The Minister of State at the Department of Education is in possession and has some ten minutes left of the time allotted to him.
Private Member's Business. - National Lottery (Amendment) Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed).
I wish to outline the totally unworkable nature of the Bill proposed by the Progressive Democrats. Within 24 hours of the introduction of the Bill by their Chief Whip, their Leader, Deputy Des O'Malley, acknowledged that it is unworkable. It is proposed that four trustees should be selected by the 125 sport and youth organisations. Such an election would be a farce. People involved in arts and culture, social welfare and health would be trying to determine the appropriate expenditures in areas of youth and sport.
Another ridiculous feature of the Bill is that it would necessitate the setting up of a bureaucracy which would have to submit a report to the Minister for Finance which would contain details of all applications received, particulars of applications approved, rejected or deferred and the reason for the decision in each case. The preparation of such a report would require a large bureaucracy. Thousands of applications are rolling into the Department at present. The Bill proposes a ludicrous jail sentence and fine of up to £50,000. Are the Progressive Democrats not aware that there already exists a mechanism whereby anybody who misappropriates public funds can be brought to justice? What a slur this is on the many people throughout the country who work voluntarily in raising funds for sports organisations, youth clubs and other community projects in an effort to better the community. Deputy Harney has impugned all those people by suggesting that any misappropriation should be subject to fines of up to £50,000 and prison sentences. The Bill is clearly unworkable.
I turn now to the controversy about information being given to Ministers and backbenchers of my own party about allocations made within their constituencies. There is nothing new about that practice. It has been going on since before I became a Member of this House and I make no apology for it. I have here a list covering capital grants of approximately £4 million, with a name of a Fine Gael Deputy written after each allocation so that they would be informed first. If I were to go to the provincial newspapers I would find the same headlines as those for which Fine Gael now blame us.
Deputy Harney also alleged that Ministers' constituencies have been treated more favourably than others. Now that the facts are being put before the House, it is evident that this is not the case. Ministers' constituencies do not fare any differently from other constituencies.
This legislation was originally put forward by Fine Gael. If the method by which they handled grants in the past is anything to go by, then they would handle the allocation of lottery funds under the grant scheme in the same way as we have done. Time ran out on them but that did not bother some Fine Gael Deputies and Ministers who made allocations which they intended would come from lottery funds four months before the lottery was introduced. That was before the last election.
The basic question is one of choice. The duty of Government is to govern and implicit in that is the process of making choices between competing priorities. In the unlikely event of the Progressive Democrats ever becoming part of a future Government, will Deputy O'Malley throw himself into a frenzy of indecision because he has to make grant allocations in Limerick East? He certainly did not do so during his previous ministries. We could refer to facts and figures which would show that quite clearly. Would Deputy Harney agonise because of grant allocations being made in Dublin SouthWest? Will Deputy McDowell, that intrepid mould breaker of Dublin South, spend sleepless nights adjudicating over every penny being spent in his constituency? I think not.
His constituency in Dublin South-East.
There are clear guidelines which must be adhered to. There are clear responsibilities placed on Ministers which they must carry out. Today on RTE's "Morning Ireland" programme the Deputy Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Michael Keating, denied that he had reallocated funds which had been allocated by his predecessor and that all the new allocations went to his own constituency, with the exception of one which was allocated to the area in which he lived. The facts about this reallocation are in the file before me, which I will show to the Progressive Democrats and Deputy Keating if they wish. Let me reiterate that there was nothing wrong in what Deputy Keating did. He acted in a proper way and I have no objection to it, but in the light of all that the Progressive Democrats have said during the past six months it is most interesting to see the way in which their Deputy Leader handled those allocations during his ministry.
The total amount available to him during the nine or ten months when he held my position was allocated to his own constituency, with the exception of one grant which was made to the place where he lived. I received a call today from somebody in Dunshaughlin to tell me that the grant allocation was never actually spent. The Progressive Democrats are a party who want to ensure that the facts do not spoil the story. Deputy Keating mentioned on radio this morning that he had a scheme for the allocation of his moneys and that therefore it was proper, but he said that we have no scheme for the allocation of funds. I will be happy to give to Deputy Harney details of the scheme we have, which is exactly the same scheme that was used by Deputy Keating and every other Minister in this position since 1980. There is no difference. There has been clear accountability and my officials in the Department of Education have carried out their responsibilities. No wrong was done by us. I am sure the Fine Gael Members will acknowledge that there is no difference in the way the scheme was operated. If they do not acknowledge it, there are some interesting facts in this file which I will make available to them in case they have any doubts about how they acted when in Government.
Another accusation made by Deputy O'Malley and Deputy Howlin is that Deputies went around the country handing out cheques. I categorically deny that any cheque was given by my Department to any Deputy since I became a member of this Government. I challenge Deputy Harney, Deputy Howlin, Deputy O'Malley and Deputy Creed——
Who gave the cheques to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul? Deputy Woods did and he acknowledged it in this House.
We do not deal with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in my Department.
It was a lottery cheque.
I am talking about my Department and I am sure Deputy Woods is quite capable of dealing with his. If a Minister hands a cheque to anybody he has overall responsibility for his Department and there is nothing wrong in doing that. No cheque was given to any Deputy or Minister in my Department in the allocation of £27 million. I refute categorically the incorrect statements which have been made in this House in that regard.
One wonders about the real motivation for this legislation. The proposals are so ridiculous and unworkable that they were rejected by other parties before the Bill was introduced. The Leader of the Progressive Democrats admitted this the night after his Chief Whip proposed the Bill. This proves the Bill was not introduced with the intention of enacting its proposals into law. This Bill, and all that has been said about it in recent months, has all the hallmarks of what motivated Deputy O'Malley and Deputy Harney to set up the Progressive Democrats in the first place — their aversion and hatred of Fianna Fáil. If you analyse their statements and comments you will see they are underlined by a common theme of bitterness, which I regret. Anyone who constantly talks of scandal, fraud, illegal dealings, political slush funds and gombeenism, absolutely without foundation, must be bitter. Even though I have had to bite my lip on many occasions about those wrongful allegations in the last six months, I hold no bitterness towards the Progressive Democrats.
Put that to music.
I feel nothing for them but sympathy because they were set up, we were told, to bring a new dimension to Irish politics and if this legislation is part of that dimension, the Progressive Democrats are dead. In fact, it is time they were buried and I recommend that this Bill goes with them.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill and I would like to clarify a number of issues on behalf of the Labour Party. The Minister of State would want to be careful not to stretch language beyond the bonds of credibility, bearing in mind his last comments.
