Deputy J. Higgins was in possession and has 16 minutes remaining.
Nomination of Members of Government: Motion (Resumed).
I will be very brief. Prior to the adjournment I had got the agreement of the House to share my time with Deputy Jim Mitchell.
This is an ill-judged Cabinet. It was an ill-judged decision to superimpose two newcomers over the heads of the junior Ministers, one of whom is relatively new in the Dáil and about whom there are major question marks in relation to his entitlement to assume the sensitive role of Minister for Defence. There are also question marks about the competence, the vision, ability and experience of Deputy Noel Davern in assuming the trying, testing and increasingly challenging portfolio of Education.
One of the extraordinary things that will characterise the reign of office of the Taoiseach is his unquenchable thirst for power and the manner in which, when it came to the crunch, every friend was used as a sacrificial lamb. Going back to 1970, of the trio comprising Boland, Blaney and Haughey, only one really survives in high places and that is the Taoiseach. While Deputy Blaney has survived in this House as a raven croaking on the Republican battlements now and again, he is largely out of the mainstream of national politics. A decade later in the early eighties the Garda Commissioner and the Deputy Garda Commissioner were dispensed with, as were the then Minister for Justice, Seán Doherty, and the current EC Commissioner, Ray MacSharry. In the mid-eighties after his "I stand by the Republic" speech, Deputy O'Malley, now Leader of the Progressive Democrats, was dispensed with, as were the current Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy, the current Minister of State, Deputy Harney, and two others who are now Progressive Democrat Deputies. This time last year we had the indignity of the Tánaiste's head being carried in on a platter at the behest of the Progressive Democrats. The one time best friend of the Taoiseach was easily disposed of.
In the past six to eight weeks people in high places, friends of the Taoiseach, have been dispensed with. I am referring to Mr. Comerford, Mr. Tully, the honourable Mr. Paircéar, Dr. Smurfit and, of course, Mr. Desmond. This week we have the final irony. Two of the people who were the most staunch supporters of the Taoiseach in previous coup attempts, Deputies Reynolds and Flynn, were dispensed with, as well as three junior Ministers. It is an indication of the quality within the junior ministerial ranks that the three who walked out today having lost their portfolios were extremely talented and would have been in the running for full ministerial positions.
Nothing has changed. That particularly applies to the junior partners in Government, the Progressive Democrats. Nothing has changed since the day Deputy O'Malley claimed in his very fine address to this House, "I stand by the Republic", since he tried to hammer out a deal in relation to high standards in high places, since the day the Progressive Democrats said they would pull out of Government if the high standards they set for themselves in partnership with Fianna Fáil were not maintained. Clearly they are not being maintained. I put it to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, that the key and acid test in relation to where exactly the Progressive Democrats stand at this juncture is the voting out of office of two good Ministers who can at least face their conscience tomorrow morning and the voting in of two people of considerably lesser ability and lesser integrity.
What we have seen today is, to say the least, a dull reshuffle. Two "yes men" from the backbenches have been plucked out of nowhere to be appointed to the Cabinet for the simple and sole reason that they will do whatever the Taoiseach asks them to do. We have had that dangerous precedent before in Governments led by Deputy Haughey. It is a sad day, given that the Taoiseach and his Government are presiding over the worst unemployment figures in our history. Each month new records are set. The figure for last month, including those who are off the register because they are over 55, was 277,000. At the same time there is an escalating budget deficit and a housing crisis. There has been a total collapse of the public sector house building programme and a very sharp downturn in the private sector.
I remember well the clarion call of Deputy O'Malley, then in Opposition, about standards in high places and the justification he and his party gave for going into Government. They made great claims in the first year of this Government about restraining Fianna Fáil from their worst excesses, about maintaining high standards in high places and ensuring that the right economic policies were pursued to ensure economic success. The regrettable fact is that since the Progressive Democrats joined the Government the budget deficit has escalated, not reduced, and unemployment has escalated each month to new records. This week the claim of the Minister for Industry and Commerce that actual employment has increased has been shown to be false. Actual employment has again fallen in the past year.
What then are the justifications of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and his party for staying in Government? What is it they are sustaining? Surely they are in the corner of sustaining the very thing most of them left Fianna Fáil to get rid of? Are they to stand by a phenomenally successful economic policy, Northern Ireland policy or European policy? Are they standing by a phenomenal success in maintaining high standards in high places? They have manifestly failed on all fronts.
I am very glad to observe that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is in the House. On the Government benches there is not one Fianna Fáil Deputy. There are two Progressive Democrats on the back benches. I am glad of that small audience to point out that an excuse given by the Progressive Democrats and by Fianna Fáil for staying in Government and voting confidence in the Taoiseach is that no ministerial wrong-doing has been proven. The reality is that no ministerial wrong-doing is being or has been investigated. We have Greencore, Goodman and Telecom being investigated but not the performance of the Taoiseach or any of his Ministers. I put it to the House, and especially to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that if there is a sworn investigation into the conversations held between the Taoiseach and the chairman of Greencore in relation to consultants on privatisation and if there is a sworn investigation into the discussions between the Taoiseach and the then chairman of Telecom Éireann, Dr. Smurfit, about the appointment of advisers, that both chairmen will tell the sworn investigations that it was the Taoiseach who asked for the appointment of NCB.
I can tell the House authoritatively that the board of Telecom Éireann, even in the past week, were informed yet again that the appointment of NCB and IBI arose following a discussion between Dr. Smurfit and the Taoiseach. When the story of the appointment of those two companies appeared in The Irish Times the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, Deputy Brennan, issued two statements denying that there had been any Government contact on this subject. However, a statement which was issued later did not deny the two statements but explained that there had been some contacts. I want to say to the House and Deputy O'Malley that the board of Telecom Éireann have been told for the second time that the appointment of NCB took place after discussions between the Taoiseach and Dr. Smurfit. I challenge Mr. O'Malley to insist on a full inquiry——
Deputy, you are giving me the impression that you are doing this designedly. You are an experienced Member of the House and you know that we credit Deputies with their titles. He is the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
I beg your pardon, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, it was merely an oversight. I challenge the Minister for Industry and Commerce to insist on the setting up of a sworn inquiry so that Mr. Cahill and Dr. Smurfit can give evidence under oath.
Last week at Question Time the Taoiseach tried to claim that Mr. Cahill at the extraordinary general meeting of Greencore had exonerated him. He did no such thing. Mr. Cahill was offered the opportunity on three occasions to clarify beyond doubt that the Taoiseach did not try to influence or suggest the appointment of NCB as advisers on the privatisation. Mr. Cahill avoided exonerating the Taoiseach on each of those three occasions. I suggest that if the former Chairman of Telecom Éireann was asked similar questions under oath he would not exonerate the Taoiseach either.
One of the crucial points is that no Minister is under investigation. There is no investigation into the laying of a pipeline under the Taoiseach's lands. There is no investigation into the value of the Taoiseach's lands at Kinsealy before and after the laying of that pipeline. There is no investigation into who took the initiative in that regard. It has been accepted laterally that the Department of the Environment took that initiative. I know it was the former Minister for the Environment who took that initiative. If the former Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, was asked under oath whether the Taoiseach had asked him to take that initiative I suggest we would get an interesting answer. Like Mr. Cahill and Dr. Smurfit, Mr. Flynn is not being called before a sworn inquiry. If the Minister for Industry and Commerce is truly concerned about the need for high standards in high places and setting an example which the rest of the country can follow I suggest he should insist on that additional inquiry over the above all the other inquiries which are taking place.
The Progressive Democrats have no case for staying in Government. This country needs a new start. It needs a Government who understand what needs to be done and have the determination to do it. It does not need a Government who are intent on staying in office at all costs, time servers. As the leader of the main Opposition party so eloquently said this morning, the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not standing by the Republic. Rather he is standing by Mr. Haughey when Mr. Haughey has no leg to stand on except the leg of the Progressive Democrats.
I think Deputy Mitchell must be purposely trying to thwart the Chair in a very simple matter. Surely the Chair is not being too demanding on the Deputy in asking him to recollect that the Taoiseach is the Taoiseach and Mr. Flynn is Deputy Flynn. Is there some reason the Deputy persists in making little of the office those Members hold?
I do not mean to do any such thing and I apologise again.
In the very short time available to me I wish to refer to the performance of the two former Ministers and their history in office. I have already referred briefly to the pipeline laid under the Taoiseach's land and the lack of investigation into how that came about. As I have said, it would be instructive if Deputy Flynn, the former Minister for the Environment, was called before a sworn inquiry. It might also be instructive if there was a sworn inquiry into some of the affairs of the Customs House Docks Authority.
What is even more striking is that, in terms of housing, Deputy Flynn has left office after probably the worst four years, other than the war years, since the foundation of the State. The statistics bulletin of the Department of the Environment will show that. They will also show that there has been a sharp downturn in the building of private housing. The myth which has been repeated by Fianna Fáil apologists that Fianna Fáil in Government are good for the construction industry is exploded by the facts. The only areas where there have been significant development in the past four years are in the designated areas under the Urban Renewal Act, and it was the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government who introduced that Act and set out those designated areas. The Fianna Fáil Party cannot even claim credit for the only area in the construction industry where there has been any performance.
In addition, Deputy Flynn as Minister presided over two botched revisions of constituencies. In the agreed Programme for Government there is a promise of a third review of constituencies in two years. What sort of messing is going on? What future messing will the Progressive Democrats stand over before they eventually capitulate and do what is in the interest of the country, thus truly standing by this Republic?
Before the Minister for Industry and Commerce speaks I should like to point out that during my 30 years as a Member of this House I have never before noticed the Taoiseach's seat to be vacant during a major debate such as this one. Is there any significance in the fact that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not sitting in the Taoiseach's seat and only one Government Deputy has come into the House——
Deputy Harte, you have risen on what you presume to be a point of order but it is not a point of order. It is a point of curiosity on your part but it is not a point or order.
Is it not disorder for the Minister for Industry and Commerce not to sit in the Taoiseach's seat?
The Deputy knows that that is not a point of order. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is representing the Government and I call on him now.
Who is representing Fianna Fáil?
The Minister should be sitting in the Taoiseach's seat.
That is disorder.
I should like to take the opportunity to reassure Deputy Harte that I am on the Government benches and that I am a member of the Government. I habitually sit in this seat and I usually address the House from here except when I am dealing with Committee Stage of a Bill which requires my presence in the Taoiseach's seat.
It is gratifying to know that but it would be reassuring during an important debate such as this if the Minister would speak from the Taoiseach's seat.
The Deputy will not be surprised to see me here on his next visit.
It is only a matter of time before he is sitting over here.
An Leas-Ceann Comhairle
Could we put an end to this mild speculation, joviality or tee-a-tete and allow the Minister for Industry and Commerce to deal with the matter before the House.
At the outset I should like to avail of the opportunity to express my regret at the departure from office of five people today. Whatever the circumstances, it must always be a cause of regret to Members of this House when something like this happens. I want to express my special regret on a personal and departmental basis at the proposed removal from office of the former Minister of State, Deputy Smith, who worked with me in the Department of Industry and Commerce for the past two and a quarter years and with whom I have had a very good relationship and whose work I have admired and valued greatly in that Department. I should like to express my gratitude to him, and I hope that at sometime in the future, in whatever circumstances, he will hold a ministerial office again.
This country has come through a two-month period of unprecedented political turmoil arising initially from the disclosures surrounding the Greencore affair at the beginning of September and concluding with today's Government changes. It has been an unsatisfactory period so far as public confidence in certain institutions and State companies are concerned. I suggest that the developments of the past two months have not all been one sided or negative: I will elaborate on this point later. The most unfortunate aspect, however, is that the political turmoil of the past two months, arising from the revelation of the various business scandals and the subsequent controversy within the Fianna Fáil Party, undermined the Government's stability and authority at a time when it was already faced with profound social and economic problems, particularly the persistent unemployment crisis and the necessity to curb excessive public expenditure.
In relation to the issue of Government stability, the consistent and unwavering attitude of my party — the Progressive Democrats — has been to seek to concentrate the energies and attention of ourselves and of the Government as a whole on tackling the country's social and economic problems and not to allow the internal affairs of any other party, or the politics of personality, to override that objective.
If the Progressive Democrats were obsessed with the politics of personality then I suggest that the present Government would never have come into being. But since our foundation, almost six years ago, and in particular since our entry into Government in July 1989, we have made it crystal clear to everyone that the Progressive Democrats are committed to the primacy of policy over personality. That objective finds its fullest and most up-to-date expression in the recently agreed new Programme for Government between ourselves and Fianna Fáil which was finalised on 18 October last. That programme provides the policy framework for effectively tackling the problems I mentioned through a wide range of radical and innovative economic fiscal and institutional policy changes.
The programme sets down tight, clearly defined, fiscal targets which must be met over the next two budgets. It also commits the Government to a two-year programme of radical, pro-jobs tax reform along with the restructuring of the PAYE system on an Exchequer neutral basis. The overall target is to reduce distortions in the taxation system and in the labour market, to increase incentives to work, to invest productively and to ensure greater social equity by comprehensively tackling the problems of tax evasion and avoidance. The latter objective will be greatly helped by the introduction of a universal identity card system based on the extension of the RSI number. This will not only help to tackle tax evasion but it will also play a major role in combating business fraud.
In addition, the Programme for Government also sets out a range of major institutional reforms which will make the State and the Oireachtas work more effectively and it also proposes to devolve Government functions and services to local communities through a radical overhaul of our local government system.
It is on the basis of these policies in the revised Programme for Government that the Progressive Democrats are participating in Government, that these domestic, social and economic policy targets are not the only reason this country needs strong determined and united Government at present and in the months ahead. It is quite obvious, for instance, that the task of public finance readjustment is going to make tremendous demands on next January's budget. In that context, the task of agreeing tight and prudent Estimates for public spending, for next year, is of crucial importance.
