In the 12 years I have had the privilege of being a public representative of the Irish people I have never been so fearful about the future of this country. In the past dozen years there has never been a moment in which there has been so much cause for alarm at the problems facing the country and the incompetence of the Government in Dublin to tackle them.
One of the saddest changes we have witnessed in the past 12 years here has been the increasing demoralisation of the Fianna Fáil Party, a party which at one time had some dignity and sense of principle and which proceeded on certain patriotic lines but is now in a state of total disarray. If members of the Government have ability they have no honesty and if they have honesty they have no ability. Presiding over this incompetent and disarrayed party is Mr. Micawber Lynch who has no sense of direction and no capacity to control and who is, like Mr. Micawber, waiting for something to turn up to deliver him from the terrible menaces he sees around him, menaces which arise not merely within the State, but also from Northern Ireland.
Because the Government are divided and relying upon support from people who have different opinions on the issue of Northern Ireland, they are unable to present to the British Government, who have a considerable responsibility in the matter, any convincing policy. This is to blame to a large extent for the clear drift towards a change in British Government policy in relation to the north and to ourselves over the past two years. The Taoiseach is in power at present not because of the united support of the people who sit on the benches behind him, but because at least nine or ten of them are staying in his company and staying close to him so that by being so close to him they may do him greater damage. They are lending their support to him to destroy him and to jeopardise the policies in relation to Northern Ireland which the Taoiseach at least professes, even though he is doing very little to implement them.
This is a historic occasion. I take little, if none the less justifiable, pride in the fact, having witnessed Deputy Dowling's performance last night that I can claim responsibility for defeating him 12 years ago in a by-election. As a result he did not arrive in Dáil Éireann until six years later. The pity is that he arrived here at all. It is frightening that we should have witnessed such a burlesque for over an hour last night in the middle of an important debate like this, because it indicates that the welfare of this country is of little concern to the Fianna Fáil Party and that they are preoccupied at all times with their own personal fortunes. It is that consideration which has them in office today against the wishes of the majority of the Irish people.
It is true to say that there are many former supporters of Fianna Fáil who are utterly disgusted with the present Government. These people in common with many others, feel an immense sense of frustration, and it is this annoyance and sense of futility which is eating away at the very heart of our people and weakening their sense of patriotism upon which we ought to be able to call at a time like this. It is destroying their respect for the insitutions of the State, which were so hard fought for and won, at the very time when it is necessary to have respect for those institutions in order that, if necessary, action can be taken against those who are apparently anxious to destroy them.
It is alarming that British Government policy has taken a turnabout over the past two years from a position of anxiety to protect all the people in the North of Ireland against attack by others to one of continuous molestation of the minority. The British army is now being used as a weapon to contain the present situation there. That means to contain the whole system of Government which suppresses a minority of people and denies fundamental rights to them in order to placate an even smaller bigoted minority amongst those of the majority faith. As we consider the problem of the North of Ireland, I think it is vitally important that we should identify precisely who are the enemies of Northern Ireland and of the Irish people. They are not necessarily the vast number of people in the North of Ireland who have an attachment to Britain and wish to maintain an association with Britain, but they are a vicious minority within that group who wish to use that desire for association with Britain, not out of a love of Britain but in order to maintain their own position of supremacy within that community, in order that they can act unjustly towards a minority which represents one-third of the population there.
We in Fine Gael strongly criticise the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Taoiseach and the present Government in that they have relied unsuccessfully upon a nice, soft, cosy approach to the British Government, through secret diplomatic channels, to express viewpoints rather than coming out in the open and denouncing British Government policy as it has been devolping in recent times.
In the British Parliament yesterday, we had the exhibition of the British Home Secretary, Mr. Maudling, saying that whether or not the Apprentice Boys parade was held in Derry this month was a matter for the Stormont Government, inferring that he had no responsibilty in the matter. At the same time as the British Home Secretary was declaring that position to the British Parliament, he was already in secret conference with the Northern Premier and with the Commander of the British forces in the North of Ireland. For what purpose? To assist Mr. Faulkner and the members of the Orange Order to carry out this provocative and insulting parade against the majority of the citizens of Derry. We can no longer accept the bona fides of Mr. Maudling or the British Conservative Government, now that we see that they have deliberately connived at the carrying on of the Apprentice Boys parade this month.
