Thursday 25 October 2012
“I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, and pay tribute to him for the way he has demonstrated the ability of the Government to govern. People like him, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and other members of the Cabinet are now in charge. I listened to Deputy Peter Mathews’ remarks and would not like to disagree with him. A famous line from a previous American presidential debate went, “Show me the beef.” We have seen no beef, nothing, from the Opposition. In fact, the architects of our misfortune are missing from the Chamber when they should be present.
The backdrop to this debate is the position where the Government has repositioned Ireland to return to the financial markets, as demonstrated by the report of the troika today and the press conference on it. I welcome the comments of the Minister for Finance informing us a paper will be published before Christmas outlining the options for exiting the position we are in and returning to the markets. This is good and positive news that demonstrates the Government is working with the people to ensure future generations can live in a free and independent Ireland in which their economic sovereignty has been restored. If people want to engage in voodoo economics, that is fine. However, they should level with the people and not conjure up mock money that does not add up. They must be honest. Sinn Féin is in government on another part of the island and making cuts and hard decisions, while getting a block grant from Westminster. It must live up to its responsibilities down here, not the opinion polls.
Let us put the matter in context. We were told the Government would not succeed in getting a €10 billion reduction from the troika. We were told we would not get a stimulus plan of €2.25 billion and that there would be no result at the euro summit in June. Last Sunday there was an outpouring of ridicule of the Taoiseach and the Government, but the position changed on Monday when there was a joint communiqué from Mrs. Merkel and the Taoiseach. Where was the green jersey of Ireland on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday? It was abandoned in favour of point-scoring in order to see and increase in the opinion polls. It was abandoned in the hope the Government was wrong. I challenge Opposition Deputies, including those present in the Chamber, to set out where they stand. Do they want Ireland to restore its economic fortunes? Do they want the country to get its people back to work? Do they want the Government to fail? Their policies do not add up.
As their policies are a load of rubbish, they should be burnt in a bonfire outside the gate. The Government has announced a €17 billion capital programme. It is spending €2.2 billion to build 40 schools and develop 180 major school projects. It is allocating €2.9 billion for roads projects and €1.4 billion for rail and light rail projects. It is designating €1.5 billion for water services infrastructure and €1.4 billion for the regeneration of social housing. NAMA has committed to invest €2.2 billion over the next five years. We were told that could not be done.
Deputy Healy quoted what James Connolly said about the re-conquest of Ireland by the Irish people. That is what is happening today. The Government is taking Ireland back for every single one of its people. We need to get real and live in the world of reality. Our citizens have made huge sacrifices and endured huge pain. Every one of us can tell stories of family members, friends and fellow citizens who have suffered through emigration, unemployment and making hard decisions. I appeal to the Minister for Finance to ensure the forthcoming budget is fair. It must widen the gap between work and welfare. We cannot allow a welfare state to continue in our country. We must put a value on a job. We must give men and women who want to go out to work, and who can work, an opportunity to do so.
A woman who came into my office last week told me she lasted three days in a particular type of employment because she did not like the job and she realised she would get more money if she was unemployed. I accept that the State has a responsibility to look after people who cannot work, but are we seriously prepared to allow those who are living on welfare to be better off than those who have jobs? Is that what we want? I do not, and I am no right-wing conspiracy theorist. I want people to work. I want the Government to continue with its task of ensuring they are able to do so.
I accept that this is difficult, but our economy is on the cusp. Our people have played their part. The year 2011 was a year of growth. We returned to growth. I heard Deputy Healy speaking about the jobs issue. Private sector employment has increased by 16,900 jobs, or 1.5%. Our economy is driven by exports. Deputies should reflect on how well our exports are doing and on the perception of Ireland abroad. Those who have spoken about Time magazine should be honest and admit that if the President or Prime Minister of any other country was on the front of an international magazine, they would think the level of investor confidence in that country was being restored. The people of that country would collectively decide to get things back together again. That is not what happens here, however.
