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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 16 Oct 1991

Vol. 411 No. 1

Confidence in Government: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann reaffirms its confidence in the Government.
—(The Taoiseach.)

Before I recommence, may I inform the House and seek their agreement to the fact that I will speak on behalf of the Labour Party but that my colleague, Deputy Spring, will be the main speaker? He will take the 45 minutes tomorrow or the next day and I propose to take the 25 minutes now. Accordingly I calculate that I have approximately 23 minutes left.

As I was saying before we went into that most illuminating period of questions and answers, this country needs a new beginning and a new direction if it is to tackle the major social and economic problems that confront it. A start must be made with the Government — they simply must go. The Government are tired, dispirited and divided. The two parties in Government no longer trust themselves or each other. The Ministers no longer trust the Taoiseach and the backbenchers no longer trust their Ministers. Instead of a clear and decisive Government led by a Cabinet of energetic and well-moded Ministers, we have a cluster of politicians who are cowering in a Cabinet bunker, unsure of what they will meet outside and incapable of dealing with what they find inside. The Cabinet are clinging to office by their fingernails, desperate to remain in power, yet incapable of governing. The struggle for power within this beleagured coalition has now been superseded by the race for power within Fianna Fáil itself. Indeed, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I gather that that race has now started as and from this afternoon. Already the first blood has been drawn by the four picadors, who have irreparably damaged the credibility and the standing of their party leader, the Taoiseach, by the wounding comments and declarations of no confidence they have proclaimed both in public and in private. It is clear that Fianna Fáil have lost the confidence of their own supporters among the public and that the Taoiseach has lost the confidence of his own backbenchers in the Dáil. If the Taoiseach was depending on the level of applause that greeted the finale of his speech this afternoon then he most certainly has lost their confidence.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for the past four months the nation has experienced the high drama of ongoing discussions, not yet concluded, between the coalition partners concerning their detailed and agonised negotiations about a new Programme for Government, which still remains inconclusive. Perhaps the timing of its finale is related to the Dublin Theatre Festival, for which the Taoiseach, as Minister for culture, has some responsibility. Indeed, properly scripted and carefully choreographed, the events of the past few weeks could have been submitted by the Government press officer — otherwise known as "Mara" on certain radio programmes, a fictional character, I hasten to say — as their contribution to Samuel Beckett's Theatre of the Absurd. It would undoubtedly be a drama of high farce if it were not such a tragedy for the rest of the country.

This country has lost its way simply because the Government leading it no longer know where they are, what they are doing or where they are going. There could be no more savage indictment of the incompetence of the present management of the economy by this Government than the comprehensive results of the survey of business opinion published last Sunday in the Sunday Business Post. Members are now being asked to vote confidence in a Government which itself, even as I speak, has not agreed its own programme for the rest of this session and for the next three years. Confidence in what and for what, that is the question.

The Government, who repeatedly proclaimed the miracles of their own economic success in the vain hope that they would be sustained if the lie of their so-called success was repeated often enough, have now lost the confidence of the very sector that they claim to lead. In the Taoiseach's own words, we now have "an appalling economic crisis". That was some miracle that has now been transformed into "an appalling economic crisis". Is it any wonder that dissatisfaction with the Government and their performance has increased among the business community from 18 per cent in June to 58 per cent in September or that pessimism about the performance of the economy has increased from 65 per cent in June to 81 per cent in September? It should be underlined that those figures represent the views of people who are currently at work.

It must also be recognised that unemployment has increased to its highest level ever in the history of this State. What has been the Government's response? It has blamed our birth rate. It has come up with the reason that some Irish emigrants had the timidity and the temerity to want to return home. It is perhaps symbolic that a member of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party, as his contribution to the national endeavour, personally flew, courtesy of Aeroflot — that is some irony — across the Atlantic to lodge 2,000 applications for Morrison visas in Virginia in the United States.

The House should pass a vote of no confidence in the Government because the people who are trying to make our economy work no longer have confidence in the Government's ability to manage the economy and oversee our affairs. The Labour Party have always recognised that economic growth is essential if we are to achieve the targets set out by our own policies and, indeed, the targets set out in the original Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

We do not blame the Minister for Finance for the continued recession in either the United States or Great Britain. We blame the Minister for Agriculture and Food for many things, but we do not blame him for the continued crisis in relation to the GATT talks or for the current shape of the MacSharry proposals. Nor do we blame the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications for the shortfall in the numbers of tourists coming to this country across the North Atlantic. But we do blame each and every one of them for not reading the signs soon enough and for not listening to the valid criticisms of the Labour Party, the Fine Gael Party and every other party on the Opposition benches in this House and of every economic commentator outside the House. Ireland has had a deaf and dumb Government that will not listen and cannot speak.

The figures provided by the Minister for Finance in the January budget were wrong. He rejected criticisms when challenged not only by himself but also by others. When the Minister for Finance introduced the Finance Bill last April to give effect to that January budget the figures he provided then were also wrong. When challenged, he again rejected our criticisms. Despite repeated challenges to restate a new course for economic management in the light of the facts that were then available to him and his Department, the Minister for Finance and his Government resolutely stuck their heads in the sand and refused to listen and refused to speak. However, within days, virtually within hours, of the Dáil going into recess — if not recession — the Department of Finance published their economic review and outlook for 1991. Lo and behold, suddenly they had seen the light. If that is democratic, accountable government, then this is some other place and I am not living here, because we are not in fact dealing in the real world at all, and that is why this Government do not deserve the confidence of this House.

The Minister announced in July — after the Dáil had gone into recess, after we had adjourned for three months — a package of cuts in Government expenditure amounting to about £100 million. No adequate information was given in relation to the cuts, to where the savings were to be achieved or to how the services that they underpinned could be either replaced or maintained. An impressario's magic wand was waved over the "temporary little difficulties" of the budget in the midst of a summer recess.

The Government in general and the Minister for Finance in particular have frequently lauded the contribution made by the social partners, in the trade unions in particular, through the Programme for National Recovery and its successor the Programme for Economic and Social Progress towards economic stability, wage restraint and industrial harmony.

However, within weeks, in July, a ten-year strategy with its three-year initial programme was arbitrarily abandoned with the dismissive and irresponsible assertion by the Minister for Finance that the Government could not and would not pay a proportion of the public sector pay bill which was to fall due in 1992, notwithstanding its commitments, undertakings and promises.

The elaborate process of discussion, dialogue and consultation between the social partners, as orchestrated and manipulated by the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil, was exposed for what it is, a sham designed to con the public into thinking that the trade unions had become subservient, that the public sector could be taken for a ride in hard times, by denying them the legitimate pay increases awarded them by the arbitrator, and in good times proclaiming that yet again they must wait until the really good times had finally arrived. The really good times did arrive late this summer for a small specially privileged group of people in our society who had repeatedly told the Government and the rest of us that investment and job creation could not come about until the right climate had been created. Well, ordinary workers did create the right climate as they saw it but the jobs have not materialised. A few very unrepresentative people in the business community have benefited uniquely from their close position to the centres of power and from political influence.

After 16 weeks of recess, on our first day back in this democratic Assembly, I want to put on the record of the House that the Irish people feel betrayed and sullied by the way in which our affairs have been managed by this Government over the past 16 weeks. Clearly the Irish people have lost confidence in the ability of this Government to run our nation's affairs. The Minister for Finance should have convened, through the proper channels a comprehensive meeting of the social partners to review the progress of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress in the light of new national and international economic circumstances but he did not. Instead he casually announced — which seems to be the new style of this Coalition Government — in the course of a Sunday radio news programme to thousands of low paid public sector workers throughout the State, that lo and behold, they would not be paid the increases they had been awarded and which they had confidently expected would be paid in January 1992. It was obvious from the concern and panic among his Cabinet colleagues, the Minister for Labour and the Taoiseach's own spokesperson, they realised that irreparable damage had been done and that some rescue operation should be put in place. But no rescue operation has been put in place because this Government no longer have the ability to mount that kind of operation.

In Brussels in less than eight weeks there will be the finalisation of the two treaties that will determine the future of this nation for the rest of this century but this Assembly does not know what the Irish Government are saying. Neither does anybody in Brussels, Strasbourg or indeed in the European Parliament itself. Because Fianna Fáil are impoverished on the stage of European politics they are frightened at the prospect of more democratic powers being given to that Assembly. We are about to trade a major portion of our sovereignty into two treaties that will determine the ability of this economy to improve the life of every citizen. We simply do not know what the Minister for Finance is saying at the EMU discussions or what the Minister for Foreign Affairs is saying at the EPU discussions. There is no democratic accountability to this Chamber. The Government are simply waiting, cowering in the corridors of Brussels, hoping that at the end of this entire process some extra funds will be put into the Structural Funds basket that will enable Ministers to come scurrying home and announce to all and sundry that they have got a few rich crumbs from the European table.

If that is what 1916 was about, if that is what 70 years of sovereignty is about, then I want nothing from it from the soldiers of destiny because that is not what brought the Labour Party into politics or indeed any other party in this democratic Assembly. We can do better than that. We have a view of Europe; we have a view of this nation, of our history and future. It is being sullied, frustrated and betrayed by the Fianna Fáil Coalition Government of all the talents. There is no economic miracle in this country: there is economic impoverishment. There is no democratic accountability: there is Government by secrecy and cabal. There is no European vision. There is a Celtic mist of the past, outlined by a man on a white horse who was afraid to dismount for fear that Tír na nAosta would turn into ashes. I say to the Taoiseach, wherever he is, that it is no longer Tír na nÓg. He no longer represents the people who will grow up and be citizens of his island because he has lost touch — as have his Government — with this nation, with its heart and future. He has lost the confidence of the people. To coin a phrase from another Chamber, in God's name, go.

For the second year in succession the opening of the Dáil year is dominated by a confidence motion in the Government. Last year the issue was the standards people could expect from those in Government. The issue again this year is about standards — of those in Government, those in semi-State companies and in private business. However, the difference is that this year the debate takes place against a background of a deteriorating economic situation, record unemployment levels and television pictures of tens of thousands of young Irish people battling for visas to give them hope of a new life and a job in the United States.

People have been stunned, shocked and sickened by the revelations of sharp practice, malpractice, downright dishonesty and corruption which have emerged. Day after day we have had more disclosures which have thrown new light on the operation of what has been referred to as the "golden circle". The operation of such a group had been well known. Certainly, The Workers' Party had pointed to it repeatedly. However, what has emerged for the first time in the past two months has revealed in all its ugliness the level of their greed and the ruthless nature of their activities. We have seen a world in which greed is God, where the pursuit of even greater profits seems to justify the use of virtually any means, in which this small elite — and it is a small elite — appeared to believe that they had the political connections necessary to render themselves immune from the normal regulatory and supervisory procedures to protect the public interest.

Greencore, Telecom, Celtic Helicopters, Carysfort, NCB — the list of questions is virtually endless, the answers from Government virtually non-existent. The Government and responsible Ministers have failed utterly to respond to questions about what they knew, about the manner in which they supervised semi-State companies for which they were responsible. They have withdrawn into their Ministerial bunkers and refused to answer the people. As head of Government the Taoiseach has a particular responsibility to the public for all of these scandals but he, too, has gone to ground. His decision to transfer to other Ministers virtually all questions relating to these scandals, where they relate specifically to statements made or actions carried out by him, is the latest indication that he is determined that if the buck is to stop anywhere certainly it will not stop with him.

These scandals are a sad reflection of the value system of some of those at the top of business and politics in this country. Nobody who knew what was going on in Irish society will have been surprised at the improper activities of some of those who were involved in the Greencore and other affairs. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that the improper activities have become public knowledge. To date those involved normally have managed to successfully hide their trail. I predict that what we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg of corruption and improper activities now prevalent in some sectors of private business which, unfortunately is also eating into the public sector.

After 70 years of independence it is time to examine our values and priorities as a society. Despite the high-sounding principles of the 1916 Proclamation and the fine aspirations of the democratic programme of the First Dáil we live in a Republic in which an individual's rank and status in society is determined by the amount of personal wealth he or she can accumulate. Indeed in Ireland the greatest prestige seems to attach to wealth accumulated in the least socially valuable way. Land rezonings, property speculation, asset stripping, offshore companies, the use of inside information, access to political pull, the "stroke", tax avoidance schemes, these seem to be the favourite routes to financial success rather than the creation of jobs or added value products which could be of benefit to the wider community. It is a culture that ensures that job creation is at the bottom of the list, a culture which ensures that we have a parasitic economy, denying the rights of thousands of our people to a job, ensuring that investment will be in asset stripping rather than in the protection and creation of jobs. The dominant political parties in this country have bestowed their blessing on wealth accumulated in this way. This is especially so in the case of Fianna Fáil, who have encouraged and benefited from the stroke culture. We are now paying the price for this attitude, with the reputation of Ireland abroad being badly damaged and political confidence at home eroded.

It is not acceptable that those who blew the whistle are blamed for the damage to our reputation. Those to blame are the ones who engage in these activities. What we need, perhaps, as well as a code for politicians and for business is a code for the protection of whistle blowers. They have done this country a favour by dragging into the light of day the activities we have heard about in the past few weeks.

The first of the recent scandals to come to the attention of the public was the Greencore affair. Greencore is particularly significant, not just because it opened the floodgates in regard to the other affairs but because many of the elements at the centre of it also feature in the other affairs — issues of honesty, of what is or is not an acceptable level of profit, the adequacy of company law, the use of devices such as offshore companies to disguise the real ownership of companies, the role of semi-State companies and the adequacy of ministerial supervision of the semi-State sector.

We are of course aware that various inquiries have been set up into the Greencore affair, but there are many questions which could and should have been answered by the Government and especially by the Minister for Agriculture and Food, without having to await the outcome of any inquiry by any Inspector. When did the Minister, Deputy O'Kennedy, first become aware that a number of Irish Sugar executives had acquired a 49 per cent minority shareholding in Sugar Distributors (Holdings) Limited? When did he first become aware that this purchase had been partly funded by a soft loan given to the executives by the company? When did he first become aware of the subsequent resale of the shareholding to the Irish Sugar Company at a six-fold profit to the executives involved? Was Deputy O'Kennedy, as the Minister with overall responsibility for the Sugar Company, consulted regarding the purchase of the Sugar Distributors shareholding, and did he approve of it? When did he first become aware of a claim by Mr. Chris Comerford to beneficial ownership of a substantial shareholding in Talmino Limited?

As my colleague, Deputy Sherlock, pointed out at the time, only days before the Greencore affair broke, the Minister, Deputy O'Kennedy, was only too glad to make himself available to the press to lecture the public about his views on morality, and particularly about the age at which condoms should be made available to young people — an issue which had nothing to do with his Department at all. But when the questions arose about Greencore, the Minister was suddenly unavailable, declining all invitations to appear on radio or television programmes, and refusing to answer all questions, even when cornered by journalists at the public functions he could not avoid.

The Minister, Deputy O'Kennedy, had plenty to say about the morality of making condoms available to 16 year olds, but he had nothing to say about the morality of a group of senior semi-State executives acquiring a shareholding in Sugar Distributors, and then selling it back to their employers at a six-fold profit. The Minister had nothing to say about the propriety of executives of State companies setting up covert companies in tax havens like Jersey. The Minister, like many of his colleagues, seems to relate to sexual matters only.

In a Cabinet where mediocrity is the norm, with a few honorable exceptions, and incompetence taken for granted, the Minister, Deputy O'Kennedy, stands head and shoulders below the rest. His handling of the Agriculture portfolio has been characterised by bungling and evasion. He is probably the most evasive of Government Ministers when it comes to replying to Dáil questions. Even when he has nothing to hide, he sounds as if he has. He persistently refused to acknowledge any allegations of irregularities in the beef industry — even as he announced the setting up of the Tribunal of Inquiry — yet only two weeks ago he was forced to send his inspectors, accompanied by armed gardaí, into a number of Goodman owned plants.

He criticised Deputies who raised legitimate questions about the use of substances like angel dust and tried to downplay the whole problem, before eventually being forced to admit the dangers involved and take some remedial action. He insisted on ramming the Bill to privatise the Irish Sugar Company through the Dáil, using the guillotine to curtail the debate at every Stage, and we are now paying the price for this.

I do not intend to deal in detail with the other scandals, which my colleagues will be speaking of during the course of this debate. However, I would like to make a few points about Telecom and the Ballsbridge site, because it symbolises much of what is rotten in Irish society and especially much of what is rotten in Irish business. It is an episode which proves that business strokes kill jobs. I would remind the House of the 500 Johnston, Mooney and O'Brien workers, who lost their jobs with the closure of the bakery in 1989 and who are, in many respects, the forgotten victims of the scandal surrounding the sale of the Ballsbridge site. This whole episode illustrates once again the ruthless nature of some of those at the top of Irish business who are quite prepared to destroy jobs and livelihoods in the pursuit of huge profits.

The bakery was put into liquidation in February 1989 although its parent company, Odlums, was making substantial profits at the time. When the sale was originally announced it was supposed to be part of a plan by the company to move to a new custom built premises. This was never proceeded with and a liquidator was appointed by the company only months later. There must now be serious doubts as to whether the new premises was ever a serious proposal, as the parent company declined an offer of a management buy-out to keep it in operation. It seems far more likely that the parent company simply decided that its most valuable asset was the site, which was put up for grabs to the highest bidder.

While there are many questions remaining to be answered about the progress of the site from ownership by Johnston, Mooney and O'Brien, through the various deals to its eventual purchase by Telecom Éireann, what is very clear is that substantial profits were made along the way by a number of individuals. A small group of wealthy people have got even wealthier. A profit of more than £4 million, probably tax free, was made in just 18 months. But what has happened to the 500 bakery workers? How many are still unemployed? How many have been forced to emigrate? How many families have been broken and lives destroyed by the resulting stress? These are the real casualties of these scandals.

Unfortunately the experience of the Johnston, Mooney and O'Brien workers is not unusual in Irish society. Too often we have seen the asset strippers move in and dispose of premises, plant and equipment without any consideration for the workers involved. What is more, as I said earlier, the dominant political parties in this country have bestowed their blessing on wealth accumulated in this way.

One common element in most of the recent controversies has been the firm of National City Brokers. NCB is no stranger to controversy — there was considerable disquiet in 1989 over the manner in which it was awarded the contract for handling the privatisation of the Government's shareholding in Tara Mines. The contract was not put out to tender and many people believe that what NCB was paid for their work was about three times the going rate for the job.

But it is really because of their role in the affairs which have come to light in the past few weeks that NCB have come under close scrutiny. It was, of course, NCB which advised the Irish Sugar Company on privatisation, and which either failed to notice the Sugar Distributors deal or else did it not consider it important enough to bring it to anyone's attention. It was NCB which one of the firms commissioned to carry out a study of the prospects of privatisation of Telecom Éireann — Mr. Smurfit said that the Government had requested the study, the Minister, Deputy Brennan, said he knew nothing about it. It was NCB which established the firm of United Property Holdings, which played a central role in the various deals involving the Johnston, Mooney and O'Brien site — a site which eventually cost Telecom Éireann more than twice the price it had been sold for 18 months earlier. It was NCB which, according to Mr. Smurfit, failed to advise him that UPH once owned the Ballsbridge site and it was NCB which was involved in the leaking of confidential commercial and financial information about Irish Helicopters to a rival helicopter firm in which the Taoiseach's son was a partner, in circumstances that still have to be adequately explained. Certainly the claims of a postal misdelivery are unconvincing and the full story has still to be established. It is not good enough for Aer Lingus to claim that a briefcase was not involved "as is alleged". What we want to know is whether a briefcase was involved.

It was against this background that I decided to make public details of a document which came into my possession which provides startling new evidence of the special relationship between National City Brokers and Fianna Fáil in government. In the document, NCB cite "intervention at the highest level", "the use of personal contacts at the highest level, including the Minister for Finance and the Secretaries of the Departments of the Taoiseach and Industry and Commerce", and the use of favours from "political contacts" to justify a huge fee of £2 million charged to one of its commercial clients.

As Deputies will now know the document in question is a letter written to Pernod Ricard in France (for whom NCB acted in the takeover of Irish Distillers) dated 6 January 1989 and signed by Mr. Dermot Desmond. It raises very serious questions about the relationship between NCB and the Government and political figures. I will read this letter on to the record of the House so that there is no ambiguity about its contents.

It is on NCB notepaper and it is addressed to Thierry Jacquillat, Director General, Societe Pernod Ricard. It reads:

Dear Thierry,

It was a pleasure to see you again yesterday.

As you wish to give some further consideration to NCB's fees, I thought it might be helpful if I summarised the factors which we reviewed both during our meeting and over a most enjoyable lunch.

The first point I would reiterate is that our fee estimate of IR£2 million is put forward in the spirit of honesty and openness in which we acted for Pernod-Ricard throughout the takeover battle. It was not conceived as an exaggerated opening position with a view to bargaining, but as a very basic and modest estimate of the value of our contribution to the success of Pernod-Ricard's acquisition of IDG. I honestly expected you to accept it as such, giving you the opportunity to offer more.

From the outset our sole intention was to create value for Pernod-Ricard and our fee structure was based on this principle. If Pernod-Ricard had not succeeded in acquiring IDG, we would not have made any charge. I enclose a copy of a Memo sent to Robert Woodroffe of Societe Generale dated 13th September indicating this.

You are in a better position to judge our value in relation to—

(a) Strategy.

(b) Negotiating with FII and Irish Life.

(c) Obtaining irrevocables in excess of 50%.

(d) Our Interaction with the Irish Media.

We made sure that the Irish media started and finished as supporters of the Pernod-Ricard bid and added greatly to its credibility as far as the media and the public were concerned.

