructuring of that from many quarters which are not just confined to Europe but beyond. We are pursuing that. As I said in answer to a question yesterday, patience is always an element of negotiations with Europe. We have shown a degree of patience and would like to move these discussions on.
In regard to drafting the budget, I listened to Sinn Féin's proposals which do not want to touch anything. They seem to have a mythical figure of taxes that will run the country and protect everybody's interests and which will be drawn from an extraordinarily small number of people whom Sinn Féin assumes have extreme wealth. These figures just do not add up.
The Taoiseach: Everybody in this country knows we face a very challenging time. The Deputy asked me if this budget has been poverty-proofed and I was asked this question yesterday also. In so far as we can, we try to protect those who are vulnerable, isolated, lonely and who need attention and care as strongly and to the best extent we can. There are always cases that are exceptional and come to attention, whether they concern people in the cystic fibrosis unit at St. Vincent's Hospital or others with a range of difficulties. I empathise with them and understand how to deal with those matters. However, this is a case where the Government is required by the programme we are in to meet the requirements of moving our country on, to restore our economic good health, to grow our economy and continue to attract investment. We must also make an improvement continuously on the live register figures with particular reference to unemployment, which will be published at 11 a.m. They show an improvement.
The Taoiseach: As Deputy Adams well knows, it is not by any means the harbinger saying we are through all of this. There are challenges ahead but we are moving in the right direction. Our people around the country tell me that I must keep at this because the problem will not go away unless we deal with it. That is what both parties in Government are setting out to do. It is not with any great pleasure or satisfaction that any Minister has to stand up in these straitened economic circumstances and say that we have to make hard decisions. Tough decisions must be made, however, in the interests of all our people and our country. Our ambition is to retrieve our economic independence, to come out of this programme, to be able to see the troika go home, and fly on our own where we continue to be competitive, attractive for investment and as a location for jobs to be created. That is our ambition and today's budget will build on that platform and move us further in that direction.
Deputy Gerry Adams: The problem is that austerity is not working, except for the tiny minority who are benefiting from it. The Taoiseach must be talking to different people than those who speak to me. Does he talk to carers or the parents of children with disabilities? Does he talk to the people who are denied home help care or those on the dole? Does he talk to people who invested, worked and paid their taxes over the years and are now in trepidation about what is coming this afternoon?
Deputy Gerry Adams: It is a no-brainer. If it is a choice between not giving money to big bankers and other elite groups and taking tax money from those who can best afford it, or taking money from those who cannot afford it, then the Government has to take the money from those who can most afford it. Those who can pay most should do so. It is a disgrace that Labour have tied themselves to something which would have James Connolly spinning in his grave.
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