This debate takes place when unemployment figures for my county, Cork, show a 57.5% increase on this time last year. This represents 4,285 people on the live register. This comes in the wake of an announcement by Heineken Ireland that it will close Beamish & Crawford brewery with a loss of 120 jobs in my city, Cork. These jobs are lost because of the amalgamation of two breweries. This is a devastating blow to the workers and their families, the city of Cork and the brewing industry in Ireland. What has this Government to say to the people of Cork this morning? What hope does it offer?There was none and there is none for the people of Cork, where we have witnessed devastating unemployment in technology and other industries in the past 12 months.
How did the Government squander that surplus? How did it happen? The Government has not explained it to the Irish people. Never before has a set of people sitting at a Cabinet table, who inherited a surplus from the outgoing Government of 1997, squandered such a boom. Where did it all go? What have we to see for it? It is time we had action and leadership on the cost of doing business, our competitiveness, our manufacturing industry, farming and the management of our public services. I fully subscribe to the viewpoint that we need to revitalise our manufacturing industry, but we need to do so with a Government that is on the job, smaller and flexible in dealing with this issue.
Is the pay deal going ahead? Different Cabinet Ministers have said different things, including the Taoiseach. The great knight from the south, Senator Boyle went on “Morning Ireland” and made a different comment as the Green Party spokesperson on finance. Can we get a definitive answer on that? Is it not better to protect and preserve jobs than to cut jobs and have more job losses? That is why my party unashamedly called for a pay freeze in 2009, with a saving of €500 million, which will ensure we will not have cutbacks and will allow us to invest in infrastructure and school buildings, along with retraining and upskilling.
Let us have a real debate about what Government has not done in the past ten years. Let us have a debate about the fact that today my city and county of Cork again has been mired in unemployment, with no plan and no vision to deal with it. That is why we are having this debate today. I thank the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, for coming to the House two months after the budget. That shows patriotism.