If the British Government did not want that parade to take place, if they did not want one-third of the people of the north to be insulted and provoked and demeaned, all they had to do was to refuse to provide the British Army to enable the parade to take place, because without the guns of the British Army to protect it, such a provocative and insulting demonstration could not take place. If British policy is to continue, as it now appears to be developing, to concentrate all British action towards the maintenance of an unjust order, then our Government have a clear obligation to bring this to the attention of the international assemblies which are concerned with the maintenance of fundamental rights and freedoms and to see to it that governments in this day and age do not connive at the establishment and maintenance of unjust regimes.
The British people very frequently, and I believe rightly, condemn the Germans because of their weakness in the face of Nazism to stand up against it and to prevent its spread. The Germans' defence to such criticism is that they did not know. Perhaps at one time British public opinion and British politicians were not aware of the evil of Orangeism. That situation does not exist today. The British Parliament and people are aware that the Orange bigots, who are the real rulers of Northern Ireland, are an evil force, a ruthless force. They are concerned only with their unfair privileges and self-preservation which they realise can only be maintained by acting in an unconscionable manner towards their neighbours. They are aware that the regime and the philosophy which is Northern Ireland is one which is based upon a denial of rights to many, upon intimidation, fear and prejudice. That being so, Britons must accept the condemnation of the world if they continue any longer to maintain that situation.
The only justification I have ever heard them offer for maintaining the position in the north as it is, is that to bring about any change will bring about a bloody holocaust, that difficult as the situation is at the moment, it would become more difficult if they were to confront the armed minority with Orange sympathies who are ready to defend their position, unjust as it is, even against the British Army and the soldiers of the Crown which they pretend to respect. Be that as it may, the British Parliament and Government now have to elect between either confronting these people or continuing to allow the people of Northern Ireland to be prisoners of their own vicious Orange minority. When Captain O'Neill, as he then was, was Premier, when Mr. Chichester Clark, as he then was, was Premier, the British Government said that they could not move too fast because if they did, the right wing whiplash would be applied to the Premier, the Government and the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The same excuse is being given today. It is never apparently the time to confront the right wing. But for the last two years we have had a situation in which apparently it was found justifiable to subject the Catholic minority to the inconvenience and indignity of searches, of curfew, of interrogation.
It is prudent to remember that when the violence was renewed in the North of Ireland in August, 1969, the IRA was not a factor in the situation, in Derry, Belfast or anywhere else. I think this is common case. What has happened since is that the application of unwise policies has provided the fertilisation which foolish people thrive on, the foolish people who believe that a resort to force can remedy the ills of the North of Ireland. Instead of realising the situation as it was developing, either through ignorance or through malice, the present British Government has only driven the minority into the hands of the IRA and caused them to look upon the IRA as their friends and saviours. That is the appalling situation which has developed in the North, a situation which, if one is to judge by Mr. Maudling's words yesterday, they are prepared to justify and maintain indefinitely.
We have always spoken here with considerable reserve on the Northern Ireland situation, being anxious not to add any fuel to the fires there. There are so many fires burning now that the time has come to clearly identify who put the fuel there, who supplied the fuel, and how future fuel supplies can be stopped. Until there is a realisation of the real causes of the trouble and a preparedness on the part of the British Government to tackle those causes the trouble will continue. In case the British people are in any doubt, they need only look to the utterings of Mr. Paisley, MP, the man who is primarily responsible for the sickness which afflicts the northern community at the present time. He has said that if only the British Army would get out of the way the "loyalists" would soon tackle the problems there and cure them once and for all. What does this mean but that he, Mr. Paisley, MP, who commands the right-wingers, is aware that they are armed and they are in a position militarily to deal with the people whom they hate? Speaking with great concern and compassion recently, Lord O'Neill, the former Premier of Northern Ireland, also put on record his conviction that there were arms in the possession of the Orange extremists in such numbers, and in the hands of so many people, that if they were permitted to use them, they could destroy the Catholic minority if they were to commence civil war against them, a situation which could easily happen.
What are the British Government doing about this? It is wrong to succumb to the easy temptation of blaming the soldiers on the spot for the inevitable embarrassments and frictions which arise when an army is endeavouring to control a civil population. The fault lies not so much on the part of the soldiers immediately concerned in a riot situation, but on those who send them there with a wrong outlook or who direct them against only one section of the community in the full knowledge that the other section of the community, who are feared by the ones who are being intimidated and interrogated, are fully armed and ready and anxious to use those arms. Here, again, we must fault Britain's policy. The handbook which is given to every British soldier as he embarks for Northern Ireland is as vicious a piece of anti-Irish propaganda as could ever have been produced on the Shankill Road. There is hardly any Irish national or Catholic-related organisation that is not listed in that handbook as a potentially subversive organisation, while the many organisations, regular and irregular, on the Unionist side, stretching from the Orange Order to the Black Perceptories and the UVF, get scarcely any reference at all. If ever soldiers were wrongly briefed and wrongly directed, that situation exists in Northern Ireland at the present time. Blame must fall squarely on the British Government. It is against the British Government we should make the protests and not against the unfortunate, ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-educated troops who are sent out on the streets to police an impossible situation.