We need people to come to this country to invest. As the Minister said, we have a small and open economy. As Deputy Donohoe said, there are 1.8 million people working in this country. We need to get more people working. It is a huge source of concern that people’s disposable income is diminishing. That is why it is so important that the budget in December is fair, just and balanced. I emphasise to the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, that those who can pay more should pay more. Today’s troika briefing is just as critical. We have been portrayed as the poster boys and girls of how to get things right. We must tell our people that we are doing this. It is not easy, but it is about the future of our country. I am in politics to make sure we have an Ireland of equals and of opportunity. Many of my past pupils have gone abroad. We want to give them an opportunity to return to Ireland to live, work, invest and raise their families in a country we can be proud of.
I heard the Minister, Deputy Bruton, on the radio this morning speaking about our corporation tax rate of 12.5%, which underpins much of what we are doing right. It allows people to come in and invest. We must be allowed to continue to invest in areas like research and development. We must keep research and development companies here. As a small and open economy, we require investment. I am pleased that the substantial pharmaceutical industry in the city and county of Cork is playing a pivotal part in research and development, job creation and the payment of corporation tax. I welcome the deal that has been agreed by the Minister for Health and the pharmaceutical industry regarding the cost of drugs. I hope we can continue to make such savings – €400 million is not a small amount – in the health budget.
We are rebuilding our country. We are doing more with less, as the Minister, Deputy Quinn, said in his speech earlier this afternoon about the education sector. The same thing applies to the health sector. I pay tribute to the many men and women who are employed in the health services industry. They have done a great deal of work. They have shown that the Croke Park agreement is working. I call on the Irish Hospital Consultants Association and the HSE to get together. We need the hospital consultants to sit down with the HSE to ensure the savings and reform projects can be delivered in our hospitals. It is very important.
I would like to conclude by quoting from an e-mail I received from a small service provider – I will not name him – who employs some people. This is of relevance to what has been said about the banks and about small and medium sized enterprises. The e-mail states:
I have today received a six day demand notice from [a council] by registered post. This is a notification to take legal proceedings against our business if we do not pay the outstanding rates for the premises we have occupied since March 2012. We paid €500 in September and €500 yesterday. There is a balance of €1,426 to be paid. I am very disappointed with this threat as I have already given verbal assurances that the rates would be paid before the end of the year. As we are a young business, we are trying to manage our cash flow effectively and these types of communications are not helpful.
The person who sent me that e-mail is an employer. We have done an awful lot of good and we should do more by encouraging such people. In this context, €1,400 is a small amount of money.
We must restore our sovereignty. We must continue to raise consumer confidence if we are to get our people to spend money. We must create jobs. The budget that will be presented to this House must widen the gap between jobs and welfare. The Government is working to get jobs back to our country.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It is a positive thing that we have had this debate. Deputies on all sides need to take part in good faith in a serious debate about the desperate plight we are in and what we can do to get out of it. Most people find it pretty galling that these troika people come along every three months to tick all the boxes and tell us how well we are doing. If we are honest, we will admit that it grates on us. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the credit the Taoiseach does or does not deserve, it does not really help the morale of the Irish people when German magazines tell us that our Taoiseach is the European of the year or when Time says it thinks we are wonderful. Frankly, the fact that some magazines in a country that is one of the key architects of austerity and of this country’s plight want to tell us how well we are doing at a time when ordinary people are suffering does no more than rub the noses of the Irish people in it. If it is up to him, the Taoiseach would be well advised to refuse such an award. If anyone deserves an award, it is the ordinary citizens of this country who are being crushed by austerity.
I do not want to waste much time on what austerity has meant for ordinary people because we are all aware of it. As we try to chart a way out of the crisis, we must start by dealing with the people and the situation they are in. If we do not start with the people and their situation, we are guaranteed to get the issue wrong.”