Supplementary Estimates, 1992. - Confidence in Government: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann reaffirms its confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government.

I have only been Taoiseach a relatively short time. From the moment I took up office last February, I have been faced with an avalanche of problems. Yet, we have taken the necessary steps, and successfully confronted the difficulties, the Maastricht Referendum, Common Agricultural Policy reform, the problems posed by the X case, the currency crisis, and finding new approaches to solving unemployment. We have been lacking neither courage nor commitment, decisiveness nor determination. The Government have done a good job both in the last eight months and over the past three and a half years. But it is now necessary to bring forward this motion for debate in order to confront the challenge posed by others to the continuation of this Government.

I now want a clear opportunity to transform this country, and to give back at the end of a four to five year period a sense of achievement to a country of which we can all be proud. With the support of our parliamentary party, my own Fianna Fáil team can do it. We have the talent, the energy, the enthusiasm, the freshness and the experience, and a long and proud political tradition behind us.

I also feel I have my own special personal contribution to make. Starting from very little, I built up a substantial business which gave me the experience of creating for individuals and for families much pleasure and happiness. Later, I set up in manufacturing industry, using Irish raw materials, exporting the bulk of production, and employing many people, while I also managed a local newspaper. With a background and experience in both business and politics, I believe I can succeed in communicating the benefits of an enterprise culture here, create more respect for it and convince people of that successful philosophy of self-help and self-reliance.

I believe I can show that my commonsense pragmatic approach has already been of benefit. We all remember the enormous frustration the telephone system used to cause. I was responsible for starting and pushing through the telecommunications revolution, which has allowed us as a nation to build up a whole new financial services and remote data processing industry that employs thousands of people, in urban and rural Ireland.

In place of vast and costly paper schemes, I started the beginnings of a serious public transport policy in Dublin, pushing through bus lanes against bureaucratic opposition, setting up computerised traffic management systems, and reopening the line to Maynooth to commuters for less than £1 million, while getting the DART underway.

As Minister for Industry and Energy in 1982, I launched the construction of the Cork-Dublin gas pipeline at half the original estimate. I successfully negotiated an excellent commercial deal for the supply of Kinsale gas to the North of Ireland, only to see it collapse some time later, when out of office.

Deputies will no doubt recall an unfortunate confrontation with multinational oil companies in 1979 which led to long queues at petrol stations but not to any lowering of prices. Eight years later, I ordered the oil companies to cut their prices by 10p. They were just as annoyed on that occasion, but with no after effects.

The art of governing is not just a matter of mastering the brief or skill in debate and points of procedure or of borrowing the latest fashionable economic idea from the Institute of Fiscal Studies in London or wherever; still less is it a university seminar. It is about making up one's mind, making tough decisions and taking responsibility for them. It is about getting things done and projects off the ground. It is about negotiating good deals that are in the best interests of the Irish people, and that enhance their welfare.

We have seen how difficult the public flotation of even the best companies can sometimes be. I had personal charge of the Irish Life and Greencore flotations. I sought and got the very best deal for the Irish taxpayer at the time, and the price obtained was higher than I was first advised we could get. There were no quick profits made by investors. This period saw some business scandals come to the surface. I was the first Minister to say "find the truth and publish it", and "if heads have to roll, so be it".

Since becoming Taoiseach, I have wanted to do something above all for the small man or woman, who wants to start a business, who all too often are ignored and who can get no help either from banks or State agencies. The county enterprise partnership boards, with wide representation on them, and to which the banks and financial institutions are contributing with the Government, are there to help small businesses get off the ground, to give good ideas a start, to encourage risk, and to lend support where it is most needed. It means job grants with less bureaucracy. This straightforward, practical approach is better value for money than costly complex schemes, which will only be taken up by a few.

The Government have been in office for nearly three and a half years. We were contracted together for four years. The lifetime of a Government is up to five years. A general election now is neither wanted nor needed, and is seriously detrimental to the national interest. The economy is now confronted with such difficult international economic conditions that the people need a firm and single-minded Government. We have a pressing agenda which includes at least six major items: tackling the unemployment problem and the aftermath of the currency crisis; preparation of the Estimates and the budget; the vital negotiations on the future financing of structural and cohesion funds for Ireland; the second Finance Bill in preparation for the Single Market; the critical status of the Northern Ireland talks process and the three referenda due on 3 December. An election will be of no benefit to the country on any count.

I deeply regret the decision by our partners to create instability and effectively undermine my Government under a poorly disguised pretext of self-righteous moral indignation. Fianna Fáil would be prepared to carry on at least until well into next year as a minority Government in the best interests of the country. Statesmanship on the Opposition benches would allow us to do so.