We are anxious that the unity of Ireland should come about by democratic means and the will of our people, freely expressed. We are anxious to maintain democratic institutions. These institutions cannot exist in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, ignorance and prejudice, nor can one accept that democracy is operating or can operate in any territory where those opposed to the Government of the day decline to participate in Parliament because of their total lack of respect for that Parliament and the institutions which it presumes to serve.
We are now faced with a new unpleasant reality in Northern Ireland where the Opposition representatives have withdrawn from Parliament. Does this cause even a ripple of interest in Westminster? I doubt if Westminster lives in fear of the outcome of any future parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland. It is time for the British Government, if they still presume to accept responsibility in the north, to accept as a reality that meaningful parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland cannot take place at any time in the foreseeable future, that is, if we accept that in the foreseeable future injustice, intimidation and fear are not going to be removed. Quite clearly, it would be a farce to conduct parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland if the effective opposition to the Government there, and the public representatives of the people who are dissatisfied with the whole fabric of government there, were to refuse to participate in that Parliament.
The British Government recently put themselves on record as being prepared to commit all their forces and might to preserve the statutory situation which was created by the Ireland Act of 1949. Could there ever have been such folly? This declaration was made at the very moment that the parliamentary Opposition in Stormont withdrew from that institution because they said the Stormont Parliament could not serve the needs of the people of Northern Ireland justly and fairly. At the very time that that vote of no confidence in the institutions of Stormont was expressed by the public representatives of one-third of the people of Northern Ireland, the British Government presumed to say that they were going to apply all their majestic and imperial might and wealth and power to maintain a statutory situation which recognised as valid a decision taken by an institution which was totally repugnant to a substantial number of people in Northern Ireland. At the same time as that declaration was made by the British Government they were also aware of the conviction which was spreading throughout Britain and elsewhere that it is only by a system of proportional representation at elections and, indeed, proportional representation in government, that sanity can prevail in Northern Ireland and that the minority can be given some meaningful participation in the creation of a society which they can respect. Knowing that Stormont institution with all its accepted shortcomings of non-participation by the Opposition, and unfair electoral procedures, they nevertheless, said that in the present situation their solution and contribution would be to commit the British Army and the British taxpayer to the preservation of the 1949 statutory position of Stormont.
That position was adopted, let us recall, by a British Labour Government in a fit of pique because the people of Ireland dared to declare Ireland to be a Republic outside the Commonwealth. In essence, there was no need for the 1949 Act. The one occasion in my experience that all the political parties in this country united was when, under the shadow of Charles Stewart Parnell's monument in O'Connell Street, the then Taoiseach, John A. Costello, the then leader of the Opposition, Éamonn de Valera and the then leader of the Labour Party, Bill Norton, Mr. Seán MacBride and the leader of the Nationalist Party in Northern Ireland spoke on a united platform in condemnation of the 1949 Act.
This little, pedantic miserable piece of British pique is now regarded as the beginning and end of present British Government commitment to Northern Ireland and contribution to peace in this island. It is time that the softly, softly diplomatic approach was put aside. It is too late for that now. It is not going to make the extremist Orange people of the north aware that their days are numbered, that injustice is not going to be tolerated any longer, that the modern world is not prepared to see emerge in the North of Ireland a new Nazism under a new Fuehrer in the shape of Ian Paisley or any of his friends.
I suggested here on an earlier occasion—I think there were those who doubted the validity of my suggestion —that there is a possible explanation for the present attitude of the British Government in the anxiety of Mr. Heath to purchase Unionist votes for the critical vote in the British Parliament this autumn for approval of the terms of entry to the EEC, which have been negotiated by the Conservative Government. As time goes on, as tragedy is heaped upon tragedy, and as the British Government appear to be returning to the very policies which failed so miserably in the past, it becomes impossible to find any explanation for their conduct other than this desire to buy the votes of the Unionist Members in Westminster for the Conservative terms of entry to the EEC.