(e) Our involvement in the High Court proceedings and similarly in the Supreme Court.

(f) Our contribution in relation to the Takeover Panel proceedings.

(g) Our Passion for Victory.

Throughout the whole process we bullied and policed every other party involved, from lawyers to tax experts and ensured that we either got a high quality service from them, or else effectively supplied it ourselves.

We feel that our fee is justified on the basis of the contributions listed above, but I think that there is further justification if you look at the following, which is specific to NCB.

1. At the outset, our conception of the share purchase alternative and our success in backing it with a strong tax counsel's opinion had a major strategic importance in getting the bid price set as low as £4.50.

2. But for our intervention at the highest levels in connection with the Monopolies and Mergers decision, it is certain that Pernod-Ricard would have been constrained to dispose of one or more brands and that GC & C would have been allowed to acquire in excess of 30%.

3. We orchestrated entirely the successful campaign to get a positive tax opinion from the Revenue Commissioners which involved using personal contacts at the highest level, including the Minister for Finance and the Secretaries of the Department of the Taoiseach and Department of Industry and Commerce. Our success had a major impact in undermining FII's credibility in Court.

In relation to 2 we consider that the impact of the decision which would not have been obtained without our involvement is at least worth a fee of £2 million.

Finally, there were indirect costs to NCB because of our total commitment to Pernod-Ricard and yourself. I as Chief Executive was responsible for taking this decision.

At a more fundamental level, we put NCB's reputation and position in the Irish markets at risk throughout the campaign, yet we did not draw back at any stage. Nor did we put a cash price on our continued involvement in the battle at any stage even though we were putting our entire business at risk.

Over a three month period the entire commitment of NCB's top management team was solely devoted to ensuring the success of the Pernod-Ricard bid. As a result, in that period other major business opportunities were let go. I will give just one example — although advisers to GPA we lost the opportunity to do a £167 million private placing of GPA shares with Irish institutions. This cost us almost £1 million in commissions.

We used up a large proportion of the favours we can call upon from our political contacts — and no doubt will pay a price on the other side.

We believe that without NCB's involvement Pernod-Ricard would have found it difficult to succeed in capturing IDG; nor would it have succeeded in winning at a price as low as IR£4.50. I believe that it is possible quite coldly and objectively to measure our overall contribution as greater than the combined contribution of Schroders and Societe Generale and, on the defensive side, as greater than that of IBI and County.

As I said to you at our meeting, you must also, however, weigh heavily the spirit of total commitment in which we made our contribution. I know that you appreciate the value of that aspect personally and I am sure that Pernod-Ricard will respond to us in the matter of fees in a manner which will reflect the same values.

With kindest personal regards,

Yours sincerely,


That letter throws light on an area which up to now has been murky, to say the least. It was in the context of NCB's involvement in virtually every other affair that has been revealed in the last few months which ensured that I would have to make that public.

In my statement on Sunday I said that there was now an obligation on both NCB and the Government to spell out exactly the basis of their relationship, to explain the nature of the political favours referred to, and to identify those who were involved in these contacts, and especially the references to "the highest level". I am still waiting for a satisfactory response to these points.

It is entirely a matter for NCB what fees it charges its clients for commercial work undertaken on their behalf, and it is entirely appropriate for them to make representations on their behalf. However, it is a matter of very serious public concern when the company appears to be suggesting that it has some unique special relationship or some sort of inside track with those in power and that it can call upon political favours to serve the interest of its clients. This letter must greatly add to the public concern arising from the recent allegations of political favouritism involving NCB.

Perhaps the most serious passage in Mr. Desmond's letter is where he tells his client:

We used up a large proportion of the favours we can call upon from our political contacts — and no doubt will pay a price on the other side.

The common sense implication of this would appear to be that, having extracted the favours from the political contacts, NCB was, in some way, going to have to repay the favour to those who obliged their client. Equally alarming is the passage in which Mr. Desmond says:

We orchestrated entirely the successful campaigns to get a positive tax opinion from the Revenue Commissioners, which involved using personal contacts at the highest level, including the Minister for Finance and the Secretaries of the Department of the Taoiseach and Department of Industry and Commerce.

How is it appropriate for NCB to use personal contacts with the Minister for Finance and senior civil servants to extract "a positive tax opinion"? Was pressure exerted on the Revenue Commissioners to deliver this "positive tax opinion" and what was the cost to other taxpayers of Mr. Desmond's ability to extract this "positive tax opinion"?

In another part of the letter, Mr. Desmond writes of NCB's "intervention at the highest levels" in connection with a monopolies and mergers decision. Does this mean the Taoiseach's office or some other Government Department?

This letter raises questions of the most profound importance about the nature of the relationship between business and commercial interests and the Government. It is one of the most revealing documents to have emerged in the past few weeks and casts some light on the operations of the golden circle about which the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley recently expressed some concern. Presumably the records available in Deputy O'Malley's Department will be able to shed further light on the claim of "personal contact" with the then Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce, and in the interests of open and honest government to which he subscribes he will make the records available to the House. Indeed the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance must produce their departmental records to this House in order to establish once and for all, the veracity or otherwise of Mr. Desmond's claims.

The claim for £2 million in fees shows just how high the stakes are for companies like NCB. Huge fortunes can be made on single deals. This cannot, however, justify any element of political favouritism or the provision of any special facilities or concessions to those in business who claim some sort of special relationship with those in Government.

There is a particular obligation on the Taoiseach to spell out exactly what is the nature of his relationship with Mr. Dermot Desmond. In various media interviews Mr. Haughey referred to Mr. Desmond as a personal friend. In a briefing given to political correspondents following the meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party on 2 October, the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Vincent Brady, quoted Mr. Haughey as saying that Mr. Desmond was not a "personal friend" but a "business friend".

As I said earlier, there have been no satisfactory responses by either the Government or NCB to the issue raised by Mr. Desmond's letter to Pernod. The recent "personal friend" of the Taoiseach has been disowned by all in Fianna Fáil in an attempt to save their own political skins. The Government Press Officer is quoted as saying that they cannot be held responsible for the exaggerated boasts of a businessman. This is a polite way of accusing Mr. Desmond of being a liar.

Mr. Desmond, on the other hand, now confirms the authenticity of the letter but says it is being misinterpreted. Mr. Desmond is stretching credibility to the limit by suggesting that the only reason for the seeking by NCB of favours from "political contacts", the "intervention at the highest levels", and the use of "personal contacts including the Minister for Finance and the Secretaries of the Departments of the Taoiseach and Industry and Commerce" was to ensure that the Irish financial and political authorities acted in a "comprehensive manner".

While it is understandable that people are very correctly angry and indignant at the disclosures of shady practices which came to light in the past weeks, the public should not lose sight of the fact that the Government's record on unemployment represents what is perhaps the greatest scandal. The unemployment figures published on the first Friday of this month represented an increase of more than 40,000 over the same month last year. Each month during this summer we have seen unemployment climb to levels never experienced before in the history of the State. For this reason alone, Mr. Haughey and his colleagues have lost all moral right to govern and should be hounded out of office at the earliest opportunity.

Our lack of confidence in this Government long pre-dates the disclosures of the past few weeks. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, in the Programme for Government negotiated in July 1989, promised to make job creation their number one priority. Instead, to use Mr. Haughey's favourite phrase, they "stood aside" and allowed the dole queues to lengthen and the human misery that comes with unemployment to increase proportionately. We knew all along that we had a Government who were spectacularly incompetent and who had failed to honour the commitments given in the Programme for Government to make employment creation "the major priority".

There is, in fact, a direct link between the scandals of the past few weeks and the failure of the Government to make any impact on the unemployment problem. The Greencore, Telecom and Carysfort scandals all represented attempts by what were already some of the richest people in Ireland to increase their wealth by "strokes"— property speculation, cute deals and offshore companies.

Charles Haughey's Fianna Fáil have shamelessly encouraged and benefited from this parasitic culture. They have always seemed to consider the stroke or the inside deal to be a far preferable route to wealth creation than the slow, hard, risky slog involved in setting up a manufacturing industry which might add to the wealth of society in general and create badly needed jobs. Until we have a Government who treat these parasitic deals and strokes as the anti-social activities they are and who set about encouraging and promoting wealth creation through manufacturing industry or useful services, we are, unfortunately, going to have to face continued unemployment at this shocking level.

Irrespective of the outcome of this week's vote of confidence here in the Dáil the massive level of applications for Morrison visas is a huge vote of no confidence in the Government on the part of hundreds of thousands of young Irish people. Young people are voting with their feet by trying desperately to get out of the country. The massive level of applications for these visas is a reflection of the sense of despair felt by so many young people. Young men and women, many of whom have spent long years in college and university have not been able to get even menial jobs. They feel betrayed and let down by a Government who came into power in 1989 promising to make job creation their number one priority and who have since stood aside and allowed unemployment to climb to record levels.

It is clear that Mr. Haughey and his colleagues have totally abdicated their responsibilities and see renewed emigration——

I am sorry to interrupt you, Deputy, but I think that is about the fifth time you have referred to Mr. Haughey.

Will Deputy Haughey do?

How much time do I have left?

The Deputy started at 4.05 p.m. and he would be entitled to go to 4.50 p.m.

It is clear that the Taoiseach and his colleagues have totally abdicated their responsibilities and see renewed emigration as the only hope of reducing unemployment. He said as much in his recent RTE interview. Is it not a sad reflection on this country that after 70 years of self-government all the stops can be pulled out to facilitate the mass exodus of young people out of the country, while the Government plead that nothing can be done to give them jobs at home? What is even more pathetic is the spectacle of Fianna Fáil politicians, such as Senator Dan Kiely, shamelessly exploiting for political purposes the desperate desire of people to emigrate. What a proud record Senator Kiely will be able to look back on at the end of his career. When he is asked what he did for his people, he will be able to say proudly that he helped 5,000 people to emigrate.

We do not blame these people for trying to emigrate, but we regret their loss to the country. Many of those who get Morrison visas will return only for holidays. The loss of their energy and enthusiasm will be incalculable. Ireland simply cannot afford to endure a haemorrhage of our young people at this level. There must be a change in emphasis in national economic policy away from the sort of strokes and speculation which we have seen exposed in the past few weeks to investment in productive jobs.

Deputies on all sides of this House would be making a grave mistake in underestimating the damage that has been done to the political system by the failure of the Government to address our economic problems, and especially by the endless stream of scandals.

Monday's The Irish Times MRBI opinion poll which showed that three-quarters of the people believe that political standards have fallen should provide food for thought for all Members of the Oireachtas. While the Government have, quite rightly, suffered a major loss in support because of their handling of the recent scandals, it is very clear that a large section of the public is becoming increasingly cynical about and disillusioned with the entire political system.

Action must be taken by all parties in the House to re-establish public confidence in the political system. The aim should be to ensure that if an opinion poll is taken 12 months from now three-quarters of the people will believe that political standards are rising. A major source of public cynicism is the close relationship between those at the top in business and those at the top in politics. A little light has been thrown on this area in the past few weeks, but many among the public believe that what has emerged so far is only the tip of the iceberg. I share their concern.

If, as many of the businessmen and politicians involved have protested, they have nothing to hide, then there should surely be no objections to a clear statutory requirement for politicians to declare all their interests, direct or indirect, in all business and commercial activities. This would have to be accompanied by a requirement for full disclosure of all contributions to political parties from commercial or business interests. Given what has emerged in the past few weeks and the comments of people like the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Harney, and Mr. Michael McDowell, it is hard to see how the Progressive Democrats could retain any shred of credibility if they remain in Government without ensuring that watertight guarantees are given on legislation in this area at least.

We must take steps to ensure that the law is applied equally to all citizens. We have an impressive body of company law but we must ensure that it is implemented and tightened up, if found to be inadequate. We must ensure that those who are charged with running semi-State companies on behalf of the people are adequately paid, but are harshly dealt with if they break the people's trust. We must end the situation whereby wrongdoing at the top of industry is rewarded by golden handshakes and early retirement while wrongdoing on the factory floor is punished by dismissal without compensation. We must end any trace of corruption and abuse in both the public and the private sectors. We must ensure that anti-social activities are treated with the contempt they deserve.

We must ensure that there is proper political accountability and that no Government is allowed to run away from their responsibilities. This is at the kernel of this confidence motion. Can the Dáil have any confidence in the Government after what has come to light in the past few weeks? Semi-State company after semi-State company has been rocked by scandal. The chairmen of three semi-State bodies, appointed or re-appointed by this Government, have been forced to resign in various degrees of disgrace. Ministers have failed utterly to exercise any degree of supervision of semi-State companies, have allowed the taxpayers to be taken advantage of in an outrageous way and have run away from the consequences of their neglect.

This Government have now passed their "sell by" date. The odour of decay grows stronger each day. Whatever agreement is cobbled together between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats may provide a temporary stay of execution but it will not sustain this Government for the next two years or save it from the ultimate verdict of the people.

Before I sit down I wish to address one final point. The Taoiseach — and I am giving him his correct title — in the sly manner which has become his hallmark, tried to blacken the names of Deputy Rabbitte and myself through the use of innuendo this morning in the House when he said: "I would now like to ask him here in this House to tell us about some of the people not so well known he"— referring to Pat Rabbitte —"and his Leader have been meeting". He then departed from his prepared script and said "the chief of staff of the Official IRA". It was not entirely clear whether this was uttered as a statement of fact or as a question.

In either event I want to state categorically that neither I nor Deputy Rabbitte have anything whatsoever to do with any group styling itself the Official IRA, the Provisional IRA, or any other paramilitary group. I have dedicated my time in politics to opposing para-militarism and will continue to oppose political violence with all the vigour at my disposal.

If the Taoiseach believes that I or any other Member of this party in this House have met any person which he describes as "the chief of staff of the Official IRA" then he has an obligation to the people of this country and to this House to give that information to the Garda. I promise him he will receive every co-operation from me and Deputy Rabbitte and any other Deputy in this House in any inquiries the Garda may pursue as a result. Unless he is prepared to give that information to this House and to the Garda, he should withdraw that innuendo. We have not engaged in innuendo or false accusations inside or outside this House. We have put the evidence we received on the record of this House. I do not know who the chief of staff of the Official IRA is, if indeed, such a person exists, but then the Taoiseach has always seemed to know more about who is in the IRA than I ever have, and he seemed to have a particular interest in this area in 1969 and 1970 when the Provisional IRA was being established — the Provisional IRA which has slaughtered so many men, women and children in both parts of Ireland, in Britain and on the Continent. When he is on the subject of meetings, perhaps he could fill us in on some of the interesting persons, well known and not so well known, whom he met in 1969 and 1970.

I believe the Government have the confidence of Dáil Éireann. I have been listening to three Deputies from the Opposition who have competed with each other for some hours in expressing their moral indignation. They have been wringing their hands and craw-thumping about business ethics and the judgment of this Government. Might I remind the public that these lectures are being delivered by, among others, former Ministers who were virtually run out of office for their gross neglect of our Irish economy. These were the Deputies who presided over a national debt which doubled during their term of office; these were the Deputies who pushed the economy to the brink of collapse; these same Deputies were those who, as Ministers, pushed the Exchequer borrowing requirement to 13 per cent of GNP; these were the Deputies who, as Ministers, pushed the national debt to 130 per cent of gross national product. This was the Finance Minister, Deputy Bruton, who presided over the highest personal tax regime ever — a standard rate of 35 per cent, the highest in any OECD country. This was the Finance Minister who subjected one out of every three taxpayers to paying the highest rate of taxation. Was it any wonder then, that this Government which left office in early 1987, was rejected by the Irish public at that election? Was this not the same former Tánaiste, the same former Minister for Finance, the same Fine Gael Party and the same Labour Party that gave us, in their time in Government, the Irish Shipping scandal, the Insurance Corporation of Ireland scandal——

Where were the scandals?

——the PMPA scandal, the Dublin Gas scandal, and indeed the early days of the Aer Lingus Holidays scandal? Did the Taoiseach of the day, did his Ministers, ask anyone connected with these scandals to step aside or to resign? Were the chairmen of any of these companies responsible for the scandals asked to resign by the Government of the day? Where were the lectures by these Deputies, then Ministers, about the accountability of Ministers when hundreds of millions of pounds were being spent by them on B & I, Irish Shipping, Dublin Gas and the Insurance Corporation of Ireland?

On a point of order——

Is it a point of order? I will hear it.

I wonder if it is in order to ask if the Minister will have a copy of his script available?

I apologise, it is on its way.

By postal delivery or misdelivery?

I apologise, Deputy, you will have it shortly.

The courtesy which Ministers afford the House is not required by Standing Order. The Minister to continue without interruption.

I was making the point that I can certainly take lectures and, indeed, advice — as all of us can — about the responsibility of Ministers in regard to the supervision of companies, but I find it hard to take some of the lectures today from the same Deputies who, when in Government, oversaw perhaps the greatest list of business fiascos in the history of our State.

In the case of Irish Shipping the then Minister for Communications, Deputy J. Mitchell, told the Dáil that speculative charter agreements were entered into without his knowledge or without his consent as Minister of the day. He also made it clear that the Minister for Finance was not aware of these speculative charters. There was no suggestion at that time from any Deputies on that side of the House that they should have known or ought to have known. In June 1986 the Irish Spruce was sold off for £3 million a fraction of its original cost. Estimated liabilities at the time amounted to £117 million, of which about £40 million was guaranteed by the State and had to be met by the Irish taxpayer. Had that Government not panicked at that time I believe the company could perhaps — as I am now attempting to do with the B & I — have been repackaged and placed in new ownership.

The Insurance Corporation of Ireland, whose liabilities were in the region of £200 million, were bailed out by an arrangement involving the Central Bank. Where was the supervisory role of the Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism of the day, Deputy John Bruton? What of the emphatic reassurances of Minister of State, Deputy Eddie Collins, that there was no crisis in the industry, barely one month before the collapse? Did the Government of the day feel that the business crisis was the Government's fault? Did the Taoiseach of the day or the Ministers ask those responsible to step aside or to resign? They did not.

The Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, explained on RTE with regard to the PMPA debacle that had he known earlier and been able to act sooner he may have saved the taxpayer some £10 million. Where were the lectures about ministerial responsibility for such companies?

With regard to Dublin Gas, Deputies Bruton and Spring in Government did a deal with Dublin Gas which allegedly insured that the private sector would carry its share of risk. This resulted in the taxpayer being liable for all the debts of Dublin Gas, amounting to £129 million when Dublin Gas went bankrupt and were taken over by Bord Gáis Éireann. Deputy Gay Mitchell criticised the company for its lack of accountability, however where was the criticism by Deputies then, of ministerial responsibility during that crisis?

These few example show the hypocrisy of the protestations today in the speeches we have heard in relation to the responsibility of Ministers with regard to the supervision of business matters. The Deputies well know that it is impossible in Government to fully supervise every detail of every company. It has been demonstrated that our predecessors were unable to do that. It is not the Government's job to supervise these details. It is the Government's responsibility to provide legislation to promote the development of business within an appropriate framework. It is also the responsibility of Government, when wrongdoing or bad judgment come to their attention to take firm and decisive action. Unlike our predecessors in office this Government have done that.

This debate is timely. We have to clear the air about events of recent weeks. It is important to state clearly that from our perspective these were business scandals, not Government or political scandals. Nevertheless, they were totally unacceptable to the Government. There is not any Government member in any way involved in such scandals. All the alleged matters took place in the semi-State sector or by the action of individual business people. It is important to understand the difference. The only way the Government of the day can be judged is how they respond to such matters. The Government took swift, decisive corrective action wherever and whenever problems were identified. We took swift action in relation to Aer Lingus Holidays. Within hours of being notified I directed the company to bring the matter to the immediate attention of the Fraud Squad whose findings are now with lowing a review over several weeks, I also instructed Aer Lingus to shut down the subsidiary company involved, to overhaul their procedures and take disciplinary action.

The Telecom affair first came to my attention in the summer of 1991.

I immediately asked Telecom for information on their Ballsbridge site. Following a review over several weeks, I remained unsatisfied with the information made available to me. I immediately ordered a formal inquiry under the Secretary of the Department of Communications to investigate all matters connected with Telecom's Ballsbridge site and other properties. I also immediately froze further development of the Ballsbridge site. I also announced that there would be full disclosure of the inquiry's report. After establishing the inquiry I agreed, with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that if the inquiry did not receive full co-operation from all the parties involved, we would immediately request the Minister to appoint an Inspector under the Companies Act.

When this co-operation was not forthcoming from one of the parties, on 1 October, 1991, the inquiry requested that an inspector be appointed. The inquiry subsequently published their findings in full that day. An inspector was also appointed that day.

This was another example of firm action by the Government. It shows what can be done. The Government took swift, decisive and correct action in regard to the Telecom affair.

Why does the Minister say "summer"? Can he not be more specific?

Please Deputy, do not interrupt the Minister.

I instituted a thorough, professional inquiry and I would like to pay tribute to the public servants who worked untiringly on this inquiry. The inquiry established 13 key facts and made five key recommendations which I intend to follow up.

With regard to Celtic Helicopters, when the leader of the Opposition, Deputy John Bruton and his Transport spokesman, Deputy Yates, approached me with certain allegations that confidential Aer Lingus information had been provided to Celtic Helicopters on Wednesday evening 25 September, I took immediate action to learn the facts. I replied to Deputy Bruton on Friday 27 September. When Deputy Bruton sought further information on Friday 27 September, I again sought this information from Aer Lingus and forwarded same to Deputy Bruton on Saturday 28 September. Additional information was provided by Aer Lingus to Deputy Bruton this week.