It is also essential that we review the system of pay determination in the public service and that we continue to review the role of the State in various commercial activities. This will facilitate greater competition in our economy and ensure that consumers do not remain victims of monopoly and cartel arrangements.
The ongoing discussions with the social partners on the provisions of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress which take account of the decline in economic growth this year and the economic outlook for next year is another fundamental aspect of the onerous responsibilities facing Government at this time. Moreover, as the Taoiseach indicated to the House yesterday, it will be necessary to complete the Programme for Economic and Social Progress review before the Estimates can be finalised. In the context of both exercises, I believe it to be essential for all elements in Irish society, to pull together in the spirit of genuine patriotic endeavour, to realise that sacrifices will be necessary and that expectations of what the public purse can afford have to take account of the persistent and fundamental fiscal and debt problems still facing this country. We cannot give ourselves continental European standards of living without first earning it for ourselves. We are a highly borrowed nation which has failed to live within its means and we must now make the necessary policy adjustments that will secure a stable and better future for this country and especially for our children. That requires tough decisions and it requires that all sectors of the community share the cost of economic adjustment.
Particularly the poor.
Nevertheless, I am the first to appreciate that public solidarity and the willingness to share sacrifices on the part of the average citizen have been seriously undermined by the theories of recent business scandals. Unfortunately — and in part correctly — these disclosures have conveyed the impression that in this State there is one economic law governing the affairs of most citizens and a more privileged economic law for a select and well-heeled few. That view has been fuelled, understandably, by the revelations in the Greencore and Telecom affairs and also by some of the revelations surrounding the Goodman affair. I deeply regret these happenings but they are now being vigorously investigated on behalf of the Government and in one case on behalf of the Oireachtas.
We must remember, too, that it is the taxpayer who is largely funding these several inquiries now under way; that same taxpayer is entitled not only to eventual full public disclosure but also to be assured that any proven wrongdoing that is revealed will be properly addressed and punished. It is in that context that I stated earlier that the developments of the last two months are not all negative. Provided the various inquiries are vigorously and conclusively pursued then the likelihood of serious business wrong-doing should be much less in the future.
Having listened to Deputy Mitchell who asked me to hold an inquiry where Dr. Smurfit and Mr. Cahill would be required to come in and give evidence under oath——
I insist on that.
——I would point out to him that my power to hold an inquiry arises only from the Companies Acts and can only be held into the activities of companies. The two companies, to which he has referred——
The Minister is a member of the Government.
——already have inquiries underway in regard to them. To the best of my knowledge both of the people he mentioned have already given evidence to these inquiries — one to more than one such inquiry — and I presume would have given evidence under oath.
On a point of order, may I be excused for a minute? Is it proposed to circulate the Minister's speech to the Deputies in the House as is the normal practice? If not, may I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, to indicate if he proposes to address the question of the appointment of Deputy McDaid to the position of Minister for Defence?
Deputy De Rossa, that is a very distinct point of disorder. I would ask you to resume your seat agus freagróidh mé an cheist. In the first instance, Standing Orders do not require that a Minister circulate his speech. The second question which you pose does not arise now. If you persist in maintaining that it does I would have to ask you to leave the House.
I am not persisting on that at all. I simply rose — I thought in an orderly way — to inquire——
You could be rising in an orderly way about something that is not in accordance with the Order of the House.
You will appreciate that it is normal practice — I am not making an issue of this — to circulate the speeches of Ministers to the House. I simply rose to inquire if that was going to happen in this case and, if not, if Deputy O'Malley would address the question of the appointment of Deputy McDaid.
The Minister, Deputy O'Malley will address the House in the fashion in which the Deputy did, without interruption. Please do not interrupt again.
On a point of order, when the Leas-Cheann Comhairle states that Standing Orders of the House do not require a Minister to circulate his speech, has convention not decided that Ministers do circulate their speeches?
Deputy Harte, I answered the question that was posed. Standing Orders do not — the Deputy knows this as well as I do — require any Minister to circulate his speech.
Convention is as strong as Standing Orders.
The Minister has limited time and I suggest that Deputies give the Minister the audience that was given to them while they made their contribution.
I am not disrupting the House, I am simply asking a question.
I would like to hear the Minister give evidence under oath——
This is not Question Time.
——on this very pertinent political question. Is the Minister trying to avoid——
Deputy Mitchell, this is not Question Time. This is a debate which has been requested. The Chair will be very intolerant of interruptions having regard to the fact that speakers have a mere 20 minutes. I assure the Minister that the time that has been lost to him while I addressed disorder, will be compensated for.
I would find it very difficult to circulate a speech that I made in part in reply to interruptions. I do not have any obligations to circulate a speech. It is convention in this House, sometimes observed, that where Ministers make a speech on a departmental matter, their Department take the opportunity to circulate the script that the Minister may or may not use. When a Minister is not making a speech on a departmental matter, and that is the case here, there is not any obligation or even a convention that he should circulate his script.
In so far as political accountability is concerned, which Deputy Mitchell is so concerned about now in terms of inquiries and so on, I would remind the Deputy that political accountability is exercised in this House.
The Minister is joking.
It is open to Members to inquire from any member of the Government about any topic for which he has official responsibility. If Members find that they are unable to pursue that successfully they might reflect on the fact that sometimes it is perhaps due to their own failures in eliciting the information they are looking for. The functions of this House could not be replaced by inquiries held under the Companies Act, for example.
The matters of which I have spoken are some of the priorities now demanding the total and undivided attention of the Government. There are others, and none is more vital than the Maastricht Summit on economic and monetary union and on political union on 9 and 10 December next. The suggested revisions to the Rome Treaty will have a profound and lasting effect on Ireland and they will radically change our relationship with the European Community and with the Community's institutions. I would dearly wish that the politics of recent weeks had been dominated by consideration of the Maastricht Summit and its agenda. Of course, the preparatory work is being pursued by the relevant officials, but there is an urgent need for a comprehensive national debate on the consequences any Treaty of Rome changes for Ireland and for our future in Europe.
That too is the reason why in the context of recent negotiations on renewing the Programme for Government, the Progressive Democrats secured a commitment to the publication of a White Paper following the Intergovernmental Conferences at Maastricht, covering all aspects of proposed changes in the Rome Treaty prior to the holding of any referendum which is likely here. In that wider European Community context, the talks on the Uruguay Round of the GATT are also crucial to the future of our agriculture based industries in particular, and also to the whole economic welfare of the country.
Furthermore, the ongoing process of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy is already bringing painful and costly adjustments to our farmers. These changes will continue to demand innovative, courages responses from our farming community and single minded toughness by Government in defence of our vital national interests.
When I emphasise that the Progressive Democrats' role in Government is to concentrate on policy and not to be side tracked or distracted by personality concerns, it is these policy concerns I have in mind. We should reassert tight control of our public finances, we should finalise the Estimates preparing a radical and enlightened budget for 1992. We should protect Ireland's vital national interest in the ongoing GATT and Common Agricultural Policy negotiations and at the Maastricht Summit. We should vigorously pursue the inquiries into the various business scandals and implement in full as quickly as possible the new Programme for Government. Earlier this week, and in the light of these considerations, the Progressive Democrats Parliamentary Party made clear that it was our national duty to continue to work in Government on this vital policy agenda. I have no doubt that the vast majority of people support us in our decision and do not wish us to resort to a general election at this time. Nor have I any doubt that an election at this time would simply replace the unfortunate political instability of recent weeks with downright political chaos.
It is easy for Opposition parties to call for a general election, but it is incumbent on those making such calls to explain to the people how a general election now would improve the lot of this country and the people. When Fine Gael and Labour call for an election they should accept the parrallel obligation to spell out clearly how they would tackle the problems in the public finances, deal with the unemployment crisis, deal better with the recent business scandals and how they would handle the affairs of Government in a better way. They should also explain what will be the composition of the alternative Government that they would offer to the people.
Is the Minister available?
None of the Opposition parties has done this. They settled for the clichéd and knee-jerk Opposition response of simply calling for an election which they know would leave the political situation totally inclusive and uncertain.
I am a bit fed up with the sanctimonious public declarations by Opposition politicians in this House, that we must now have a general election when at the same time they have their party colleagues heartily thank the Progressive Democrats privately in the corridors for not bringing about an election. This kind of hypocrisy becomes difficult to stomach when one listens to some of the Opposition contributions here today. I am aware too that in today's debate, the Labour Leader, Deputy Spring, and others including Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, chose to tell this House what they believed were the views and feelings of supporters of my party. They are correct when they say that the Progressive Democrats Members have been unhappy with the recent business scandals. Doubtless that is the fairly universal feeling of followers of all parties. However, that is only half the story as far as the Progressive Democrats are concerned. I can assure Deputy Spring, and anybody else who wishes to know, that last weekend my party organised an exhaustive consultative process of our constituency organisations which the parliamentary party took fully into account before reaching their final decision on Monday last. The overwhelming message from our members throughout the country is that it is in the national interest for the Progressive Democrats to continue to work in the Government, vigorously tackling the issues I have already outlined in the House.
I recommend to Deputies Bruton and Spring, and others on the Opposition benches, that they too go and listen to what their rank and file members and the average person in this country is saying at this time. Everyone has reservations and concerns about recent events. I, and every member of the Progressive Democrats, share those reservations and concerns. During the course of the past two months I have felt distinctly uncomfortable on many occasions but at no stage have I, or the Progressive Democrats parliamentary party, felt compromised by the stance we have taken and that is the vital distinction. Our participation in Government is based on the policy agenda of the new Programme for Government. If that programme is not honoured or if any events arise which in my judgment or in the judgment of the Progressive Democrats parliamentary party compromises us and compromises the trust that the electorate has placed in us then we will not hesitate to respond accordingly.
The Minister has not told us what his view is on the appointment of Deputy McDaid.
Deputy De Rossa is not entitled to rise at will and appear to turn this into some form of inquisition, which it is not.
It is legitimate for Deputies to be interested in the Progressive Democrats view.
Níl fhios agam ceard tá i gceist agat, ach níl tú ag cabhrú——
The Minister for Industry and Commerce sounded like a Fianna Fáil hack today. He is back in Fianna Fáil. That is the worst Fianna Fáil justification I ever heard.
Deputy Mitchell, your colleague Deputy Noonan has been called to make his contribution.
We have heard a Fianna Fáil hack speech from the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He is back in Fianna Fáil psychologically if not in reality. He does not want to find out the truth about——
One would think the Progressive Democrats had 77 seats in this House. We seem to obsess the Opposition.
Maybe we are all subconsciously thinking of some sporting event that is taking place out of the country. That seems to be the mood. This is not such an event and I ask again——
This is gross hypocrisy from that side of the House and not one Fianna Fáil Member in to listen to it.
A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you are making a wrong assumption in attributing this attitude to the Opposition parties here. It is certainly not my attitude.
I was talking to the House. The Deputy need not be so self conscious.
No, no. You were addressing the Opposition benches.
Deputy Michael Noonan, without interruption.
(Limerick East): I am glad that Minister O'Malley is in the House because I have some questions to put which I would like him to answer before he leaves the House.
He cannot do that.
(Limerick East): I can ask rhetorical questions at any stage. It is up to Minister O'Malley whether to answer them.
He could do anything after the performance he has given.
(Limerick East): I do not believe, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that Deputy James McDaid is a suitable appointee for the office of Minister for Defence and I want to explain why. Apart from voting in a formal way against these appointments tonight I have a very serious problem about his appointment which is a genuine and not a formal problem. I would ask all the Deputies of the House to bear with me while I explain what I have in mind.
James Pius Clarke of Letterkenny, County Donegal, was arrested by the British Army in Derry on March of 1978. He was subsequently tried in Belfast by an non jury court and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for the attempted murder of a UDR man. He escaped with 37 others from the Maze Prison. He was sought for alleged crimes arising out of that escape and, in particular, crimes associated with the death of a prison warder who died in the course of the breakout. He was free for quite some time but he was subsequently arrested by the Garda Síochána in 1981 and he was put into Portlaoise prison to await trial.
Subsequently this arrest and a request for his extradition by the UK Government became a matter of extradition proceedings and James Pius Clarke and his co-accused, Mr. Finucane, were both released by the courts on Tuesday 13 March 1990. There were extensive newspaper reports about the release of James Pius Clarke by the court and in a photograph he is surrounded by wellwishers and supporters. I have here a cutting from The Irish Times of Wednesday, 14 March 1990 with a large photograph of James Clarke surrounded by wellwishers as he left the court following his release. Clearly identifiable in that photograph is Deputy James McDaid, now the Taoiseach's nominee for the sensitive post of Minister for Defence——
And member of the Security Committee of the Government.
(Limerick East):——and automatic member of the Security Committee of the Government.
It is not on.
(Limerick East): The Irish Independent of the same date, 14 March 1990, carries another large photograph with the caption “Blonde Jim Clarke in shirt sleeves is surrounded by supporters and newsmen after leaving the Four Courts (in the background) where he won his appeal against extradition”. Again a happy Deputy McDaid is seen in the photograph and is referred to in the caption as one of the supporters of James Pius Clarke.
Will Minister O'Malley agree with this?
On a point of order, I have to object to the allegations and smear tactics being used by the Opposition. Deputy McDaid is one of the finest Deputies ever to come into this House.
(Limerick East): He has got a case to answer.
That is not a point of order.