I believe there is significance in the date fixed for the proposed talks between Mr. Heath and the Taoiseach. It is in October, just one week before the British Parliament reassembles for the purpose of making a critical decision on whether or not to approve the British terms of EEC entry. It would appear from the present conduct of the British Government that they will use that occasion to reject any suggestion that there should be a constitutional or institutional rearrangement in the North of Ireland and that they will do it publicly in order to belittle the Irish people and their national aspirations for unity and also to mollify the Unionist Members so that they will troop in behind Mr. Heath in the Lobbies in the Westminster Parliament the following week.
We should express our appreciation of the request of Mr. Callaghan, the Labour Shadow Home Secretary, for an earlier meeting. The British Government needs to be persuaded that their present policies are going to lead to an appalling civil war in the north because they are directed at comforting the trouble-makers, at protecting the evil men who want to maintain in the north all the injustice, all the bitterness and all the viciousness that has existed there and which is the foundation of its very existence.
In a situation where the elected representatives of the minority in the north are unwilling to participate any longer in the democratic fraud which is the Stormont Parliament one must consider what other institution can be made available to them to allow them to express their opinons. Clearly, if they are to be involved again in representative government there must be an immediate dismissal of the Stormont Parliament as it now exists and its replacement by a Parliament elected by a system of proportional representation. If there are difficulties and anxieties about doing that forthwith there should at least be established, as Mr. Callaghan suggested yesterday, a Council of Ireland in which all public representatives from Ireland could participate.
We have a Council of Europe—indeed, it is the only Assembly in which public representatives from the South of Ireland and from the North of Ireland meet. At present the representative from the North of Ireland is, interestingly enough, Lord O'Neill, a man who in fact represents the majority opinion in Northern Ireland because the majority opinion in the north is desirous of peace and wishes for tolerance and understanding. The majority of our fellow countrymen in the north do not want any longer to maintain the regime of injustice which has existed there for the last 50 years. These are the vast silent majority who are unable to express themselves because the parliamentary system in the north is incoherent and is dominated by the trouble-makers. We have for many years met representatives of Stormont in the Council of Europe and we have been able there to jointly adopt Irish attitudes on agreed policies. It should surely also be possible to have mature discussions free of prejudice, bitterness and ignorance in a Council of Ireland.
It is not unlikely that we may have presented to us once again a request from the minority representatives in the north for admission to Dáil Éireann. This request has been made twice before and after serious consideration it has been twice rejected, primarily on the grounds that it would be unjust to give representation without taxation; and to give participation here without having a means of collecting taxation would be unjust to the people who sent us here. But we do have to find some way of giving representation in a Parliament which will be respected by all the public representatives of Ireland. Stormont has lost respect. It is not even respected by Westminster any longer. We, I fear, have been slipping towards a position of disrespect because of the manner in which this Parliament has been ill-used by people who should have known better in recent years, but at least we are still in a position of entitlement to command respect. We may very seriously have to consider giving representation or audience of some kind to public representatives from the north.
The British Government tell us their aim is to stamp out the terrorists. Who are the terrorists? Are they merely those who place plastic bombs in drapery shops? Are they simply those who pour petrol into milk bottles and thrown petrol bombs at tanks and armoured cars? Are they alone those who throw stones at British troops, who use guns against them or their fellow countrymen? Are they not also the bigots who terrorise, deprive, ill-treat, intimidate and deny fundamental rights to people of a different religion? Are the terrorists not those who drive people from their homes because of their religious convictions? Are the terrorists not those who call on the British Army to leave Northern Ireland so that they may attack and kill the minority? Surely these people are terrorists as much as those who cast pebbles at armoured cars and throw petrol bombs at or place explosives in buildings out of a sense of frustration and indignation.
It is the failure of the British authorities to recognise such people as terrorists and to deal with them as such that has led them into the appalling error of dealing only with those opposed to Northern Ireland's existence who use physical violence. The authorities do nothing against those people who are much more effective in their regime of terror because it is secret and sinister. Unless the British Government deal with those people with the same professed ruthlessness as they apply to some sections of the community, the troubles in the north will continue and, as Deputy Cosgrave pointed out yesterday, the troubles will spread.