I would like to analyse how we have arrived at the present situation. In July 1989 Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats entered into a bona fide four year agreement for Government "in the national interest". This agreement was updated for the two later years only last year. Both my predecessor and myself have shown the utmost good faith and willingness to accommodate our partners. Before I go on to express some criticisms, it would be appropriate for me to pay tribute to the undoubted contribution that Deputies O'Malley and Molloy have made to the Government. On matters of substance by and large we worked well together, with none of the paralysis in decision-making that afflicted previous Coalitions. But there is no adequate reason we could not have been allowed to go on to finish and complete the work.

However, the attitude of certain elements in that smaller party to the working of Coalition left a lot to be desired. They are a party with six members in the Dáil, with a proportion to Fianna Fáil of one to thirteen. By and large I have had little problem either with my colleagues in Government to the backbench members of the Progressive Democrats Parliamentary Party. The problems we had to contend with came in the main from people outside this House, who expected and demanded an influence in the name of the Progressive Democrats wholly disproportionate to the size of their democratic mandate. As Minister for Finance I had to put up with crude ultimatums about future budgets coupled with arrogant abuse of my loyal, hard-working civil servants. In fact, in their handling of the recent currency crisis, the senior officials of the Department of Finance served this country with a skill and distinction that will forever earn them the gratitude and good opinion of the people of this country. We had the experience of the Government being held to ransom and threatened with a premature election on many occasions, if we did not fall into line with the minority party's demands, while their leaders in the Dáil remained silent. I have always abhorred high pressure tactics from outside, and I have refused to yield to them. The real crises have nearly always been personality issues, not policy-driven ones. Such behaviour has not always made Coalition easy.

We had, for example, the spectacle of a popular and effective Minister for Defence and Tánaiste, who had been seriously ill, being hounded out of office, a man who subsequently was to win 47 per cent of the votes in the final count from the Irish people in the Presidential election, because of a fallible historical account of an event long past. None of us is perfect, and most of us would not claim to be. But some of them think they are, and they are not. There is always a problem in trying to deal with people who claim that they are above the common run of humanity.

Since I took office in February I have been determined that Government decisions would be made in an orderly, businesslike fashion with the proper weight given to different views represented around the Cabinet table.

Let us deal briefly with some alleged grievances. The Government, for instance, decided to proceed with the Maastricht Referendum last June and leave the resolution of the abortion issue till the autumn. The Maastricht Referendum was passed with ease, compared to other countries. My political judgment on this as on many other matters has been totally vindicated. If we had waited till the autumn, it could have been caught up in an election, or delayed into the New Year, with the same embarrassing mess that was created in 1986 by the delay in ratifying the Single European Act.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment had no role in the Northern talks. It is a strange way of doing business, that I as Taoiseach should first learn in a Sunday paper that she proposed to stand in for a senior Progressive Democrat Minister. I took special exception to this, as Deputy Harney only two months before made a public attack on Government policy on Northern Ireland, which was carried in the Northern newspapers. On that basis alone, can anyone seriously suggest that someone who could not be trusted to act as a loyal member of a united team was a fit person to take part in very sensitive negotiations?

The Government had strong legal advice that the substantive wording of the Right to Life Amendment should be in the terms now approved by the Oireachtas. Is it being suggested that a small minority in Cabinet had the right to overrule that advice?

Major changes in industrial policy are clearly a matter of interest to the whole Government. Individual Ministers frequently do not succeed in having all their proposals agreed by the Government, and they are told to alter them, or sometimes withdraw them. The substance of the recommendations of Culliton in relation to the industrial agencies was adopted, even if in slightly altered form.

Yet it is now being openly claimed, as part of the shifting and contradictory explanations being given by the Progressive Democrats for their present conduct, that what occurred at the beef tribunal was merely "the last straw". The significance of that phrase illustrates the flimsiness of the initial pretext. I would strongly suggest that what has been wrong all along has been the attitude of the Progressive Democrats Coalition, and their belief that they had the right to dictate terms to the Government. Now that they have found this impossible, they have decided to tear up the Joint Programme for Government in a clear breach of contract and to go to the country in a huff.

The events leading to this motion include matters arising out of the different evidence to the beef tribunal, to which it is therefore necessary to make some reference. However, a Cheann Comhairle, I am mindful of your guidelines on the subject. When the beef tribunal was set up, once more by way of ultimatum, the parties involved were well aware of its potential to destabilise the Government. The clear intention, as we can read from countless political briefings, was to inflict political damage on Fianna Fáil and on my predecessor. When I took office, the focus of attention switched in the most obvious manner to myself.

If I understand it correctly, some of the principal charges laid against my door were political favouritism, misleading the Dáil, telling untruths, and putting large sums of taxpayers' money at risk. Naturally, as these are the subject of ongoing investigation by the Tribunal, I do not propose to comment on the substance of these charges, except to say again that I have vigorously defended myself against them and rebutted them in the appropriate forum.