It is timely that we are having this discussion on the national lottery because we could do without some of the acrimony it has led to in this House. What is at stake is the national lottery, something that has become an important aspect of public policy and an important method of raising finance.
I notice that Deputy Creed is in the House. Much credit must go to him for the work he did behind the scenes over many years, he researched proposals and looked at the various options open to government. Perhaps this could have been done sooner but there were many obstacles and the concept of the lottery, the idea of introducing something which had an element of gambling in it, was an obstacle in itself. In the end, Deputy Creed brought forward his proposals and the administration of the lottery was awarded to An Post. For my part I was very glad it was awarded to An Post, a very reputable organisation. I believe they have handled their brief with a professionalism which is perhaps new to this country. In that respect I believe it is timely that we should have this discussion tonight.
I am concerned that the national lottery would survive what has been going on in political circles for the last 12 or 15 months. As I said, a review is timely and necessary and whether there would be political disagreements about the disbursement of the funds or the lack of accountability, I believe that review would have to take place at this time for a number of reasons: first, the national lottery has exceeded all predictions of the amounts forecast in the original preparation of the lottery scheme; and second, the surplus moneys become public money which can be used for good or ill.
It is very important that we as public representatives and the Government, as the elected Government, would be seen to be accountable and that we can remove the lottery itself, the running of the lottery and the disbursement of funds from the rancour which has prevailed in recent months. Many comments have been made, and the accuracy of some could be questioned, but the bottom line is that something needs to be done in relation to the lottery. Some politicians believe something has to be done in relation to the disbursement of funds and others believe there has been a misdirection arising from the fact that more moneys have become available than were originally envisaged.
When the suggestion of a Private Members' Bill was brought forward some months ago, discussions took place between the Leaders of the Opposition Parties, in good faith. I believe the 166 Members of this House are capable of taking different views and looking at different suggestions of how to spend public money, and realising that what might be a priority in Mayo on a Monday might not be a priority in Kerry, that it might well be that priorities in Dublin are different from those in rural Ireland. At the end of the day the discussions were held in good faith to see if we could hammer out a proposal which would be acceptable to everybody.
Progress was slow in getting it on to the Floor of the House, but when the Progressive Democrats indicated that they were going to move their Private Members' Bill, I did not believe it would solve the problem. I did not believe, even if their Bill had a majority in this House tonight, that that would solve the lottery difficulties and save the lottery from the kind of rancour we have seen in recent months.
As I read the position, regardless of whether the Second Stage is accepted by the Government tonight, it would be very difficult to have the Bill brought back to the House in the coming months. To suggest that the Bill could have any influence prior to the 1989 budget would be misleading. In that context I did not believe from the start that the Bill would achieve what its promulgators believed. At that time, the Labour Party discussed all the possibilities and two weeks ago to the day the Labour Party Whip negotiated to have discussions with other parties on the national lottery.
On 4 November I sent correspondence to each party leader in the Dáil, including the Taoiseach. My main suggestion and it is important that this be clarified, was as follows:
I am, therefore, proposing that further acrimony and party infighting on this issue should be avoided. The most sensible way to do this would be for each party to nominate a representative to a small working group which would advise the Government on ways and means to ensure efficient and accountable administration of the lottery in future. The Government would then be in a position to promulgate a mechanism which would have all party support, and whose underlying purpose would be to ensure that the lottery will continue to have the widest possible level of public support.
I received responses from party leaders, but I have to admit that it did not appear that my suggestion was acceptable or that a motion in our name was seen to be the correct direction to take. The Taoiseach's office contacted me last Friday to the effect that the Government had considered the proposition of my letter of 4 November and felt it was acceptable and that contact would be made by the Minister for Finance, who was delegated by the Government to deal with the matter. That is where we are at present.
It is important, as the issue will not be resolved here this evening, that I outline my views — and those of my party — on the role of the surplus funds of the lottery. As I said at the beginning, it may well be that my priorities are not those of the Government or of other parties in the House. However, I am entitled to express those views and to have an input to the group which will be set up later on. We should look to that group with confidence and everybody should approach it with the intention of ensuring that the lottery fulfils the purpose for which it was set up.
The terms of the motion which I suggested originally were:
Dáil Éireann, being conscious of the need to ensure that public support for the projects supported by the national lottery continues at a very high level, and being committed to the principle that funds from the lottery should be used to support projects which enhance the life of the community, and being concerned lest there be any perception in the community that national lottery funds are allocated in any partisan way, resolves as follows:
1. That proceeds from the national lottery should be used to support projects in the following areas, in the proportions specified in brackets: Youth (15%); Sport (20%); Arts/Culture (20%); Irish language (5%); Health (20%); Tourism (5%); Local Amenities (15%). Projects in these areas must satisfy the overall criterion that they will enhance the life of the local or the national community.
2. That in so far as is practicable, funds from the national lottery should be used for new projects in these areas, and should not be used to replace existing Exchequer funding on current activities.
3. That responsibility for allocations under these headings should be vested in the appropriate Ministers, subject to the following provisions:
—that overall responsibility for the national lottery should be vested in the Minister for Finance, who will submit an Annual Report on the way in which he has discharged his responsibilities to the Dáil, and that such report may be accepted or rejected by the Dáil;
—that each Minister with responsibility for allocating funds should do so only with the consent of the Minister for Finance. Day to day administration of funds should be delegated to the appropriate agencies within Departments, and to Local Authorities where appropriate. Each Minister should publish a statement of the priorities he intends to follow in the allocation of funds, such statement to be included in the Annual Report prepared by the Minister for Finance.
4. That any organisation applying for national lottery funds must do so on a prescribed application form. Such application form must contain a description of the organisation making application (including a statement of the organisation's financial status); the reasons for which funds are sought; the ways in which an allocation of funds will enhance the life of the local community; the job creation potential of the project (if any). Organisations receiving lottery funds must, in due course, submit a report to the relevant Minister on how the funds allocated have been used. Application forms and reports from bodies to whom funds are allocated should be available for inspection in the relevant Government Departments.
5. At any time, the Government of the day can bring forward proposals to the Dáil to review any aspect of the operations of the lottery. Such proposals (other than proposals for legislative change) must be put to the Dáil in the form of a Motion.
In outlining what I consider to be the procedures which this lottery scheme needs, they may not be all encompassing in relation to all the possibilities, they might well meet with rejection in part or in whole but they could form a basic discussion document in relation to the group which will be set up, in which I hope all parties will participate and which will report back to this House.