(Limerick East): I have checked with the other media, not the print media but the television media, to establish if there is any footage from the same day when James Pius Clarke was released. I have been informed that their news bulletins on the night of 13 March RTE showed footage of James Pius Clarke emerging from the courts and in a knot of jubilant supporters, clearly seen again, smiling and obviously happy, is Deputy McDaid. I presume RTE will run that film tonight because I know all the other television stations, BBC and UTV, will run it right across these islands. The report which RTE have included film footage of Mr. Clarke rejoicing with his supporters, and our nominee as Minister for Defence, who will have automatic membership of the Security Committee, is among those supporters.
Let me ask the Taoiseach what motivated him to make this appointment? What kind of signal is he trying to send to Mr. Brooke, to the British Government, to the Unionists in Northern Ireland, to the Nationalists in Northern Ireland——
To Gerry Adams.
(Limerick East):——to every democrat in this country? Let me ask Minister O'Malley does he still claim to follow in the political tradition of the late George Colley? Does he recall that George Colley refused to support the Taoiseach's first administration in 1979 unless he was given a veto over the Taoiseach's appointments to the Ministries of Justice and Defence, a very wise precaution indeed? Would Minister O'Malley now like to take a leaf out of Deputy Colley's book and veto the appointment of Deputy McDaid to such a sensitive Ministry when the publicity which I have referred to here depicts a nominee for this, one of the highest offices in the land, as a fellow traveller of Provisional Sinn Féin.
That is outrageous. You have a duty to withdraw that.
The evidence is there, Séamus.
(Limerick East): When James Pius Clarke appeared to seek bail on 4 November 1989 before Judge Hamilton he entered the witness box to give evidence in his own defence. I would like to quote from the report of the case in The Irish Times of 4 November. I presume the case was on the previous day, 3 November:
Witness said that a local TD had said he was with him in Co. Donegal when it was alleged he (witness) had been involved in the attempted murder of the UDR man.
I understand that Deputy McDaid went so far as to swear an affidavit in support of this. It is sufficient to say that James Pius Clarke did not receive bail from the court and he was returned for trial and extradition proceedings.
At the very minimum the nominee for this very high security office has a duty to come into this House and explain how he was involved in the proceedings that I have outlined. What series of events can he draw to the attention of the House to explain this involvement I have outlined? The Taoiseach also has a duty to explain, in the face of all this publicity to which I have drawn the attention of the House and to which I am sure the law officers of the State drew the attention of the Taoiseach, the reason he would discount the publicity which has surrounded Deputy McDaid and proceed with his appointment. This country is going to be shamed once again tonight when all the wrong signals will go out internationally. I have no doubt that this will be the leading item on BBC, UTV and RTE and that the message will be that the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland is appointing a Provo fellow traveller to be his Minister for Defence.
That is an outrageous accusation and the Deputy has a duty to withdraw it.
How else do you explain it? He tried to give a false alibi.
Deputy Dick Roche has been abandoned.
(Limerick East): I will not deal with the appointment of Deputy Davern except to say that, if the Taoiseach is continuing to follow a Chinese precedent, certainly in the case of Deputy Davern he is following the advice of Mao Tse-Tung. As the House will recall, Mao said that if you want to create a revolution it is best to start with a blank page. When we researched the record of the House we found that in the period 1977-82 Deputy Davern scarcely spoke in the House. On education matters he put two questions down in that five year period relating to two local schools and one other question dealing with visual aid material for schools. He was not a Member of the House between 1982-87 but I failed to find any major contributions by him on education matters since his return to the House. Certainly, he did not speak on any of the Estimates on Education. We have no idea therefore what Deputy Davern stands for and what he would do in Education, but this is not to say that silent Deputies do not make good Ministers. We can therefore give him the benefit of the doubt.
In a long interview with RTE he attacked travellers in his constituency.
(Limerick East): I do not think it is possible to debate the appointment of the Ministers to the Cabinet without reflecting on the events which caused the vacancies. The facts can be stated very briefly. The then Minister for Finance, Deputy Reynolds, supported by Deputy Flynn and others, organised a putsch against the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach sacked two Ministers and the putsch failed. The Taoiseach is now filling the vacancies. Who leads Fianna Fáil is entirely a matter for Fianna Fáil, but who holds the office of Taoiseach and who serves in Government is a matter for everybody. Consequently, the reasons which motivated his colleagues to move against the Taoiseach are relevant to this debate. I have no doubt that those who were opposed to Deputy Haughey were motivated in some way by personal ambition, but I also believe they acted because they no longer had any confidence in the Taoiseach to lead the country.
They must have gone for Deputy Dick Roche.
(Limerick East): The Taoiseach has presided over a failed Government. The last 12 months have been a calendar of failure, with unemployment at the highest level since the foundation of the State and heading towards the astronomical figure of 325,000. The budget has gone off the rails and no remedial action has been taken. The Programme for Economic and Scoial Progress is an expensive irrelevancy to the needs of the community with one million people living below the poverty line while the confidence of the business community is evaporating. The building industry is at a standstill with garages on the verge of liquidation because of unfair foreign competition while the farming community are totally depressed by the impact of the MacSharry proposals and the failure of the Government to formulate an alternative. There has been a decline in foreign investment, a reduction in retail sales and a widespead feeling among ordinary people that not only are the Government irrelevant to their needs but that they do not care. The economic gloom of the people had been accompanied by a collapse of the health service, a breakdown in local government and a massive cynicism among the youth of our country.
In recent months this general economic and social decline has provided the dismal background to the greatest number of scandals in the State sector ever to rock the confidence of the people. While no one on this side of the House has claimed that any of the scandals involved a Minister personally, it is quite clear that a number of Ministers did not do their jobs. In particular the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications were guilty of gross negligence at the time in respect of the Greencore an Telecom affairs.
The position of the Taoiseach however is not the same as that of his Ministers. This House remains unconvinced that the Taoiseach did not play a personal part in the events leading to some of these scandals, in particular the most favoured treatment awarded to Mr. Dermot Desmond of NCB in the appointment of that company to consultancy work in the State and semi-State sector. Be that as it may, the challenge to the Taoiseach made by Deputy Reynolds and others failed and the consequences are before us today. We are therefore left with the same Taoiseach, and, very largely, the same Government with the addition of one dubious nominee and one nominee——
On a point of order, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, is it in order for the debate on the appointment of new Ministers to take place without one of the 77 Fianna Fáil Members being present in the House?
They have gone for Deputy Dick Roche.
Is the Minister for Justice merely passing by?
He has just come in.
Deputy Flanagan, that is not a point of order.
It is a very important point. Not one of the 77 Fianna Fáil Members are present in the House for the debate on the appointment of two new Ministers.
Deputy Flanagan is an experienced Member of the House and he knows that the point he is endeavouring to make is not a point of order.
They are showing discourtesy.
Do not ask the Chair to give his opinion on what is courteous or discourteous.
Deputy Dick Roche is gone.
(Limerick East): We are therefore left with the same Taoiseach, very largely the same Government, and the same incompetent policies — in effect, the same tarnished scandal ridden Administration. The deckchairs have been rearranged on the Titanic but the ship sails on with its doomed crew. There is no fresh start for the country, no new dawn with new men and women guiding the destiny of the country; there is only the reaffirmation of the old, the tired and the tried and found wanting. My party will not support the reaffirmation of this reshuffled failed Administration.
The parties in Government have failed to give the country the fresh start it so badly needs. We believe that only a general election can do so. There is also another reason for my pessimism. The support for the Taoiseach last Saturday was to a large degree tactical. Ambitious men and women competing with each other for the office of Taoiseach stopped their internecine rivalry for a few days and combined to destroy the leading candidate, Deputy Reynolds. Now that that has been achieved they will return to their personal agendas and pursue their own interests. This is not the foundation for a Government or the basis for collective Cabinet responsibility and it provides no foundation for the necessary concerted action to rectify the ills of the country.
These ills are many and varied and I have already listed them. They are known to every person in the country and in the Government; but the Government have given no indication that they have the resolution, will or ability to tackle these problems. The Programme for Economic and Social Progress is in tatters. This programme, which was negotiated late last year and effective from January 1991, was supposed to provide a detailed economic and social plan for three years and to be the basis for economic and social policy for the decade. It has already been rejected by the Taoiseach, the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Reynolds, and the Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy O'Malley.
A new Programme for Government has been negotiated by the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil. It purports to be the economic and social blueprint for the next two and a half years and makes commitments on taxes and PRSI changes which will cost about £650 million. It states fiscal targets which will involve at least £500 million in public expenditure cuts. When we rake in all the promises made, the cost of the programme is about £1.2 billion; yet the Government have not identified a single penny of the money which will go to fund these expensive promises.
The programme is merely aspirational and its claims that it provides an economic and social blueprint for the next two and a half years are totally spurious. Its central plank, the reform of personal taxation, is based on a false premise. The Progressive Democrats have constantly argued that a reduction in the marginal rates of income tax will lead to a reduction in unemployment, but this is based on a misguided interpretation of the theory of the tax wedge which I will not go into here. I would like however the Progressive Democrats Ministers to explain how it came to pass that when the standard rate of income tax was reduced from 35 per cent to 29 per cent during the past two years unemployment went to its highest level since the foundation of the State. I do not believe there is any connection between the two events.
Neither do I believe that the reduction in the marginal rates as proposed in the new programme will have anything more than a marginal effect on unemployment figures and job creation. Do the Progressive Democrats seriously believe that, while the reduction from 35 per cent to 29 per cent had no effect whatsoever and was accompanied by historic high unemployment, a further reduction from 29 per cent to 25 per cent will press a magic button and abolish unemployment? The programme is aspirational and a political document motivated by the desire of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats to continue in Government, but it provides no blueprint for the future.
Now that the Progressive Democrats have signed on for another two and a half years in Government it is worth looking at some of the peculiar characteristics of that party. They are a party founded out of a previous leadership challenge to Deputy Haughey. They are first and foremost a party which emerged from a clash of personalities. Now that Deputy O'Malley is the main taca or, to use the English word, support, for Deputy Haughey, the Progressive Democrats party are redundant and their members should apply for membership of Fianna Fáil, their parent party.
The Progressive Democrats claim they are policy driven but, of course, they are no such thing. They called for control of public expenditure but, since they joined Government, public, expenditure has risen by 14 per cent, £1.1 billion against an inflation rate of 6 per cent. They say they are opposed to the perks of office, yet they participated in a Government decision to reverse the decision of the previous Government to use less expensive and less powerful State cars. They promised to abolish ministerial pensions but have now agreed to pensions schemes, the effect of which will be to increase the ministerial pensions of Minister Molloy and Minister O'Malley. They promised to implement social legislation and to be strong in regard to the liberal agenda but it was Minister Molloy who thought up the scheme to make the health boards responsible for the selection of outlets licensed to sell condoms. They promised to abolish the Seanad but insisted that the Taoiseach appoint three of their members to that Assembly. They talk tough and they vote soft. They distance themselves and step aside from all unpopular decisions of the Government——
(Limerick East):——and seek to take sole credit for any limited successes which the Government may claim from time to time. Finally — and most culpably — they talk of high ethical standards in politics while they continue to prop up a Taoiseach who, together with his close associates, is most responsible for the decline in ethical standards in the public and business life of this country. Their hypocrisy is accompanied by appalling arrogance in that they fully believe their six Deputies are essential to the governing of this country, a kind of aprés moi le deluge attitude to public life.
I should now like to comment on the changes announced by the Taoiseach. I shadowed the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Albert Reynolds, for a long time when he was in office. I always found him gentlemanly and courteous in debate; he pressed his political point hard but he was never personal. I wish him well in his career. I did not know Deputy Flynn well but he has been replaced by lesser men in Cabinet. The Ministers of State who were pushed out of office were the pick of the bunch. In particular, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn distinguished herself in Europe, especially during the Irish Presidency. I say to her, as the Americans say in politics, what goes round comes round or, as they say in the Gaeltacht from where she comes, "Níl íseal ná uasal ach thíos seal, thuas seal". I am sure we will all have another day.
Níl deireadh an scéil ann fós.
I think it was Shakespeare who said about one of his heroes, that "nothing in his life became him like the leaving it". Nothing in Deputy Noonan's speech became him more than his final sentence.
(Limerick East): I do not think there will be a round of applause in Mayfield Church next Sunday.
I do not think there will either. I hope — although in the light of what I just heard I wonder if it is a vain hope — that today's events will put an end to the non-productive and counterproductive diatribe which has been a feature of debate in this House over the past months and that all sides of the House will now agree to settle down to devote their time and energy to tackling the daunting issues confronting us as we move through the final decade of this century.
Good, vigorous critical debate on political, social and economic issues is the essence of parliamentary democracy. Political posturing, verbal abuse, skirmishing and sniping, as we heard every afternoon over the past months, are the exact opposite and serve only to erode public morale and to discredit the whole political process and indeed every politician in this House. I, for one, have had enough and I am happy to put on record that no woman Member has made a contribution to the kind of behaviour which I described.
Will the Deputy welcome Deputy McDaid to the Cabinet?
Today should give us an opportunity to make a fresh start. I am happy that many of today's speakers have tried to concentrate on the challenges which face us and which must be tackled without delay. Much has been said about the Maastricht meeting and the efforts which must now be made to narrow the gap between the rich and poor regions within the Community at European level. I argue that, parallel with this, a much more determined effort will have to be made to narrow the gap between rich and poor in our own country. Today I want to talk especially about poverty among children and teenagers, particularly among children in certain housing estates in every city. I will not mention the estates by name in case I should draw further attention to the families with young children who are trying to break out of the poverty trap and to achieve some kind of equality. However, without mentioning names everybody knows of the areas of which I speak. If urgent and comprehensive action is not now taken we will witness the emergence of grey townships, versions of the black townships of South Africa with all their attendant problems.
They are already there.
They are grim, grey townships described elsewhere as concrete jungles and are poor places in which to spend one's childhood at the best of times. They have grown even more miserable as a result of the effect of long term unemployment settling like a layer of toxic dust over the life prospects of families living in the areas which I did not name but which I described. If urgent intervention programmes are not put in place shortly the waste of human potential will be more than I, for one, am prepared to have on my conscience.