However, in passing, may I say that in the course of evidence given, a fund-raising letter from the Progressive Democrats to Mr. Larry Goodman and others in 1988 came to light, which carried the heading "An investment opportunity with a proven rate of return". The ambiguously implied promise of political favours, I think, shocked many people in this House and country and was another illustration of the truth that people living in glass houses should not throw stones. This letter was not exactly a shining example of high standards in high places.

Large sums of money are said to have been put at risk by my decisions as a Minister. Again, that is a matter that no doubt the Tribunal will decide upon. As we all know, cattle prices reached their highest level ever in November 1988 — up 15 per cent and agricultural output increased by £215 million in 1987-88 to the benefit not just of farmers but of the whole national economy. I did more than a bit for the farmers of Ireland in 1987-88, and cattle prices did not do nearly as well after I left. These very successful results clearly show that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Total liabilities under the export insurance scheme have to date amounted to some £6 million, which the Department believe is recoverable in law.

In his evidence to the Tribunal last June, the Minister for Industry and Commerce — as he was then — used the strongest language to attack my competence as a Minister and the truthfulness of my statements, and as his Counsel confirmed on 5 May, the accusation of favouritism means allocation or treatment on an improper basis. Placing the Dáil under a misapprehension, making untrue statements, acting improperly are accusations as serious as any that I made in reply. Deputy O'Malley was quite entitled to state the facts, as he saw them, but it is fair comment to say that many of the adjectives he used were chosen more for their political impact than for the purpose of what was strictly necessary to advance the ultimate discovery of the truth. It would be proper and natural that I would take particular exception to exaggerations of a factual nature, leaving the verbal ones to one side. However, despite the intense provocation, I kept my counsel, deciding that the proper place for my case to be heard was at the Tribunal.

Deputy O'Malley claimed last June that the total potential liability of the State was £172 million and provided a precise breakdown of how that figure was arrived at, both by reference to insurance cover given, and by reference to the Goodman claim. But this figure ignored a reduction of Goodman's losses on contracts to Iraq by £53 million, which was formally notified to the Department of Industry and Commerce in 1991. What happened to the £53 million? The Minister claimed at the tribunal that his officials had told him that there was no further notification since October 1989, and based his accusations against me on the payment record of Iraq. I had always maintained that, while the Iraqis were slow to pay, prior to August 1990 they had always paid up. August 1990 saw the start of sanctions against them. Indeed, I would like to point out that, when I had to answer questions here in December 1990 about moneys due from Iraq, I was informed in a background note sent to the Department of Finance under a covering note of 7 December from the Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce that — and I quote: "If we lost the Goodman case, we could end up with a liability of about £120 million". There was a clear obligation on me to tell the facts as they were, no more and no less. I was not prepared to dilute my truthfulness and integrity to accommodate other people's political agenda. I would suggest that anyone addressing themselves to the subject of the dispute should first examine the facts before criticising the choice of an adjective which is fairly commonplace in parliamentary and political discourse and regularly bandied about in the courts.

I would have had no difficulty in continuing to work with Deputies O'Malley and Molloy as I regard the tribunal as being in a separate compartment. I suggested on a number of occasions over the last few days that everyone should await the report of the tribunal and not attempt to prejudge it.

I find it a little bit rich coming from Deputy Bruton, of all people in this House, to suggest that I have difficulty working with other parties. Would he care to recall the number of times he nearly caused a break-up of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition between 1982 and 1987 over Dublin Gas or the National Development Corporation, for example? Does he not remember the Labour Party walking out of Government over his proposed budget in 1987, after his earlier budget in 1982 had also caused the collapse of the previous coalition Government? Come to think of it, he has been twice Minister for Finance, but never succeeded in bringing in an annual budget.

Guinness Book of Records.

His recent unwillingness to join the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment does not augur well for his ability to work with other parties except on his own terms. A good test of confidence in this Government is to compare our track record since 1987 with that of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition that preceded us. The Fine Gael-Labour coalition struggled with the economy for four and a quarter years and by the end of it had registered very little progress, and what was there was not enough to dispel the gloom.

From March 1987 Fianna Fáil revived confidence in this economy. The economy was rapidly transformed. In place of stagnation we have generated more rapid economic growth than in practically any other country, averaging 4.5 per cent a year. Even when recession began again in 1991 we were able to maintain positive economic growth despite the situation in Britain and the US and throughout the world.

Our predecessors promised to sort out the public finances. They dismally failed to do so. The courage to cut current expenditure was lacking and instead they cut capital spending and piled on the taxes causing even deeper recession. Deputy Bruton speaks now of establishing immutable financial parameters. But is that not exactly what he promised before? The current budget deficit was to be eliminated in four years. Yet he ended up in 1986 with the highest budget deficit on record and a national debt that had been doubled. What a record.