On the communication being received from the Minister for Finance discussions were held in an open manner and in a spirit of goodwill to try to bring about a situation acceptable to this House. In relation to the suggestion which I had made prior to the debate in this House, the Minister for Finance replied to me in the following terms:
Further to our discussions on arrangements for disbursal of the surplus revenues of the national lottery, I confirm the Government agreement to the proposal discussed by us in the terms set out below. Following receipt of a letter dated 4th November 1988 to the Taoiseach by Mr. Dick Spring, T.D., Leader of the Labour Party the Government have agreed to a proposal that each group in the Dáil should nominate one Member to a working group to advise on the effective and accountable disbursal of the lottery surplus. It is hoped that this advice will be available to the Government prior to the introduction of the 1989 budget.
It is important that the charge of this group will be to bring about effective and accountable disbursal of the lottery surplus. That is also important in relation to some of the remarks made in this House on the last occasion and tonight in relation to the capacity and responsibility of politicians to carry out their functions.
It is a very silly argument that we are not responsible or mature enough to administer the surplus lottery funds when you consider the total amount of funding disbursed by Ministers in various Departments throughout the course of any financial year. We would be doing a disservice to ourselves and to politicians who may succeed us in this House if we say — which has been said in effect — that we are not capable of regulating our own affairs or of administering a sum of money less than £100 million per annum and that it should be done by a High Court judge, a board of trustees or someone outside this House.
By and large, there are honourable people in this House and if they are not they are put to the test on a very regular basis. Who can comment on high judicial people or officers outside this House in terms of their credibility in relation to the disbursement of funds? They may have pet hobbies or areas of priority which may have little or no relevance to the priorities of local authorities, working or other groups throughout the country. If we can approach the working group with an open mind it is the best way forward because theraison d'etre for this discussion is that we want a change in the system, which may very well have come about at any rate when the whole question of the lottery takes place. The review is perhaps overdue——
The Deputy's time is practically up.
Perhaps you or the Bills Office might comment on this Bill being dealt with in Private Members' Time? It is certainly highly suspect because of the financial implications in the Bill. I would welcome clarification before the vote at 8.30 p.m. as to whether this Bill is properly before the House. In that regard, I feel a lot happier that there is a possibility of having something done about the surplus funds in the lottery because, with or without the Bill, it would happen anyway.
The Bill before the House is flawed. The main Opposition Finance spokesman speaking on the Bill last week said that the Progressive Democrats' Bill is intrinsically flawed. Can the largest Opposition Party support an intrinsically flawed Bill?
This is an unnecessary Bill because two years ago the National Lottery Act was put in position with the agreement of the House and the Government have allocated the funds available from the lottery surplus in strict accordance with that Act. Why are we here tonight? Why were we here last night and two nights last week discussing an unnecessary Bill? I will tell you why. As a drowning man clutches at a straw, a drowning political party grasps at the national lottery in the hope of being kept publicly afloat.
The Progressive Democrats as a political phenomenon are suffering the morning after optimism where all you have is burnt patches on the ground where the bonfires were. All you have is a bad case of ingrown rectitude. There are no broken moulds, no banners with a strange device, no issues, no principles, no core and no direction. Once upon a time they had outrage, and outrage is your only man. Everybody likes a bit of outrage. When you have a Government taking charge of a demoralised country, when you have a Government that is doing the right things with a courage never expected of a minority administration, then outrage wears a bit thin. When outrage wears thin, opportunism begins to surface — opportunism, sectoral interests, what could be called the "Barrington's Hospital Syndrome".
To the Progressive Democrats, the lottery is a marvellous opportunity. They have grasped it, tied slogans to it and tried to make a national issue out of it. They have been helped by the polls, at least by some of the polls. If you are in the Progressive Democrats at the moment, you pay your money and you take your choice.
You can believe the surveys that say you are going down the tubes, or you believe the surveys that say the general public — or a majority of the general public — would like to see the disbursement of the lottery funds in the hands of an independent agency. The Progressive Democrats disagree with the first and agree with the second. I agree with both. Of course a majority of the general public would like to see an independent agency in charge. Put that kind of question to the general public about almost anything, and that is the answer you will get.
Would you like to see an independent agency in charge of buying drugs for the health service? Would you like to see an independent agency giving out housing grants? Would you like to see an independent agency in charge of the tax arrangements for children's shoes? Would you like to see an independent agency in charge of the position of God in the Constitution? The marvellous mystique of the "independent agency" means that people will often choose it when stopped in the street by a market researcher with a little clip-board. But if you put the question another way, you would get a different answer.
At this time, the only relevant democratic question to ask is, do you want the lottery funds disbursed according to strict rules laid down in law and agreed by the Dáil? But were strict rules laid down in law? Were they agreed by the Dáil? Surprise, surprise, the answer is yes to both questions. The next question is who brought in those strict rules? The answer is the Coalition Government, made up of the two parties opposite.
You said they were not strict enough.
The Deputies over there were very quiet last night.
It seems that the Progressive Democrats have suddenly got very vocal for some unknown reason.
Fine Gael, the House will remember, were not just part of a Coalition Government; they had a franchise on rectitude at the time and from that position, they made the rules. As soon as those rules began to serve interests on this side of the House, Fine Gael developed second thoughts. In fact, if the Progressive Democrats are now the party of shake-and-bake opportunism, Fine Gael are now the party of the chronic second thought. The problem, thus far, in the contributions made by the Opposition parties is that they have all the words of public concern, but none of the reality.
I do not believe, when we are trying to reverse massively entrenched patterns of emigration, unemployment and national debt, that the general public want to see four days of our parliamentarians' time devoted to the nuts-and-bolts of how national lottery money is spent. If the general public were asked to make a choice between four days of hard work pulling this country into shape and four days of political posturing by those who did not have the good luck to be in power when the national lottery came on stream, they would tell us in no uncertain terms to get on with the real task. That is what this Government are going to do, no matter what the result of the vote on this irrelevant and trivial Bill. We are going to continue with the real task.
My job here tonight is not to argue with, defend or help the Opposition rearrange their prejudices. My job is to stitch a few facts into the record. First, the lottery surplus has been applied to the beneficiary areas in accordance with the 1986 Act. This year £10 million has been provided for youth as against £3.7 million in 1987. That includes £4 million for new or additional services for the young homeless, young substance abusers or young people generally at risk. Grants of £3.63 million have been awarded to voluntary organisations on the basis of pre-determined criteria under the youth service grant scheme. A sum of £10 million has been provided for health services and £800,000 for the relief of suffering caused by wars and natural disasters in developing countries.