In referring to Government action in relation to this matter, I wish to highlight that, as in the Telecom affair, I, and the Government, acted in an open manner, fully divulged all the information asked for, did not hide behind any State company and acted honourably at all times.

Ministers cannot be held responsible for particular transactions of semi-State companies which do not require their approval or consent. It is a duty of directors to run these companies on behalf of their shareholders and staff. Directors of companies are responsible for ensuring the proper day to day management of the companies.

It is the obligation of the board of directors to vigorously investigate issues which give rise to concern. They should not wait around for the Government, media or indeed the inspectors to take action for them. Boards of semi-State companies have authority. I advise them again, as I have done many times in the past, to use that authority to develop their companies.

The financial crisis of the Deputy Garret FitzGerald and Deputy Dick Spring coalition Government was tackled head-on by the Fianna Fáil Government of 1987-89 and by the present Government. The magnitude of the difficulties facing the Government were extreme. We were heading for bankruptcy. We had reached the edge of the financial cliff and we were toppling over. We had to take action. We reduced public borrowing; improved the competitiveness of Irish business; maintained a stable IR£ within the EMS; created 40,000 more jobs than in 1986, and reduced the tax rate to 29 per cent from 35 per cent. We developed the financial services centre, the envy of many capital cities. We negotiated the Programme for National Recovery and Programme for Economic and Social Progress, both historical agreements, with the social partners. We negotiated EC Structural Funds, total investment £9 billion to restructure our economy and we played a leading role in the development of the new Europe.

The Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications accounts for 17 per cent of GNP and 13 per cent of total employment in the State.

The tourism sector has taken off since Fianna Fáil assumed office in 1987. Tourism has achieved record targets of 15 per cent growth for the past three years — three times more than the world average. It is now earning in excess of £1 billion in foreign earnings. It now employs 80,000, a 45 per cent increase since 1987. It is still producing 5,000 new jobs every year.

The Government have also presided, at EC level, over a liberalisation of air transport which is opening up the skies of Europe. We have invested heavily in regional airports and are fully committed to their development.

An Post are experiencing difficulties. Despite their financial position I could not support An Post's viability plan because of its effects on rural Ireland and I decided that the plan should be scrapped. However, An Post must, at a minimum, break even and they can do so if both sides are willing to compromise on their current positions and jointly plan the way ahead. I urge both sides to leave aside their differences in the current dispute and sit down and secure the future of the postal services.

My Department and I have achieved much in two years but I am impatient and there is much yet to be done. I should like to tell the House today that my review of the Broadcasting Act is now virtually complete. I have met all the parties concerned, RTE, TV3, the Association of Independent Radio Stations, the CII, the advertising industry, independent film makers and the national newspapers. I have come to the conclusion that the Act requires changes and I will shortly be presenting my proposals.

Surprise, surprise.

The new aviation authority announced on 30 July will involve the movement of some 600 civil servants from my Department into a new State body. I will shortly be introducing the necessary legislation. My bus competition Bill which will open up the bus industry to real competition is being finalised.

The Lough Swilly model.

The sale of the B & I will be pushed through by me in the near future. I am following up my technical and financial studies into the possibility of a light rail system for Dublin. I am also in the course of presenting a major new initiative in the tourism area designed to continue employment growth in that sector.

Something like the BES.

I would like to refer briefly to a matter which was raised by Deputy Bruton this morning with regard to State boards.

Acting Chairman

I wish to advise the Minister that he has nine minutes left.

Deputy Bruton asked this morning why NCB——

On a point of order, I would like to know if we will get a copy of the Minister's speech before he concludes.

Acting Chairman

The Minister has indicated that copies will be circulated.

They have been delivered to the wrong House.

I have already apologised to the House; it will be circulated as soon as possible. I have to make some last minute changes as I wanted to respond to some of the points made by Deputies this morning. It will be circulated shortly. I will give the Deputy a specially bound edition with a photograph of the Minister on the cover.

Only one Deputy made a point before lunch, the Taoiseach, and the Minister did not mention him yet.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Farrelly, please cease interrupting the Minister.

This morning Deputy Bruton raised the question of NCB getting consultancies. I had the opportunity since then to check the position with my Department. Of the 28 consultancies given by my Department since 1983 NCB received one which was given to them by the then Minister for Communications, Deputy Jim Mitchell. I wanted to clear that matter up in the House as I am sure it is important. Deputy Bruton asked why I did not include Findlater House and the property on the Merrion Road in the inquiry. I announced publicly that I was including them in the inquiry but the Deputy must have missed that announcement.

What about the privatisation of Irish Life?

As I am sure former Ministers realise, one is tempted to consult the files when one has them at one's disposal particularly when Members are playing the perception game. I do not want to play that game, I have resisted the temptation to do so. However, I am aware of many cases — I stress that I do not think there is anything wrong with this — where State companies have done business with supporters of the Opposition parties who run companies well. They do good business with State companies and there is nothing wrong with that. I am aware of many cases where supporters who previously had been excellent fund-raisers for Opposition parties appear on State boards. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with that so long as there is full declaration. What I am suggesting from my casual perusal of the files is that I would prefer not to be lectured by the other side of the House about these matters, in particular by former Ministers who should know better. They should know — if one wants to play the perception game — that one can put all the simple facts on a piece of paper, that so and so raises money for a party, appears on a State board and does business with a State company, and if one produces it on the right day, at the right time and in the right atmosphere one has a scandal. We could all play that game. I was very tempted in carrying out research for this debate to do so but it is not my style and I would prefer not to get into it.

The Minister is not doing too badly.

He could not find anything.

Another point I should like to make to my good friends in The Workers' Party is that they too can play the selectivity game and I would not blame them for that. That is one of the ways political activity has developed. They castigated the boards of directors — the fat cats, as they would call them — the business people and much of it was justified. I agree that many of the practices are unacceptable but I know they do not mean to exclude, for example, the very fine worker directors on State boards when they castigate the board of a State company. There is no such thing as different types of directors, there are the worker directors and ordinary directors and if one wants to complain about the board of a State company one has to include all members, including the worker representatives and ministerial appointees. I know The Workers' Party do not exempt anyone from criticism and I take it that when they criticise a board they criticise the whole board without selectivity.

What about the Communication Workers' Union advertisement? Has the Minister seen it? It is good.

It is very creative.

It is tremendous.

Their timing was perfect.

I have given some examples of the major policy initiatives I will be bringing forward in the period ahead. This is a strong, competent and determined Government. They will not take fright at each and every opinion poll and will not buckle under wild allegations. Rather they will continue to aggressively develop the economy, play an active role in the new emerging Europe, and, above all else, continue to develop a country, the kind of country of which Irish people can continue to be proud.

Acting Chairman

I am calling Deputy Jim Higgins.

Will the Minister accept one question from me?

Acting Chairman

I am sorry, Deputy, but this is not Question Time. I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

At the end of a speech it is customary to ask a question.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy will get an opportunity to respond to what the Minister said. We cannot allow questions to be asked at this time.

I can understand the reason the Minister does not want to answer it.

Acting Chairman

I am calling Deputy Higgins.

Few controversies in 1986 received as much publicity as the decision by the then Minister for Education, former Deputy Gemma Hussey, to close Carysfort College as a primary teacher training institution. We all recall the very vigorous campaign led by the then principal of the college, Sister Regina Durkan, who was fully supported by the then Opposition spokesperson on Education, Deputy O'Rourke. We recall the considerable hysteria whipped up by the controversy, the large crowds, the public protests outside the gates of this building. We vividly recall the very clear unequivocal commitment given in 1986 by Deputy O'Rourke delivered very forcibly both inside and outside this House that if and when she became Minister for Education she would keep Carysfort College open as a teacher training college.

Dr. O'Hanlon said the same.

History records that Deputy O'Rourke became Minister for Education in March 1987 and far from keeping Carysfort College open she presided over its closure. It was fair to assume that Carysfort College as a controversy had firmly been put to bed. It certainly seemed so when a property development company purchased Carysfort College and its 90 acres of land in October 1989. As its primary interest was in the area of housing development, Davmac sold the college and the 20 acres immediately surrounding it to a company known as JHA Exports whose two directors were William Harris and his brother, the well known businessman and motor car and truck importer, Mr. Pino Harris. The price was £6.5 million.

It is well known that Mr. Harris intended initially to use Carysfort College as a multi-private educational institution and entered detailed negotiations with various interested parties with a view to putting this type of operation in place. Plans and costings were commissioned and drawn up. However, within one month Mr. Harris changed his mind and wanted out of the deal. Mr. Harris is a man of means and it is quite obvious he was confronted with the sudden realisation that his private third level education complex was not such a good idea after all and was not going to yield the type of short term dividend and profits he would have wished and expected. The problem in such a situation is to get a buyer for the property and make a profit.

It is well known that when the Sisters of Mercy decided to put Carysfort on the market, University College Dublin displayed an interest in acquiring it in view of its proximity to the college. However, UCD were given no encouragement by the Department of Education. In April 1989 UCD decided therefore to go ahead with their own plans to build the Smurfit Graduate Business School on their 300 acre Belfield campus. The cost of the project was to be £5 million and it was to be self-financing with £1.5 million coming from Mr. Smurfit, £1 million by way of a repayable loan from the college development fund, a further £2 million from private resources and £1.5 million by way of grants. It was to be self-financing and was not to cost the taxpayer anything.

In March 1990 the architects' plans for a new building were approved by the college building committee. According to Dr. Masterson, President of UCD, last Tuesday, "by April-May, as detailed costings emerged, it became clear that the cost of the proposed new building was going to be a serious problem". Dr. Masterson went on to say that they then began to scale down the building with a view to keeping it within the £5 million budget projection. However, there are no details of how much it would be scaled down or how much over budget it would go.

According to Dr. Masterson the estate agents, Gunne, acting for Harris Brothers approached UCD in July 1990 with a view to considering the possibility of purchasing Carysfort College. UCD looked at the property but decided not to go ahead because of the cost factor. It is worth recalling that when the Sisters of Mercy decided initially to sell Carysfort, UCD — as I said before — were given no encouragement by the Department of Education to buy the property. When Davmac put the property on the market in June 1990 and when it was available for £6.5 million UCD were not approached or did not receive any contact or encouragement from the Department of Education. Nothing happened by way of advice to them to go ahead and purchase the property. Yet, suddenly in September 1990, a mere three months after Mr. Harris purchased the property for £6.5 million and a mere two months after his agents approached UCD to buy the property, the Minister for Education entered the scene.

I want to thank Dr. Masterson for clarifying once and for all last Tuesday, despite repeated attempts by the Minister for Education to evade the issue, that these major initiatives in relation to the purchase of Carysfort College by UCD were taken by the Minister for Education in September 1990. As Dr. Masterson put it, "an initiative by the Minister for Education inaugurated a new phase in the college's interest in Carysfort". Dr. Masterson went to say that the Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, held a meeting with the registrar, the secretary of the college and the Chairman of the Graduate Business School to discuss the possibilities of a graduate business school. Suddenly the Belfield plans, which were very far advanced, were abandoned and intensive "hands on" and urgent negotiations began in relation to the purchase of the college by UCD. It is quite clear that there was a considerable conflict within UCD as to the wisdom of going ahead and as to whether they should depart from their long-standing core policy of campus consolidation, of locating all their faculties and facilities on their more than adequate 300 acres in Belfield.

Dr. Masterson's statement also makes it clear that the commerce faculty refused to allow their undergraduates to be transferred to Carysfort. However, in view of the new spirit of openness and the positive promptings of the Minister for Education, a purchase price of £8 million was agreed between UCD and Gunne in November 1990. There was, of course, the other little factor that it would take a mere £3.5 million to convert the building and make it suitable for a graduate business school. At the end of November 1990 UCD told the Government quite bluntly that the most they were prepared to pay was £2 million towards the overall cost; in other words, there was a clear ultimatum to the Government that if they wanted UCD to buy this facility they had better come up with the money.

On 12 December the Taoiseach, the Minister for Education, the President of UCD and Mr. Laurence Crowley, chairman of the Graduate Business School, met to discuss the funding of the project. According to Dr. Masterson the Taoiseach tried to persuade UCD to raise a greater proportion of the overall cost of the project. Dr. Masterson couched his refusal to do so in the diplomatic language, that "this suggestion the President declined for various reasons". The UCD President went on to explain that "the Taoiseach indicated that he would recommend that the Government support the purchase along the lines of the college proposal". Lo and behold, University College, Dublin, ended up purchasing Carysfort Training College for £8 million from the Harris Brothers, thereby giving them a grand profit of £1.5 million for a mere seven months' investment. Not bad when you consider that at the time because of the impending Gulf crisis, a slump in the property market and an over-abundance of commercial property, there was a considerable reduction in property value.

The Smurfit Graduate Business School which is going ahead in Belfield as a self-financing project costing approximately £5 million in April 1990 has now been transferred en bloc to Carysfort Training College for a total purchase price of £8 million, plus £3.7 million refurbishment costs, of which the taxpayer has to fork out £9.7 million, with UCD and Mr. Smurfit paying the balance — £2 million — between them. I am afraid, from the point of view of the taxpayers, this is not the end of the story because the Taoiseach again became involved. On 21 December 1990, Dr. Masterson returned the Taoiseach's telephone call during which, in his own words, “an issue concerning operational costs was satisfactorily clarified”. It now transpires that John Citizen, the taxpayer, is again stuck for the operating costs as well as for the capital cost of purchasing this graduate business school to honour the contribution of Dr. Michael Smurfit to Irish business, as a result of the personal intervention of the Taoiseach.

The Department of Education are one of the big spending Departments and have a budget of £1.3 billion. They operate, like other Departments, very rigorous accounting procedures; yet, on this occasion, virtually all the rules, regulations and accounting safeguards were dispensed with. Carysfort could have been purchased by UCD in June 1990 for £6.5 million, yet it ended up costing the taxpayer £8 million plus an additional £1.7 million a mere seven months later. No independent valuation was carried out by the Valuation Office or any independent agency which must be the case when public money is involved.

According to Dr. Masterson — and indeed the Minister —"the competent college experts judged this to be good value". I wonder whether this is the same expert opinion which underestimated the cost of the graduate business school which was to be built initially in UCD. Was this the same team of experts which looked at Carysfort in July, a few months beforehand, and thought it was too expensive at that stage? Suddenly in December it became excellent value. Of course, from their point of view it was good value in that they were getting an asset valued at several million pounds without any contribution from their own coffers as well as having the running costs underwritten by the Taoiseach.

It is worth noting — and this has not come out before — that in April 1989 the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education, Mr. Finbarr O'Callaghan, wrote to the Sisters of Mercy, Carysfort, stating that the Department of Education had no interest in and no plans for Carysfort. In other words, they were given the nod to go ahead and sell it. Yet, the following year the Minister for Education and the Taoiseach became intimately involved in a series of meetings and telephone calls in order to ensure that the property was bought by UCD.

The Higher Education Authority are the statutory agency for supervising and monitoring all third level education and yet, in this case, they were ignored and by-passed. The Minister acted illegally in doing so. Section 5 of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971, states that the Higher Education Authority "shall advise the Minister on the need or otherwise for the establishment of new institutions of higher education, on the nature and form of those institutions and on the legislative measures required in relation to their establishment or in relation to any existing institution of higher education". The section is quite clear. It states that the Higher Education Authority "shall advise the Minister on the need for new institutions of higher education", yet, here we had a new graduate business school costing £11.7 million in the process of establishment and the statutory obligation of the Minister to be advised by the Higher Education Authority is not complied with. Not alone was it not complied with, not alone was there no consultation or dialogue with the Higher Education Authority, but the members of the Higher Education Authority actually wrote to the Minister for Education expressing their annoyance at their exclusion from any involvement in the project. It is quite clear that the Minister acted illegally by not consulting the Higher Education Authority, by not seeking their advice and by not being advised by them.

Section 8 (1) of the same Act states "Any request by an institution of higher education for State subvention shall be submitted by the institution to An tÚdarás"— in this case the Higher Education Authority —"in such manner as An tÚdarás may require". Yet, here we had a situation where UCD needed £9.7 million of State subvention and yet no submission or request was made by them to the Higher Education Authority as specified in this Act. Furthermore, the Minister for Education, being fully aware of the facts, again decided to conspire with UCD in order to totally bypass and sideline the Higher Education Authority, thereby flouting one of the key requirements of this Act.

Section 10 (1) of the same Act states that the Higher Education Authority "shall assess amounts of State financial provision, both current and capital, which it recommends for higher education and research or for any part thereof, either in relation to current or future periods". Here we have a State financial provision of £11.7 million being made for capital expenditure and yet the Higher Education Authority which have been vested with the power and, indeed, the obligation because it states "shall assess the amounts of State financial provision", are totally precluded from any involvement in carrying out such an assessment and indeed get the proverbial back-hand from the Minister when they try to protest at being prohibited and obstructed from carrying out their statutory functions.

It is quite clear that the statutory supervisory, monitoring and regulatory role of the Higher Education Authority was totally flouted as a result of the direct intervention by the Minister for Education. It is quite clear that the Minister for Education, probably acting on the Taoiseach's instructions, conducted direct negotiations with University College Dublin completely above the head of the Higher Education Authority. Apart from the gross insult offered to the Higher Education Authority, there is the deliberate undermining of the Higher Education Authority's statutory position. By her actions in the Carysfort project the Minister has acted in a highly irregular manner. She has arbitrarily dispensed with all the normal procedures and guidelines. What she did is illegal in that she flouted the specific and binding requirements of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971.

I put it to the Minister that at a time when we have the highest primary class sizes in Europe with over 607 classes having more than 45 pupils, when parents are being asked to dig deep into their own pockets to fund primary and second level education, which is supposed to be free but is not free any longer, when the same school bus breaks down three times within a fortnight leaving children stranded on the side of the road, when teachers have to count the number of sticks of chalk they use in the classrooms, when school managers are heavily overdrawn in the bank because the Department have left them stuck for cheques for repairs, maintenance, heating and electrical work, and when the primary school system in inner city Dublin in particular is in danger of imminent collapse because of lack of resources, she acted in a highly irresponsible manner by wasting £9.7 million of taxpayers' money.

The Minister may make the point that the Dáil voted through a Supplementary Estimate on 18 December 1990 for the purchase of Carysfort College, but the Opposition voted against it. What the Minister did not tell the House however at that time was the background and details leading up to the purchase of Carysfort. What she did not tell the House was the entire sequence of events leading up to the finalisation of the transaction. What she did not tell the House was that it took the personal and unwarranted intrusion of the Taoiseach and herself to clinch the deal. Finally, what she did not tell the House was that every single rule and guideline put in place over the years to safeguard the public interest was flouted in this case.

Undoubtedly, the most serious breach of regulations was the shoddy treatment of the Higher Education Authority. One may well ask why the Higher Education Authority were relegated to the role of a mere frustrated sideline spectator. I will tell you why they were left out of the action — the Government knew full well that the Higher Education Authority would give the thumbs down to the proposal. The Government knew full well that in pursuit of their statutory oligations the Higher Education Authority, being fully au fait with all third level requirements, would advise that the £9.7 million was badly needed and could be better spent elsewhere.

The Government knew full well that the Higher Education Authority would not go along with the proposals and therefore they took the extraordinary personal intervention of the Taoiseach, with personal meetings and phone calls, and the Minister for Education to rescue and bail out their friend, Mr. Harris and his ill-judged £6.5 million investment. I would put it to the Minister for Education that if any school principal anywhere in the country, any chief executive officer, any clerk in a vocational education office or any caretaker of a school had acted in breach of the basic rules and regulations governing the spending of public money, they would have been booted unceremoniously from office on the spot.

I wish to thank the President of UCD, Dr. Masterson, for clarifying the sequence of events, albeit belatedly. It took many hours of skilful drafting by a public relations company in order to hone, refine and produce the eventual text. However, his statement last Tuesday is clear, unequivocal confirmation of the involvement of the Minister for Education and the Taoiseach and an indictment of their roles in the whole sordid affair. I am happy that in making a statement Dr. Masterson adhered to the principle of his predecessor, John Henry Cardinal Newman who said "As far as we are not on the side of truth, we shall shiver to death". Would that the people at the highest level of political life in this country, the people who have direct involvement in this issue, namely, the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, and the Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, would even have the slightest glimpse of the implications of such a statement. Unfortunately, they have not. Week in, week out, both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Education, since the controversy broke afresh, have refused to answer any of the specific questions relating to what was and is essentially a shady deal.

Today in this House the Taoiseach did as he did on several occasions recently — he simply walked away from the questions by merely stating again that it was a good deal. Yes, indeed, it was a very good deal for Mr. Harris, but we are entitled to know who exactly the Taoiseach met besides Dr. Masterson. We are entitled to know whether he met Mr. Harris or Mr. Dermot Desmond who, coincidentally, happens to be on the board of the Smurfit Graduate Business School.

The Minister in her usual fashion has sought to confuse the issues by her usual convoluted package of conundrums. When asked by Shane Kenny on "Today at One" on 1 October if the Taoiseach had any meetings with Dr. Masterson in relation to the purchase of Carysfort Training College she ducked, bobbed, weaved and eventually when pressed said: "I would have no doubt that he would have met him on many occasions, on several occasions at various events to which they were both invited". It then transpired that, far from a casual meeting, the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, as confirmed by Dr. Masterson's statement last week, actually sat down with the Taoiseach, Dr. Masterson and the chairman of the new college to discuss indepth at a full business meeting all the arrangements surrounding the Carysfort deal.

I do not want the Minister to come into this House and again recite the argument that she was making more places available for third level education. It is quite clear that the places for third level would have been provided in UCD at no cost to the taxpayer. That argument simply does not wash. No money was available to UCD when they first became interested in the project. Lots of money was available to UCD in order to enable Mr. Harris to get the monkey off his back. No independent valuation was carried out as even the humblest urban district council must do if they are disposing of a labourer's cottage.