I should like to outline a list of measures which would at least go some way towards alleviating the problem. Proper pre-schooling will have to be provided for every child living in those suburban areas. Pre-schooling will also have to involve parents because, in many cases, young parents severely lack the skills of proper parenting and that is part of the root of the problem.
The home school liaison scheme was introduced by the Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke. She will be moved out of the Department of Education later this evening and I should like to pay tribute to her great contribution in attacking the problems of disadvantage during her term in Education. She, more than any previous Minister, made an honest effort to tackle the problems of disadvantage, which is to her credit, among the many other contributions she made in the educational field. The scheme which she introduced, mainly on a pilot basis, must be extended and strengthened because it holds the key to the solution of many problems encountered by children and teachers in areas of high disadvantage during childhood years.
Proper sports, recreational and library facilities will have to be provided to ensure the proper social, emotional and healthy physical development of young people. If we have to make policy decisions in that direction we must make them now. Much has been written about the economic deprivation experienced by young people in areas of long term unemployment. Little has been said or written about the cultural malnutrition inflicted on young people whose minds and imagination are fed daily on a junk diet of videos, morning, afternoon and late night television. You kill the wealth of a nation when you stifle the creativity of so many of its young children. What about the teenagers who are growing up in this environment, the young people who on leaving school have no jobs and no propect of jobs? All young people have a need to prove their mettle. That is a fact of life. They need to have the status and identity that comes from having a job to do and they need to have the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of their labour take shape before their own eyes and the eyes of the community.
I fail to understand that we are prepared to pay £10 million per day on social welfare and we cannot find jobs in a country where so much work remains to be done. Surely it is not beyond our ingenuity to design, plan, organise and implement schemes whereby young people could be involved, for example, in repairing and maintaining houses in their estates and bringing them up to a proper standard. They could be involved in schemes that would environmentally up-grade, improve and beautify their housing estates and bring some kind of natural beauty and order back to so many local authority estates that have become run down, some almost to the point of dereliction. Surely young people could be involved in schemes of tree planting and creating woodlands. They could work in public parks that need to be developed and maintained or jobs could be found for them in public buildings, many of which badly need a face lift.
The reality is that there are mountains of work to be done on the one hand and there are many able-bodied people available to do it on the other, if only we could make it happen. We now have harmony with our social partners, and those who have jobs are reasonably well catered for. That welcome harmony should now enable the relevant Government Departments, in conjunction with local authorities, to negotiate schemes such as those I have described and to get them off the ground. Young people who commit acts of vandalism and expend their energies in destructive ways could be encouraged to direct those energies towards constructive work and we should put schemes in place to enable them to do so. If only we had the imagination to transfer some of those millions of pounds from social welfare to, for example, the Department of Labour to enable the kind of activity I have described to take place——
Perhaps in concentration camps.
In the Army.
The Deputy should be allowed to speak without interruption.
That is a little too smart. I am very glad the Minister for Justice, Deputy Burke, is present because there is need for additional community police persons and proper health and welfare services in such communities. It is time for all of us to acknowledge that it is going to be extremely difficult to instil concepts of justice into young people whose lives are surrounded with evidence of injustice. I do not think that is something we should continue to ignore. In other words, we should not seek to under-estimate the power of the hidden curriculum.
The problems which I have experienced in at least three estates in my constituency will not be solved by Government intervention alone. The community and voluntary agencies within the community have a role to play, as has the Church. During the course of work in my constituency I have met too many young people in whose lives all hope for the future has died. These are the young people who get caught up in a web of teenage drinking and drug taking and very often teenage pregnancies. I meet these people when they are 17 or 18 years of age and they have the hardened faces of old men and old women because they have all of life's experiences behind them and none of life's possibilities ahead of them. In many of those young people's lives all hope is dead, and in any life where hope is dead surely God is missing because God is hope.
Sometimes I think of the great heroism with which Ireland in the past has sent missionaries abroad to far-flung corners of the earth to bring God to the lives of people deemed to be Godless. The time has come for some kind of reverse missionary activities. The Church will have to play a more direct role in coming to the assistance of so many of our young people who are lost, lonesome and adrift in the streets of our cities. That must be done and we must face up to it.
In the past we have, as a country, a very good reputation for our generosity to the Third World, maybe not at Government level but certainly in terms of voluntary subscriptions. We have a very good reputation for the attention we pay to the needs of the Third World, but we have our own third world at home. We have to look to the developing situation which will get worse unless intervention programmes are put in place. It was said of the Wild Geese of old — the 300th anniversary of their leaving is now being celebrated in Limerick — that they fought everybody's battle except their own. It is time that we considered fighting our battles, maybe small but nevertheless important battles. If action is not taken now the consequences to society in the future will be much too serious to even contemplate.
As we ponder on all the challenges that face us, I hope we will concentrate our time and energy on the Programme for Government. This is an item about which I feel extremely strongly. As I said in the course of my introduction, the continued presence of unemployment is something that I am no longer prepared to live with. It is about time that the conscience of the nation was stirred. The young people and their parents looking at what is happening today and what has happened in the last month can take little hope from the sparring and the empty rhetoric that has filled the House. If we are to act according to our consciences we will have to put that behind us and focus on the job that needs to be done.
The Deputy did not welcome Deputy McDaid to the Cabinet.
Is the Deputy's conscience telling her about the new Minister for Defence?
I would like to note the enthusiastic welcome by the Progressive Democrats for the appointment of the two new Ministers to Cabinet as evidenced on the record of this House by the silence of Deputy Quill. That record should stand.
They vote with their feet.
This is a very tired Government. In most Governments the objective of reshuffles of the order that has taken place, as distinct from filling two vacancies, would be to reinvigorate that Government so as to enable them to complete or stagger on to the end of their term.
I should like to put on record the absolute amazement of the Fianna Fáil backbenchers who scurried so noisely out of this House in a panic stricken exodus that business was stalled for a few moments before Deputy Bruton, the Leader of the largest Opposition party, began his contribution. Their expressions of amazement, which turned to bewilderment, and in some cases to downright anger, could be heard in the corridors and overheard in the Members bar as Fianna Fáil Deputies — both those of the loyal 55 and the doubting 22——
The growing number of 22.
——said they could not understand the logic that had led the Taoiseach for the time being to reshuffle the pack in the manner he did. Perhaps it is a testimony to the Minister for Justice who is present, and indeed to the Minister of State and Chief Whip, that they were not reshuffled although I am sure the Minister of State is wondering why he did not get the hard-earned promotion he would have thought himself entitled to.
The Deputy should stick to his own business.
I did not hear that remark.
It is just as well.
Perhaps it is a testimony to the Minister for Justice's tenacity in holding on to his position that he was not included in the reshuffle. Perhaps it is a testimony to both Deputy Burke and Deputy Vincent Brady that the Taoiseach considers they are doing a good job, but nobody in his right mind could consider that Deputy O'Kennedy was doing a good job in the Department of Agriculture and Food. He is being moved from one particularly sensitive position, as head of the Department of Agriculture and Food, to another, the Department of Labour, when after a relatively calm period of industrial relations over the past three years we are facing into extreme difficulty as is manifest by the ongoing industrial disputes which will spill over after the Government renege on the Programme for Economic and Social Progress as they have clearly signalled. The Government are putting into that most sensitive of portfolios a person who, with all due respects, has not proven he has the ability to do the job or jobs he had. That is not just me expressing amazement; it was on the lips of dozens of Fianna Fáil backbenchers as they gasped over their coffee in the Members bar after the Taoiseach's announcement.
Indeed, they choked and gasped over their coffee.
There will be two new Ministers in the Cabinet. I do not know enough about either person to be able to comment on their ability. Deputy McDaid has been the subject of considerable discussion in the House and I do not propose to add to that. Deputy Davern, however, has been a Member of the House for a long time and it is a reflection on him and on the way we conduct our business that a great many people would not necessarily know what Deputy Davern thinks. Perhaps it is for that reason he is being put into the Department of Education to calm the nerves of the cautious conservatives who were getting worried about the radical sounds associated with the leaked text of the Green Paper on education proposed by the Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke. One has to look at the motivation for selecting Deputy Davern for that portfolio.
Why were these changes made at a time when the Estimates have not been finalised and when in many cases the key spending Departments have had their key Ministers removed? We know that the Estimates have not yet been completed. Yesterday at Question Time, the Taoiseach, in his temporary capacity as Minister for Finance, said that negotiations with the social partners were continuing with a view to finding a formula that would enable the Estimates to be completed within the context of the pay commitments for 1992. When asked to explain what he meant by that he declined to elaborate, but he did not deny the charges I made to the effect that the Government can not yet complete their Estimates because they have not got an understanding with the social partners in respect of modifying the commitments made in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. He did not indicate that the trade union movement, in particular, had been specifically asked to consider renegotiating, reducing or in some way postponing elements of the pay agreement to which they are entitled and for which they were given an assurance they would be paid notwithstanding anything that had been said by the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Albert Reynolds.
Another very strong and clear message has been conveyed by the Taoiseach not just to his own group of 55 and the group of 22 Deputies but to the public. His message was that promotion, reward and development are not necessarily related to hard work, effort, application or manifest dedication. I am not referring to Deputy Roche but to the group of young Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party whose ability has been noted and commented upon by various journalists and Members who are not of the same party. What message is the Taoiseach sending out to a generation of young people who believe that if they work hard and apply themselves they can expect reasonable prospects of promotion and recognition? On the basis of the exodus from this House this morning, and the sheer anger that is ricocheting around the corridors of Leinster House, a very negative signal has been sent around the parliamentary rooms of the Fianna Fáil Party. Perhaps it was the same type of signal that was sent around the business circles about tendering for business or trying to promote expertise in relation to work, that the ethos of the golden circle is as predominant and effective as ethos of hard work, application and proven achievement.
It is hard to understand the promotion of certain Deputies over the heads and shoulders of other Members who, although they have different political views from me, clearly are people of considerable ability. Indeed, the promotion of two backbenchers over the heads of the seven Ministers of State, allowing for the sacking of their three colleagues, does not make sense. If County Donegal was to be compensated to balance the loss of a Cabinet Minister in County Mayo and a Minister of State in Galway, logic and, indeed, performance to date would suggest that Deputy Pat "The Cope" Gallagher would have reasonable expectations of such a promotion. Instead a Deputy who was elected in 1989 and does not have the experience of many of his colleagues, male or female, from that county has been favoured by the Taoiseach.
The logic of this reshuffle is not apparent to me nor, I suggest, is it apparent to Fianna Fáil Members, either the 55 or the 22. If it is not apparent to those of us who are so close to the centre of political gravity in this Republic how will it appear to the public? How will it be interpreted by the pundits and journalists who will have to explain it? I believe it has already sent a very confusing and negative signal. The Government are not seizing the opportunity to relaunch themselves and deal imaginatively with many of the problems facing us in the run up to the Maastricht Summit, the completion of the Single Market, the vagaries confronting us in relation to the GATT negotiations and the changes that will occur in the agri-business as a result of the massive changes in Common Agricultural Policy. Instead of responding creatively and positively we have a confused, bemuddled and, I would go so far as to say a sinister and cynical reshuffle by the Taoiseach, who has once again, for the fourth time, warded off an attack on his leadership — or, as he described it himself, an attempted grab at power, in which he alleged Deputy Reynolds was involved.
The Taoiseach has warded off such a grab at power and has brought into the House a team of new Ministers for Cabinet and has made an announcement of three replacements for the sacked three Ministers of State without telling us which portfolios they will get, or to which Departments they will be assigned. We have had little or no explanation about that. The Taoiseach stood up, gave what was for him an uncharacteristically very brief speech and simply announced who was going to what. The House was given no reason why Deputy Woods should take over the Department of Agriculture and Food, although we all know that Deputy Woods has scientific qualifications in that area and perhaps may at one level be eminently qualified. That explanation was not offered. Perhaps if the Taoiseach had provided an explanation of Deputy Woods' positive qualifications he would have been in great difficulty when trying to find similar positive qualifications for Deputy O'Kennedy. In respect of all of the placements and all the changes that have been made no explanations of a regional kind, of a political left or right kind, of a technocratic kind or of an administrative kind have been offered. The portfolios have been just reshuffled, rearranged and presented to us within days of the Estimates being completed and within weeks of the budget coming before the House.
On a personal note, I want to say that I wish every Deputy in the House well, and I particularly wish the new Cabinet Ministers well. Having shared that experience myself, I can relate and respond to the sense of honour, pleasure and pride that they must be feeling tonight. I wish them well without any reservation in that sense of achievement. Indeed, not only themselves, I also wish their families and their loved ones well, because one does not get into the House on one's own, there is a whole team behind every Deputy in the House. The teams of the two Deputies to be elevated tonight are entitled to due recognition and celebration.
However, celebrations are short-lived and parties come to an end, sometimes with very unenviable hangovers. The hangovers that Deputy Ahern, Deputy Davern and Deputy McDaid will have will be substantial. Therefore, in repetition of what my party leader and colleague, Deputy Dick Spring, said this morning, I think it would be unwise for any members of the new Cabinet or the team of junior Ministers to expect some protracted or extended honeymoon period in relation to the performance of the Government.
They had a chance to make the real change, the only reshuffle that mattered — and that was to remove the Taoiseach. They failed. That move would have brought about a real reshuffle, it would have brought about real change and perhaps it would have brought about a return to meritocracy, openness and, indeed, democracy, not just within this House but within the largest party in it. That chalice was grasped at a few times and then cast away. Instead we have what is in front of us now and we are being asked to vote confidence in this Administration and to confirm in office as Ministers of the Government and, I presume, although we have no formal constitutional say in it, in effect to confirm in advance the appointment of the three junior Ministers.