It may be a matter of little concern to some people in Britain that civil war may develop in Ireland. If the situation deteriorates in Northern Ireland it is most unlikely that trouble will spread to the south of Ireland only. The history of violence in this country in the past 50 years indicates that violence is just as likely to spread into British cities and towns and unless Britain is prepared to stamp out the cause of this evil she may experience embarrassment nearer home. In saying these things I have no desire to incite anyone or to implant a suggestion in any person's mind, but we should be failing in our clear obligation if we did not speak out the fears in the minds of most people and if we did not draw attention to the inevitable consequences of present foolish actions.
In August, 1969, the then British Government, in what has been called the Downing Street Declaration, said that the General Officer Commanding the British Army in Northern Ireland from that day forth would assume overall responsibility for security operations. If there has not been any departure from that stand, the words of Mr. Maudling in the Westminster Parliament yesterday are a contradiction. The proposed parade in Derry on 12th August is surely the greatest security risk which has arisen in the north since August, 1969. Having regard to this fact, Mr. Maudling's statement that he had no responsibility in the matter must be likened to the behaviour of Pontius Pilate—a washing of hands by a man as he professes innocence but who will be unable to wash his hands of any blood that may be spilled in the north because of the dangerous and outrageous decision to allow that parade to take place.
Because of the massive military presence it is possible that violence may not arise on that day. However, by permitting the parade to take place Britain is guaranteeing to the evil men who control the strings of power in the north that they can continue to do as they wish because Britain will always back them. Because of that attitude, serious violence is being done to every concept of democracy and fair play by allowing a parade and demonstration to take place that has as its primary incentive the demeaning and belittling of the majority of the citizens of Derry.
In his speech the Taoiseach spoke of the "separate policies" the Government were pursuing and how right he was. There are the separate policies in relation to the north of condemning violence, of uttering platitudes, of desiring only a peaceful solution and, at the same time, there is the facilitating, by inaction, of those who are working against and who would prevent a peaceful solution.
There are separate policies by the Government in relation to industry. The Minister for Industry and Commerce encourages industries to prepare for EEC entry by modernisation, adaptation, by looking to new markets, by developing new processes and by ploughing more money into industry and in certain circumstances he will give grants for this purpose. At the same time, the Minister for Finance has a separate policy towards industry —of taxing industry to a greater extent than ever before. Irish industry is the most vulnerable in Europe yet it is taxed at a rate higher than the rate of taxation applicable to industry in any other country in Europe.
There are separate policies in relation to agriculture. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries urges the restructuring of agriculture and adaptation towards market requirements in the EEC but the policies of the Government are preventing our farmers gearing themselves to take advantage of the opportunities available within the EEC.
The Ministers for Finance, Industry and Commerce and Agriculture and Fisheries have had occasion in recent years to complain about British treatment of Ireland—although their complaints were most inadequate. The three deliberate breaches of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement by the British Government did considerable harm to our trade and imposed on Irish taxpayers the need to subsidise exports to ensure that they could enter Britain at the same price level as applied previously. One might consider that was not a friendly act by the British Government but, nevertheless, the Taoiseach went to the United Nations to express his admiration for Britain, his conviction that Britain was well disposed towards us and that we had no complaints against Britain in recent times.
We heard Deputy Dowling boast about the Government's policy of making health services more freely available but while this is being said there are delays in the implementation of the choice-of-doctor scheme. In the last month the Minister for Health introduced a supplementary estimate to collect £4,700,000 extra in taxation by special health service levies to provide health services we are supposed to obtain more freely in the future than we did in the past.
At home there is the most serious threat to our security and existence as a State since the 1930s. What have we to meet this situation? We have an under-equipped army with outdated equipment and insufficient personnel. We have a Garda force which is demoralised, which is inadequately manned and in so far as it is manned, it is operating under grave restrictions and restraints which prevent the Garda, even when they know they are in a position to establish guilt, from prosecuting the people responsible.
These are the "separate policies" which the Taoiseach did not identify, but which he, no doubt, had in mind, when he was talking about them. This is alarming. It is bringing this country into a state of disarray which leaves us now less able than we should be to meet normal difficulties and makes it almost impossible to deal with a situation which looms up on the horizon all the time by reason of the stresses and strains in the North of Ireland.
We are living on borrowed time and on borrowed money. We were told in this year's Budget, which God knows is still warm because it is so fresh, that the limit of Government borrowing this year would be £28 million. Already, in the first half of the financial year, the Government have borrowed over £30 million abroad at the highest rate of interest that I have seen any sovereign Government pay, 9¾ per cent. People do not sufficiently appreciate the principal dangers in foreign borrowing. Foreign borrowing causes inflation. Borrowing abroad is from one-third to one-half more costly than borrowing at home. If the £20 million the Government have now borrowed at 9¾ per cent were borrowed at home, the effective rate of interest would be 5 per cent or 6 per cent because the Government would get a refund of income tax but there will be no refund of income tax on this 9¾ per cent which is to be paid in Britain and elsewhere.