The Higher Education Authority had their statutory function and role totally undermined. If one trawled round for a good example of a bad deal, a wrong deal, a crooked and a rotten deal, one need look no further than the Carysfort saga. It smells of croneyism. It smells of TACA——

Will the Deputy bring his remarks to a conclusion, please?

It smells of the golden circle, the golden aura that surrounds this Government. Would the Minister not seriously consider, in the light of her proven involvement in this issue, and in the light of her highly irregular and illegal actions, doing as any decent Minister would do in any other jurisdiction, resign her office?

I have listened to Deputy Higgins make similar allegations for a number of months and my colleague, the Minister for Education, has answered them on each occasion. I have no doubt that she will come into this House within the next two days and again answer the kind of allegations that have been made here today.

A Deputy

The Minister should stick to the line of not knowing anything about the matter.

The Minister is not entirely without knowledge.

I wish to speak in this confidence motion about the immediate problems giving rise to the motion and about the Government's outstanding record including the record of my Department and our achievements in the health area despite the difficult financial situation.

Ten million pounds would have funded a great many operations for people needing them.

It would have given a start to the Tallaght hospital.

I, like most Members of this House, am concerned at recent developments in a very small number of companies, both private and State.

The truth needs to be established and the public informed. Wrongdoing must be dealt with and correct processes put in place where necessary. If there are loopholes, they must be closed. If there has been a slippage in standards, then standards must be reasserted. If there is wrongdoing, it must be appropriately dealt with.

If we look world wide other countries have their own problems. The world of finance is going through a troubled period. A period where the old rules are no longer effective. Japan, the United States and Britain have been rocked by scandals that did not involve a few million pounds, but hundreds of billions of pounds. Fortunately we have few such problems in Ireland and consequently they are all the more shocking when they occur.

There is no place for any financial misbehaviour in our society. It must be rooted out. However, the manner in which these issues are pursued is critical to the national interest. As Members of the Oireachtas there is an obligation on us to do this not just effectively but responsibly.

National interest demands that all the issues raised and allegations made be dealt with in a proper, fair, just and logical manner. The manner in which these issues are pursued is critical to the national interest. There are allegations being thrown around as if they were proven fact and that is certainly not in anybody's interest.

While the wrongdoing of a few must be dealt with, it is important to ensure that confidence is maintained in the overwhelming majority of upright businesses that we have in this country. As politicians we have a responsibility to ensure that we do not damage our people, our country or our image internationally. I am afraid from the behaviour of the Opposition parties at present that this is not very high on their agenda.

The portrayal of events by the Opposition has created great unease for all the wrong reasons, for short term political gain.

The Government reacted promptly by using the full power of the courts by ensuring thorough investigations, for example, the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Industry, the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications Telecom inquiry and the Siúicre Éireann and associated companies inquiry. I am satisfied with the nature of these inquiries. I know that the Government will take whatever action necessary following these investigations. The Dáil can question the methods of investigation and whether they can be improved.

However, it is not in anyone's interest and certainly not in the national interest that individuals and companies should be tried by innuendo, convicted and sentenced before these reports are available. The Government will take any action necessary when they receive the reports.

I welcome constructive criticism. The Opposition have their role and that is part and parcel of our democratic system. However if you look at the Opposition at the moment you wonder where the national interest ends and policial opportunism takes over. This highlights a fundamental difference between Fianna Fáil and the present Opposition parties. Compare the Opposition's behaviour today with that of Fianna Fáil in opposition in 1982-87. We can all recall what happened during that period in Irish Shipping and ICI. ICI was the greatest business scandal of the past ten years, If the Opposition of that time behaved in the same way as the Opposition are behaving today they would have caused the collapse of a major bank involved at the time. Look at the facts in 1985. Fine Gael and Labour were in Government when the ICI scandal occurred. Look at how Fianna Fáil in opposition behaved compared with the parties in opposition today. The situation was so serious then that emergency legislation was necessary. The then Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism, Deputy John Bruton, now Leader of Fine Gael, introduced the Bill and left many questions unanswered. Let us look at how the Opposition behaved at that time. Speaking on the legislation, as reported at column 708 of the Official Report for 27 March 1985, Deputy Haughey, Leader of the then Opposition said:

As the principal Opposition party, we immediately took a definite, responsible attitude and indicated that as the Government had said they were acting in the national interest we would, in order to avoid a crisis of conscience, make it clear that we would take the Government at their word and offer whatever parliamentary support was necessary to overcome the difficulty and protect the financial institutions of the State and the country's creditworthiness.

Deputy Haughey continued:

It is important that the world at large should see whatever else can be said about politics in this country the Oireachtas was prepared, where necessary, to give any support needed when the Government could indicate that it was taking action in the national interest.

Could anybody say one word in favour of the way the Opposition today have behaved when the Government faced up to their responsibility on these problems?

Deputy John Bruton, the then Minister for Industry Trade, Commerce and Tourism responded as reported at column 1124 of the Official Report for 28 March 1985:

However, it must be accepted that there was an endeavour by all sides to find a solution and this is true of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition who is present. All tried to find a solution and to contribute to the best of their knowledge, ability and experience. Although this debate was occasioned by a very regrettable and sad event it was useful in helping to formulate policy.

Will the Taoiseach of the day be able to say that the Opposition gave any assistance in dealing with situations in the business world which were totally outside the control of the Government and, as the Taoiseach has pointed out, no politicians were involved.

It involved State boards.

Fianna Fáil in Opposition could be as tough as the best of them in adversarial debate. When the national interest demanded it we always rose to the occasion. We took a responsible position as I have stated under our present Taoiseach, Deputy Charles Haughey, then Leader of the Opposition. That is not the situation today with the Opposition parties and in my view is one of the reasons they have spent so much time in opposition since 1932.

They have demonstrated over the past two years that they have no alternative policies whatsoever and perhaps they believe that rhetoric and irresponsible behaviour will hide these facts from the public. Not alone are they irresponsible in opposition but the Fine Gael and Labour Parties were irresponsible when in Government. I dealt at length before with their behaviour in the area of the health services and when they allowed health boards to overspend £55 million which they never provided. That was something that caused major problems for us when we came into Government.

Before going on to deal with my own particular area of responsibility where enormous progress has been made despite our financial difficulties, I want to refer to the overall record of Fianna Fáil since we took office in 1987. At that time the public finances were out of control, growth in the economy was non existent, the national debt had reached crippling proportions and confidence in the economy was at its lowest ever.

We now have, because of the action taken by the Government, a sound economic base for our future development. The public finances have been brought under control. It is true that we have a short term problem in relation to 1992 but this problem will be tackled by the Government in the same determined way we approached the crisis situation we inherited. The underlying economic position is very strong as a result of the action that has been taken since 1987.

Economic growth has returned and has been sustained. We have low inflation and a favourable balance of payments and a stable exchange rate ensuring a major improvement in our competitive position. We are well placed to benefit from the upswing in economic activity already forecast worldwide.

It is no harm to remind this House of the major part played by the Programme for National Recovery in turning our economy around. The programme was negotiated in 1987 and it brought the unions, the employers and the farmers together to forge a consensus to save the country from bankruptcy. We are all aware of the major personal part played by the Taoiseach himself in achieving that agreement and in dealing with the very serious problems confronting the country.

We all acknowledge the serious unemployment situation in the country today. Sadly, that is not a problem unique to Ireland. The general global recession is affecting us here, as is the return of many emigrants who cannot get jobs abroad. The economic growth forecast worldwide will no doubt cause this situation here to improve.

An indication of this was announced only yesterday, with the Director General of the CII reporting that manufacturing industry was showing recent improvement in exports and output. Against fierce competition, we have also succeeded in attracting major high technology investment into this country.

Since 1987 major improvements have been made in tax reliefs and reforms. Income tax rates have come down. VAT has come down. Income tax relief exemption limits were raised to help the people on low pay. We have succeeded in keeping ahead of inflation with social welfare payments. Each year we have given special increases to raise the real standards of living for people who are long term unemployed.

I am very glad to have this opportunity of placing the Government's record in developing our heath services before the House today. It is a record of solid achievement based on carefuly thought out strategies to build on the strengths of the existing system.

Looking directly at health, I believe that the progress we have made in the health area over the past few years is an indication of the Government's determination to establish a proper course of action and to stay with it. We have achieved this despite the severe constraints facing the public finances generally. We have made important progress and have taken a number of key decisions on eligibility and organisational structures this year which will have a very positive impact in the future.

Prior to 1987 there was no cohesive approach to developing our health system in accordance with recognised needs or to addressing its problems. The Government have set about a consistent, rational process of identifying service needs, examining how best they can be met in the most cost-effective way and planning for their structured implementation.

We have paid particular attention to the need for medium to long term planning. The restructuring and reorientation of our health system has, of course, been difficult but we have pressed ahead with devising and implementing a streamlined health service which is capable of responding to the enormous demands placed upon it.

I would like to remind Deputies of the practical steps taken by the Government and of the tangible progress made in the past few years. In 1987 I established the Commission on Health Funding, a broadly based body representative of a wide range of interests and expertise in the health services, to advise me on the direction that health policy should take. The Commission reported in late 1989 and provided the first comprehensive analysis of the entire health system since the White Paper of 1966.

The Commission made recommendations on all of the key issues in health policy, including the approach to funding, eligibility, administrative structures and individual service areas. Its report now forms the basis of a number of important decisions that have been taken by the Government since then.

The Commission's work has proved invaluable in pointing the overall direction our health service should take. However, I also established a number of other expert groups to advise on individual aspects of the health services, given the complexity and technical nature of many of the issues to be considered. These bodies included the Dublin Hospital Initiative Group chaired by Professor David Kennedy, whose series of splendid reports I launched last month, and the Hospital Efficiency Review Group under Noel Fox.

We have been criticised frequently for establishing these working parties and other advisory bodies in the health area. I think this is ironic, given that the reports to which I referred are now providing the foundation of the process of improving the quality and efficiency of our health services.

Let me remind Deputies of the progress made in implementing the report of the Commission on Health Funding.

Earlier this year we streamlined the system of eligibility for health services, in accordance with the Commission's recommendations. Prior to 1 June this year we had a three category system which was acknowledged as being unfair in its assessment of income and as giving rise to potentially serious anomalies in the assessment of eligibility for hospital services.

The Government therefore accepted the Commission's recommendation that Category III be abolished, and the Oireachtas approved the necessary legislation earlier this year. This decision was also supported by the social partners under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. Its positive effects will become obvious over time, particularly since we have combined it with a fair system of access to public hospitals. Under this arrangement, which is being phased in at present, patients in non-emergency situations must opt explicitly for public or private care. The previous practice of combining public ward accommodation with private consultant care will no longer be permitted. This will ensure fairer access for all to public hospitals and will be of greater benefit to public patients.

One of the most important conclusions reached by the Commission on Health Funding, and echoed strongly by Professor Kennedy's group, was that we would have to address urgently the problems inherent in the administrative structure of our health system. These problems have built up over time and must be resolved quickly so that an adaptable, responsible service can be put in place.

Both the Commission and the Dublin Hospital Initiative Group pointed to the fragmentation of different services and to the lack of co-ordination between hospital and community based services. I have been conscious that these difficulties have led to an over-involvement by my Department in the day-to-day management of services, at a time when policy-making on the future direction of services should be to the fore.

It was against this background that I announced the setting up of a new regional health authority to replace the Eastern Health Board. The new authority will have a more direct relationship with all of the health agencies in its area, thereby ensuring a greater co-ordination of hospital and community based services.

I should point out, however, that the legislation will have important national effects as well as those directed specifically towards the Eastern Health Board area. It will, for example, clarify the roles, relationships and accountability of health board members and their chief executive officers. It will also clarify the functions of the Minister for Health, the Department of Health and agencies involved in service delivery.

In this way, the legislation will make much clearer who should be doing what in the health system. My Department and I, as Minister, will be able to concentrate on the development of health policy and the overall control of expenditure, rather than becoming over-involved in the detailed day-to-day management of individual services. Operational management must be devolved to the appropriate health agencies if we are to achieve greater efficiency. I am confident that the new organisational arrangements in the Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow areas will have a very positive impact in this regard.

I should emphasise, as I did when announcing the Government's decisions on these matters, that there will be full consultation with all interested parties on the details of these decisions. Indeed, I have already invited agencies to make written submissions on the issues of concern to them, and I look forward to their responses before proceeding further with the preparation of the legislation.

Since taking office the Government have been anxious to identify the most appropriate means of tackling any problems in each area of the health service. In the acute hospital sector Professor Kennedy's reports have proved invaluable. His group's interim report, published in June 1990 made a series of recommendations on the best practices and policies aimed at ensuring a quality service with the maximum of efficiency and effectiveness. Many of the hospitals involved in the study by Professor Kennedy's group have now implemented the recommendations on such areas as: admission and discharge policies, bed and patient management and the operation of Accident and Emergency Departments.

After completion of the other reports Professor Kennedy agreed to chair an advisory group which, together with my Department's officials, will oversee the implementation of the group's recommendations on improvement of hospital services. They will also help me to monitor and review progress over time. I am very pleased to say that Mr. Noel Fox, whose efficiency review of Dublin hospitals was of such value, has agreed to become a member of the Kennedy Advisory Group.

It will be clear to Deputies, therefore, that the Government have a carefully devised, well thought out approach to the improvement of our hospital system. It is based not simply on ploughing countless millions of pounds into the service in the hope that any problems will thereby be solved but instead draws on the recognised objective expertise of eminent professionals who have examined the acute hospital sector in detail and have made sensible, realistic recommendations which can now be implemented systematically. A key point of this process has been the development of the necessary consensus, without which wide-ranging changes cannot be implemented successfully.

This planned approach to service developments extends also to the community based services. Starting with the Commission on Health Funding and drawing upon a range of expert reports on individual areas, the Government have a very clear view of the direction which these services should take in the coming years.

The Commission on Health Funding stressed the need for an analytical approach to identifying service needs, examining alternative options of meeting those needs and of monitoring the implementation process in the light of changing circumstances. I might stress that there is little to be gained from merely pumping moneys into particular services without regard to effectiveness or efficiency. The course which we have charted ensures that money is allocated only after careful assessment of need and of the best method of meeting those needs in each locality.

It is with this approach in mind that the Programme for Economic and Social Progress committed the Government to a planned expansion of designated community-based services, in accordance with the recommendations of the groups which reported on each area. This is an important element of the Government's policy on the future direction of the health services.

The Government have made significant progress in a number of areas of health legislation. I have referred already to the recent important improvements in the eligibility system introduced under the Health (Amendment) Act, 1991. We have also passed the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, which provided amongst other things, for a new system of registration under which all non-health board homes, whether run for profit or on a voluntary basis, will be obliged to operate. It also provides for a fairer approach to subventing nursing homes based on the merits of each individual applicant. This will replace the present unsatisfactory system which did not guarantee that the limited funds available were channelled towards the most appropriate applicants.

Then there is the Child Care Act, 1991. For some time past the Government have been extremely anxious to address a range of legal issues in the area of child care. Therefore I was glad to see the Oireachtas enact the new Child Care Act 1991, before the summer recess. That Act imposes a statutory duty on health boards to promote the welfare of any child in the community not receiving adequate care and protection. It also gives the boards new powers to provide child care and family support services, introducing a new legal procedure enabling health boards and the Garda to intervene where children are being neglected or abused. The Act takes account of the many practical and cultural developments, such as the need for legal controls on pre-school services and a modernised statutory framework for the regulation of children's residential centres. The new Act updates the grounds on which children may be taken into care and introduces new provisions regarding legal representation to children involved in care proceedings. As in the case of other community-based services the Government have committed themselves to making the necessary resources available for implementation. Indeed that commitment is contained in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

The Adoption Act, 1991, recognising foreign adoptions, was passed by this House.

Other areas in which there has been progress in health services include a patients' charter. The Government have placed special emphasis on ensuring that not only the efficiency but also the quality of services to patients receive close attention. After all, the patient is the central focus of our services. Patients' needs must be to the forefront when planning our services. With that in mind the Programme for Economic and Social Progress reiterates the Government's commitment to introducing a patients' charter. In consultation with hospitals throughout the country we are making good progress in developing that charter which will be based on the fundamental principles of access to service in accordance with need, the right to privacy, to information and to confidentiality of all medical records along with the right to make a complaint and have that complaint properly dealt with. The charter will also recognise the right to respect for religious and philosophical beliefs and the right to refuse to participate in research projects.

Closely allied to the patients' charter is the need for a formal statutory appeals system for medical cards for those whose applications have been rejected. I undertook some time ago to introduce such a system. I am finalising the preparations for putting this in place. Recently the relevant chief executive officers reviewed their methods of assessing eligibility for medical cards. Hopefully that will improve the system.

A common contract for hospital consultants has been introduced. It reflects the importance of hospital consultants to our hospitals system, providing them with an appropriate role in the management of hospitals. Given their influence over the allocation of resources it is important that the involvement of consultants in the management process be recognised and structured appropriately. I am happy that the revised contract will achieve this objective and that the functioning of hospitals will be the better for it.

The wide range of initiatives and concrete developments I have outlined to the House clearly demonstrates that the Government have acted consistently and firmly in relation to the health services. We have not depended on pumping money into the health system in the hope that problems will just go away. Instead we have examined problem areas methodically. I and my colleague, the Minister of State, have identified with the help of experts, what needs to be done and set about the implementation process with the same purpose of mind. An increasing amount of money is being provided each year, and we have discussed that matter here on other occasions. We will not be pushed into unwise, impulsive action merely to be seen to be doing something. We have a clear view of the direction our health services should take and will continue to implement our approach with conviction.

The Government have an important job to do keeping the finances in order, continuing to maintain and develop the environment for further job creation, in addition to playing an important role in the building of the new Europe.

I believe the House should vote confidence in this Government and let them get on with the job.

According to all recent opinion polls, two-thirds of the Irish public do not have confidence in this Government. The Government have lost all moral authority to continue in office. Unemployment has risen each month this year in real terms. It is now at its highest level in the history of the State. There has been no response, no new initiatives undertaken by the Government to meet this heightening crisis. The budgetary targets set by the Government in January this year have proved to be fraudulent and false. The borrowing target is now likely to be, for 1991, £760 million, which is £300 million in excess of the target set for the year.

The Programme for Economic and Social Progress has been proved to have been based on unsound and unreal assumptions. These facts now mean that gardaí, nurses and teachers, who provide invaluable public service, are to be asked yet again to be the sacrificial lambs of Government mismanagement. Similarly health boards, not least of which mine, the South Eastern Health Board, are being asked to cut back £2.5 million between now and the end of the year. This will mean the closure of wards, cutbacks on dental and speech therapist services and not calling people from waiting lists because money has run out due to economic mismanagement. Similarly, public transport had to be increased three times this year, way above the current rate of inflation last month, to pay for the Government's errors due to their cutbacks in the subvention to public transport. Thousands of families awaiting local authority housing are left without any hope because of the virtual elimination of the Government's public housing programme resulting in almost 30,000 applicants on their lists.

Early in 1991 we clearly saw that the budgetary exercise was a cosmetic and fraudulent one designed to deceive the public in the run-up to the local elections. The true state of the public finances and of the economy are only now emerging. On top of that has come public disillusionment, disbelief and anger at the daily revelations of the activities of the "golden circle" and their special relationship with the Fianna Fáil Party. It is not yet clear whether the different inquiries set up into Telecom Éireann will reveal the mystery financier or the Cypriot company who handled the massive profits on an over-valued site which Telecom Éireann do not really need.

It has not been determined whether Stock Exchange rules were breached in terms of disclosure by Sugar Company executives at the time of the public flotation of Greencore. It has not been explained why the Minister for Agriculture and Food was not aware of the multi-million pound deals in the 49 per cent sale and resale of Irish Sugar Distributors at a profit of £7 million within one year. It remains to be seen if the exact ownership of Gladebrook, Talmino and other offshore companies will be ever truly established. Some of these matters have not been finally resolved. However, there is inescapable and conclusive evidence already that the Fianna Fáil Government of 1987-89 deliberately or negligently failed in their supervisory role of these semi-State companies of Irish Sugar and Telecom Éireann. At the most benign interpretation, Fianna Fáil are guilty of incompetence and negligence.

The further revelations about National City Brokers, and the personal relationship and friendship of the Taoiseach and members of that Government with Mr. Dermot Desmond, could lead to a more sinister explanation to the greed culture of what has happened. Fine Gael are appalled at the breach of confidential financial information from the State-owned Irish Helicopters to Mr. Ciarán Haughey's Celtic Helicopters, their principal rival. This breach of confidentiality by National City Brokers was so unprofessional, so unethical that it is simply not good enough for some junior executive to take responsibility. I was appalled to hear last Sunday of the open and flagrant boasting and bragging by Mr. Dermot Desmond in his letter to the boss of Pernod Ricard in relation to the services provided in the Irish Distillers deal. It is remarkable that Mr. Desmond should seek so openly and brazenly in written form to extort additional fees on the basis of his political friends and his alleged exclusive relationship with them. Moreover, that he would in turn allegedly have to repay to his political friends in some unspecified fashion is both remarkable and shocking. I should like to refer to the Taoiseach's comments in his speech this morning regarding his relationship with Mr. Dermot Desmond. He said:

I had no relationship or association with Dermot Desmond in regard to any other matter in either the area of public administration or the private sector.