I want to say on behalf of the Labour Party that we are not prepared to do that and we will be voting against those appointments tonight because there is not contained in the names or in the portfolios to which any of those Deputies have been appointed any glimmer that new policies will emerge. There is no sense of a new solution emerging from the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Social Welfare or from the Minister for the Environment. In the form of an aside, it may perhaps be good news for Deputy Boylan and the potholers of Cavan-Monaghan in that maybe the cost of running a car in that abandoned constituency will be reduced because of the presence of Deputy Rory O'Hanlon, now Minister for the Environment, with responsibility for that area of environmental abandonment and the quality of its roads.
But they are minor points on an otherwise bleak horizon, and that bleak horizon will get bleaker. Yesterday Deputy Pat Rabbitte on behalf of The Workers' Party read into the record an analysis made by a very respected economist from a respected firm of stockbrokers projecting that unemployment would grow to the 300,000 mark by the middle of next year and peak at more than 325,000 at some time nearer 1993. Nothing that we have heard from this Administration can give us any confidence that they will reduce that upward and apparently relentless increase.
It is bad enough to be able to say that, but what is even more damning is the incredible arrogance of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats Party that not only do they proclaim to not have the answers themselves, they refuse to listen to any other political party in the House who might possibly have half an answer or the suggestion of an answer. Proposals for an economic and social affairs committee to work in tandem with the Programme for Economic and Social Progress were contemptuously dismissed; suggestions for a jobs forum from the Fine Gael Party were rubbished; proposals for a European affairs committee to analyse in detail and, indeed to strengthen the negotiating hand of the Minister in relation to social cohesion — as happens in Spain and in Denmark and so as has happened in the Netherlands — were contemptuously dismissed by that “Minister of the Airwaves”, Deputy Collins, whose claim to fame relates more to the Abbey Theatre than it does to Leinster House. This side of the House may not have all the answers but the people over there appear to have none, and their contemptuous, arrogant disregard of any suggestions that might come from this side of the House — backed up by a permanent Civil Service, which has been indicted in a manner that no such permanent bureaucracy could ever have been indicated by Professor Joseph Lee in his book, which is a testimony to the failure of the 70-odd years dominated by the Department of Finance — is the real crime tonight. There has been no real reshuffle. The deck chairs have been rearranged——
An Leas-Ceann Comhairle
May I remind the Deputy that he has two minutes to conclude?
I shall conclude on that point. Because the House consistently refused to reform the way in which it does business and because the arrogant parties in Government refused to listen or even to hear some of the suggestions that have been repeatedly put forward by every Deputy from the Opposition side of the House — and, indeed, I suggest, by many Government backbench Deputies, including those who left the House in disgust — we have a tired Government, locked in a bunker of despair, with two new members who have joined it, whose contributions we cannot assess because we simply do not know. We are being asked to vote confidence in that Administration. No, Sir, we will not so do.
If there is one party in the House that should absent themselves today when we are talking about a reshuffling of the Cabinet——
It is the Progressive Democrats.
——it should be the Labour Party. I ask the House to cast its mind back just a short few years ago to 1986 when the Labour Party, then in the most discredited Government that this country ever saw — in which they participated in a fairly inactive way, I think that would be the charitable way to describe it — were very active in the reshuffle of 1986, so active that the Taoiseach of the day had his decisions vetoed by the otherwise inactive Minister for Health at the time. The same Minister for Health, former Deputy Barry Desmond, on one classic occasion announced the closure of about seven hospitals in this country but had to withdraw the proposal before the evening was out. That was typical of Labour Party participation in Government. If one were a stranger in the Gallery who had not visited this country before, somebody who did not know the history of the Labour Party in Government, one could be excused for taking Deputy Quinn seriously. But then one would need to have been in this country for the first time or absent for a couple of decades in order to object to a reshuffle and talk about it, as Deputy Quinn began, to the effect that it should be to complete a programme or stagger on to the end of a programme. Deputy Quinn, in his own words, had the honour to be a member of that Government. I understand the honour of being a Minister. I am honoured to be a Minister in this Administration, so would any Member of this House. One enters this House to represent the people of one's constituency, with the hope, some day, of achieving a position at junior or senior level in Government and make one's contribution in that way for the betterment of our people.
It is totally unacceptable for Deputy Quinn to come in here and talk about a reshuffle, about Fianna Fáil business, shedding crocodile tears of concern for Members of the Fianna Fáil Party, for the difficulty the Taoiseach experiences — something of which Deputy Quinn would be unaware in his organisation — in making difficult choices for promotion and recognition because there is, as Deputy Quinn acknowledged, such an abundance of talent within the Fianna Fáil Party. The Taoiseach is limited in the number of people he would wish to promote because, although Deputy Quinn did not use the phrase "abundance of talent", he did emphasise there were so many excellent backbenchers and Members worthy of promotion. I agree with Deputy Quinn that there are so many Members worthy of promotion within our party.
It is really a bit hypocritical of Deputy Quinn or anybody in the Labour Party to come into this House and talk about reshuffles, about changes in Government, when their party, not in the interest of the country or of the betterment of our people but for no purpose other than base political opportunism, refused to be shuffled.
As did the Progressive Democrats.
It is the Taoiseach's constitutional right and prerogative to decide who will be in his Government and in what position they will serve this country. I listened to Deputy Quinn talk about democracy, about the need for change, the need for committee systems and so on. What about the Constitution? The Constitution actually specifies the Taoiseach's right, his prerogative and so on. Until that end of January day in 1987, when they had been milked to the very end, when the national debt had doubled, when there was despair nationwide, when editorials of the time were referring to the fact that probably we would have to call in the World Bank in an effort to bale us out, when there was nothing but pure, black despair nationwide, Deputy Quinn and his masters in that Government, fair play to him, stuck it out to the last bitter moment of that Government when they had to be chased out by the people. I accept that we are in the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate and that Deputy Quinn was speaking very much tongue in cheek.
It is all right for Deputy Quinn to make comments about Fianna Fáil, our abundance of talent and so on. What I do object to — and I want to put it on the record here — is this. I have served in Government now at different levels since 1987 and have been honoured to do so, have enjoyed it and given it my all. Perhaps I have not always been as successful as some would like me to have been; there are things about which I am particularly pleased and others I might have hoped would have been even more successful in that period——
Did the Minister object to taking back the trees?
I object to Deputy Quinn coming into this House and making comments about the permanent Civil Service. In my view — Deputy Quinn has served in Government and knows this — within our democracy since the foundation of this State we have been blessed with loyal civil servants, men and women of integrity who have served this country to the best of their ability, who have served successive administrations without fear or favour, without showing any political bias. I object strongly, as a Minister of this Administration, that the permanent Civil Service should be indicted in the manner in which Deputy Quinn chose to do.
I want to say to Deputy Quinn also that it is a bit much to listen to him talk about the Programme for Economic and Social Progress having crashed. Other Members, including Deputy Noonan, spoke about it earlier. No such thing has happened. The Programme for Economic and Social Progress in all of its facets is being implemented by way of continuing review and so on. Since 1987, when Fianna Fáil assumed office, a major plank of our strategy has been negotiations, discussions, and agreement between all of the social partners, that is, Government, unions, employers, farmers. That was the case with the original Programme for National Recoveryand now with the negotiations under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.
It would be my hope perhaps a futile one that some day we would hear some Labour Party member come into this House and tell us just how often during their period in Government the unions ever got even inside the door of Government Buildings never mind sit down and achieve the type of negotiations engaged in under the Programme for National Recovery, the commitments given thereunder, continuing into the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, including all of its review and discussion procedures.
To revert to the point made by Deputy Quinn about Fianna Fáil Members of this House leaving in disgust this morning, I should say that what I saw here this morning was not a matter of Deputies leaving in disgust but rather a rush by my colleagues to go over and congratulate those who among this abundance of talent to which Deputy Quinn referred——
That was indeed heart warming, because within Fine Gael and Labour what would be seen would be the knives, not the hand of congratulation.
The knives were used last weekend.
It will be a long time before Deputy Quinn or Fine Gael — and never, hopefully, for their friends to their left — will ever have the opportunity of having a Taoiseach stand here and give members of their parties an opportunity to take over in Government.
It is with the greatest pleasure that I commend this motion to the House affirming the commitment of the Government to the development of this country and the wellbeing of its people through the programme designed by the partners in Government and the selection of Ministers by the Taoiseach today. That programme, agreed some weeks ago, serves as a review of the agreement devised in July 1989 by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats to serve as a basic framework under which both parties would seek to serve our people in Government. I am pleased to note in this House that the vast majority of the original commitments contained in the programme have been or are being carried out. That programme has served this country well following on the achievements of the Fianna Fáil Government of 1987 to 1989, providing great benefits to our people.
As I said earlier, we have a unique coming together of the social partners, an unprecedented willingness to work together for the good of all our people, resulting in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. The Government continue to work closely with the social partners on the successful implementation of this far-reaching and integral programme. In addition, we have the European Communities common support framework based on the national development plan.
The inter-party agreement of 1989 set out a wide range of major social, economic and institutional reform objectives, which are now backed up by the new agreement which has set out a number of specific, ambitious, exciting and determined goals which will enhance this nation in the years ahead.
This nation faces many challenges. Greatest among these challenges is unemployment. This Government have taken action which has insured that net employment has increased by 30,000 since 1989; that an economic climate is maintained which is conducive to growth and investment; and that specific measures were implemented to promote growth in important economic sectors in our community such as agriculture, tourism, the marine, financial services and forestry. A Task Force on Employment has been established to assist the Government in taking speedy and effective measures to assist employment creation.
In the field of taxation this Government have been widely recognised for taking the bull by the horns. Steps have been taken in tax reform which ensure that taxation does not serve as a restriction on economic growth or job creation, provide for fairness and greater social equity, reduce economic distortions, facilitate compliance with tax laws, and lessen the attractions and opportunities for tax evasion.
There has also been a very significant emphasis on the need for social progress in matters which affect the freedom of the individual and the entire quality of life. For my own part 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 I have, since I became Minister for Justice in 1989, introduced an unprecedented legislative programme which will only be surpassed by the programme which I will introduce in the next two years of Government.
Without going into all the detail of the legislation which has been passed, I will run through it for the record. Acts included the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, the Larceny Act, 1990, the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act, 1990, and the Criminal Justice Act, 1990, of which I am very proud. It finally removed the death penalty from our Statute 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, introduced new concepts into our law in relation to rape within marriage etc. Other Acts were the the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act, 1990, the Child Abduction and Enforcement of Custody Orders Act, 1991, the Contractual Obligations (Applicable Law) Act, 1991, the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 1991, the Courts Act, 1991 and the Courts (No. 2) Act, 1991. The Criminal Damage Bill, 1990, is before the House.
By any reckoning that is an impressive and substantial catalogue of legislative achievement over the past two years. However, there are a number of very important legislative proposals in the new Programme for Government which I am committed to enact into law over the next two years. One of those is the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill, which I circulated at the end of last month. I was glad that it was welcomed by Opposition spokespersons. I am sure that, like me, they will see room for improvement; but we will tease that out on Committee Stage. I have to acknowledge the welcome which has been given to the general principles of consumer protection included in that legislation and I want to give credit to my colleagues on the other side of the House for that.
I will be introducing within the next couple of weeks the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulations) Bill, to which I referred in this House yesterday. It will regulate on a statutory basis interception of communications for the purposes of criminal investigation and State security.
There will be a Bill to provide for the confiscation of the proceeds of crime, 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 before the end of the session.
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 also be published within 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.
There will be a Courts Bill to set up a court of civil appeal.
In the family law area, 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.
There are a number of further legislative proposals being prepared in my Department across the range of the Government's commitments. The Juvenile Justice Bill is a very important example.
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 very 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. It is all part of the Programme for Government. It is an ambitious programme to be sure. I am convinced that these ambitions will bear fruit and that the Taoiseach, Deputy Charles J. Haughey, has assembled a team which can and will deliver on the programme's promises.
My colleague, Deputy Bertie Ahern, while Minister for Labour, worked for many years to bring our social partners together in a unified and constructive approach. His talents, his abilities to find accord where only discord seems apparent, will serve the Office of Minister for Finance well.
As our new Minister for Agriculture, I am certain that Deputy Michael Woods will bring the same degree of dedicated concern and attention to detail which he demonstrated as Minister for Social Welfare.
With the revisions required in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, I am confident that the skills demonstrated by my colleague, Deputy Michael O'Kennedy, will be put to good use as Minister for Labour.
I am confident that Deputies Rory O'Hanlon, Mary O'Rourke and Brendan Daly will bring energy, imagination and great innovation to their new portfolios. My colleagues amply demonstrated this in their former responsibilities. The Departments of Environment, Health and Social Welfare will benefit greatly from the dedication which I know my colleagues will bring to them.
In Deputies Noel Davern and Jim McDaid I welcome two friends and colleagues to Government. I look forward to their contributions in Government and I am sure that all good-thinking people will wish them well.
In Deputy James McDaid this House has been graced by a Deputy who has been most forthright and eloquent in his views. He has proven himself to be honourable in his dealings in this House and with the people he has encountered in his constituency. I have no doubt whatsoever that he will prove to be a most excellent, competent and absolutely reliable and trustworthy Minister for Defence.
Deputy Noel Davern has served this nation both in this House and in the European Parliament for 22 years. His has been a distinguished career and has been recognised as a parliamentarian of great experience and a man of great talent and ability both here and in Europe. He is a man with a very deep knowledge of our community, possessed of an abundance of good commonsense, both attributes serving as marvellous recommendations for a good, indeed a superb Minister for Education.