We borrowed £10 million earlier this year from Germany and $25 million has also been borrowed and are at present in cold storage for use later on. These, together with the Government's own deliberate taxation, have contributed more than anything else to the rate of inflation in this country. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, the great conscience-keepers of the Irish workers and employers, have again in their contributions to this debate suggested that the prime causes of inflation were wage levels but that is not so. The OECD and other international organisations, which have made a special study of inflation in all countries, including Ireland, have drawn attention to the fact that taxation in Ireland has been the prime factor in inflation over the past six years. That, plus this foreign borrowing at extortionate rates of interest, will inject further inflation into our economy.
Within the past five years we have doubled the quantity of annual borrowing in this country and during that time we have borrowed at appalling rates of interest. Nearly £600 million and a substantial part of that has been from abroad. We simply cannot continue at this rate unless we are to accept as inevitable a continuing rate of inflation in this country of 10 per cent per annum, which will put us always at the top of the OECD scale of countries with inflation. That rate of inflation is much greater than any increased costs which will ensue as a result of membership of the EEC. This is something which many people do not appear to be able to grasp or appear to be quite indifferent to but if we are indifferent to the causes of inflation which have been to blame for a great deal of our troubles in recent times we should not particularly worry about whatever inflation may be caused by membership of the EEC. That is not at all for one moment to make light of any problems which the EEC may present for us but I wanted to present those figures so that some assessment and some understanding will be available as to what exactly is happening and who is responsible for it.
Sometimes I hear people express wonder at the designs on our new stamps and coins. It is very difficult to decipher what they might be but it is possible that they are, in fact, what could now be adopted as our national emblems, that is, the deaf ear, the blind eye and the buck passing hand. There are many in Government, and, indeed, in other high places—and I am sure the House will understand me when I say this—who are prepared to turn the deaf ear to things they know are happening and which they do not want to pretend to know. Similarly the blind eye is being turned to evil things which are quite obvious and even when the remedies are equally obvious they will not be applied because it is, perhaps, embarrassing to apply them.
We have also the readiness to always pass the buck. It is time the buck passing stopped. Ultimately it must stop at the Taoiseach. There is a drift to impotency in this country. There is— I am sorry even to contemplate it— a drift to serious civil strife all over our island and Mr. Micawber Lynch is doing nothing about it. In that situation it is understandable that our people should wish for an instant change of Government. We, as an Opposition party, are aware of a sense of frustration on the part of our own supporters, both old and new—and the new are coming to us in ever increasing numbers—that a Government that has acted so despicably, that has acted so inefficiently and with such little integrity should still be in office.
We are aware of the genuine feeling of distrust in the country that a Taoiseach, who found it necessary to dismiss senior Ministers on fundamental issues, should be happy to stay in office with the support of those people who are still in his view unfit for membership of government. There is no instant change of government available in a democracy save that which happens under our Constitution not less often than every five years when the voter takes pen in hand. If the buck passing is to stop every voter will have to realise that it stops with him or her at the time of voting. Nobody can change the Government of this country except the voters and the instant of change of government, which is available to our people and which they desire, is the instant change brought about when the voter takes pen in hand to mark the ballot paper. We want that day to approach rapidly. There are many people sitting behind the Government who do not at the moment share in the perks of Government office, who are completely disgusted with the Government and whose greatest desire is to see that change in order that the Fianna Fáil Party out of power can be reformed and brought back to something of the decency and integrity to which they at one time aspired.
It is unfortunate that we should be considering these things at the end of a session. I would hope that we might change procedures in this House in the not too distant future. This debate on the Taoiseach's Estimate and on general national policy should take place at the commencement of session and not at the end of it. It seems somewhat pointless, futile and wasteful to be considering fundamental matters at the end of a session, and just before Members take off for their annual holidays. Our Dáil and our Seanad should be concerned with and refreshed by principles of good government and good policy, discussed and debated at the commencement of a session, and I conclude with the request that the Whips, the parties and all responsible would, if not at the commencement of the autumn session this year, certainly next year, ensure that the Taoiseach's Estimate and general policy will be debated at the commencement of a session and not in its closing minutes.