The Government have stuck rigorously in the allocation of available funds to the eligible beneficiary categories and Ministers have allocated the funds available to them in a fair and reasonable way. This is in sharp contrast to the behaviour of the former Minister for the Environment, Fine Gael Deputies and councillors who used the amenity grant scheme provision for 1987 for blatant electioneering before the last general election. They notified local groups that grant approval for particular projects would be forthcoming a month before the formal allocation notifications were issued from the Department.
The disbursal of the lottery funds was done in an effective and efficient way, despite the fact that the funds were greatly in excess of what had been expected. This is in sharp contrast to the bureaucratic maze which would result from the proposals in the Bill. When a party like the Progressive Democrats have majored on the elimination of waste and unnecessary bureaucracy, you expect them to avoid waste and unnecessary bureaucracy in the lottery, too, but that is not so.
In place of the present straightforward and democratic arrangements under which broad assignments of lottery funds are made by the Government and decisions in relation to use on particular projects are made by Government Ministers, what they now want is a more elaborate and expensive new procedure under which these functions would be entrusted to a board with no democratic basis whatever.
Once upon a time, the Progressive Democrats talked about the need to cut public expenditure and reduce the numbers of public servants — once upon a time, like a few months ago. Right now it is time to change principles and dance. Right now we find them seeking to expand both public expenditure and the numbers of public servants. Right now, they want to break nice cost-effective moulds and replace them with bigger, costlier and less efficient moulds. But that is an opinion and I promised the House I would deal in facts.
Let me give an inescapable fact. If there are thousands of worthwhile applications, and £72 million to distribute, not everybody is going to get money. My Department alone received well over 2,000 applications for lottery funding. It was not easy for the Department to handle numbers of this order with the small staff available for the purpose, but they managed. They managed with the knowledge that our system has safety factors built into it. No money was going to be spent by my Department until the paperwork was in place, until the project was completed to the satisfaction of the local authority engineers and certified by them to be in order.
A board set up under the terms of the Bill under discussion could not operate in that way. There would be no alternative but to treat every application on a bureaucratic basis with all the expense, delay and trouble which that would cause, not only to the board itself but to the applicants as well. There would be extra expense all round, extra delays, extra frustrations and, at the end of the day, just as many disappointed applicants.
The more one considers the procedures proposed, the more it becomes clear that those who drafted the Bill do not understand or appreciate how proper public accountability operates or the need to get projects going as quickly as possible. If Christmas is coming, you do not want it postponed until a board of directors reexamines the 12 days.
Santa Claus came a long time ago.
If good news is due——
You got the good news in Tallaght.
What about the £300,000——
I will come to that. If good news is due you do not want it postponed while someone puts forms through some kind of bureaucratic liquidiser. You want someone who is responsible and who is publicly accountable, and that is what this Bill would do away with.
If sections 12 and 13 of this Bill were enacted responsibility for public accountability would be removed from the Minister for Finance and other members of the Government because they would be, more or less, required to obey the instructions of the board. Let us get to the bottom line on this.
What about the working party?
The bottom line is that Ministers with responsibility for national policy on matters connected with their Departments' functions would have no say over the spending of large amounts of public money in those areas, and the expenditure would be in the hands of unelected individuals who would not be publicly accountable for their decisions.
Coming back to areas of my own responsibility, my Department have been allocated a total of £9.53 million for three expenditure areas: projects associated with the Dublin Millennium, public library services, and amenity projects.
In the case of the Dublin Millennium, grants were allocated to the company specially set up to promote the Millennium — Dublin Promotions Organisation Ltd. — and they contributed to an extensive programme of events during the year. Each programme was drawn up by the Millennium Company and approved by their board of directors and forwarded to the Department of the Environment for approval prior to any grant being allocated or paid out. Community and youth projects were covered. Arts and cultural projects were covered. Environmental improvement projects were covered. In all £700,000 was allocated for these events.
In lieu of the £10 million the Minister took off the Dublin Metropolitan Streets Commission.
Grant issues to the Millennium Company were restricted to costs associated with the specific projects approved by the Department of the Environment and grants were processed on an agreed system of recoupment. Details regarding the allocation of the £700,000 grant were announced on 21 January, 1988.
The Millennium has proved a very successful event nationally and internationally and it will have a continuing influence in the years to come. Without the funds available from the lottery, there is not doubt that the various things I have mentioned simply would have taken place. That was good news and it is continuing good news for Dublin. It was good decision-making about where the money should go, but there is no applause from the Opposition parties about it.
The second area of expenditure of lottery funds by my Department is the public library service. This is a very praiseworthy and excellent expenditure area for lottery funds. Public library branches are spread throughout the country. They are accessible to the public in every county, and it is a public service which is used by all sections of the community, not just by people of voting age. The funds from the national lottery were allocated to local authorities on the same conditions as those applying to other capital and current services provided by the authorities. These conditions were accepted by various Governments and by the Comptroller and Auditors General over the years. Again it was good news, continuing good news, for the library service. It was good decision-making about where the money should go, but again no applause from the Opposition parties, not even the sound of one hand clapping——
How can one hand clap?
Like this. But then, the Opposition have been busy. Fair enough. They have been busy focusing on the third area of expenditure for which I had to allocate funds, the amenity project scheme, because it was in that area they figured they might make some cheap political capital. It was good judgment, if you think about it. When a Department allocated so much money so publicly to so many good causes, there has to be something the Opposition can fight with, something they can use to prove they have all their ducks in a row, all their oars in the water, all their outrage intact.
Reaction can make an Opposition look busy, but I found myself in the position of having to deal with applications for grants totalling some £60 million while the amount available for distribution was only one-tenth of that — £6 million.
Tell us how you allocated the money.
I will. It is hardly necessary for me to labour the point of how difficult it was for me to make a selection in those circumstances. I had over 2,000 applications, practically all of which were for really worthy projects but the sum available to me allowed me to allocate only one-tenth of the grant-aid sought, so what was I to do?
I decided to allocate the grants to those projects that seemed most worthy and most likely to produce really worth-while community benefits while seeking to achieve a fair balance between different areas. In the particular situation there was no way of avoiding having to disappoint many applicants. Another person acting on the basis of what he — or she — thought best might have selected quite a different set of projects for assistance, but he could not have avoided disappointment for a great many people any more than I could. It would just have been a different set of people who would have been disappointed.
But, you see, I am a Minister of Government and I have been given responsibility each and every day for decision-making, and the reality I live with every day of my life is that I must disappoint people — groups and individuals — who do not deserve to be disappointed. That is the reality lived with every day by every member of this Government, whether as local representatives, as individual Ministers or, collectively, as a Government.
The reality is that because we are public figures, because we are identified public figures, people can make that disappointment very clear to us. We cannot hide behind the bureaucratic collective suit of pinstriped armour which the board this Bill suggests could hide behind.