I would like to take this opportunity completely to reject the level of criticism which has poured forth from the Opposition benches. Much of it has been pointless and mean spirited. In the case of Deputy Noel Davern it has been downright scurrilous and abusive and equally so in the case of my colleague, Deputy McDaid. Indeed, I would put it before this House that the words directed against my colleagues bear more reflection on those who would throw invective and epithets than those to whom these attacks are directed.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate Deputies Michael Kitt, John O'Donoghue and Dermot Ahern on their appointments as Ministers of State in this Government.
The team led by the Taoiseach includes my colleagues, the Tanáiste Deputy John Wilson, Deputies Gerry Collins in Foreign Affairs, Seamus Brennan in Tourism, Transport and Communications, our Progressive Democrats colleagues, Deputies Des O'Malley in Industry and Commerce and Bobby Molloy in Energy as well as myself as Minister for Justice. It is a strong team with imagination and talent. It is a team that can and will deliver on the commitments they have given the people in their Programme for Government. There is no other grouping in this House which can reflect anything near the level of experience, talent or commitment which this Government have. I have no hesitation in commending this Government and their programme to this House.
With the permission of the House, I should like to share my time with Deputy Yates.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The appointment of Ministers and Ministers of State is the responsibility of the Taoiseach. It will probably not be of interest to anyone except me that 16 years ago to the very day I was elected to this House after a by-election. Since then I have seen people come and go from this House. I am sure that in a personal sense this is a day of excitement and joy for the new Ministers and Ministers of State. I am sure also that it is a day of sorrow and disappointment for others. I do not want anything I say to be taken personally.
One of the most significant statements made today was made outside the House by the Minister for Labour, Deputy Ahern, the proposed Minister for Finance. He indicated that he would not be a candidate for the leadership of the Fianna Fáil Party on the next occasion this issue arises. The appointments announced by the Taoiseach today are about the preservation of Fianna Fáil in Government. They are also about preparing for the next occasion on which they consider whether they should stay in Government.
It is very interesting to analyse that statement and its consequences for those who belong to the gang of 22. Both Deputy Reynolds and my constituency colleague, Deputy Flynn, have to a great extent removed themselves from the Fianna Fáil leadership race. Does this not reflect, in part, the hand of Commissioner MacSharry in this issue? Does it mean that the Taoiseach will continue to lead the Government until the next general election when Mr. MacSharry will be inveigled back by some method to stand in a constituency which hopefully he will win and thereby become the great white hope, the great champion, who will lead Fianna Fáil in Government in the years ahead? This is an analysis worth considering. I predict that it may not be too far from the truth.
I should like to pay tribute to Deputy Flynn for the work he carried out in the west as Minister for the Environment. As one of the big spending Departments he had the opportunity to put resources which had not been provided previously at the disposal of local authorities. I recognise that and I want to put it on the record. However, he failed dramatically in other areas of major concern to the people of my constituency. I shall deal with these issues at a later stage.
I should like to remind the Taoiseach that the west has literally been thrown to the wolves. Despite the calling by the Bishops of conferences on the decline of income or people living in the west, the decline in population and other related problems, only one Deputy from County Mayo, Deputy Calleary, and one Deputy from County Galway, Deputy Fahey, hold ministerial appointments. This is a far cry from the days when the former Deputy, Mr. MacSharry, Deputy Flynn, the former Deputy, Mr. Gallagher, the Minister of State, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Doherty, drove around the west in State cars representing all sorts of Departments. Connacht has been thrown to the wolves in that sense. I regret this very much. People will not forget this at the next general election.
I should like to congratulate Deputies Davern and McDaid on their proposed appointments. I disagree entirely with Deputy De Rossa who stressed the necessity for the Minister for Education to have educational qualifications. Deputy Davern will have to rise to the challenges facing him. We will all have our personal views on that. I disagree with Deputy De Rossa's interpretation of the need for the Minister holding this portfolio to have adequate educational qualifications.
I had known Deputy McDaid for many years, having been an acquaintance of many of his former school mates in Galway. It behoves him both as a Minister and personally to clear up as a matter of urgency the allegations in regard to various activities in which he participated a few years ago. Perhaps the Taoiseach was aware that by appointing Deputy McDaid as Minister for Defence the heat would be taken off certain areas and transferred to some new controversy.
The appointment of Deputy Ahern as Minister for Finance was predicted by the media. In fact, they went so far as to say that he could have had any Ministry he wished. If this is true, his influence must be very great indeed. It is probably more practical to suggest that with over 1.5 million voters in the Dublin area this is a serious move by the Government to win back votes they lost in the recent past.
Even though he will not admit it publicly, I am sure Deputy O'Hanlon is glad to leave the Department of Health and that a great burden has been lifted off his shoulders. I can guarantee him that the county managers and engineers in counties Cavan and Monaghan will be sending faxes to him very quickly so that next July or August he will be in a position to allocate grants to those areas. In doing this he will be able to show up the people who have been campaigning over the past number of years for the pothole problem to be resolved. I wish the Minister every success in this very broad ranging and major spending Department.
Deputy O'Kennedy seems to be moving in reverse having gone from being Minister for Finance to Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister for Agriculture and Food and now Minister for Labour. Nice man though he is, I think this is an indication of his leadership chances.
It is proposed to appoint Deputy O'Rourke as Minister for Health. I fear our chances of having a regional technical college located in Castlebar are well-nigh snookered given her admonition to the former Minister for the Environment during the Presidential election campaign to remove himself forthwith across the Shannon.
I wish all the appointees every success in their new ministries. In particular, I want to congratulate Deputy Michael Kitt, whom I sat beside at school, on his proposed appointment as Minister of State. He has been a Member of this House for just over 16 years. The Taoiseach has admonished the Deputy's brother for voting against him. Deputy Kitt represents the same constituency as former Minister of State, Deputy Noel Treacy. Deputy Ahern and Deputy O'Donoghue are very capable men and I wish them every success in their appointments.
The Cabinet are tired and shell-shocked. While new appointments will give them a short new lease of life they will fall back into the same bunker in trying to deal with the problem of 300,000 unemployed, our balance of payments deficit and the enormous tax burden. The Taoiseach should prevent the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Collins, from travelling around the world. It was obvious from his display on the "Six-One" news that he has spent too long at the Wailing Wall in Israel. I have never witnessed such an exhibition of hysterics. I hope Peter Brooke did not see that broadcast. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has to deal with very sensitive international issues and his display on the "Six-One" news was an absolute disgrace.
A cult has grown up around this Government through the personage of the Taoiseach. Even though he is a wise politician of great experience I believe that even if he were to wash himself in Jeyes fluid every morning he would never get rid of the cult of "stroke politics" which has grown up around this Government. The pack of 22 who are baying behind him will always be there and the cold winds blowing across those back benches will begin to warm up after a while. The six people who always stand by the Republic, or who profess to stand by the Republic, will within six months be snapping at the leader's heels. For these few short months of reasonably clear Government I wish them the best of luck in getting down to the serious business of attempting to grapple with the problems facing us, and we will deal with the next storm when it blows up.
First, I congratulate all the appointees on their appointments and as someone who jousted with the Minister for Health, Deputy O'Hanlon, for some brief time in that portfolio, I wish him well in his new appointment. He did endure a very turbulent period when I was spokesperson and I inflicted as much damage on him as I could at the time but he is none the worse for wear now.
I regret very much the movement out of office of the five office-holders and I wish them well in the future. The only non-political point I wish to make is that I regret the Taoiseach has missed the opportunity to reorganise the Departments. In the transport area, road transport, traffic issues and road construction are dealt with by the Minister for the Environment; aviation and sea transport are dealt with by the Minister for Transport, and ports and shipping are dealt with by the Minister for the Marine. There is a hue and cry among everyone in the transport sector that there would be one single Ministry to deal with all aspects of transport. That opportunity has been missed yet again. However, the major point I wish to make in this debate is on the role of the Progressive Democrats.
We have heard over the last few days that this was an internal matter for one party, namely, Fianna Fáil. This debate on tonight's appointments is not an internal matter; it is a matter for the House and the public. We are dealing with constitutional appointments. The Progressive Democrats were established on 21 December 1985. I cannot understand how there is not a total sense of déja vu, some sense of reminiscence amongst those members of the Progressive Democrats about the months before and after the period when the Progressive Democrats were established. At that time we again had the club of 22, all they went through, the expulsion of Deputy O'Malley, and I think it is fair to say that all six individual Deputies in the Progressive Democrats would be in Fianna Fáil tonight were it not for the leadership of the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey. They took a principle stance on a number of issues about standards in public office, about a style of Government. I remember distinctly Deputy O'Malley saying he found it unacceptable to read Government decisions in the newspapers or to hear of meetings on matters which were not discussed in Cabinet; yet we had a recurrence of these events recently. He resigned from the Cabinet and was then expelled from the party.
If we are to look back at those events and the role of Deputy O'Malley now one has to reasonably conclude that all of that would not be seen now as a position of principle but as a leadership heave by Deputy O'Malley against the Taoiseach in the same way as recent events have been contrived to be an attempt by Deputy Reynolds to heave against the Taoiseach. Therefore, we must depart from any semblance of principle, any semblance of a higher plane which the Progressive Democrats seek to put themselves, when they now turn away from the politics of personality of which their own creation was part. Deputy O'Malley said in 1985 that the Taoiseach was not a fit person to hold office. That situation must be contrasted with his remarks today when he said that he would not be sidetracked or distracted with issues of personality. He said that he had been uncomfortable in recent times but he would not be compromised. I suggest, given the revelations that have taken place in this House today, in relation to Deputy McDaid — against whom I have no personal animosity — and Deputy O'Malley's singular stance on extradition, he must surely be moving from being uncomfortable to being compromised.
I do not understand how the Deputies of Limerick East and Galway West can go back to their constituencies when, in those constituencies, Ministers have either been fired or have been precluded from office — particularly in relation to Deputy O'Dea — simply because they have stood up to the Taoiseach. I do not understand how they will not be obliterated at the next election by people who backed the Progressive Democrats, who saw their stand of principle at the time against the Taoiseach, all of the things we are hearing at cumann meetings and comhairle ceanntair meetings in Galway West and so on. I do not see how the issue of a secret ballot in 1983 could be a vital issue and now it is not a matter of any significance. I do not see how Deputy O'Malley could say: for evil to succeed requires good people to do nothing, and pretend not to hear the debate now. I was convulsed with feelings of revulsion in relation to the performance of the Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy, on "Morning Ireland" yesterday, where he was weeping crocodile tears about the plight of the Ministers of State from Galway East and Galway West who were to be sacked and said that at Cabinet level he would vote against it whereas tonight at 10 p.m. he will vote in favour of it. That type of cynicism and hypocrisy is so unacceptable that it is no wonder young people are turning away from politics. It was nauseating that he should go on radio and pretend he was sympathetic to their plight when it is known how he will vote tonight. He should be honest about it and say he believes he has no choice but to take the action he is taking. Who does he think he is fooling?
The new line coming from the Progressive Democrats is that it is their national duty. There is a great danger in politics that when you start believing your own propaganda you totally lose the run of yourself. To say that the public, in any election would not deliver their verdict and try to form an alternative Government, or even the same Government or even give Fianna Fáil an overall majority, to deny the public that right and say there is no alternative was the height of arrogance. It reminds me of when I first got involved in politics in the late seventies. I was told there was an inherent historical factor about Fianna Fáil that they believed they were the traditional party of Government, that their whole history was imbued with being in Government. I believe a touch of that is now hitting Deputy O'Malley and Deputy Molloy whereby they think they are indispensable to stable government in this country: such rubbish I have never heard. It is their personal desire to stay in office for as long as possible, to cling like a limpet to office and all the trappings it has, when they clearly see from any sample of public opinion, be it certified opinion polls by all the range of different research companies, by telepolls, etc. it is clearly shown that the maximum support the Taoiseach has is somewhere around 30 per cent and is lower in certain instances.
Arising out of this debate, there is no way out for the Progressive Democrats. They have to look at their future in the context of the present; at present they will swallow anything the Taoiseach asks them to swallow. A party that set out with reasonable principles will end up as a party of expediency. They will fall into the same trap which Fianna Fáil will fall into. On Friday last the Taoiseach on radio and television defended his leadership of Fianna Fáil since 1979. When the Taoiseach took over some 12 years ago, in December 1979, Fianna Fáil had a majority of 18 seats. The legacy of the Taoiseach is that Fianna Fáil will never ever have an overall majority again in the foreseeable future because of the depths to which he has brought them. Leaving aside the debt he has left the party, the bitterness in personalities and all the internal issues, the fact remains that he has removed for them the opportunity of overall Government. He has submerged the identity of Fianna Fáil into the folklore hero of a survivor. What do Fianna Fáil stand for on Northern Ireland, on the economy, and on jobs? They stand for what the Taoiseach says they stand for; pragmatism, expediency and whatever suits tomorrow's crucial vote. That submergence of a great party will now affect the Progressive Democrats whereby everything is dictated to by the order of how to get through today, tomorrow and how to extend the lifetime of this Government. I regret that this Government is unlike previous Governments: Mr. Lynch reappointed Mr. Haughey, although obviously he did not agree with him; Deputy Cosgrave appointed Deputy Garret FitzGerald and Deputy FitzGerald appointed Deputy Paddy Cooney. They appointed different personalities who were not clones. Now we have a situation in which to be a Member of a Cabinet one must be a Haughey clone. One must swear allegiance publicly. Tolerance of another person's point of view is vital within a party and within a Cabinet. I regret that now we have Haughey clones and that unfortunately extends to the two Progressive Democrats members of the Government.