He referred to the Sail Ireland project and the International Financial Services Centre. The Taoiseach's statement is simply untrue. He must have had dealings with Mr. Dermot Desmond to appoint him last year as chairman of Aer Rianta. That is a matter of public record. I will not go into detail about the Angela Phelan and Terry Keane gossip columns which weekly show photographs of Mr. Haughey's family and Mr. Desmond. That is a matter of public record and public titillation. It stretches credibility when the Taoiseach says he had no relationship or association with Mr. Dermot Desmond other than on those two points.

Denials have been made by many people but the public are now immune to such denials and do not accept the credibility of many of the principals involved. No satisfactory explanation has been given regarding the lack of tendering for the consultancy contracts of some semi-State organisations. I would wish to see a full disclosure of the circumstances and the amounts of money paid by State companies in the context of the Sail Ireland project. Specifically, I seek clarification by the Minister for Energy in relation to the sum of £250,000 paid by the ESB and the approaches made to them to pay this sum when it was known to all and sundry that the Sail Ireland project was a financial disaster. I do not believe the ESB got value for money or any particular benefits from their sponsorship. The question must arise whether representations were made by the Taoiseach in view of his acknowledged support for this project. He said in his speech that he makes no apologies for supporting it fully. We need some clarification of his role in relation to that sponsorship and that payment by a company who are in debt and who have increased their charges to the public.

One of the most hapless and hopeless figures during the Dáil recess was the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Michael O'Kennedy. This pitiful figure, who was able to moralise about condoms, was not even available for comment through most of the Greencore revelations. Any time he did appear before the public he repeatedly stated that he did "not know" of any of these details. The question must be asked, if not, why not? His attack on Mr. Bernard Somers, the accountant, showed that he was both foolish and precipitous in trying to be an over-enthusiastic public watch dog. All of this would be just sad were it not for the fact that Irish agriculture, farmers and the food industry are facing the most devastating future if the Common Agricultural Policy reforms, as proposed by Commissioner MacSharry, go through. We have already seen in the past two years a 30 per cent drop in farm incomes and the sheer depression and anxiety to be faced in rural Ireland if there are further cutbacks will be unbelievable. We must obtain at European level a special understanding and derogation in view of our unique dependence on the food industry. We must be allowed a period of at least six years to phase in these cutbacks in EC supports through the CAP. It is clear that Irish farmers have no confidence in the ability of the Minister for Agriculture and Food to protect Irish interests. Only last week we saw his total lack of action when decisions were taken to legalise the importation of beef from Eastern Europe, which will depress further the Irish beef sector.

Undoubtedly serious international damage has been done to the reputation of this country and its ethical standards in business and politics. It is vital that the Government take immediate steps to act to restore the good name of Irish business and Irish politicians. Fine Gael demand the immediate establishment of a serious fraud office, not under the Attorney General, as the Taoiseach has proposed, which would entail quasi-political control, but under the Garda Commissioner, who has seen his fraud squad seriously under-resourced.

It is also a matter of extreme urgency that our political system is seen to be transparent in terms of the links between political parties and the business community. Such transparency can only be brought about by a declaration of interests of politicians which should be made to a Parliamentary Ethics Commission. This should be made up of the Ombudsman, the Comptroller and Auditor General and a High Court judge. There should be a change in the funding of political parties, with a maximum limit on the level of expenditure by political parties in an election, a limit on the contributions that can be made by business or private individuals, and full disclosure. The State should fund the activities at national level of political parties and provide finance for general election campaigns at a limited level. I believe £1 per person, per year, about £3.5 million, would be the amount of money it would take to clean up our political system, coupled with maximum limits on expenditure. It is wrong to have political parties dependent on voluntary contributions and vulnerable politicians susceptible to the possibility of corruption.

It is also vital that we have more accountability by the Government to the Dáil. It has been shown that our procedures for scrutinising legislation and financial affairs do not work. The fact that over £6 billion of expenditure was rushed through the Dáil in a couple of days is simply unacceptable. Increasingly we see on Wednesdays in this House guillotine motions introduced to rush through ten, 20 or 30 sections in a period of three hours. Many Opposition amendments are never reached. The cosy secrecy between the Government and the Civil Service, in which public services are provided, is not good enough any longer. Fine Gael, therefore, propose the establishment of three strong committees dealing with economic affairs, social affairs and general affairs to deal with the broad range of these vital Government services.

It is inexplicable that there is still no foreign affairs committee, especially when we saw throughout this over-lengthy Dáil recess so many international developments taking place without comment by the Oireachtas. On top of these reforms there is the immediate requirement for a freedom of information Act which would open up Government to proper scrutiny and accountability. We need a Government system that reveals more than it conceals.

It would be wrong to think that all the blame for the present difficulties can be laid at the door of the Taoiseach. It is a fact that disunity between Government parties has developed over the summer and that there is deep mistrust within the Cabinet. This has worsened due to the naked leadership contest that is taking place between Cabinet colleagues within Fianna Fáil, given the inevitable demise of Deputy Haughey as leader.

We are not satisfied with the explanations given so far by the Minister for Education why she paid £1.5 million more for Carysfort College than she could have bought it for some months earlier. The Minister for Labour has to explain his role in enticing the social partners, and particularly the trade union movement, into believing that pay increases could be paid as laid out in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress which were known to be unsoundly based and were known at the time to be unreal by any independent analysis.

The Minister for Finance has not only made a total mess of this year's financial management of the country but also faces serious questions which will be resolved in the context of the Goodman inquiry into his role as Minister for Industry and Commerce in the issuing of export credit insurance to that organisation. He has not explained, in the context of Mr. Dermot Desmond's letter to Pernod Ricard, his role in the monopolies and mergers legislation at the time of the Irish Distillers takeover that Mr. Desmond said was so favourable to the French drinks company. It is also obvious that his corrective action in the Dáil recess to rectify the budgetary disarray of this year will, in fact, not save £100 million, but rather £30 million. He seems so preoccupied with cultivating backbenchers and developing his leadership ambitions that he is doing an exceedingly weak job in his present Ministry.

The Progressive Democrats are showing this week that they have lost all political nerve and credibility. It is undoubtedly the case that in opposition they would be leading the charge with calls for "high standards in high places". This does not even figure on their agenda of discussions in terms of the future life of this Government. I understand the final act of this charade will be concluded tomorrow in relation to an agreement on the remaining life of this dying Government. The real story of this week is that the Progressive Democrats have been blinded to the reality of the current scandals.

It is impossible to escape the principle of collective responsibility by all members of this Government and a change of leadership in Fianna Fáil will not reduce the lack of confidence of Fine Gael in this Government. Fine Gael believe that this Government should be replaced by a Fine Gael led Government.

Our priorities are the development of an enterprise society in a developing Europe. We want quality public services within a liberal and tolerant society with a pluralist ethos. We want to shift the tax burden away from employment to reduce the cost of creating a job. We want to set up a national jobs forum with the political and social partners to provide long term planning and solutions to our employment requirements.

We believe the productive capacity of the economy can be improved and made more competitive by an integrated transport policy. I quote the Tánaiste's own area of responsibility in relation to ports. Virtually 100 per cent of everything that is imported and exported in relation to our manufacturing industry comes through our ports, yet they operate outdated legislation passed in 1946. They require the Minister's approval fo everything, from selling property to commissioning a loan to superannuation. There is the most deep rooted bureaucracy as well as totally outdated industrial relations practices. This is, in effect, a tax on everything that moves in and out of this country.

As an island economy there is no more critical factor in developing the productive side of the economy than having a dynamic new structure for the ownership and deregulation of our ports. We need to implement the investment programme to ensure that our roads are brought up to a European standard and we have seen that the proposals of the Minister for the Environment as announced on 6 March this year, modest and all as they were, will not now be implemented in relation to new starts on national primary roads at a time when our transport costs are twice the European average. If we are to overcome our peripherality we must get an integrated transport plan together. Let us not be so taken up with our island status that we believe we cannot achieve success in relation to this. When we look at Japan and New Zealand and their real peripherality on the other side of the southern hemisphere we see that we are not truly peripheral and that if we take the correct decisions we can grow and expand. The present lack of commitment on the part of the Minister for the Environment in meeting his own modest proposals earlier this year in terms of a national major roads development has been simply appalling.

In terms of the tax code we need a new starting rate of tax of 15 per cent for low paid workers. It is wrong that our lowest rate of tax is so high. We need to have an intermediate rate that low paid workers can lock on to.

We need to restore the incentive for work by reintroducing some tax-free allowance for children because under our social welfare system, the more child dependants they have the more people are paid. Under our present income tax system one gets the same tax-free allowance irrespective of whether one has no children or ten children. The reality is that there is no incentive for people with large families to go to work. We need to change our industrial policy by switching IDA capital grants, which are not linked to job creation, to tax credits on actual jobs created.

We need to extend our training and education programme to improve the skill levels of potential employees. We need to extend the scope of the social employment scheme for the long term unemployed so that more people on the live register can find gainful employment opportunities. We need retraining vouchers for people who are made redundant at an older age. Most of all, we need sectoral development that will create jobs.

In the food sector Fine Gael believe that grant aid should be geared to proposals which only have a detailed marketing strategy. For each food product there should be an Irish food quality mark for the health conscious European consumer. Financial support should be available to producer goods to provide guarantees of quality and continuity of supply. We need to enact a new food safety Act to raise standards. There is huge potential to assist the level of timber imports into Ireland by the substitution of Irish timber products. Fine Gael believe that instead of setting up tax avoidance attractions in the form of the Financial Services Centre which will not actually create more jobs but will rather switch white collar employment from one side of town to the other, we should be establishing an international telecommunications service centre to attract specialist telecommunications based industries to Ireland in the areas of telephone sales organisations, information trading companies and value added network services. These are real employment opportunities unlike the German brass plate companies which have been attracted to the Financial Services Centre and whose employment content is only cosmetic. It is vital that, in all these areas of economic activity and job creation, Fine Gael restore some level of hope that there will be a dynamic economic future for this country.

The most damning indictment of this Government was the horrendous queue of young people to post applications at the GPO in the recent postal dispute for the 16,000 Morrison visas for people to get out of this country. Young people have lost all faith in the present Government. It is obvious, given the events of recent weeks and the parliamentary meetings of recent weeks, that many Fianna Fáil backbenchers if offered a free vote in this debate would not have confidence in this Taoiseach. Recent statements by Fianna Fáil backbenchers have clearly demonstrated their lack of confidence in their party leadership. At this time of huge international change, the dismantling of Communism, the opening up of Eastern Europe and the abolition of apartheid, we should be preparing for the vital changes that are necessary for the Single European Market. Instead we are beset with scandals, demoralised through financial mismanagment, facing cutbacks in essential services of education, health and housing and on top of this, we have a flurry of industrial disputes due to the Government reneging on pay commitments which they freely entered into only a few months ago.

I will finish with the obvious conclusion that with over 20 per cent unemployed and with more than 160,000 people emigrating in recent years this Government depend on the economies of America and Britain to resolve their failures in the employment arena. This Government have lost their moral authority to govern and should allow the public to decide whether it wants them to continue in office. Fine Gael are determined that the golden circle of which we have had glimpses in recent months will not only be fully exposed but disbanded.

Cuidím leis an tairiscint seo atá romhainn: "Go n-athdhearbhaíonn Dáil Éireann a muinín sa Rialtas". De réir mo thuairimse tá an mhuinín sin tuillte ag an Rialtas.

I have no doubt the vast majority of people in this country feel totally nauseated by the hypocritical stance of the Opposition in putting down a motion of no confidence in the Government. It appears to me that the combined Opposition parties are motivated by one issue and one issue only — to undermine, by whatever means, fair or foul, mostly foul, the credibility of this Government. They are not concerned with the national interest. They are not concerned in any way with the adverse effects of their actions and statements on the required confidence in our economy — confidence which was restored by this Government after the disastrous period of office of the Fine Gael-Labour Government. They deliberately ignore, for the basest of political reasons, the widely accepted view that this Government have, since coming into office, injected a new spirit of confidence and enthusiasm for the future, resulting in new investments, 40,000 net new jobs and new hope for further development. While this may not be enough jobs, we are en route.

The simple answer to the plethora of allegations now being levelled at the Government, and at individual members in particular, is that no Government can legislate for human behaviour. The Opposition parties know this full well — indeed my colleague the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications indicated how well they should know — but in their rush to burnish their tarnished image they follow every rumour, piece of gossip and tittle tattle for the sake of even a single mention in the media, and all the better if they can be portrayed as taking a high moral stance on these issues. I reject their pinchbeck moralism.

Like Deputy David Andrews.

That is an unfair thing to say about your colleague from Dún Laoghaire.

I want to repeat that I reject these pinchbeck moralists.

Much of what the Opposition spokes-people have been doing over the past number of weeks has been blatant band wagoning, in itself an indication of the paucity of ideas which is now evident on the opposite side of this House. They have taken all their cues from media reports — despite their often privately expressed contempt for the media and its activities. In essence their performance has been nothing short of a complete sham and underscores yet again the absence of concrete policy proposals for the overall good of the country.

Deputy John Bruton and his colleagues have great reliance on a recent opinion poll. What are the facts? In 1989, 43 per cent of the opinion polls supported Fianna Fáil while 41 per cent supported them in the most recent poll. What support have Fine Gael? They had 31 per cent support in 1989——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): And rising.

——and 26 per cent in 1991. The Deputy is a very good computer and he does not think that a drop from 31 to 26 per cent is a rise.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Our support is rising.

I want to make another point for Deputy Bruton who, like a blind Samson when he cannot see where he is going, is anxious to pull down the whole edifice. In 1989 his predecessor, Deputy Alan Dukes, had 69 per cent support while he now has 39 per cent support. Deputy Alan Dukes supported this Government from 1987-89 and Deputy Bruton should remember that as a result of giving that support he gained four seats for the Fine Gael Party, which is more than his successor is headed for now.

As I said earlier it comes as no surprise that the response of the Opposition to the country's economic and social challenges is a motion of no confidence, negativism. It is both an ironic and an appropriately timely reminder to the people and the electorate of the legacy left by the Opposition, when last in Government, to Ireland and its people: confidence in its financial system at rock bottom; confidence in its currency at the lowest ebb possible; confidence by the business community non-existent; confidence in its economy lower than it has ever been; and the people's confidence simply a thing of the past.

As a brief reminder to those who may have managed to suppress the trauma in 1983-87, let us not forget some of the more pertinent aspects of their tenure in office; a reckless doubling of the national debt — this has been stated by several contributors from this side of the House; the complete failure to develop a cohesive and unified team approach to the management of the economy; and the collapse of investment reflecting despair at the impotence of Fine Gael and Labour. In the end Ministers allocated double jobs before the Government finally collapsed and came before the people who at the ballot box rejected them fully and comprehensively. It is against this bleak background that the achievements of the Government between 1987-89 and from 1989 to date can be contrasted.

Aegam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem— remember to keep a calm mind when times are troublesome. I would commend those wise words to those across the floor who, of late, have been prone to exaggerated, even apocalyptic forecasts about the current and medium-term direction of our economy.

A calm and measured approach to the difficulties we are facing is not only advisable but essential if the challenges posed are to be met and overcome. Since coming into office this Government have provided a steady hand at the tiller and have already demonstrated their willingness and capability to take corrective action to keep the ship on course, despite the hollow criticisms of those opposite who lacked the courage to do what needed to be done, and had it been done Ireland would now be a better place to live in.

The benefit of the corrective measure taken last July to reduce the emerging budgetary over-run — I dispute the figures given by Deputy Yates — will not begin to have full impact until the final quarter of this year. However, it is perfectly clear from the end-September Exchequer returns that Exchequer borrowing can be expected to turn out close to 2 per cent of GNP even before taking account of the significant proceeds from the Irish Life flotation and that the debt-GNP ratio will again decline in 1991.

Notwithstanding our tough policy stance the harsh reality is that we continue to confront a problematic budgetary position next year. The wisdom of the consensus approach which we have initiated over the last few years, and reasserted earlier this year in the negotiations of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, shows clearly that a unified approach to Government does work. I want to say here that that consensus approach was worked on very hard by the Taoiseach, Deputy Charles J. Haughey. This is a tribute to him, and when the economic history of this period is being written, that development of the consensus which he worked so hard at will mark this whole economic period as one of great success.

The year 1991 has been one of global turmoil. From the war in the Gulf through the dizzying pace of change in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the grim and troubling events in Yugoslavia, these have all fed through into an uncertainty on the economic front and we have been confronted with an international downturn which has cast a dark shadow over the domestic economy. As a result, the pace of economic growth is lower than we would otherwise have expected.

These international events have provided us with a salutary reminder of the limits to which we can insulate the Irish economy from unfavourable external policies and trends. I have no intention of minimising the difficulties which we face, but neither will I minimise the achievements of this Government and the extent to which the economic fundamentals have been turned around to enable us to overcome our problems.

Look at some of the facts. We have one of the lowest inflation rates in the European Community; we have maintained currency value within the EMS; we have improved competitiveness; we have a healthy surplus in the balance of payments; there is a narrowing interest rate differential with Germany; we had an Exchequer borrowing requirement of 2 per cent of GNP last year and, as we now know, it will be close to that again this year.

And rising unemployment.

This situation is a far cry — 40,000 net new jobs — from the days when Fine Gael and Labour were in office.

There are 60,000 more unemployed since this time last year.

It is the direct result of the policies we have pursued as well as the support through consensus — and I would like to emphasise its importance — of the social partners over the past few years. Add to this the growth abroad up to mid-1990 which bolstered demand for Irish exports and it can be clearly seen how we came though the late eighties to a situation where we are basically better equipped than before to tackle the difficulties of the present international economic environment.

Of course the factor of external growth was not within our control; this began to weaken from around the middle of last year. The slowdown was particularly marked in the United Kingdom and in the United States — two of our most vital export destinations; Germany comes next, France and then the Netherlands. But even in this area, improvements in competitiveness and investment have ensured that Irish exports have held up well in the circumstances. Not all of our trading partners have suffered recessionary problems; the experience internationally has been quite varied. Germany saw continued strong growth; the other EMS partners saw a slowdown but not a reverse. Our performance in 1991 is not aberrant: it is, as we might have expected, in line with the better performing EMS countries.

The fundamental improvements in economic performance also mean that we will be well positioned to seize the advantage of the world upswing in economic activity as it gets under way, and as envisaged by the key international agencies. It is predicted that growth will return to the UK and the US in the second half of this year and will further improve in 1992. We can, therefore, chart a steady course towards a more satisfactory domestic growth rate next year. Consumer spending should begin to pick up as the signs improve; we expect inflation to remain comfortably low and the balance of payments to continue to show a healthy surplus. And, again, as external growth resumes an upward track we can reasonably expect a recovery in investment and a continued very good export performance. Of course I do not need to tell the House that the Single Market will bring huge benefits in trade terms.

In the meantime, and before the opportunities of a recovery in international growth present themselves, we must confront the short term slowdown in growth and the level of unemployment while maintaining the gains we have made over the past four years. What we need is less of the gloomy punditry which is commonplace to the Opposition parties and a more cautious and sober assessment of the problems as well as an agreed approach to tackling them where we have the scope to act. We must continue to take decisive action. As I mentioned earler, the Government did precisely this last July when we moved swiftly to contain the size of the emerging budgetary gap.

I must stress again, as I have been doing in speeches to other fora, and as I will continue to do, the imperative of holding firm on the present strategy, backed up by the support of the social partners. Nothing I have read or listened to in recent months convinces me that any of us can afford to deviate from that course even in the face of though and often unpalatable decisions which must be taken in the context of next year's budget. Let no one be under any illusions about this: we have to keep the public finances in shape to underpin our growth potential. We must also speed up the rate of employment growth — that is the purpose of the exercise — and we must maintain competitiveness, profitability and good industrial relations. In other words, preserve and conserve the gains we have made while implementing the strategies which will enable us to reap the benefits of international upturns.

Yes, we face tough budgetary decisions as the public expenditure estimates for next year are being finalised. No area of expenditure can or should be expected to avoid coming under the most detailed scrutiny. Let me sum up my view of the situation in which we find ourselves: the ship may have run into heavy weather but it is most definitely not adrift and has a good captain in charge.

I will now deal with my own area of responsibility in the Department of the Marine.

Lest it be forgotten, the policy decision to establish a new Government Department to co-ordinate and implement Government policy on the development of marine resources was a Fianna Fáil initiative. In the past, major areas of marine administration were fragmented with wasteful demarcation lines and overlaps between Departments. The past few years have witnessed a streamlining of the administration of all the major sectors of the marine industry with effective general control and guidance over the numerous agencies operating under the Department's aegis.

I want to put on the record of the House the achievements of this Government in the marine area. A number of major policy issues which will have very far-reaching implications for the development and economic well-being of the Irish sea fishing industry are now under active consideration by the European Commission. I would expect that within the near future and right up to the end of next year decisions of vital importance to our fishing industry will be made in Brussels. In these circumstances, I consider it to be an absolute priority that the interests of the Irish industry as a whole be taken fully into account before any policy proposals are tabled.

With this objective in mind, at Fisheries Councils and in bilateral contacts with Vice-President Marin and other Fisheries Ministers, I have underlined my grave concerns about possible policy adjustments which, if implemented, could create major problems for our fishing industry. In all such cases, I have made it absolutely clear that Ireland's development potential in the fisheries sector must be safeguarded and cannot be bartered away. In no circumstances am I prepared to contemplate any erosion or diminution of the advantages or opportunities deriving from European Community membership.