There is no hiding by the Minister for the Environmment or by any other Minister. On television, on radio, at public meetings, I have answered every question put to me — I am being charitable when I say I floored them on TV, and I have never complained about the questions or even the questioners.
Of course, there are people who say that the allocations which I made are unbalanced as between different areas. We have heard a fair bit about that. The allocations made are not in strict proportion to the population or other equivalent criteria as between different areas. There were crucial considerations to be taken into account other than strict demography.
We know all about them.
Those crucial considerations include the level of interest shown in different areas and the worth of the projects proposed. It depends where you are coming from, what opportunistic glasses you are wearing when you examine the allocations.
For example, 16 counties fared better — when their allocations are considered as a proportion of grant assistance sought — than did my own County Mayo. I make this point so as to demonstrate that facile comparisons of allocations and population levels are only part of the story.
In making the allocations from the national lottery funds this year, I had to look at the whole story. I had to do what I did last year when the funding was provided from voted moneys. I had to make a judgment between two good options — and, inevitably, in every case, I had to disappoint at least one of those good options.
Is that why you got rid of Cong?
That is unworthy of the Deputy, knowing his track record. I have been here 11 years and I have never yet made a personal attack on anybody in this Chamber and I am not going to start tonight. I appreciate that criticism of the nature I had been referring to is inevitable in the particular circumstances. I do not object to it except to the degree that it may lose sight of the fact that where resources are limited, some projects must fall by the wayside, for the time being at least. I do, however, take exception to criticisms of this kind coming from people who were themselves responsible for patently flawed allocations the previous year.
Attention has been drawn to variations in the level of my allocation as between different areas. These variations are fully justified, but what did I find on taking office last year? I found that the day before he left office, the outgoing Minister had made allocations of the available funds. Had any attempt been made to allocate funds on a fair basis? Not a bit of it. No less than 13 counties failed to receive any allocation at all while no less than 88 schemes in the Dublin area devoured the lions' share of the available money. Eighty-eight schemes were assisted in Dublin while West Mayo got nothing at all.
I did not hear Deputy Sherlock objecting too much when I made an allocation to a project or two in his home constituency and he was making representations to me every day in the corridor to do so.
Deputy Sherlock, I listened while you made your contribution and saw to it that nobody interrupted you. One would expect that you would try to reciprocate that in respect of other speakers. The same applies to everybody else.
Might I ask the Minister to deal with the lottery funds?
The unfortunate thing is that there are things that nettle people. One would have expected that, with that kind of track record, people on the other side of the House, instead of criticising my allocations, would have slunk quietly away and hoped that their own grossly lopsided administration might be forgotten with the passage of time.
That situation was deplorable and I had to rectify it despite the fact that my action would be understandably unpopular with those who had been promised grants by the previous Administration and now found these grants cut or entirely withdrawn.
A further point which must be emphasised is that projects being aided under the amenity grant scheme are not some airy fairy dreams of philanthropic do gooders. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are projects which have been well thought out by those in the various communities who have a genuine interest in the protection and enhancement of the local environment. To suggest that these projects, or any of them, are unworthy of assistance is most unfair to these people, many of whom work long hours — long unpaid hours — in their spare time on the projects.
We should be thankful that this country abounds with such good people and we should condemn out of hand any attempt to create a furore which could discourage their efforts.
As far as payment of grants is concerned, strict criteria apply. There is nothing secret or hidden about the scheme. The conditions relating to the scheme were publicly available and included in a reply to a Parliamentary Question on 18 May 1988.
The scheme itself is administered by the county councils, county borough corporations and Dún Laoghaire Corporation.
The projects being grant aided are carried out under the supervision of the local authority and grant payments are made by my Department to local authorities for redistribution to the various projects. In applying for grants, the local authority is required to certify that,inter alia, the project, when completed, will be of public utility and will be available for public or community use as far as practicable. There will also have to be adequate arrangements for management and maintenance and for meeting running costs, if any.
Expenditure in respect of each project must be certified to have been incurred in accordance with the conditions of the scheme before payment is made. These are not slipshod methods of administration. They have resulted in the funding of projects which will make a substantial difference to local communities the length and breadth of this country.
They have also, inevitably, resulted in disappointment. What is interesting is that disappointed applicants have not tended to interpret their lack of success on this occasion as either a negative judgment on them or as a final dismissal. They know neither of those is true. They have been disappointed — but the overwhelming majority of the unsuccessful applicants have been quietly dignified, and at the same time, quietly determined to succeed next time around.
The only people making political capital out of the national lottery are the opposition parties, in particular the Progressive Democrats. The sponsors of this Bill have failed to justify the reasons for the two major changes sought: establishment of a new quango; and dilution of public accountability for expenditure of public money. The sponsors have not proved their case.
In contrast the Government position is clear and unambiguous. We have proved our case. Government Ministers have detailed how they have scrupulously adhered to the present legislation. The conditions for grant allocations are available for public scrutiny. There are arrangements for normal accountability for the proper expenditure of the lottery funds. Nobody is challenging it.
This Bill and the position adopted by the Deputies across the House has nothing to do with the proper allocation of lottery funds. Instead, it is an unholy alliance to embarrass the Government at the expense of the national lottery. It will not work. The Government are unembarrassed. The Government have their eye on the ball. The Government have a job to do and are going to do it irrespective of how the Progressive Democrats might try to embarrass them.
Now let me tell the House what is going to be achieved by the posturing of the Opposition on this non-issue. What has been achieved is that a vague negative has been attached to the projects to which funding has been given. That is unfair. A vague negative has been attached to the lottery itself and that is unfair. We could do without those vague negatives. Locally and nationally, we could do without them.
In the interest of all of the projects which in the future will be funded by the lottery, I would ask the parties opposite not to proceed with this Bill. In the interests of good public administration and cost-effective management of lottery funds, I ask them not to proceed. In the interests of enabling and empowering and enlarging community effort, sporting possibility, artistic endeavour and the options for our young people, I ask them not to proceed with a Bill so flawed, so mean, so grudging in its intent.
There is a question that has been raised by Deputy Spring. The Government have nothing to hide in the matter. Everything has been done in accordance with agreed long-established procedure and there is total accountability to this House for all moneys disbursed under the lottery by various members of the Government. No money has been misappropriated. Nobody has got money that they were not entitled to and no cheques have been paid to any unworthy causes or to any unworthy projects and it should not be implied or suggested inside or outside the House that anything untoward was done during the disbursement of these moneys.
