Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 837 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath] They must be respected. The Minister should consider the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2007 and respect the people involved in this issue. Several weeks ago I asked the Minister, Deputy Hogan, about this and the answer he gave me was that paragraph 14(6) of the 1995 local elections regulations provides that where a candidate is not the candidate of a registered political party contesting the local elections, the candidate may include on his or her nomination paper the expression "non-party".

Deputy Phil Hogan: Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Which party is the Deputy with?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I am an independent candidate, as the Minister knows very well. The expression will also be specified with regard to the candidate on all ballot papers and notices. This regulation is based on the premise that "non-party" on the ballot paper indicates adequately that a person does not belong to a political party. There are no proposals for legislative change in this regard. This is what the Minister told me on Tuesday, 1 April. It was April fools' day. The Minister needs to up his game. We need reform and respect for independent candidates. Local and European elections will take place and Minister is trying to sideline us. I challenge him here today in the Dáil because it is important to highlight this issue.

A number of my colleagues spoke about reform. We must also deal with the many people who are not registered and the major mistakes made regularly in this regard. We must also deal with voter turnout at elections. Approximately 30% in some constituencies never vote, and in other constituencies this figure is higher. This is because of cynicism, apathy and the negative image of politics. We must face up to this. Members of the House must decide to increase interest in politics in Ireland. I favour compulsory voting as is done in other jurisdictions. It is essential that people vote in elections. I do not accept some of the points made that it is a choice not to turn out to vote in an election. The people have plenty of choice on the ballot paper and some excellent independent candidates are running in the local elections, such as councillor Damien O'Farrell in Dublin Bay North and Seán Tyrrell in Ballymun. They work very hard in their communities and make a massive contribution to this country.

I would not like to stray from the legislation so I will return to the main issue. The purpose of the Bill is to repeal the provisions in the Electoral Act 1992 to disqualify an undischarged bankrupt from eligibility for election or membership of the Dáil and the European Parliament. I listened to the Minister earlier and I agree with this legislation. I will support it, in case the Minister missed that point. I also welcome some of the other provisions mentioned by the Minister. He spoke about the criminal justice (corruption) Bill being developed by his best friend and colleague, the Minister, Deputy Shatter. We all agree with this. Head 8 of the general scheme makes provision for the courts to remove from office Irish public officials who are found guilty of corruption. This is very positive and it will receive much support from this side of the House.

The issue of donations has been dealt with. Every donation above €600 must be reported, and I welcome this. Cash donations above €200 have been banned, as have anonymous donations of more than €100.

We must deal with people who genuinely get into trouble financially and who are bankrupt. We cannot exclude them from involvement in democracy. The amendment to the bankruptcy disqualification will also apply to Members of Seanad Éireann, and I welcome this. I agree with the points made earlier on the Government's need for action, as it is disproportionate and no longer necessary in this day and age. We need to make decisions to elect candidates.

I urge everybody to go out on 23 May and give their number one vote to the independent candidates throughout the country. It is very important. These people are involved in their communities and in voluntary and community groups. They have made a massive contribution to their country and I urge everyone to go out on 23 May to vote for these genuinely credible independent candidates. I welcome the legislation and I will support it.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I welcome the Bill. The idea of this House being unavailable to those who have run into financial problems in this climate and in this day and age is a bit on the harsh side. Bankruptcy is very strange. We have had an economic collapse of a sort in Ireland, and some people who have lost hundreds of millions, and some who have cost the State hundreds of millions, will not go bankrupt while some people who have lost money will want to go bankrupt and others who do not want to be bankrupt will go bankrupt.

I checked the code of conduct for Members of the Dáil Éireann a few minutes ago. It states that a conflict of interest exists where a Member participates in or makes a decision in the execution of his or her office knowing that it will improperly and dishonestly further his or her private financial interests or another person's private financial interests directly or indirectly. On such a basis I will not be allowed to vote on the Bill because I am dealing with four different banks and one of them refuses to confirm that it will not bankrupt me. I could be accused of having a vested interest in voting for the Bill, but I do welcome it.

My company owed the VAT man €1.4 million but we could not pay it so we went out of business. We were not allowed to trade, which is fair enough. I did not get quite as well treated by some banks as others did. Independent News and Media, which loves to call me a tax cheat, got a bailout of approximately €138 million from the banks, more than €50 million of which has fallen on the Irish taxpayer, but Mick Wallace is the tax cheat because he owes VAT of €1.4 million which his business could not pay. In our last ten years of trading we paid €15 million. I often wonder what the guys who call me a tax cheat paid in the past ten years but I will probably never get the answer to it.

In the United States, millionaires go bankrupt on average 3.5 times. It is interesting to note that only one in ten millionaires who go broke during a recession ever go bankrupt again. Recessions are very educational and people who get burned goodo learn much from them. These are very interesting statistics.

One sometimes wonders how a guy can lose so much money, but business is strange that way. If houses or apartments are to be built someone must do it, and more often than not a person must borrow money to do so, and so the person is taking a certain risk. Very often the risk works out well and money is made by all concerned. This includes the developer, the builder and the bank.

Before the recession I understood I had a relationship with some of the banks I dealt with and that we were in it together. Generally we used to meet on my terms and got on really well, and they were very glad to be doing business with me. They probably charged me a little above the norm in the interest rates. The fact I did not wear a suit, cut my hair or join a political party probably did not help me in any way.

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