The current negotiations with EFTA countries on the creation of the European Economic Area (EEA) are undoubtedly our most immediate cause for concern, desirable and all as is the creation of the EEA. In these negotiations with the Community, the EFTA side has sought total liberalisation; in other words, removal of tariff barriers for all fishery products from EFTA countries. If acceded to, this would be disastrous for our industry as our main markets within the Community would be threatened by imports from the fishing industries of that bloc. In particular, total liberalisation would seriously threaten the herring and mackerel processing and salmon farming sectors and undermine employment in those communities, particularly in the west and south of Ireland which are heavily dependent upon fishing.

I have made it clear to the Commission, and indeed in bilateral contacts with the Norwegians and some member states that liberalisation of these three sensitive products cannot be contemplated and in so far as Ireland is concerned is non-negotiable. I have in discussions with the Irish Fish Producers' and Exporters' Association given assurances that industry concerns on fishery issues could not be set aside in the context of the EEA negotiations. I would hope that these matters will be satisfactorily resolved from an Irish viewpoint in the current negotiations.

Another cause for real concern at present is the review of the Community's fishing fleet policy being undertaken in the context of the Multi-Annual Guidance Programme for the fleet for the period 1992 to 1996 and the impact that this could have on essential fleet development. The exercise is taking place against the background of declining fish stocks and overfishing within Community waters as a whole. In Ireland's case however, it has been clearly demonstrated in our Multi-Annual Guidance Programme submission that there is still scope for some expansion within our fleet to facilitate the take-up of under-utilised quota, mainly white fish species and non-quota species, mainly off our west coast. At present, we simply do not have the type of boat capable of exploiting these opportunities.

I have made it very clear that I will not accept an across-the-board capacity reduction in the Community fleet as a whole over the next five years without regard to special circumstances of the Irish fleet. An across-the-board major reduction, while justifiable in Community waters where stocks have declined in recent years and where quotas have been fully exploited, makes no economic or biological sense in the context of the opportunities available in waters off our western and south western coasts. I am insisting that these factors must be taken fully into account by the Commission before programmes are finalised. I am pressing, and will continue to press, for a practical recognition by the Commission of the development needs of our fleet over the next five years. Any decision which fails to take these factors into account will simply not be acceptable.

Before turning from fisheries issues, I would like to say something about the mid-term review of the Common Fisheries Policy which is scheduled for next year. Decisions taken in the context of this review will have long term implications for our industry. The importance, therefore, of articulating Ireland's position prior to next year's negotiations cannot be overstated. In that regard I would again take this opportunity of congratulating the industry advisory group, under the chairmanship of Dr. T. K. Whitaker, whose recent report and advice have made a valuable contribution towards the policy position being developed by me in this context.

In preliminary discussions at Council and in contacts with Commissioner Marin, I have already outlined issues that will be of particular concern to Ireland in the review. It has been made abundantly clear that the Government are determined to secure the future of disadvantaged coastal regions and that they see the development of the fisheries sector, on the basis of the fish stocks contiguous to these regions, as playing a key role in promoting this economic development. In addition, the Government's concerns, to ensure that the Common Fisheries Policy, in accordance with the Hague principles and stated objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy itself, should continue to promote this development and not act as a constraint, have been forcibly put to the Commission.

I anticipate very difficult and lengthy negotiations as debate on the review intensifies during the course of next year. My objective will be to secure the best possible deal for our fishermen with particular emphasis on the areas of priority that I have mentioned.

Irish aquaculture is currently worth £30 million. The annual output of 26,000 tonnes is making a major contribution to the Irish economy/balance of payments and to local economies in isolated coastal regions.

Government policy has been geared to encouraging production of the main commercial species — salmonids, mussels, oysters, and clams — while research and development is well advanced on the commercial potential for new species such as scallops, sea urchins and turbot.

I wish to advise the Tánaiste that he has only about four minutes left.

Having expanded from negligible beginnings in the early eighties it is only in the past few years that this sector has been given the attention it deserves. Employment full time in the industry is almost 1,000 with a further 1,000 persons employed on a part-time basis.

With regard to inland fisheries our objective in the medium term is to increase the contribution of the inland fisheries resources to the national economy through increased tourism and development of the home angling base.

In 1991 we are investing £6.75 million in inland fisheries. As Deputies also know a Bill setting up a co-operative system to develop inland fisheries has gone through this House and the co-operatives would have been establised but for the gratuitous refusal of Members of the Opposition to take a brief amendment from Seanad Éireann before the recess.

Harbours were mentioned by Deputy Yates. In order to maximise the fishery contribution to the economy the industry needs an adequate infrastructure. To this end the Government are committed to a programme of substantial investment to provide adequate infrastructure at strategically located fishery harbours. The programme I announced last year provides for an investment of some £20 million over the period up to 1993.

With regard to commercial harbours the Government have sought to ensure that Ireland will have the necessary port infrastructure to compete on equal terms with other member states in the completed internal market. A committee are sitting on the legislation covering harbours. Projects approved under the operational programme on peripherality include the provision of new and improved handling equipment, extra berthage, docking facilities and port access routes, both road and rail. Total capital expenditure on commercial ports under the programme will reach almost £69 million. The bulk of that will be spent at Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Rosslare with aid also going to Drogheda, Dundalk, Foynes, Galway, Kinsale, Limerick and New Ross.

Capital expenditure on commercial harbours in 1991 will be in the region of £17 million. With regard to ship building we are glad that Damen Shipbuilders have taken over at Verolme and we expect them to be in business very shortly. I am glad also that in shipping our dead weight tonnage is now 190,000 tons, an increase of 34 per cent since 1986.

The "Bell Pioneer" must be viewed as a breakthrough in that it is the first hatchless container ship to operate anywhere in the world. It has improved turnaround times at harbours by 40 per cent. It is also a very good ship from the point of view of fuel consumption. With regard to transport costs, I agree with Deputy Yates that ours are double those on the mainland. We want to develop a sea bridge through that kind of shipping. A major study was commissioned by the Government and half paid for by the European Commission on the whole subject of transport. I do not have time to go into that matter now.

In the coming session I will introduce a Bill on the safety of passengers being carried for fares on small ferries and small boats. I established Slánú during the year. A medium range helicopter is in place and is operating. In relation to marine research an institute will be set up in a matter of weeks and I am proud to tell the House that under the STRIDE programme £10 million will be available from the European Community for research in my area.

I have to tell the Tánaiste that the time available to him is well nigh exhausted.

Thank you. UCC, UCG and my Department's fisheries research centres will benefit from the STRIDE programme.

The motion of confidence in the Government before the House deserves the support of the House. I, and my colleagues in Government, will outline achievements and our future policy in such a way that every right-minded and right-thinking person in the House will support the motion on Friday.

I would like to share my time with Deputy Michael D. Higgins.

Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

Listening to the spirited defence of the Government by the Tánaiste who berated Opposition Members for having the cheek to talk about confidence in the Government, one would think that not any member of the Fianna Fáil Party had uttered a word in recent weeks. Much of what is being said about the Government came from Fianna Fáil backbenchers and most people were grateful for that. Certainly the polls indicate that their view was not too far off the mark.

Our decision to oppose this motion of confidence is a positive assertion of the disapproval of the ordinary people of the actions of this discredited Government. The people have watched with amazement the unfolding of scandals which have tainted this Government. The Government cannot now be said to deserve the confidence of the people. To date the Government have mismanaged the country's finances and have been embroiled in scandals which have bedevilled the political system here in recent weeks. They have failed also to provide the leadership the people deserve. This Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition Government for however long they will last, promised the people this economic miracle, but the only people who seem to have benefited from this alleged miracle are the close friends and associates of the Government. Political nepotism appears to be one of their core values. Individual Ministers and indeed the Taoiseach himself still face serious questions concerning their roles in the various scandals which have been uncovered. I hope the answers to some of those questions will unfold during this debate over the next few days. It needs to be said that this debate is a charade, a ritualistic debate and vote, but confidence in the Dáil in political life and the system we adhere to is urgently required. That is a mission in which the Members of this House and the people we represent have a common stake. By their actions this Government have proved to be blatantly unequal in their treatment of the Irish people, favouring the old boys network and in the process the vast majority of ordinary people are forgotten. Unemployment has increased, health care has suffered in spite of our warnings and free education is merely an illusion of yesterday.

The people the Labour Party represent are struggling to survive in the unequal Ireland of the nineties. The electorate have delivered their warning, a warning that is reflected not only in the latest opinion polls, but in the local elections and the presidential election. The Labour Party unequivocally adhere to the fundamental belief that health care in particular is a basic human right, so basic a right that there is an explicit obligation on the community to discriminate positively in favour of the poor and those in need. However, this Government's policy has been to discriminate against the less well off in our community making it increasingly difficult for people on low incomes to secure any access, let alone equality of access.

Having listened to the Minister for Health today, it is clear that we will never be able to describe health care as a basic human right. He referred to the Fox report, the Kennedy report and the legislation enacted in 1990, including the Nursing Homes Bill which cannot be brought into operation because he has not signed the ministerial order——

He does not have the money.

——as my colleague has just said, he has no money. In other words, because he has not signed the order, health boards are not in a position to pay subsistence to old people who need accommodation in nursing homes which cannot be provided by the State. Is this what society expects our senior citizens to suffer under this Minister for Health and the Government in whom we are asked to have confidence?

The Minister went on to outline various changes he had made in schemes, including the drug refund scheme — another three card trick. Under this scheme a person who spent in excess of £32 on drugs in any one month received a refund, but as a result of the unequal system he introduced on 1 July, people who spend £90 in the final week of a quarter or in the first week of the following quarter, will receive no refund. That is some trick and people will suffer. Those changes were introduced as a cost cutting exercise. The effects of other health cuts are visible all around us. The Minister said the same level of service will be maintained in 1991 as obtained throughout 1990, but we know that this is not the case. The health boards at the end of July — and I have documentation to prove this — were millions of pounds in the red because of this Minister's failure to structure health funding. The Minister promised the health boards that he would recoup their costs in demand led schemes, which he has not done, and today he intimated that he may refund only 50 per cent of the costs which would increase their deficit of almost £20 million even further.

Mental handicap services are in a crisis. It is a scandal that the parents of children with mental handicap had to picket in cold and wind in O'Connell Street yesterday while today others picketed this House because they do not have a hospital in County Clare. Last night in Tallaght hundreds of people, in the presence of Deputies Harney and Flood, both Ministers of State, complained that this Government have reneged on their promise to build a hospital in Tallaght, despite the fact that £9 million has been spent since a former Minister for Health, the then Deputy Desmond, left office. What we have been left with is a £9 million hole in the ground in Tallaght and 150,000 people are without a hospital service. One cannot have confidence in a Government who continue in that vein.

Why should we not bring these discrepancies to the attention of the public?

We know in our hearts that everything that has been uttered by Ministers in this debate so far cannot be proved to be correct. All the documentation coming off the Government production machine seems to imply that things have happened, but nothing we have heard today from Ministers on their performance in their Departments could lead us to have confidence in them.

It is my contention that this Government have presided over the destruction of the health services. The concept of a comprehensive health service, free at the point of access, is a decision of principle. No final decision can be made by any Government or any Dáil about the allocation of funding for health services unless it is agreed in advance that access to the health services is a basic human right. It is clear that this Government do not accept that principle. It is for that reason alone that I, on behalf of the Labour Party, cannot support this motion of confidence in the Government and I am quite sure that no member of the Labour Party could concede that there is any confidence in this Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition Government.

At this stage we have listened to the Taoiseach's opening contribution and to the contributions of four members of the Cabinet to this debate. They have structured their contributions in two parts, the first part seeks to devalue the concern being expressed nationally and in this Chamber as mere gossip or mischief, and in the second part of every contribution, they give a report on what they suggest is good, better or adequate management of their particular areas and the economy in general. However, there is nobody in this country, among the public or in any specialist role, who is in any doubt but that these two sets of events are inextricably linked, and they are linked as follows.

In recent times, particularly in the eighties, a culture of financial thinking and economic activity has grown in this country. For ease of reference that should be called a speculative culture. It differs from what was old fashioned in the Right, or in the traditional business sector of Irish economic history. It is not a culture of production; it is not about starting a factory; it is not about producing a commodity which is sold on the domestic market or abroad. The culture of speculation is about making money in an unaccountable fashion and, if possible, doing so in a way which will not yield one penny to the economy or to the revenues. The culture of production, on the other hand, might have caused the Labour Party and the parties of the Left traditionally to have arguments in relation to it but it made something, it was caught, if you like, within the economy.

Where the two sections of the speeches made by the Taoiseach and members of the Cabinet cannot be seen as easily divisible one from the other is that the Government and the parties of the Right are seen more and more as the political expression of a culture of speculation. There are many other elements attached to it. When people speak about a declaration of interest and so forth they are not talking about a person who might call into a factory at election time and pick up a cheque. The fact is that the parties of the Right know that the old visits to the factory have given way to the nice, manila envelopes which arrive from the financial sector. The culture of speculation has been good to the Right in this House and it is because of the incredible dilatory and hopeless nature of financial journalism, economics and formal scholarship, that it has been unable to draw a distinction between a culture of speculation and a culture of production.

The culture of speculation created a certain kind of an élite in this country, a new class and, whether we like it or not, the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, is seen as part of the circle which goes around the golden circle. There is a group of élite drones who do not produce, who are proud of not paying their taxes and who are proud to serve — as they would put it — on semi-State bodies. We are supposed to set up an ochón after their leaving and wonder whether we will get their likes again to serve. They come to their positions at the board meetings with offshore registered companies.

When I was learning economics a long time ago, we were taught about the relationship of capital, labour and enterprise and about the distribution of wealth. I remember people in this House who were not anxious to do business with somebody who came waving an offshore tax dodge mechanism. Let me be blunt about it, I have some sympathy with the Taoiseach when he said pathetically that they were not all his friends, that some of them were friends of others. The Taoiseach said he was proud to have got someone to produce a boat to go round the world, of which we could all be proud. There is a querulousness and bad temper in the Taoiseach's speech which tells us a lot about his character. In the beginning, for example, he said in relation to the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition: "they have some audacity after the way they devastated the Irish economy and our public finances even to participate in this debate".

Later in his speech the Taoiseach referred to Deputy Rabbitte as the anchor man of RTE. I am glad the Minister for Justice is present as he is closely associated with vindictive attacks on public broadcasting and on RTE. It is an insult to RTE — and to Deputy Rabbitte — to refer to him as an anchor man of RTE. The Taoiseach is really saying he does not like Deputy Rabbitte being interviewed again and again about matters that discomfit the Taoiseach. Why does he not have the courage to say so? Of course what we will see are the side-shafts thrown into RTE through the Broadcasting Bill.

A seedy group of people, who are not associated with producing or selling anything, constituted themselves as a new group. Through the adulation of certain sections of the public who, in the absence of a royal family, wanted to know who was spending £1,000 on a meal, wasting their money and behaving in a fashion that would have put Caligula to shame, this class were uncomfortably around the Government. There is no point in the Taoiseach saying he has not spoken to them lately and that he met them only casually. What were the consequences of putting our trust in that kind of person, in such a group of people? What were the consequences for the country?

The public were told that these people have a genius for making money. They play golf which costs several thousand pounds per hour and the public thought that because they could do that they might be able to do it for everyone. That is dangerous nonsense. They engage in speculation, evasion of taxes and are not ashamed of enjoying wealth which has not been produced. That is the type who were glorified and the result has been the present economic difficulties. The public are now asking questions and I ask them to think long and hard about the matter.

When the Mitterrand Government were elected in France a propaganda point was made that international financial business communities would lose confidence in France. Did the threat to financial propriety and to economic management come in this country from the Left? The Taoiseach made an arrogant point in his speech when he talked about "stuff that comes from what is called the Left". However, the public would love to know what the Taoiseach calls himself. We know that the people he will not disown are the people who have dragged this country's financial and economic reputation into the gutter. The questions must be answered. People who need jobs want a sensible and rational economic approach, they do not want this nonsense that is trotted out insultingly at the beginning of every Dáil term. There is talk about creating an economic environment, a climate for investment and that the jobs will automatically come.

I remember being mocked in this House when I said that you could have economic growth, a low interest rate, good trade figures, a good balance of payment figures and still have an absence of investment which gave the required jobs. I spoke bluntly about the difference between market economies that regard the social results as a residuum of market forces and of social economy drawn from the old-fashioned version of political economy in which the economy was used as an instrument to pursue job creation based on international traded commodities. There was an ideological opposition to such a view and now the public might well ask if it would not have been better to have had confidence in people like their sons and daughters who worked in the State and semi-State sectors. Would it not have been better to have capitalised the semi-State sector properly instead of taking people from the speculative end of financial services and planking them on the semi-State bodies? I mean bringing the capital side of the semi-State bodies into correctness and enabling them, because of their scale — they could hire marketing, research and development — to trade abroad. That strategy was available to us.

What was the role of the credit institutions in all this? How moral and serious a commitment have they to anything in this country as they report losses made outside this economy? It would appear that when you put up rather dubious loans you can turn to the credit institutions and get money; effectively, to go to the races for a short term scam.

At the same time the doors of factories are being closed, workers are losing their jobs and owners of small businesses have to sign in blood for small loans.

Something good must come from what we are debating, and whether one is of the Left or the Right that is important. It is important that we recognise that the culture of speculative gambling in economic terms is not productive and is not in the national interest. It will never create jobs. It is time that some people realised that their deadly anti-State ideology and their blindness in asserting that we must take people from the most dubious kind of fiscal activities in the private sector and move them to the State sector is a prejudiced nonsense.

Bord Telecom are a marvellous company, even on a world scale, because we borrowed money in the seventies to invest in the telephone system. That belongs to the public; why should it be stolen from them. It is not something of wires and exchanges that had magic worked upon it by one individual. That is the kind of nonsense we have had to put up with, people saying that they performed miracles like striking rocks when describing their performance in the semi-State sector. There was a public investment in this company. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are proud to work honestly and give of their intelligence in using the capital being provided by the Irish taxpayer. There are more than one million, I am sure, who despise those who will not work or create wealth, who do not want what they do to create jobs for their fellow citizens but want to take their little bit of gain, put it in a company outside this jurisdiction and avoid paying tax. The people are weary of the kind of moral turpitude that is at the basis of our present economic structures. They hear such a phrase as "a mezzanine company", that lovely piece of language, which means yet another intermediate device to avoid the obligation of paying tax of one form or another.

The crowds came out against a wealth tax, which was very small here, one of the smallest in Europe. It yielded very little but it yielded information on the structure and nature of wealth. That was information we badly needed. It was not intended to take something from people that was unreasonable; it was simply to distinguish between productive wealth and speculative wealth. If we knew what was productive wealth we would have a better idea of how to structure an economic incentive system that would extend its productive capacity, create jobs and, in turn, create revenue. It was of course the people who were making the quick speculative money who were able to organise political opposition to the wealth tax. That was killed off not for what it yielded in its very short time but for what it was making known. This present crisis is a crisis of that kind of thinking. I advise those who are fortunate enough to be able to make academic commentaries on the way we run things to think of this distinction.

When I was studying economics, when one looked at the share quotation of a company, it had something to do with its assets, its materials, its trading patterns, its future policies——

I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but I wish to inform him that one minute remains of the time available to him.

I have not had an opportunity of saying much about other matters. I am simply saying one cannot break one's speech into two to say: "These are all rumours and I am now going to talk about what my Department are doing". That is pathetic. The way a Department is run is affected by the kind of Government we have, and that is affected by the kind of political culture we support. I could have been specific about my area, the Gaeltacht. What has the Minister for the Gaeltacht done to encourage my confidence, be it in terms of Telefís na Gaeltachta, labhairt na Gaeilge or school textbooks in Irish? I could have spoken about foreign affairs. What has been done in that area? There has been a pathetic retreat from a moral responsibility at a time of death in Africa. The Government have retreated from their overseas development aid commitments. They have insulted the House in terms of a foreign affairs committee. It would be wrong to say that this gives one pleasure, but it is certainly appropriate that this House expresses its lack of confidence in the Government.

I welcome the opportunity to put before this House the reasons that a vote of confidence in this Government should be unequivocally carried by the Dáil at this time. As Minister for Justice with the safety and security of our citizens as my chief concern, I am determined that this country should be guided into a new age where all may feel secure and where the law serves as a protection and a support for our people rather than a burden which diminishes their lives. To this end, since I became Minister for Justice in 1989, an unprecedented legislative programme has been put in place which will only be surpassed by the programme which I shall introduce in the next two years of Government.

To give examples, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, makes it an offence to incite hatred against persons on account of their membership of certain minority or vulnerable groups. The Larceny Act, 1990, replaces the existing offence of receiving stolen property with a new offence of handling stolen property.

The Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990, has greatly strengthened the Garda in dealing with those who carry weapons such as stun guns, crossbows and knives on our streets or for use for some criminal purpose. It was my privilege, in the Criminal Justice Act, 1990, to finally remove the death penalty from our Statue Book while ensuring that what were previously capital offences would incur a penalty of life imprisonment with a minimum mandatory term of 40 years to be served.

The Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act, 1990, provided for radical reform of the law on rape and indecent assault. It made marital rape a crime and extended the definition of rape to provide the maximum psychological as well as legal protection for victims. The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act, 1990, provides the Garda with power to obtain bodily samples from persons suspected of serious crimes for the purpose of forensic testing. The Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act, 1991, is designed to deal with the problems that arise when a child is abducted across international frontiers in defiance of a court order or against the wishes of the other parent.

The Contractual Obligations (Applicable Law) Act, 1991, enabled Ireland to ratify the Rome Convention in the law applicable to international contacts which is complementary to the EC Judgments Convention. The Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991, amends the law on the limitation of actions in personal injury cases and provides for new and better rules on when the limitation period for the commencement of legal proceedings begins to run in cases of latent personal injuries.