However, to help stop the needless waste of parliamentary time and the further pursuance of this needless and flawed Bill the Government have, following receipt of a letter dated 4 November 1988 from the leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Dick Spring to the Taoiseach, agreed to a proposal that each group in the Dáil should nominate one member to a working group to advise on the effective and accountable disbursal of the lottery surplus.
It is hoped that this advice will be available to the Government prior to the 1989 budget.
The other question that Deputy Spring raised concerning whether this legislation is properly before the House is something that will be dealt with by another speaker, but I think that everybody knows how that will turn out as well.
The Chair ruled on that this morning.
It was a flawed piece of legislation with poor intent and it was not introduced in the best interests of either the recipients of lottery funds or the lottery itself. Shame on the Progressive Democrats. Let them withdraw their Bill.
By agreement, I wish to share my time with Deputy John Farrelly.
I am sure I can anticipate the agreement of the House to your so doing.
I think this must be the first time in the history of the State that a Government who claim that they have never done anything wrong, are not misappropriating funds, have not done anything wrong in allocating the funds, have come into the House and agreed to a Mickey Mouse advisory committee to get themselves off the hook. This must be the first time in the history of the State that the great Labour Party, the great socialists, who have defended the rights of the people for so long, found themselves when an issue was put up to them in the position of having to run for cover.
I should like to address a few remarks to the Taoiseach. I am glad that he is back on his feet and I wish him good health. I should like to tell him that the Fine Gael party do not need any lectures from him, or from Deputy MacSharry, about our responsibilities. The Fine Gael party, despite the snide remarks of the Labour Party in the last 18 months, have acted responsibly on every financial issue that had to be dealt with. However, when it comes to the abuse of public funds the Fine Gael party will not bow to threats from the Taoiseach, or anybody else, about elections. That message should be delivered loud and clear to the Taoiseach. When it comes to rigging constituencies or abusing public funds we will not be bought off by Micky Mouse advisory committees.
Two weeks ago in our efforts to get all Opposition parties to combine to say stop to Fianna Fáil we tabled a comprehensive motion on this issue. We wanted to say to Fianna Fáil, "stop these abuses; this is not Fianna Fáil money; the party did not collect it and did not have anything to do with the establishing of the national lottery." We wanted to say to the Government that the only thing they did was to send the Taoiseach to release baloons to launch the national lottery. We have been told how great Fianna Fáil are and heard of the big sums of money they are giving out here, there and everywhere. It is not their money; it was collected from the workers of the country who buy lottery tickets weekly and none of us has a right to say where it should go. The Minister for the Environment alleged that his predecessor, Deputy Boland, abused the lottery funds. I challenge the Minister to tell me of one penny of lottery funds that was wrongly distributed by Deputy Boland. He should remember that the funds concerned were not from the national lottery but from the budget. The debate is about national lottery funds.
Deputy Boland burned the midnight oil.
If the Government try to gerrymander the constituencies and abuse public funds Fine Gael will not stand for it. We will tell the Government to stop. It is up to the other parties to make up their minds. Fine Gael will act responsibly to get the country back on a proper footing and if we have to march into the division bodies behind the Minister for Finance for the good of the country we will do so and we will not apologise to anybody, as we have done on occasions. Had the Minister for the Environment, and his colleagues, adopted a similar attitude for even half of the time we were in Government 35,000 people would not have had to emigrate last year and we would not have 250,000 on the unemployment register. We would be well on the road to recovery but, unfortunately, they objected to every measure we took to put the country's finances right. They abused democracy and went to the highways and byways to tell the Irish people that the monetarists were abusing the public finances.
The Coalition had a majority; why did they not use it?
These statements must be hurting the Minister of State.
Fianna Fáil put up posters with the message that the Coalition hurt the old, the sick and the infirm. That was the greatest abuse of democracy here. Fianna Fáil conned the public; they do not have any mandate.
Deputy Barrett, please.
I have ten minutes of my time remaining and I intend to say what I have to say.
Will the Deputy listen to me for one moment? I want the House to hear what Deputy Barrett has to say but he should stop pointing a provocative finger.
What colour is my shirt?
If Deputy Barrett addressed the Chair he might get greater audience.
The Chair has done a great job in slowing down my train of thought. I will not be put off because it is about time Members spelt out the truth. Last night, for the first time in my seven years as a Member I was ashamed to be a Member when I heard Ministers castigating Deputies about grants that had been given. What must the public think of us? It was amusing to hear Fianna Fáil say that they never did anything wrong. If that is the case why is it that they are playing footsie with the Labour Party and setting up an advisory committee? That is being done because the Government are afraid of a defeat in the House. They know that 70 per cent of the Irish people have told them to stop messing about with the national lottery funds.
The Deputy should put down a motion of no confidence in the Government.
The Government should face the challenge.
The Government will not play footsie with us when it comes to gerrymandering the constituencies or abusing national lottery funds. We do not like all of the provisions in the Bill introduced by the Progressive Democrats but we recognise it as an effort to unite the Opposition against the Government on this issue. In my view our motion was the best way to proceed and I said that publicly. Opposition Members made an effort to get the Government to stop. There is no need for an advisory committee. All that is necessary is for the Government to stop their messing and establish independent bodies to distribute the funds.
Deputy Roche should cool down; he might get his promotion if he is a good boy.
The Coalition messed about for four years.
The Deputy should look after the rain falling in Sligo. I am not one of those people who contend that politicians should not make decisions. It is the responsibility of the Government to decide where lottery funds should be spent. If the Minister for Finance decides that 20 per cent should go to the health services, 15 or 25 per cent should go to sport and recreation, and the Cabinet agree, that is fine by me although I may disagree. However, from that point on Ministers or TDs' should not parade around the country trying to fool the public that they are giving out the money. The money comes from the national lottery and not from taxes.
The comprehensive proposals put forward by Fine Gael relate to the distribution of funds. We are not denying that the Government, who are answerable to the public, have the responsibility of making the decisions. We want, for example, a sport and recreation council, established on a statutory basis, to produce long term plans for proper sporting facilities for our young people. They should be given lottery funds to be allocated in accordance with a prepared plan. It is a pity that the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, is not present because I should like to remind him that since May I have been writing to him seeking assistance for a small football club in Ballybrack, an area that is mainly made up of local authority houses. The club field 17 youth teams. Between May and October I sent at least five reminders to the Minister of State and my secretary phoned his office on many occasions. In October I received a phone call to say that the Minister of State had not received an application. I was seeking a grant of £5,000 to tarmacadam a small piece of land around a sports hall.
The Deputy should have written to me; I would have looked after him.