I listened attentively to Deputies Kenny and Yates. Deputy Kenny forecast the future which I suppose is part of the exercise that Opposition Deputies indulge in from time to time. Unfortunately, as usual he was wide of the mark. When the Deputy referred to the Euro-constituency of Connacht/Ulster and to ministerial representation he did not say that when the last Fine Gael/Labour Government were in power there was only one Minister in Connacht/Ulster, the former Minister, Deputy Paddy O'Toole from Mayo, whereas now there are four senior Ministers in Government from Connacht/ Ulster and four Ministers of State. There is very good representation from that part of the country.
I thank both Deputies Kenny and Yates for their good wishes to me. Deputy Yates referred to the fact that the two new appointments are constitutional appointments. It is unfortunate that they have not been treated as such in this House by the Opposition. If they were, Opposition Deputies would not have come in here and attacked personalities by inneundo and unfounded allegations. Indeed, Deputy Yates indulged in that with regard to Deputy McDaid. The two new Ministers, Deputies McDaid and Davern, are two honourable men who will make a valuable contribution to Government. I will be proud to serve with both of them in Government.
Deputy Yates referred to national duty. We all have a national duty. We as Members of the Fianna Fáil Party have an obligation in co-operation with our colleagues in Government from the Progressive Democrats to ensure that we provide efficient and effective Government in the interest of the people. I am proud of the history of Fianna Fáil in Government going back to 1932. Fianna Fáil have been responsible for all the major social and economic developments here since 1932.
The Taoiseach has been referred to. One of the sad effects of all the hype in the Dáil in the last six weeks is that it may have deflected attention temporarily from the fact that the Taoiseach has given first class leadership since 1987. If we cast our minds back to 1987, when this country was in a state of turmoil, when there was financial chaos, we can recall that the Government from 1987 to 1989 and from 1989 to date have provided stability and brought about an economic miracle. Without the Taoiseach we would not have been able to achieve that. Because of his relationship with the social partners he was able to bring about the programme for national recovery. It is important not to forget that. The Taoiseach has given first class leadership and will continue to do so as long as he is leader of the Government.
We cannot forget our unemployed. That is not a miracle.
We do not want to forget the unemployed who recognise that the present Government will help their case. If I was the Deputy I would not talk too much about the unemployed and the rate of increase in unemployment in the period from 1982 until 1987 when the Deputy's party and the Labour Party were in Government.
Unemployment went up at a much faster rate then than it has gone up since.
It is at its highest now.
There are cogent reasons which have often been pointed out in this House as to why unemployment has gone up in the last two years. The fall off in emigration, which took 40,000 people each year from the live register, has now ceased because of difficult economic circumstances in the US and in Britain. That is well recognised. The people are at home and there is an obligation on us to provide for them. The number of jobs has stayed up over the last two years. That did not happen when the Deputy's party were in Government.
I will be leaving the Department of Health to go to the Department of the Environment, so I would like to reflect on some of the achievements in the Department of Health in recent years. A very solid framework has been laid down for the main areas of health care in the last few years. I established the Commission on Funding under Dr. Miriam Hederman O'Brien. When they reported, we consulted widely and established a group under David Kennedy to look at the Dublin hospitals where there were serious problems with regard to referral, co-operation and co-ordination and where there were problems with regard to the ongoing care of patients in the community. He reported in record time and following on his report we moved immediately to implement a number of the recommendations that could be implemented without legislation. We also decided to establish a major new Dublin regional health authority to manage and administer the services in the greater Dublin area. Legislation is now in the course of preparation for that new structure.
We also bought in Mr. Noel Fox, a management consultant, to look at the services and how we might get better value for money. Everybody in the House recognises that the funding available is limited and it is important that every pound spent is spent effectively and efficiently. A pound saved in one area is available to spend in another area of greater priority.
Throughout the eighties there has been an ongoing debate on the health services and on where new moneys coming on stream should be spent. The consensus is that the money should be spent in the community. That was recognised by the Government in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and it was also spelled out very clearly in the new joint Programme for Government. That will ensure the development of community based services for those with mental handicap, physical disability, psychiatric illness and for children.
The establishment of the health promotion unit in 1988 was another great success. We transferred the functions of the Health Education Bureau to the Department of Health where they have the full clout of Government with them. A number of initiatives were taken there, including an initiative for the development of the anti-smoking programme, nutrition programmes and a major programme is being prepared on an alcohol policy. There is also a programme on the prevention of AIDS. Health promotion is very important. It is well recognised that many of the illnesses that afflict us are contributed to by our lifestyle. It is important that the public should be well informed as to what contributes to good health and to maintaining good health, avoiding the illnesses and trauma that can afflict people.
With regard to legislation, we introduced a number of important pieces of legislation during the last three to four years. I should refer to the changes in the eligibility system that came about on 1 June. There are just two categories of eligibility now where there were three. The changes will ensure more equity in the distribution of beds, with beds for public and private patients designated, and that will be to the advantage of public patients.
We also introduced valuable legislation on nursing homes for the elderly which was passed by the Oireachtas last year. It provides among other things for a new system of registration under which all registered health board homes, whether for profit or voluntary, will be obliged to operate. The Act also provides for a new, 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 were channelled towards the most appropriate patients.
The Government also introduced the Child Care Act, which also passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas before the summer recess. That Act is very important, replacing the 1908 Children Act and imposing a statutory duty on health boards to promote the welfare of any child in the community who is not receiving adequate care and protection. It also gives the boards new powers to provide family care and support services and introduces new legal procedures enabling health boards and the Garda to intervene where children are neglected or abused. It takes account of the many recent practical and cultural developments such as the need for legal controls, 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 for children involved in care proceedings.
As in the case of the other community based services mentioned earlier, the Government are committed to making the necessary resources available for its implementation. The Programme for Economic and Social Progress contains a specific reference to the new Act and we will, as promised, proceed with a phased implementation of the Act in the coming years.
Another important issue in the area of child care has been the question of recognising adoptions effected outside Ireland. The Government were conscious that children involved in inter country adoptions were particularly vulnerable and that our laws and practices would have to ensure that their best interests were fully protected. The Adoption Act, 1991, which was passed earlier this year, sets out statutory procedures for recognising adoptions carried out abroad. While the Act was framed primarily with Romanian adoptions in mind it has the advantage of being applicable to adoptions granted in countries throughout the world.
They were just some of the major pieces of legislation that were passed during my time in the Department of Health. I have already referred to the fact that because of the amount of expenditure involved every effort must be made to increase efficiency and effectiveness; otherwise services would be denied to some people. That was a very important part of the work, because, as the House knows, 22 per cent of what the Exchequer has available is spent on health services. That is what is being spent in the current year.
I should say now that I am leaving the Department of Health — and I can say it with some authority — that we should be very proud of our Irish health service. Next year it will be 40 years since I entered university and I will have spent that length of time in the health service at one level or another. I can say with authority that we have a health service that we can be justly proud of. We have in place all the modern technology that is available. We have the range of services that are available anywhere in Europe, administered in a highly skilled and professional way.
While we are proud of our health services we also must be proud of the 60,000 people who work in our health service. They are committed and dedicated people who compare with any that are available anywhere in the world. That is well recognised. A consultant told me recently that when he and his family go abroad they insure themselves so that they will be brought to Ireland if they are ill. I think that is a very high tribute to our health services. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those 60,000 people working in the health services for the co-operation I have received from them over the four years I have been in that Department and for the excellent quality of service that they are providing for so many of our people.
Of course, like everybody else in the House I recognise that there is still much work to be done, that there are improvements that could be made. I have no doubt that my colleague, Deputy Mary O'Rourke, the new Minister for Health, whom I wish success in the Department, will bring about further improvements in the health service. Of course she will have the same problem that successive Ministers have had over a long number of years, that is, working within the constraints of a finite resource.
I would like to say a word in tribute to the public servants in the Department of Health. It is one of my regrets that the public do not seem to know or appreciate the commitment and dedication of so many of our public servants, the workload they have to bear in our Departments of State, their knowledge of the health service, their sensitivity and caring for people. What we can be very proud of here is the high quality of our public servants. On this occasion I would particularly like to pay tribute to the public servants I worked with in the Department of Health. It is only right also that I should pay tribute to the two Ministers of State in the Department, Deputies Noel Treacy and Chris Flood, who have provided a very valuable service to the public and did tremendous work in the Department.
If I have one regret about my time in the Department it is in regard to the level of debate in this House. There is a need for constructive debate in all Departments, but particularly in health. We can say that about a lot of areas of policy in this Department. In the last six weeks, for example, we have had far too much hype and innuendo and unproven allegations and personality politics. It does not reflect well on this Chamber. It certainly does not serve the interests of the Irish people. I, for one, always welcome a constructive debate on health and will welcome it in my new Department. Too often there is a lack of any sort of reflection in the debates that take place. Members just jump on some bandwagon and do not give the sort of attention and reflection that I believe a debate in an area that is so important for the people of the country merits. We must all be sensitive to the needs of people. There is a caring philosophy in this House and I believe it could be reflected in the debates that take place.
There is very important work to be done and I therefore commend this motion to the House. As I said already, there is a very comprehensive Programme for Government agreed between ourselves and our partners in Government. It is important that we now carry out that programme and it is in the interests of the Irish people that we should do that. That is why we are here. The Opposition have a constructive role to play in this House if they want to play that role. They have not played it in recent times. This role was not played today by a number of Members in relation to our two new colleagues in Government, two exemplary men who will make a major contribution to Government in the coming years. It is important that we all get down to the job of dealing with the issues. Included in those issues are unemployment, the Estimates which are being prepared, the finances which have to be balanced. We have a good record. We have reduced interest rates, inflation and taxation. That is what we must look at. It is important that the Government are allowed to get on with that task and are not deflected by innuendoes and allegations, something we have had too much of during the past six weeks.
At the outset, I would like to thank Deputy Barnes and Deputy Taylor-Quinn for allowing me to make my contribution at this stage.
The gasps of incredulity which went around this House this morning when the Taoiseach announced the appointment of the two new members of the Cabinet tell their own story. Deputies, including those on the Fianna Fáil back benches, were stunned by the announcement. The nominations are not simply uninspired, they are dangerously and potentially seriously damaging. As spokesman on Defence for The Workers' Party, I want to concentrate particularly on the appointment of Deputy McDaid to the important and politically sensitive position of Minister for Defence. I would like to have been in a position to welcome the new appointment; certainly Deputy Daly was nothing to write home about, but I believe the appointment is a disaster and will send the wrong message to the members of the Defence Forces, the Provisional IRA, the security forces in Northern Ireland and the people of Northern Ireland themselves.
Deputy De Rossa was the first Member to raise in the House this morning Deputy McDaid's involvement in the case of a man who managed, by virtue of a controversial Supreme Court decision in March 1990, to evade extradition to Northern Ireland where he had been serving a long sentence for Provisional-related activity. I heard Deputy McDaid on the radio at lunchtime trying to downplay his role in the affair when he suggested that he simply gave a statement to "Today Tonight" saying that he had been with a friend of his at a stag party in Donegal on the night on which this friend was alleged to have committed a serious offence.
Let us look for a brief moment at the history of this so-called friend of the new Minister for Defence. James Pius Clarke was arrested in March 1978. On 1 June 1979 he was found guilty on ten counts of attempted murder, wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm and possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 18, 15 and 14 years imprisonment. The facts on which Mr. Clarke was arrested, charged and convicted are set out very briefly in the judgment of the High Court on the extradiction application of Mr. Clarke delivered on 28 July 1989. I wish to quote the first paragraph of that judgment.
On a point of order, is it right that Deputy McCartan should come into the House to suggest that Deputy McDaid was a friend of James Pius Clarke when Deputy McDaid has stated that he was not in the company of James Pius Clarke?
I would like Deputies to confine themselves to the business before the House, if at all possible.
The judgment states:
Mr. and Mrs. William Harper lived in a remote farmhouse near Castlederg, County Tyrone. They were there on the evening of the 2nd February, 1977, with their three sons, one of whom was a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. A group of at least eight armed men attacked the house at about 8 p.m. and riddled it with bullets. By a piece of great misfortune, while this attack was taking place Mr. and Mrs. Harper's married daughter, Phyllis Kennedy, and husband and two young sons aged seven and three arrived at the farmhouse in their car. The gunmen fired on Mr. Kennedy and his car. One of Mr. Harper's sons, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy and their sons, were injured in the attack.
As I said, that quotation is taken from the judgment of the High Court delivered in July 1989 which sets out the facts.
Mr. Clarke was charged and convicted on his own admission statement. At his trial he was represented by two Queen's Counsel. No objection was made by his learned legal team or himself as to the admissibility of that statement and he gave no evidence in his own defence denying the charges. I have listened to Deputy McDaid suggest that——
On a point of order, I would like to ask if it is in order for a Deputy to come into the House to try to associate one of our Deputies with James Pius Clarke when that Deputy has stated already that he was not associated with James Pius Clarke. Is it in order for a Deputy to come into the House to give the history of a case which has been well documented in the media? The Deputy is being unfair to Deputy McDaid.
The Deputy has quoted press reports, etc., but I suggest to him that he refrain——
I quoted the High Court judgment.
I accept that.
Anything I say this evening is a matter of public record and I will quote nothing else.
It has nothing to do with Deputy McDaid.
I am coming to the matter of what it has to do with him if the Minister will allow me to do so.
It is a sensitive point.
Mr. Clarke, while serving these sentences escaped from the Maze Prison on 23 September 1983. During the course of this mass escape a prison warder was murdered. Mr. Clarke was arrested in the Republic in December 1984 and jailed for 18 months on a charge of hijacking a car in April that year.