The Courts Act, 1991, increased the civil jurisdiction of the Circuit and District Courts and increased the number of High and Circuit Court judges and justices of the District Court. It also provides for the service of District Court summons by post. The Courts (No. 2) Act, 1991, amends the law relating to the execution of District Court warrants for arrest and imprisonment for non-payment of fines. The Criminal Damage Bill, 1990, which is at Committee Stage in this House, simplifies and modernises the whole law of malicious damage to property. It also makes it an offence to get access to a computer system without authority — what is usually called "hacking".

By any reckoning this is an impressive and substantial catalogue of legislative achievement over the past two years. However, there are a number of very important legislative proposals being prepared which I am committed to seeing enacted into law over the next two years including a Bill to provide for the confiscation of the proceeds of crime to which I am giving urgent priority to provide for the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking and other crimes and the prevention of "money-laundering". The Bill is currently being drafted and I hope to circulate it during the current session. The Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulations) Bill will regulate on a statutory basis interception of communications for the purposes of criminal investigation and State security. The Solicitors (Amendment) Bill will be circulated to Deputies very shortly. It will take account of many of the recommendations made by the Fair Trade Commission in their report on the legal profession, including complaints machinery, multi-disciplinary and multi-national practices involving solicitors, fee advertising, easier interchange between the professions and consumer protection through indemnity insurance.

The Criminal Law Bill will modernise the underlying basis of our criminal law by abolishing the distinctions between offences known as felonies and misdemeanours and by abolishing penal servitude and hard labour. The Criminal Evidence Bill will be published in the next few weeks. It will make business and administrative documents, including computerised records, admissible in evidence. It will make it easier for children and persons with mental handicap to give evidence in cases of physical or sexual abuse. It will also set out clearly the circumstances in which the spouse of an accused person is competent and compellable to give evidence for the prosecution, the accused person or a co-accused.

The Courts and Courts Officers Bill provides for the establishment of a Court of Civil Appeal which will help to reduce the workload of the Supreme Court and thus reduce delays in that court. In the family law areas, The Family Home Bill is being prepared to give each spouse equal rights of ownership in the family home and contents.

The Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill is under preparation to amend the law on criminal insanity. Certain issues are being examined in the context of the legislation. These include fitness to plead, verdicts of "guilty but insane" the right of appeal and the introduction of a concept of "diminished responsibility."

The Law Reform Commission's report on receiving stolen property which led to the drafting of the Larceny Act, 1990, was the first stage in the commission's overall examination of the law in relation to dishonesty generally. The commission are currently putting the finishing touches to the proposals for reform of the law on that subject and the report is expected soon. The commission's examination includes consideration of offences of larceny, false pretences, fraudulent conversion as well as false accounting, other fraud offences, offences relating to computers, conspiracy to defraud, forgery, counterfeiting and related matters. The thrust of these proposals is to tackle the problem of so-called white collar crime and computer fraud.

It is the Government's intention to make whatever changes are necessary in the criminal law in this area to modernise it and make it as effective as possible.

There are a number of further legislative proposals being prepared in my Department at present. Work is under way on the preparation of a Juvenile Justice Bill to replace the Children's Act, 1908.

There are also proposals to achieve savings in costs and in Garda time through changes in procedure in criminal cases, to change the law on homosexual offences, to comply with the judgment of the Court of Human Rights, to place the civil legal aid scheme on a statutory basis, to make changes in the statutory criminal legal aid scheme, and to convert the Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds into a semi-State body.

In relation to family law, an interdepartmental review of developments in the area of marital breakdown is nearing completion. The outcome of that review will be reflected in a White Paper which will be published shortly by the Government. The issues which arise in endeavouring to determine the most appropriate response to marital breakdown are clearly wide-ranging and complex; inevitably they are matters which can give rise to strongly held and often opposing views. Nevertheless, I am confident that the proposed White Paper will make a very significant contribution in the effort to ensure that effective policies exist to assist in the preservation of stable marriages and that appropriate responses are available where marriages break down.

It must be agreed that this is a substantial programme of legislative reform. However, the area of law enforcement is not one which has been neglected by the current Government.

This Government have always listed the fight against crime among our top priorities. We realise that crime is an issue which gives rise to public concern and the record of the Government in providing resources to the Garda to enable them to meet the challenge of the criminal head-on is second to none.

Over the past few years I have secured the Government's agreement to a number of packages of measures which greatly increased the Garda Síochána's capacity to fight crime. I will remind Deputies of some of these measures: by December 1,000 Garda trainees will have been recruited to the force since 1989; a new competition to recruit a further 1,000 Garda trainees over the next few years is now under way; 350 experienced gardaí and sergeants have been retained in the force for an additional year by reason of the Government's decision to raise the retirement age of these ranks; civilian recruitment to the Garda has been introduced on a scale unknown since the establishment of the force seventy years ago. Two hundred and fifty civilian clerical staff are being recruited for the purpose of releasing desk-bound gardaí for outdoor duties; the management of the Force has been greatly strengthened by over 660 promotions in its ranks in the past two years; this year alone, £10 million is being provided to purchase the most modern and effective equipment available for the Garda; and by December, £40 million will have been spent on the current Garda building programme to upgrade the accommodation in Garda stations throughout the State, and since the commencement of the programme, some 55 large stations, mainly of divisional and district headquarters size, will have been completed and occupied by the Garda.

With regard to policing systems, I have over the past few years approved a number of important initiatives. These include: the total reform of the juvenile liaison service and the establishment of a national office to oversee its countrywide operation; the implementation of a number of community-based initiatives, in areas which have seen repeated occurrences of crime, designed to win over the support of the community in stamping out petty crime and vandalism; the establishment of a Garda schools programme where community gardaí visit schools on a regular basis; and the introduction of the new community policing initiative in rural areas.

The introduction of the new community policing scheme represents a watershed in the organisation and delivery of police services in this country. For the first time in the history of the State, the Garda authorities have been given the go-ahead to move away from a policing system rooted in the 1800's to one which addresses the more complex policing needs of modern society and the infinitely more demanding crime problems which now confront us.

The aims of the community policing scheme are to provide a more efficient Garda service, to ensure greater availability of gardaí to the public and to give the community a more personalised and caring service.

Critics of the new scheme have labelled it a cost-saving exercise which is intended to reduce Garda manpower and resources in rural areas. Others have accused both myself and the Garda authorities of introducing the new scheme as a front for the closure and downgrading of rural Garda stations. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Already the people residing in those districts where the first phase of the scheme has been introduced are seeing additional resources. Communities are experiencing the influx of new Garda cars, witnessing the arrival of additional Garda personnel and seeing more of the gardaí who are being released from outdated record-keeping in favour of active outdoor duty.

The Garda authorities inform me that the introduction of the scheme has gone very smoothly. The scheme will be formally reviewed three times in the coming six months by Garda management to resolve any teething problems which arise during implementation.

As I indicated in my outline of our future legislative programme, the Government are determined that all appropriate measures will be taken to combat serious financial fraud.

And planning fraud?

Our approach to the challenge posed by large scale fraud has and will continue to be directed towards enhancing the capacity of the criminal justice system as a whole to deal with the problem. That will involve improving our capacity to detect and investigate those offences. Likewise, it will involve measures to improve our capacity to successfully prosecute those offences which come to light. Much work has already been done to this end. I have already initiated the first comprehensive review in recent years of the operation of the Garda Fraud Squad. This was undertaken by Garda management who have now completed a detailed report on the matter.

That report is now with me and the House may be assured that its recommendations will be given effect. The recommendations which the report contains extend over a wide area and will involve a significant strengthening of the fraud squad itself through restructuring, the allocation of additional resources and improvements in training. Moreover, the report contains recommendations — which I particularly welcome — to strengthen the links between the fraud squad and other professional bodies and agencies, such as the professional accountancy bodies, which have the ability to make significant contributions to the success of Garda investigations.

The Government, as I have already indicated, are determined to ensure that our criminal justice system has the capacity to deal with fraud in all its guises. It will be clear from what I have just outlined that the groundwork, which will ensure that our approach will be comprehensive, has already been done.

This Government are not concerned with reform which only amounts to a mere tinkering with the existing approach, but are preparing fundamental changes which will significantly alter the balance against those who are guilty of perpetrating fraud in our society.

As part of that approach, a variety of options are and will be considered. One such initiative which has already been mentioned by the Taoiseach is the establishment of a serious fraud office which would be responsible for both the investigation and prosecution of serious fraud offences along the lines of the serious fraud office in the UK. I understand that the establishment of this office represented a major and quite successful approach towards tackling this very complex area of crime and it is entirely appropriate that we should give very serious thought here also to the establishment of something on these lines.

Many references have been made, a Cheann Comhairle, to the irregularities which have received prominence of late in our media. It would, of course, be entirely inappropriate for me to make any comment on these matters on which certain investigations and inquiries are presently under way. Indeed, I want to emphasise that my references to fraud generally and the capacity of the criminal justice system should not be taken as carrying any implication that the occurrence of fraudulent practice has been established in any of these cases. That is simply not so, and I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not suggest otherwise.

My comments are of a general nature and my message simply is that the Government are prepared to tackle the problem of fraud head-on. The reaction by the Government in seeking the truth behind any recent allegation made has been swift, determined and fair; always with concern for the national interest being the primary and basic consideration behind any action taken.

The Government have dealt resolutely and determinedly with all these controversies and will not be deflected from their course, which is to get to the bottom of each of them. It is this determination and the action which has arisen from it which should give the Irish public the assurance they expect and demand. All questions will be answered, all doubts about the propriety of dealings will be dealt with and all allegations will be investigated. This Government are determined that this will be so and all may take comfort and confidence from this commitment.

Of course, that is not to say that all allegations will be borne out. This brings me to a question which I feel must be posed. Do any of the parties sitting opposite me actually propose that they could offer a Government in which this House can express any sense of confidence?

I have little doubt that my other colleagues will speak at great length about the role of Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the events of the past few weeks. I, however, would like to consider the role of The Workers' Party. Last Sunday we heard the leader of that party speak to us on RTE radio station about the ethical standards in Irish politics and business.

Surely there is no greater ethic than that which protects and guards the sanctity of human life, yet he was strangely silent when a recently produced British television programme, the BBC's "Spotlight" programme, was broadcast.

No, he was not.

This programme alleged strong connections between his party and the Official IRA.

He was not silent, and if that is the best you can do you should look back at some of your own files.

It also alleged that the activities, which his party either condoned or benefited from, included murder, racketeering, counterfeiting and fraud.

He answered every one of those lies.

"Full disclosure" has been the clarion cry from The Workers' Party within the past few weeks. Well, I, too, would like to see——


——some of this "full disclosure" answering the many questions which arose out of this programme that was broadcast a few short months ago.


Deputy McCartan will have to restrain himself.

I find it hard to restrain myself in the face of this kind of conduct.

Among the questions raised in the programme that were never answered by The Workers' Party were: the position of the Official IRA; its continued existence——


Deputy McCartan should restrain himself. If he does not want to listen to the Minister he has a remedy, there are many exits from this Chamber.

The truth hurts.


I am not going anywhere. I am staying here to answer every charge this man wants to peddle.

The Deputy will remain in quietude.


Deputy McCartan, if you persist I shall have to ask you to leave the House.

That man persists with these lies——

Deputy McCartan, you are continuing to disobey the Chair. If you persist, I shall insist on you leaving.

My argument is not with you, a Cheann Comhairle.

This is a disgrace for the Minister for Justice.


This is not good enough, Deputy McCartan.

Among the questions raised in the programme that were never answered by The Workers' Party were: the position of the Official IRA——

They were answered and I will answer them tomorrow.


Deputy McCartan can answer them tomorrow, he may not interrupt again just now. I will not continue to warn the Deputy. The next admonition will be to ask him to leave the House.

Among the questions raised in the "Spotlight" programme on BBC which were never answered by The Workers' Party were: the position of the Official IRA; its continued existence and its role as the protector, enforcer and provider of and for, The Workers' Party; the position of the sophisticated weaponry which has never been given up and which is alleged to be hidden in cachès throughout the country; the bombing of Aldershot and the reaction to it of leading members of The Workers' Party; the role of the Official IRA in the shooting of John Taylor, MP, and the murder of Ranger Best, an off-duty soldier in Derry; the role of a Workers' Party activist in persuading a woman to conceal arms in her home; the position of a man convicted of possessing weapons with intent to endanger life who was a signatory to the nomination papers of a prominent Workers' Party candidate in the 1986 Lagan Valley by-election; the role of the Official IRA in providing funding for The Workers' Party from activities which include robbery, illegal operation of a tax exemption scam, building site racketeering and other forms of organised crime; the participation in racketeering and robbery of Workers' Party activists who have signed Northern Ireland election papers for The Workers' Party candidates and involved themselves in The Workers' Party meetings and ceremonies; whether millions of pounds have been realised for the benefit of The Workers' Party from those activists; the position of The Workers' Party when in 1985 printing plates for their documentation were found in a Dublin warehouse along with £1.5 million worth of counterfeit £5 notes; and the relationship of The Workers' Party to a Belfast man who was arrested in London for the possession of counterfeit $100 bills.

These are among the many serious questions posed by the BBC-made "Spotlight" programme that have never been answered by The Workers' Party.

That is not correct.

That is not true and the Minister knows it.

I should like to see The Workers' Party put their own house in order by answering these allegations, which are of the most serious nature, before they adopt any pretence to preach morality to any other section of Irish society.


Hear, hear.

The Minister is in a good position to preach morality——

On the same "Spotlight" programme——

I was never the subject of any investigation by the fraud squad, which Minister Burke was.

Deputy Rabbitte, please, you will have your opportunity.


On the same "Spotlight" programme, recalling his days as Minister for Justice, Deputy Jim Mitchell said——


On the same "Spotlight" programme, recalling his days as Minister for Justice, Deputy Jim Mitchell said, "I was never in any doubt that the political party called Official Sinn Féin, later Sinn Féin, the Workers Party, later the Workers' Party, was merely the political expression of the Official IRA.". The continued existence of the Official IRA was attested to by Dr. Brian Mawhinney, Northern Ireland's Minister, when on 11 December last in the House of Commons in reply to a question by John Taylor, he said, "I believe the Official IRA still exists".

The Workers' Party Leader is very concerned about contacts at the highest level of politics and has suggested there is something behind the old truism which declares that by their friends you shall know them.

Well, who are the contacts; who are the natural allies of The Workers' Party? It is true that some are no longer in a position to reciprocate their comradery, but, by their own admission, they have included the Governments of North Korea, East Germany and the Ceausescu regime of Communist Romania.

Of course, in relation to North Korea, in particular, that country appeared to feature prominently in the travel arrangements of the top brass of The Workers' Party, Messrs Mac Giolla, Garland and others. And Ireland, in turn, at various Ard Fheiseanna of The Workers' Party, has been honoured by the visits of various foreign delegations who, no doubt, made contributions of great intelligence.

The last one led by Deputy Tunney.

The Workers' Party have never explained the exact nature of their contacts with the North Koreans and others. What agencies in these countries concerned were they in contact with?

A lot less closer than the Minister's and certain builders.

They never explained what the purpose of this contact was or whether any funding or other material assistance was derived from these contacts. More fundamentally, The Workers' Party have never indicated in what way the national interest was, is, or could have been served by these contacts.

We have heard Deputy De Rossa call for a full, frank and open debate on the scandals which came to light since August and that came from the leader of a party who in less than two decades have changed their name four times. It was Sinn Féin; then it was Official Sinn Féin; then Sinn Fein the Workers Party and today we have The Workers' Party. They have out Windscaled Sellafield.

What purpose do The Workers' Party hope to achieve with their role in the current spate of so-called revelations? Perhaps they are conscious that the dogma of socialism, for which they are champions, has been rejected by virtually every nation that has practised it, willingly or unwillingly, over the last 70 years. Surely they recognise that they will be unable now to sell this failed ideology to the Irish people.

They obviously understand that the only means they have of participating in government is by undermining the faith and hopes of the Irish people, bringing into question the integrity of every Irish institution and cynically using the Irish media to sell themselves as a high-minded alternative.

Is that an alternative to a Government who over the past two years have proved themselves to be imaginative, efficient, effective and dedicated to the beneficial development of all the people of all of Ireland? I have no hesitation in urging this House to declare its confidence in this Government.

You are a political tramp.

I now call Deputy Blaney.

On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, with specific reference to the order in which the Chair is calling speakers, I wish to object on behalf of the Fine Gael Party. Having decided not to call a member of the Fine Gael Party, we are now confronted by circumstances — in the course of this confidence debate — that there will have been six slots for the Government parties——

The Deputy need not embark on a speech.

A Cheann Comhairle, it is a very important point. I do not wish to take issue with the Chair but——

Deputy Flanagan, you may not take issue with me on the calling of speakers in this House. That is the prerogative of the Chair. I make no apology to any side of the House for calling the father of the House, former Minister of many portfolios and, consequently, entitled to be heard. In so far as this Chair is concerned he has a particular regard to uphold the rights of minorities in this House. I have already told Deputy Flanagan's party that if they feel disadvantaged in the manner of calling Independents the Chair will strive earnestly to maintain balance in the course of this debate tomorrow and on Friday. The Chair cannot do more.

With the greatest respect to the Chair I must point out that your calling of Deputy Blaney has resulted in the minor parties and Independents having had four sessions whereas the major Opposition Party, with 55 seats in this House, have had to date three sessions. In my view that is grossly unfair, a Cheann Comhairle——

Please, Deputy.

In the interests of not prolonging the matter further I would ask you to give a commitment to the Fine Gael Party——

Deputy Flanagan, I resent very much your attempt to barrack and dictate to the Chair in this fashion because I called the father of the House.

With the greatest respect to the father of the House——

Deputy Flanagan, please desist——

——he spends a lot of his time in a House which is far away from this one. It is unfair to Fine Gael to have to step aside again for a minor party.

Deputy Blaney has been called and will be heard.

May I just say it is not the first time Fine Gael have had to step aside for Blaney.

On a lighter note, as the father of the House, may I say that I remember the last father of the House before me. If he were here this evening he would not have taken the attitude that his son has taken.

(Limerick East): That is a cheap jibe.

In regard to this debate, in a sense it is a cause of wonder that we are debating whether there should be confidence in this Government and that that appears to be related almost entirely, if not solely, to the recent scandals, scams or allegations of such that have been made in the financial world all around us — in semi-State boards, private boards and so on. These have not yet been proven. Nor has there been any proof yet adduced to connect the Government or their Ministers with any wrongdoing that may emerge as a result of the tribunals and investigations going on. Though these scandals have not been proven it looks fairly likely that some of them will be proven. On the other hand there has been no evidence of Government or ministerial involvement. Again due to persistent media and reportage of those making the allegations, innuendos, it would appear that there is a perception of guilt on the part of or in relation to Ministers and/or the Taoiseach as the case may be; a perception.

One of the dangers I see emerging from all of this is that perceptions can destabilise Government, diminish respect for this House and every Member of it. Generally speaking we ourselves have been our worst enemies, as Members of this Parliament, over the years in adding to that concept popularly put around: oh sure, they are all the same. Well, they are not all the same because, if they were all the same, we would not be debating anything here this evening; we would all be in the same boat. Naturally we would not start fighting about the boat or its nature if we were all the same.

On the so-called scandals, and the allegations of scandals and scams — again perhaps I am being unfair — but I do feel that, not being in Government, or sufficiently close to Government to know what is the scene at present, what it has been in the recent past, or indeed over the past ten to 20 years since I was in Government, Ministers, under whose jurisdiction boards have been established — were I in their place — even if only out of curiosity would like to have known fairly frequently what was going on. That has not been demonstrated fairly clearly to be the case. It would appear from what I have been hearing from the Government side this evening — and I am sure if the Opposition were in Government they would be telling us the same thing — that they have given freedom to those boards they have appointed in order that they may the better compete commercially with the private sector or with such boards in other countries in international trade. Perhaps that is the answer.

I am not passing judgment. I am not seeking to pass judgment. I do not believe we should be wasting our time — and it is a waste of time — other than to correct allegations that have not been proved or to put it to the public that, as yet, these are only allegations, that we should await the outcome of the investigations and tribunals before we start pointing the finger and accusing this, that or the other person of wrongdoing. If and when those investigations show that any people, whether inside or outside this House, in Government or in Opposition, have any connection with them, then they should be dealt with thoroughly, completely, properly, justly but, above all, that they will be exposed.

My concern about voting confidence in this Government has little to do with the news-making scandals of these past weeks. Rather do I go back over some period to examine this Government's performance, to examine it from the point of view of the circumstances prevailing in this country, regardless of interest rates, balance of payments deficits and all the things that have been properly trotted out by Government spokesmen as their achievements. Despite all of these — and they have painted a very good picture from the material at their disposal — what we do have to keep in mind — and this applies to all the parties in the House perhaps with the exception of The Workers' Party who I do not think really existed at the time about which I am speaking — is that we started borrowing in 1972. It is very interesting that the Minister whom I think was mainly responsible for that at the time is now the Leader of the Progressive Democrats, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce. He began in 1972 on the basis that, because of the oil crisis, we could not run our current budget and balance the books. We had an election in 1973 won by a Coalition who, in the following four years, in addition to the couple of millions of pounds that Deputy Desmond O'Malley and his then Government in 1972 might have borrowed, ran up a debt on current spending of £6 billion. That was the figure for the first four or five years of our spending spree; the rakes progress had started. In the following election in 1977 Fianna Fáil had their largest ever majority. Lo and behold, from 1977 to 1981 we doubled the national debt, again on current spending, not balancing our books. I might add that up to 1972 in the history of this parliament we had never budgeted for a deficit. We had never budgeted for a deficit in the 13 years in which I was a Minister in a Fianna Fáil Government. It was unheard of. We began in a small way in 1972 but, by the year 1977, we were £6 billion in the red. By the year 1981 we were £12 billion in the red. Between a short term of a Fianna Fáil Government and another Coalition, up to 1987, our debt had increased to £25 billion, with not a thing to show for it because it was all spent on housekeeping. That figure of £25 billion is today £27 billion-plus. It will be wished away by telling us that it is a lesser percentage of GNP by far than it was ten years ago.