I was making the application on behalf of the 17 teams which consist of children between nine and 11 years. Members will understand how I felt when I learned that the Minister for Finance had allocated £37,500 to a golf club in his constituency. Children of nine, ten and 11 in a working class area playing football matches weekly and their club cannot get £5,000 to tarmacadam a small area. What do the people of Ballybrack think of that?
Where is the application?
After all that, the Labour Party have decided to play footsie with the Government. Has Deputy Stagg not put his money where his mouth is?
We had a motion on the health cuts. Where was the Deputy when the Progressive Democrats walked up the stairs? You all ran for cover. There is all this talk about opposing the Government. When it comes to the crunch they have not got the guts to do it. I am sorry I do not have much more time to deal with the Minister, Deputy Flynn, who presented £300,000 to Castlebar from his pocket.
What about the midnight oil?
I want to give my colleague, Deputy Farrelly, an opportunity to list other abuses.
Did the Deputy say something about Castlebar? The Castlebar people will deal with the Deputy.
I listened with interest to the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, and I wondered if it was the same Minister who was in Castlebar 12 months ago when he spoke about extradition. He said then there would be no extradition under Fianna Fáil, that was up to the other crowd; they would never extradite an Irishman. The Minister came out here tonight trying to be whiter than white.
What is the Deputy talking about?
The fact is that our constituency has received £2 per head of population for the amount of money that has been collected. It was evident that the Minister for Finance was heading for Europe — and I wish him luck in his endeavours in Europe — and £27 per head of population went to Sligo to beef up the electorate for the by-election.
We never got anything from ——
That does not justify the £27 that went to Sligo when £10 should have been the average allocation throughout the country.
Thank God we have a Minister for Finance.
We have three Deputies in our constituency from the Fianna Fáil party, Deputies Lynch, Hilliard and Dempsey, three Senators and an MEP. Recently, my colleague called them the silent seven and the more I think about it the more I believe they are the silent seven because they have allowed this to continue that only £2 per head of population was granted to our particular constituency over the last number of months.
I have not been silent. It is of interest that we are 27th in the list and we are collecting about £50,000 a week from lottery tickets in County Meath. It was a lot higher. Evidence was given here last night by Deputy Creed that the overall amount of money being collected on a weekly basis in every county in Ireland is dropping drastically. I ask the Members of this House why it is dropping drastically. It is dropping drastically because the people out there are not happy that the money is being allocated fairly and squarely. It is being and has been allocated to the Minister for Finance's constituency at the rate of £27 per head of population, to the Minister for Education's constituency at the rate of £10 per head of population, and we could not get the figures for the Minister for the Environment. I do not believe they want to give out the proper figures. The rate of allocation in the Dublin area is £18 per head of population and the Carlow/Kilkenny constituency got £1 per head of population. It is incredible that the people out there want and demand change in this area. I call on Deputy Lynch — who has joined us — Deputy Dempsey and Deputy Hilliard to come in here tonight and vote with the Opposition parties against the unfair allocation of funds by these Ministers over the last six months. I am asking Deputy Lynch to put his money where his mouth is tonight and come to the Opposition benches and vote with us against what has been happening regarding these allocations.
I might add that the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Fahey, informed us last evening of the allocations in the constituency and again we came out No. 19 on the list in the constituency. We got £100,000. I thank him for all the allocations that were made by all the Ministers. Let us be fair about it, give what is due to every county and constituency in the country and there will be no need for debates here. Because it is unfair is the reason 75 per cent of the people are seeking change in this area. All we are asking is that the Minister be fair in the allocation of lottery funds. Out of the amount of money that is collected in our constituency only £2 per head of population goes back into it.
Deputy Mary Harney has 15 minutes to conclude.
I thank Deputy Harney for giving me a few minutes. I will be very brief in my remarks. I would like to express the opinion that I support the Bill as proposed by the Progressive Democrats. I have been speaking with the Progressive Democrats about the particular legislation which they propose and I was hoping to speak for about five minutes. As a result of a decision made by the Labour Party, for some unknown reason, they have accepted a combination of letters from the Minister for Finance. In a very short time he will be the ex-Minister for Finance. I would like to take this opportunity of saying "Ray MacSharry, congratulations on your appointment as EC Commissioner". In view of the comments made by the Labour Party about the distribution of national lottery funds it was a very lame excuse to accept this as some type of promise from the Government. It reminds me of a little argument about the Health Estimates last year when our own party — or the party I belonged to at the time, Fine Gael — reneged at the last second and Deputy Dukes, the leader of the party, came back with a little piece of paper in his hand but we never heard anything about the committee since. I presume the same will apply in relation to this matter. There is no doubt that the distribution of the lottery funds has been a scandal. We see people like Deputy MacSharry, and say, Deputy O'Kennedy spending an entire weekend in a constituency giving a few pounds here and a few pounds there when there are so many people——
Look at the brave people——
——who are entitled to it not because of political affiliations but by right. In the late seventies or early eighties Cuspóir first thought of a national lottery and then everybody jumped on the bandwagon. I would like to pay tribute to the politician, Deputy Creed, who took up that at the time. Nobody ever envisaged that £70 million would come into the national lottery. People in general would accept a few pounds of a slush fund for Ministers or Ministers of State who were not able to perform in the particular portfolio to which they had been appointed and then they could do something else with it but suddenly when the public discovered that there were funds of £70 million, it became a different matter. I am aware that somebody approached Deputy Flynn in relation to a project in the Castlebar area and he said: "Sure, I will organise it and I will get the funds for you and all the rest of it" without having the slightest idea as to what he was talking about. Indeed, the Minister of State was very caustic in his remarks here last night——
He was accurate.
——when he offered a derisory sum for a particular project in his own constituency and they gave him the one or the two finger sign but I do not know whether he increased the offer.
Ask Deputy Flanagan.
Deputy Donnellan, you are running the risk of being accused of breaking your word to a lady.
Thank you for your tolerance with me and to the House as well.
At the outset I want to thank all those Deputies who contributed to this debate. In particular I want to thank the Fine Gael Party for staying with us on this Bill and for agreeing to vote with us this evening on Second Stage. I want to thank also The Workers' Party, Independent Deputies Kemmy, Donnellan and Gregory. I should also like to thank Deputy Ruairí Quinn for making the journey back from Pakistan ahead of time. He must feel that his colleagues brought him back in vain.
This evening's debate marks the end of a fortnight in which the attention of the nation has been drawn to the abuse of ministerial power in relation to the application of national lottery funds. During that debate the Progressive Democrats consistently have championed the principle of independent control over the allocation of this huge national resource. Throughout the debate the Government have attempted to deflect public criticism from their method of application on the grounds that many of the recipients are worthy causes. That is not and never has been the issue.