Mr. Clarke participated in the Provisional IRA structures in Portlaoise Prison and a short time later participated with a number of top IRA prisoners, including the man convicted of the murder of Lord Mountbatten, in an unsuccessful attempt to shoot or blast their way out of the prison. For this he was sentenced to an additional three years in prison. As I said, this is a matter of public record so the issue surrounding Mr. Clarke is not whether or not he was rightly convicted of offences in Northern Ireland. Subsequent to his return to this jurisdiction he continued open association as a member of the Provisional IRA in Portlaoise Prison and committed two further offences for which he was convicted and sentenced by our own courts.
Following his release in 1988 he was held on warrants from the RUC seeking his extradition to Northern Ireland to complete the sentence for the attempted murder and other related offences. In July 1989 the High Court ruled that he should be extradited to Northern Ireland but this decision, as I said, was overruled by the controversial decision of the Supreme Court on 13 March 1990.
I hope Deputy McDaid comes into the House to answer the questions I want to put to him. I listened to him on the RTE "Six-One" News when he tried to distance himself from these events. I hope he will come into the House to answer these questions himself. Did he swear an affidavit providing an alibi for Mr. Clarke for the night on which the attack took place on the UDR man and his family in Castlederg in February 1977? Mr. Clarke claims that he did and said so on oath in the High Court. Mr. Clarke also claims now that he was in fact in the company of Deputy McDaid in a pub in Letterkenny on the night the offence took place. Did Deputy McDaid subsequently withdraw this affidavit and statement and, if so, why? Why is he now trying to down-play his role in this affair?
He was present in the Supreme Court for the decision in the case and film shown on the RTE news on the night of 13 March showed him figuring prominently among a group of people chairing Mr. Clarke as he came out from the court. We should remember that this is the Mr. Clarke who was not just involved in events in Northern Ireland but in two subsequent IRA offences for which he was convicted and tried in this jurisdiction.
Photographs in the Irish Independent and The Irish Times the following day showed a happy looking Deputy McDaid among a jubilant group celebrating the release of Mr. Clarke. The photograph in the Irish Independent showed Deputy McDaid among a group of what I presume were Provisional supporters. The new Minister for Defence was shown standing beside a person holding aloft a poster which states “Oppose Extradition”. Deputy Noonan said earlier that the photograph was taken outside the Four Courts but it was not. The group shown surrounding Mr. Clarke had crossed the bridge over the Liffey and had travelled a considerable distance up the quays on the opposite side. Shown beside Mr. Clarke is Deputy McDaid. Mr. Clarke went on to hold a press conference with the media. Deputy McDaid was not, as he claimed on radio today, simply a spectator at the court, he was there to support Mr. Clarke and he chaired him from the court and accompanied him to an informal impromptu press conference a good distance from the Four Courts, on the other side of the River Liffey. That is not the action of a spectator or the action of a man who says — he shares the same GAA club — that he had nothing to do with Mr. Clarke.
It could be the action of a spectator.
I hope that Deputy McDaid will come into the House to answer us but I would like to know what his position on extradition is. Does he support and subscribe to the views of those other people shown in the group surrounding Mr. Clarke leaving the Four Courts when it seems clear a strong anti-extradition position was exhorted?
The Provisional IRA are possibly the greatest scourge facing us. I am quite prepared to set aside the serious political differences we have with other parties in this House in order to combat the Provisionals and their supporters. We did this very recently on Dublin City Council when we joined forces to deny Sinn Féin the use of the Mansion House for their annual orgy of hate, otherwise known as their Ard-Fheis. The move was widely praised and applauded on both sides of the Border as sending a clear message to Northern Ireland that the people on this side of the Border do not want to have anything to do with the Provisionals. What sort of message has the Taoiseach sent to the people of Northern Ireland in his desire to appoint as Minister for Defence a man who describes himself as a friend of a person convicted of serious Provisional IRA offences and who joined so enthusiastically in celebrating the fact that he had managed to evade being sent to Northern Ireland to serve the rest of his sentence for terrorist related offences there?
The Deputy is misrepresenting Deputy McDaid.
What message does this appointment convey to Mr. and Mrs. William Harper whose remote farmhouse near Castlederg was riddled with bullets fired by at least eight armed men in an attack for which Mr. Clarke received his 18 year sentence and never denied his guilt when he was on trial before the courts in Northern Ireland? Mr. Clarke was not, as Deputy McDaid said on television, innocent in his own mind of these charges. As recorded publicly by Deputy McDaid, in his view Mr. Clarke is innocent of these charges. As a man who will accept the position to uphold the Constitution, to be the premier officer of the Defence Forces, how can he justify that statement in view of the fact that Mr. Clarke at his trial, represented by two Queen's Counsel, did not challenge his statement of admission and did not offer any evidence in his own defence at the trial to deny the charges? Should we endorse the appointment of such a person as Minister for Defence? We cannot and should not.
What is this House being asked to do in supporting the appointment of Deputy McDaid as Minister for Defence? When interviewed by the media today, and asked why he felt he was picked by the Taoiseach to be Minister for Defence, he said he believed it was part of the campaign of the Government to win a second seat in his constituency. Is that the basis upon which Deputy McDaid feels he is suited to the job of Minister for Defence at a time when the Government are debating common security and defence issues with our partners in Europe? Our next Minister for Defence is being presented to us and his only qualification for the job is the fact that there is a second seat to be won in his constituency. For too long in this House I have watched Ministers for Defence being appoined with no regard for the seriousness of the portfolio and today we have perhaps had the worst example of that line.
What of the Progressive Democrats? I am astonished that their leader, Deputy O'Malley, did not make any reference in his speech to the appointment of the two new Cabinet Ministers. Demands of political expediency might prevail on him to ignore the ludicrous aspects of the appointment of Deputy Davern to the post of Minister for Education but surely if his party's generally admirable policy on Northern Ireland is to mean anything, he and his colleagues cannot go through the lobbies and endorse the appointment of Deputy McDaid, for the reasons I outlined?
Even at this stage I appeal to the Taoiseach to recognise the enormous damage which this appointment will do and to withdraw it. I am at a loss to understand the general logic of the Taoiseach in moving the appointments of Deputy Davern and Deputy McDaid. I cannot for the life of me understand where — and for what reasons — these two obscure backbenchers of the Fianna Fáil Party have been elevated in one fell swoop to the position of Ministers in Cabinet.
This is scurrilous.
Over the weekend Deputy Haughey was described in the national media as having succeeded in achieving a Houdini like escape yet again to survive an attack on his position as leader to Fianna Fáil and remain in office as Taoiseach. Houdini Haughey; he is well named. Having made that fantastic escape from the legitimate criticisms of those in his own party who were not happy, he has now plunged himself, and his new Cabinet — as he described it here today — into another major constitutional issue and row. I cannot understand it. What have Deputy McDaid and Deputy Davern done for the Taoiseach over the last number of days to warrant this great payoff? There is nothing on the record of this House or elsewhere which would qualify either man for the respective jobs which they are now asked to take on. I hope in the small way I have illustrated my contribution that it is clear there are very good reasons for not having considered them for the jobs. What have they done to deserve this? The House deserves an explanation and in the absence of one being forthcoming, this House has no alternative — I respect your position, Acting Chairman — particularly the Progressive Democrats Members who are——
I must remind the Deputy that he cannot involve the Chair in these matters.
I said I respected your position. I was speaking through the Chair and I thought I had made that point. The Progressive Democrats members of the Government must look very carefully at their position. I listened to Deputy O'Malley earlier. He wondered whether the Opposition were fixated about the small party he represented. He said there were only six of them as against 77 Fianna Fáil members. What concerns me about the Progressive Democrats is that they specifically laid down as one of the basic tenets of their existence, good government and decent straight politics in high places, credibility and being above reproach. If that is so how can they support the decision and vote in favour of the motion tonight? It is incumbent on all of us who respect the notion of proper Government to vote against it as we will be doing.
I did not intend to speak on this matter——
There is nobody else over there.
That is not fair. We have been listening to the old story of unsubstantiated allegations. I saw some of the news today and I heard Deputy McDaid say he happened to be in a place where Mr. Clarke was present. Apparently something else was going on in another area and subsequent to that Mr. Clarke was arrested to be extradited for another offence — I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong — and Deputy McDaid was a witness to the fact that he was somewhere else.
He subsequently withdrew that realising that the two dates did not coincide.
I do not want any interruptions.
Deputy Briscoe asked to be corrected if he was wrong.
I did but——
Deputy McCartan made his contribution and I tried to ensure that there were no interruptions. I do not want him to interrupt now.
Deputy Briscoe invited correction.
The Deputy has every right to make his contribution without interruption.
I am not allowed to invite interruptions and I will not. Over the last number of years there have been questions about people who have been falsely imprisoned such as the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four about whom people in this country and in Britain were very concerned. If people are charged with crimes we want to know that the crimes with which they are being charged are those which they committed.
That is why he was in Portlaoise; he was convicted in our courts.
I do not want to be misunderstood or misrepresented in any way. My understanding is that an affidavit was sworn by Deputy McDaid stating that he was present in a public house in which this man was also present at a time when according to the charge against him he was supposed to be involved in the murder of an RUC man somewhere else.
That affidavit was wrong.
I do not know that it was.
It was subsequently withdrawn.
He withdrew it.
Subsequently we shall find out. I have to be very careful in what I am saying because I certainly have not got the details. I have known Deputy McDaid since he came into this House to be a first-class, fine person. He said on the television this evening — and I think Deputy McCartan will be the first to agree — that he abhors, as I do, every single thing about the IRA and Sinn Féin.
I accept that fully.
Therefore, I am making no case for them.
The Deputy by his contribution in City Hall converted many members of Fianna Fáil to the position that the Provos should be kept out of the Mansion House.
That is right.
Please, let us have no further interruptions.
I want to make it quite clear that I absolutely abhor everything the IRA have done and the way they have disgraced the name of Irish people throughout the world. By their actions they have denigrated everything that is in the Proclamation of 1916. Deputy McDaid has said that he holds the same views as I do, that he abhors all the actions of the IRA. Maybe I heard him incorrectly — I will watch the news later — but certainly the few words I heard were to the effect that he abhors every thing the IRA have been doing and he holds no brief whatsoever for them.
Why did he go to the IRA press conference on the quays?
He did not go to the IRA press conference.
He was present at it.
I am asking Deputies not to interrupt the speaker. I want no further interruptions in the House. If Deputies continue interrupting I will ask them to leave the House.
Maybe I am a little to blame. I abhor anything that makes a person guilty by association. It was not my intention to speak but my knowledge of Deputy McDaid is that he is a fine man and the people of Donegal are very lucky to have such a good representative. It is unfair that many of these charges have been made against him. The impression is being created abroad that he is a sympathiser of the IRA but that is not so and he has stated that clearly.
Deputy McCartan and I have almost always been on opposite sides politically. However we agree entirely when it comes to condemnation of the IRA and Sinn Féin. If somebody is accused of a crime and Deputy McCartan happened to be in the same place as that person at the time the person was supposed to have committed the crime I believe the Deputy would come forward whether or not he knew the person was a member of the IRA who had been involved in other criminal acts. I believe he would say he saw the person. Any Member would act in that way. Otherwise we would be guilty of — as they used say in the old movies — framing someone.
Every time a Cabinet appointment is made it is an opportunity for the Opposition to have a go at the Government. I am hurt by the accusations that have been made against Deputy McDaid. They are unfair and cannot be substantiated. I would like to pay tribute to the Ministers of State and to Deputy Albert Reynolds who was a fine Minister for Finance. I wish his successor, Deputy Ahern, success as Minister for Finance. He has a very good mind and he will do a good job. We should be very grateful to Deputy Reynolds for the marvellous contribution he has made to restoring the public finances.
When we came back to office in 1987 the Taoiseach, in addressing the first meeting of the parliamentary party — as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is aware proceedings of the parliamentary party are confidential and must not be revealed publicly but I will break the rules on this occasion — said that the state of the finances were so bad that if we carried on spending as we had been, we would be bankrupt in three years. He said we would not receive enough money from taxation, customs and excise, VAT and so on to pay the interest on the loans and that the World Bank would be forced to run the economy until such time as we had straightened out our finances. I remember going to the Taoiseach after that meeting and telling him it was the best speech he ever made and that I would follow him to the death on it.
We have had a very tough four years in restoring the finances, and it was Deputy Reynolds who had to make the hard decisions. There is nothing more difficult than a Minister for Finance having to refuse his fellow Ministers the finance they need. No Minister suffered more than the Minister for Health, Deputy O'Hanlon, who did a great job under very difficult circumstances. Ministers have to make unpopular decisions and, sadly, many people suffer, but it is nothing in comparison with what they would suffer if a Government were negligent and gave away money in order to win short term approval.
After the election in 1989 we were lucky enough to be able to form a Government with the Progressive Democrats. I am one of those in the Fianna Fáil Party who has no difficulty whatsoever in living with the Progressive Democrats. Some of my best friends are members of that party.
They will be delighted and reassured to know that.
We are very lucky in this instance the six Progressive Democrats in the Dáil are all former members of Fianna Fáil and, therefore, there is no difference in our ideology. There may be differences in approach but basically we believe in the same things because we were all fed from the same spoon. I am quite happy to work in government with the Progressive Democrats.
The Deputy is a true Christian.
I know what Deputy O'Sullivan means and I take it as a compliment.
They love the Deputy too.
One can have a great feeling of affection for various people in government, but sometimes things happen about which none of us can be very happy and in a sense the people are the losers. However, we go on because no one — I include myself in this — is indispensable.
The Progressive Democrats will be reassured to hear that also.
I wish the new Government the very best of luck. I congratulate my collegue of many years, Deputy Noel Davern. He is taking over a very tough Ministry. I know the man and not only has he the intellectual capacity but he also has the political will to make a success of the job. It is a Department in which much diplomacy is needed. All Ministers today in government have a tough time because we have media that scrutinise our every single act.