The fact is we still owe more than £27 billion and we have nothing to show for it except cut after cut, a diminution of the services to our people and a rising debt. Call it a percentage of what you will, it does not add up to proper government or good government. It ill behoves those in Government to castigate the Opposition about it, and it ill behoves the main Opposition party to castigate the Government about our present economic situation. All together were responsible for it — the rake's progress, the elections by auction. We have not had a Government properly elected since 1969. The dog was fed with a bit of his own tail in every election since then. Governments were put out rather than Governments returned. By auction we did it and this is the result.

In the early eighties there were 60,000 people unemployed; the figure now is nearly 260,000 and rising. Half a million of our young people have gone in the same decade and work is not available for those coming on the market. Surely we should be talking about unemployment, emigration and our incapacity to rectify the debts which we incurred for no good purpose in previous years. We must try to work ourselves out of those problems rather than borrow further. We have been trying to borrow our way out of our problems.

I look at the Government and ask how can I have confidence in them. Then I look at the other side and ask what confidence I could have in any other concoction. That is the dilemma of the public. We have all contributed by abusing each other in all sorts of little ways, aided and abetted by the media who gleefully tack on to anything we say about each other. In the eyes of the public we are all the same. An election in the morning would not give the public any great glee because they will look as I am looking and ask where we will get a Government that will be any better or worse or do any more or any less than at present. That is the perception outside. We deserve that perception and we have contributed largely to it, not only by the wrongdoings in our economics and in our financial operations but in our abuse of each other.

We must consider what we might have done about this and what we still can do about it. The Government, instead of puffing out the chest and boasting about the good lines they are getting from the international agencies praising them for their achievements in relation to the balance of payments, bringing down inflation and interest rates and so on, should remember that this is being done at the expense of the public and of our emigrants. Whatever the international agencies may think about our performance, our Government should not feel in any way proud of their achievements when they are at the expense of our people. Government and Parliament must be about people's wellbeing. We should not be proud of ourselves in that we have been chasing them out for the past ten years and cutting expenditure on health, roads and education to bring about the improvements which are praised by these international agencies. We should ask if this is the correct way. Are we achieving anything really worth while? Are we not deluding ourselves when we hear Government spokespeople saying that we have to get inflation and interest rates down and the balance of payments in credit before we can begin to provide jobs for our people? Where will those people be by then? Where are they today? More of them would have left were it not for the recession which has hit our nearest island and the USA as well. We have nothing to be proud of in our performance as a Government or Parliament over the past 20 years or more.

This vote of confidence was brought about for the wrong reasons and is being discussed in the light of the wrong reasons, but it is nevertheless a vote of confidence. How can anybody in his sanity think in terms of a vote of confidence or no confidence in a Government when the whole scene is overshadowed by the internal strife of the components of that Government? The Progressive Democrats are almost writhing about on the floor, throwing fits and tantrums, as to whether or not they can vote confidence in their Government, the coalition Government of which they are part. If they cannot vote confidence in that Government they will be casting a vote of no confidence in themselves. Many on the Opposition benches would say they should do so. I do not disagree, but that is neither here nor there. It is ludicrous that this major debate is being overshadowed by the little men of that little coalition wrestling together to see who will come out best at the end of this week. Regarding the Progressive Democrats, I will not mention any names because I believe it is not fair to mention names of people outside the House.

We will use our imagination.

In this case that person will have had his say and no doubt will be afforded by the media generally more say than anybody over there or here. I refer to the ayatollah who is not in this House but who controls the Progressive Democrats. It is an extraordinary situation. A man who is not a Deputy is calling the shots as to what the Government will do with the coalition and whether they will survive. It is bloody ludicrous. The little ayatollah should be told where he gets off.

Probably the most serious aspect of all in facing up to the confidence vote in this Government has to do with the national question, the North of Ireland, the Six Counties, our occupied territory, our war-torn corner of this country. We have a Government who are collaborating with the occupiers, who have done so many U-turns, starting with the hunger strikes and the attitude towards the hunger strikers. When they could have done something they did nothing. I condemned the Anglo-Irish Agreement on the night Deputy FitzGerald signed it. Within minutes Fianna Fáil through their spokesman condemned it and said it was copperfastening partition. Now they operate it and the only excuse I have got, inside or outside this House, is that because a previous Government had come to some arrangement they felt bound by it. If that was the case we would be still 32 counties in UK occupation. We would never have got out of that if some sort of Government had done that deal before our time. We would still have the Governor General in the Park and would be still paying the land annuities across the water. We would still have the soldiers and we would have the Navy in Lough Swilly and in Cork if there was any basis for the justification which has been given to me for operating the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Extradition has been a disaster for Fianna Fáil. They were totally against it but now they operate it. Dessie Ellis is going through it at present and he should not even be in England. That again is one of the problems that I face. There is section 31, not that it matters a damn whether it is there or not because if the gurus of the media, whether national television, radio or newspapers, wish to keep people out of the news they can do it without section 31. Fianna Fáil were committed to removing section 31 and they operate it as if it was their baby for all time.

On these matters, the collaboration with and the operation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the continuing bloodshed and death as I have said time without number in this House and I repeat it again, will continue so long as there is an occupation force in the country claiming jurisdiction over part of our land. Do not have any doubt about it. I wish it could be otherwise but that is the way it is, and the first people we have to convince of that is the Government of the day in this House whether it is this Government or another. If the Government, speaking on behalf of the parliament of this nation, are not convinced, how then can we expect the British to be convinced that the best thing they could do is to find a way to get out of their occupation of our country and give us the hope of having the beginnings of peace in our land. Without that we will never have it and our own Government are the people who are more to blame than are the British. How can we expect the British to see our point of view from an Irish standpoint if our own Government do not see it from that standpoint. And they do not see it that way. They want to continue collaborating with alleged security forces. If they were put in the dock, as are these financial people who are being investigated at the moment, all those here who have collaborated with them — and most have — would be ashamed of themselves. The shoot to kill people are still there. All the black-guarding that ever went on is still going on. The discrimination in jobs is unbelievable today, so much so that I was shocked when I saw some of the up-to-date records from the fair employment agencies up there. I was literally shocked because I thought the changes that had taken place with one man one vote, the prorogation of Stormont, had brought about some improvement instead of which the discrimination in jobs is bad if not worse today then it has been at any time in the last 70 years.

Those are the people we are dealing with. Those are the people we are treating as if they would be reasonable. They are not and they never will be reasonable while Britain maintains her presence and her assurance that she will remain there as long as the majority, a contrived majority, wish it. Those people cannot even talk to us for the simple reason that by so doing they would be regarded as committing treason because unionism is not divisible. It cannot be compromised. The very act of sitting down to talk about the real problem, which is partition and unionism, is an admission that unionism is in fact capable of being talked about and therefore a concession by those on the Unionist side that it is something that can be dispensed with.

That is the way it is and that is the way it will continue to be so long as we are the gutless lot that we are here in this House who are prepared to play along with any old game without facing up to the realities, biting the bullet, and telling the British that we and they must find a way for them to get out of our country and leave it to the people of Ireland, North and South, to govern themselves in the manner of their choice without interference from any outside power in the future. I believe the day that Britain decides to follow that road, since no other one will work — and God knows they have tried many — is the day we will begin to get together as we have never done before and true peace and, ultimately, true unity will exist.

I will conclude with those thoughts and the others that went before, mainly on our economy and on our finances and some local parochial matters as well like the airport we never got in Letterkenny because we were so concerned about putting it in Derry that we did not give a damn about Donegal, or the new RTC Bill which would float our RTCs into orbit at the wishes of the vast majority of the principals of those colleges in cahoots with the Minister who is herself by profession part of them. She is doing a damnedly bad job if she does this. They are good institutions doing great work and they are part and parcel of our local authorities. We hear lip service given to local control. Here we are taking away the most vital thing that has been provided in the last 25 years and taking it out of the control of the local authorities and restoring it to the central control back down in Marlborough Street. It is a bad day for Ireland, a bad day for third level education, and a bad day for this Government from which three years ago I got an assurance that this would not happen. I thought I had convinced them that it should not happen but apparently those that are seeking to be leaders of the Fianna Fáil Party in the future are now too strong to be curbed and they push on their own way. Thank you, and through you thank you to the Ceann Comhairle for standing up for the rights of a minority Deputy in this House.

On a point of order, I do not want in any way to disrupt the House but since this debate commenced this morning at 12 o'clock we have had three Fine Gael speakers. Will the Chair explain to the House and the Fine Gael Party in particular what method is being employed by the Chair in the selection of speakers. You have now called on five successive speakers in this debate none of whom are members of Fine Gael. I would contend that you are acting in a selective manner as far as this debate is concerned. If the Chair is not prepared to review the situation immediately I would ask that a commitment be given to the Fine Gael Party that the loss of time that we have suffered in the course of this debate will be made up tomorrow.

Deputy Flanagan has made a point of order as he is entitled to do and the Chair will reply. The standing order entitled the Chair to call whomsoever the Chair wishes. There has been a tradition of operating by agreement. The Deputy should remember that in respect of the Labour Party they divided their time.

I am not counting that.

The Deputy will appreciate that the Chair always acknowledges the right of the independent groups to make a contribution and in so far as that right has been exercised earlier than normal, then the Deputy can be assured that before the match finishes the Chair will endeavour to make whatever compensation the Deputy thinks can be made.

Is there any danger of finishing early?

I will now call a speaker from the Government side, after which there will be two successive speech slots to the Fine Gael Party.

I contend that there should be three in accordance with precedent.

I did not finish my speech. The last point I wanted to make is that I will not and cannot support the motion of confidence in the Government.

An important point.

With your permission, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I wish to share my time with Deputy Ahern.

We have precedent for that. Does the House agree? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this debate this evening. For the past four weeks the Opposition parties have been preoccupied with attacking various Ministers and individuals without any reference whatever to the major economic problems which are again surfacing in this country. They have made their attacks on a continuing basis and in so doing avoided offering us any glimpse of what proposals they have to reverse the present economic problems which this country faces. I find it incredible that two of the parties opposite, Fine Gael and Labour, are now laying down the law to the Government and chastising them for the manner in which they are running the country but while they were in office they brought this little State of ours to the edge of total economic collapse.

When they left office in 1987 the national economy had gone through four successive years of negative growth, the public finances had deteriorated to a state where we had the highest ever current budget deficit at 8.3 per cent of GNP and the national debt had doubled from some £12 billion to over £24 billion. There was a total lack of confidence in the economy, international bankers were concerned that our economy was fast reaching the stage of almost total failure——

There is a lack of confidence now.

——our internatinal competitiveness had vanished, our external reserves were at a dangerously low level and our interest rates were intolerably high. All of the foregoing had a demoralising effect on our country and its people. Unemployment was increasing at a rate not seen before, emigration was in full swing and the future held out very little opportunity for young people who were coming on to the jobs market.

When Fianna Fáil returned to office in 1987 they took firm and decisive action which immediately started to rectify the situation. The firm and decisive action taken by the Fianna Fáil Government in 1987 set in train an overall recovery in the state of our national finances and rebuilt confidence in our economy and country which had been lacking during the previous four years. A testimony to the success of the actions taken in 1987 is the new invigorated economy which we now have. The state of our public finances has been transformed and achievements since 1987 have been commended by many well respected external and national financial commentators. This transformation was brought about by a skilled and courageous management team. The Opposition parties had some audacity to criticise this Government in view of their own record in office and what has been achieved by this Government since 1987.

Members of the Deputy's party have criticised them as well.

Since 1987 we have had a period of sustained growth, averaging some 4.5 per cent per year. This growth is a measure of the international and national confidence which has been restored since our party returned to power and which has been assisted by some favourable international considerations. Compare our borrowing requirement which was 12.8 per cent of GNP in 1986 with the present level of 2 per cent. Our current budget deficit has been brought down from a record 8.3 per cent in 1986 to 0.7 per cent of GNP now. Total Government expenditure has been reduced from 55 per cent of GNP in 1986 to 41 per cent of GNP this year. The Revenue take was reduced from 40 per cent of GNP in 1986 to 36.6 per cent last year, thus leaving more money in the economy in order to prime our recovery.

This transformation has been the result of good management where difficult decisions were taken and sacrifices demanded in the national interest were made. One of the most striking figures which underline the success of this Government since 1987 compared to the disastrous administration who were in power from 1982-86, when there was the drop of 66,000 in total employment, is the increase of 40,000 in employment——

And unemployment.

It is also worth noting that these additional jobs are being maintained even in today's difficult circumstances. However, a downside to this is that due to the international recession unemployment is still at an unacceptably high level.

A feature of the success of this Government is the successful efforts which have been made in the area of personal taxation. This success was essential to our economic recovery. The previous crucifying high rates of personal taxation were choking enterprise and stifling initiative. We have one of the lowest inflation rates in the European Community and lower interest and mortgage rates. The reduction in the standard rate of income tax from 35 to 29 per cent and the reduction from 58 to 52 per cent in the top rate of income tax have been very welcome. These improvements in income tax allowances and exemptions are of special benefit to PAYE earners.

I should now like to turn my attention to the recent spate of alleged scandals. These allegations, particularly those in relation to Greencore and Telecom Éireann, are doing serious damage by distracting the Government's attention away from the real economic problems facing this country.

The Deputy should do a refresher course.

Major decisions will have to be made within the next few weeks which will affect the future of our country. Yet, the Government are being distracted by events in which they have no direct involvement.

The Deputy is a sham.

Deputy Stagg, you do not have to listen if it is making a demand on you.

It is very difficult.

The Deputy will get an opportunity to make his contribution.

I am not used to this level of hypocrisy even from that side of the House.

What about the Deputy's party?

The option is in your own feet — you can leave; otherwise I shall have to ask you to do so.

I will be hanging around for a while.

Then you will keep quiet. Deputy Nolan without interruption.

The rebuilding of public confidence in the political system and in Irish semi-State business will not be an easy task in the aftermath of these recent revelations. There is widespread public cynicism about certain sections of politics and Irish business. I commend the Government for setting in train high-powered investigations into these allegations. The investigations into the allegations concerning Greencore and Telecom Éireann in particular will go some way towards exposing what exactly went on in these companies. The public have become very alarmed at the spate of irregularities which seem to have been part and parcel of these businesses. I hope the investigations will give speedy results.

The events of the past few weeks were serious enough to warrant active consideration being given to recalling the Dáil in order to debate them. The public are angered, dismayed and frustrated by these revelations. Irregularities have been exposed in the semi-State commercial area, an area in which public funds are involved. It is most disturbing that as these investigations are continuing it is proving very difficult to obtain answers to some of the questions which have been asked. I regret but must accept the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle in the matter of the Greencore allegations. I hope that at some time in the future we may be permitted to inquire about and comment on the happenings in what was then Irish Sugar.

Finally, I want to say calmly and without any degree of emotion or exaggeration that the public are greatly alarmed at the suggestion that some people appointed by the Government have failed to protect adequately the interests of the taxpayers and that substantial private profits have been made at the expense of the public through a lack of vigilance by board members, some of whom, as I have said, were Government nominees. We should remind the people on the far side of the House — Fine Gael and Labour — that it is absolutely ludicrous that they should suggest there is no confidence in this Government——

There is not.

—going on the dismal record of both parties between 1982 and 1987.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): What about 1977?

I would like again to remind Deputies on the far side of the House that the national debt increased from £12 billion to £24 billion in that period——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): What about 1977-81?

—and that repayments are a solid £2 billion per year.

How did the national debt get to £12 billion?

I agree entirely with what Deputy Blaney said in relation to the national debt but the one thing he forgot to say was that the achievements of this Government and the last Government have pegged back the rapid increase in that national debt.

It has gone up.

That national debt is not at £27 billion, it is somewhere in the region of £26 billion. This Government and the previous Government have halted that increase. That is the reason this House should vote confidence in the Government.

I would like also to remind the people on the far side of the House that Deputy Bruton and Deputy Spring were major players in that period: they were the people who ran that Government. I would like to remind Labour that it was Deputy Spring who, I think, from his hospital bed, made a statement — the first of many statements — where he endeavoured to pull that ludicrous Government down. They say we have no unity, but that was the most disunified Government in the history of the State.

They lived for four years.

The Fine Gael Party had a meeting the other day and if the photographs on television and in the newspapers are anything to go by, I do not think they will form, in the near future, an alternative Government. It was appalling to see how very few members of the parliamentary party actually turned up for the meeting, if that is the full complement.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Rubbish.

Because of their disastrous showing in the recent local elections——

We did not have a gang of four.

——Deputy Spring makes great play of the fact that perhaps Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should coalesce. Deputy Spring has made a rule that the Labour Party will never again take part in any Government. That is a cop out as far as I am concerned. Obviously, they got their fingers burnt between 1982 and 1987 and they will not make that mistake again. The reality is that from 1987 to date, we have had low inflation and low interest rates. These have been the achievements of the Government.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): They were low in 1987.

We have sustained growth in the economy. Proof of the fact that the Government have made some effort to get to grips with the unemployment problem can be seen from the CSO figures. I challenge any Member on the far side to look at the CSO figures for employment between 1985 and 1990 and he will see the important thing is that the numbers in employment have increased.

And emigration.

No, not emigration.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Where are they?

There were 40,000 more people employed in this country between 1985 and 1990 than previously. That is the achievement of this Government and the previous Government.

There are 250,000 fewer people employed.

Allegations have been made over the last number of weeks and crocodile tears were shed because somebody was mentioned from this side regarding the naming of people in this House. Many people were named in this House over the last year but no crocodile tears were shed for them. I am very surprised that people with a legal background — such as Deputy Spring, Deputy McCartan and members of their parties — have come in here and made allegations without producing any proof. I always understood that somebody was presumed innocent until proven guilty, yet, here we have allegation after allegation without a scintilla of proof.

I was very interested in the US Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Alan Dixon said that Judge Clarence Thomas was entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That was a very telling phrase and that is why the majority of the Senators backed him. He was presumed innocent until proven guilty and the allegations made against him were not proven. The one thing in Judge Clarence Thomas's favour — and may be that is a flaw in this Parliament — was that he was able to answer the allegations made against him in the same forum in which they were made, unlike some of the people who were named in this House over the last year. They were not able to come in here and disprove those allegations which were made under absolute privilege.

This brings me to Dáil reform. The Workers' Party brought forward a document the other day about Dáil reform. That party have not covered themselves in glory on the Oireachtas working committee on Dáil reform. At nearly every meeting we have had a different member of The Workers' Party was present. That is their testimony to Dáil reform.

We have withdrawn from it; the Deputy is not up to date. I went to local radio——

I am aware that they withdrew from it, because the Deputy who attended on that day did not realise what had taken place at previous meetings; hence my point that different people are turning up at every meeting.

I want to refer briefly to the allegations made in this House under absolute privilege which were read out at the tribunal, and immediately the media were in trouble. May be it is a salutory lesson to the media and to people on the far side that allegations cannot be made without substantial proof.

In relation to Dáil reform, we had a show here this morning for an hour involving calling for votes, which delayed proceedings. Perhaps the Committee on Procedure and Privileges should try to find some way to ensure that unsubstantiated statements cannot be made in this House unless they are backed up with some proof. One barrister at the tribunal referred to it as Leinster House tittle tattle. I think that says it all. It is an indication of why politicians are held in such low esteem by the general public.

Deputy Spring is a hypocrite. He challenged Goodman's right to go into court and contest constitutional issues, yet if anyone other than Larry Goodman wanted to contest constitutional issues, Deputy Spring would be the first on the high moral ground crying halt, saying we were trying to override that person's constitutional right. Why is Mr. Goodman not as entitled as anyone else to go as far as he can in our courts?

Deputy Ahern, I must ask you to have regard to my statement this morning in respect of sub judice matters.

I accept that fully.

You are speaking on an area which I have deemed out of order.

I do not think this is sub judice at this monent. I would like to refer to what I regard as a publicity stunt by Deputy Spring in that he tried to get representation in the High Court.

He was defending the rights of legal eagles like the Deputy who should know what is sub judice and what is not.

He had an absolute cheek to go into the High Court and try to say he was in some way representing the Dáil. From my point of view — and I have no doubt from the Fianna Fáil point of view — Deputy Spring will never represent me here or in court.

I repeat, I have declared that matters appertaining to the High Court proceedings on the food industry should not be referred to.

I accept that.

They are sub judice.

I would like to refer to two other items: one is the Temple Bar issue where Deputy Spring made certain references recently to some companies' subsidiaries. He said something underhand was going on in those companies. He was very quickly checked by his sidekick, Deputy Quinn, and The Dublin Tribune published an account of this, but there was no withdrawal, even though they asked for one, and were able to prove he had no evidence to back up what he was saying. Also, I would like to remind the House, and I would like to put it on the record——

Please be specific.

——that one of the first contracts given to NCB was given by the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition. In 1986 the Department of Communications gave a contract, without tender, in relation to the privatisation of an Aer Lingus company. The Workers' Party are obviously relishing all the business scandals.

They are exposing them and telling the truth.

It is part of their political agenda to destabilise not only the Government but the institutions of this State. The Workers' Party have no answer to the unemployment problem, as their clinging to the Eastern European model has shown.

Debate adjourned.