Events have completely vindicated our position. By showing determination, especially in the face of the sabre-rattling by the Taoiseach and Government Ministers, this party have ensured that the democratic wish of the people to have fair and independent control over the allocation of national lottery funds cannot be thwarted by a Government bent on low standards in the practice of politics. While the official Government line has been——
On a point of order, can we have a copy of the Deputy's script? We would be very interested to read it.
The Minister of State need not worry; if he sits down he will be able to listen to it.
I looked after the Deputy and her colleagues fairly well in Tallaght.
I would advise the Minister of State that there is no obligation on Deputy Harney to circulate her script. There is nothing in Standing Orders that so requires.
I thought that was customary, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
While the official Government line in this House has been to deny that there is anything wrong in the allocation of national lottery funds, privately, senior Government Ministers have admitted that there has been abuse and that this abuse has been damaging to the national lottery itself, to the ends for which it was established and to those who were seen to manipulate it. I might add that it is no coincidence that the Ministers for Justice, Defence and Agriculture have not come to this House and spoken about the manner in which they sought to abuse national lottery funds in their constituencies.
Now, at the eleventh hour, the Government have decided to buy off criticism by a face-saving device of promising all-party consultation with a view to improving the national lottery. Unfortunately, the committee cannot bring about legislative change or force upon the Government a standard of behaviour, or a system of allocations which is acceptable.
The commitment given to the Labour Party by the outgoing Minister for Finance — and I should like to congratulate him on his appointment today as our new Commissioner to the EC and wish him well during his term of office — is vague and insubstantial. It was designed to create the illusion of concession where none really existed and where none can be presumed. This concession was won solely because the Progressive Democrats pressed this issue home to the point at which the Government faced defeat this evening. As all the media have pointed out, it was quite absurd to suggest that to force change on this issue could destabilise the economic consensus or undermine the credibility of this Government. The only injury this Government could sustain on this issue would be a self-inflicted wound arising out of their unwillingness to face facts, to accept the public's judgment and to conform to reasonable standards of political behaviour. They thought they could bluff or threaten the Dáil into passive aceptance of their right to turn a national institution like the national lottery and State resources of that kind into a system of overt and undisguised patronage. The election threat was idle and dishonest and, when it failed, a different attitude emerged. To use a phrase employed by Government handlers in 1987, it was a question of who would blink first. Because the Progressive Democrats, Fine Gael, The Workers' Party and Independents held steadfast on this issue, refusing to be intimidated or bluffed, the Government have decided to blink or, more correctly, to wink or nod at the Labour Party by agreeing to a face-saving formula.
We welcome any concession. We doubt the value of the deal the Government have entered into with the Labour Party. In this matter it is noteworthy that the commitment of the Government is to permit each group in the Dáil to have one Member only represented on that committee. That excludes The Workers' Party. They will not be the only group let down by this decision this evening. The public, who overwhelmingly support the principle of independent control of national lottery fund allocations, have been short-changed as well. The suggestion implied in the Government's commitment to the Labour Party, that next year's budget may be the occasion of reform, is questionable. The abuse of the national lottery cannot be cured in the context of a budget.
Had the Government been willing to commit themselves to genuinely investigating independent control of the national lottery, of course, this party would have been happy to withdraw our Bill but, because they are unwilling to do so, we are pressing our Bill to a vote.
The suggestion that an all-party system of overseeing national lottery funds is preferable to a single party system ignores one fundamental fact — to us — all party patronage is just as wrong as is single party patronage. The national lottery is a public institution, not a collection of political spoils to be handed out by one, two or three parties.
This evening the people can judge for themselves which parties in this House stand on principle and the need for fundamental legislative change in the case of such grave national scandals. I will not have been the only person to have referred to such scandals. Several independent commenators, media writers, and people on television programmes have all been unanimous in contending that this Government have sought to abuse the national lottery.
During the course of his contribution this evening the Minister for the Environment quite appropriately referred to Christmas. For this Government and many of their members, behaving as they do, like Santa Clauses around their constituencies, it was a most appropriate term. He referred also to the appointment of independent agencies and wondered whether they should be put in charge of various other funds. An independent agency could well take charge of the Minister for the Environment. Indeed is it not the Bunny Carr school of government we have seen in operation here for quite some time? The Minister for the Environment went on to justify the manner in which he has allocated moneys. I have not doubt that it is not coincidence that the Minister for the Environment comes from County Mayo and that that county received the largest single allocation from the moneys available in his Department — over £400,000 in comparison with £43,000 for County Louth and £47,000 for County Kilkenny.
Last evening the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Frank Fahey, criticised me for wishing to dilute some of the funds away from sport and recreation and put them to other uses. I make no apology for saying that. At a time when one-third of our population lives in poverty, when sick children cannot be treated in Crumlin Hospital, other priorities for national lottery moneys and all public moneys should be found. I make no apology for saying, yes, less money should go to sport and more to health. I make no apology for saying that our emigrants, too — the people being forced to leave this country because of the actions of successive Governments — should get assistance from the national lottery. Indeed only today I received a letter from the action group for Irish youth, a group based in London, from which I might quote two sentences. They refer to an interview given last weekend in theLondon Irish News by the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, when he said that none of the money from the national lottery would be used to aid Irish welfare organisations in Britain. They say that, while their application was acknowledged, they have received no further correspondence from the Department of Education since then. The group went on to say: do you think it is correct for a Government Minister to disclose the results of funding applications to the press before notifying the applicants themselves of the decision? I want to say to the action group for Irish youth that they need not be surprised; that has been the way this Government have behaved in relation to this matter.
Deputy Spring's deal with the Government, in my view, amounts to a total capitulation and a worthless promise. When Neville Chamberlain arrived in London in 1938——
——like Deputy Spring, he held a letter in his hand——
——and said: I have here in my hand a piece of paper which guarantees peace in our time. Deputy Spring has appeased the Taoiseach on this occasion. He may have bought time but he has sold out on principles. He has bartered his power for a worthless, face-saving formula. He has let down the Irish people. When his Deputies go around the country and say——
——that it is the Progressive Democrats and Fine Gael who are keeping the Government in power, I hope he will tells them the truth——
——of what happened on this occasion. This Government have totally abused the national lottery. They treat it as though it were their own money. There is the spectacle of the Minister for Agriculture and Food marching into a town behind a band, the Minister for Social Welfare handing out a cheque for £100,000 to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. These are wrong, they demean Irish politics. My party will use whatever opportunities we can try and bring an end to these scandals.
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- Barnes, Monica.
- Barrett, Seán.
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