Within two years a single party Fianna Fáil Government had brought the budgetary situation firmly back under control. Borrowing was cut from 13 per cent of GNP to its current level of 2-2.5 per cent. The hard decisions were taken. There were no coalition partners to object. The current budget deficit was reduced to a negligible level of 1 per cent. The debt/GNP ratio has fallen close to 100 per cent this year.

Since 1989 we have maintained this good performance, despite the pressures and difficulties created by international conditions. While countries like the US, Germany, Britain and Italy have growing budget deficits, we do not. We are the first Government since the sixties that for six consecutive years had no significant budget overruns, and that is some record.

Fortunately in 1987 we did not have to go into coalition. The Progressive Democrats were then disposed to insist on immediate large tax cuts, leaving the current budget deficit to run on for another 15 years. Fianna Fáil did not take that route. We put first things first. By 1989 sufficient foundations had been laid to allow me, without any prodding from any party, to start the process of cutting taxes.

If you look back over the last 20 years you will see that Fine Gael and Labour have a mania for introducing new taxes and raising old ones, wealth tax, residential property tax, employment levy, income levy, land tax, the top rate of income tax up to 65 per cent at one point, abolition of child relief and the abolition of the special lower rate of 25 per cent and VAT at one stage increased up to 35 per cent. The parties of higher taxation are very clearly identified by their record in this House. But tax reform and reduction, while relevant, are not the sole panacea for employment and the current employment situation is proof of that.

Over the past six years, with the exception of unemployment, all our economic indicators have been very good. For the first time we have had a positive and growing balance of payments surplus. Inflation has been held to an average 3 per cent, the best sustained record for over 30 years. Our exchange rate in the EMS has remained stable and recently survived a test which knocked out the currencies of larger and more powerful countries. The crisis of confidence in October 1986 show the consequences of a unilateral devaluation under Deputy Bruton.

Our record on employment, while far from being sufficient to meet our needs, has been a great improvement on what went on before. Forty-five thousand net new jobs have been created, 45,000 more people are at work in this country since 1987, in contrast to the loss of over 50,000 jobs under the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, when unemployment and emigration rose continually. Under our Government unemployment fell when conditions were good, but rose again when conditions abroad deteriorated, when emigration ceased and net immigration, people returning to this country, resumed after many years.

The people of this country are a very discerning electorate. They know that there is a vicious international recession out there which has caused major problems in Britain, the US, Germany, Japan and Australia and in many other parts of the developed world. They know that the Government have been doing their best to shelter the Irish economy from damage so that we can move ahead once there is a pick up in international activity. In the meantime we must try to find new creative ways and means of achieving more.

The biggest difference in economic management since 1987 has been the establishment and consolidation of social partnership. Fine Gael appear to have a deep ideological objection to social partnership. They have belittled theProgramme for National Recovery and they opposed the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. It does not say much for Fine Gael's ability to build national coalitions that they have this dismissive attitude to our social partners.

Another difference is the attitude to decentralisation. Twice our decentralisation programme was cancelled by Fine Gael and Labour. Hundreds of jobs have been or will be created in Cavan, Galway, Sligo, Ballina, Letterkenny, Kilkenny, Athlone, Ennis, Nenagh, Limerick, Dundalk, Cork, Killarney, Longford, Tullamore, Wexford and Portlaoise. This week the Government have decided on the further decentralisation of part of the Land Registry to Waterford and the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to Roscommon.

We have taken a number of other very successful economic initiatives. The establishment of Coillte and incentives for private tree planting have led to more than a doubling of the hectares planted. Tourism growth since 1987 has been phenomenal, especially from continental Europe, encouraging a large increase in investment and creating much needed employment. The International Financial Services Centre has not only created jobs but generated very substantial corportion tax revenues. The establishment of the National Treasury Management Agency has led to significant savings in the cost of servicing the national debt and has increased our range of financial options.

The period 1987-92 has been outstandingly successful from a European policy point of view. We had two referendums here, both decisively passed. We succeeded in negotiating over £3 billion in Structural Funds, which has had enormous impact in every part of the country, in terms of new roads, port investment, the expansion of higher education, and the provision of training. It has enabled us to speed up all our domestic programmes.

Toughness is needed to fight our corner in Edinburgh for the Delors II package, which is vital not just for Ireland but as a means of giving a boost to economic activity and employment throughout the Community. I have insisted on bringing employment to the top of the EC agenda, seeking to ensure that all policies are examined in the light of their impact on employment. We are putting together a new national plan with the help of the Structural and Cohesion Funds to make a major attack on unemployment.

We had an outstanding EC Presidency in 1990, when we laid the foundations of the European Union Treaty. We can also be proud of our success in the social field. Social welfare payments barely kept pace with inflation under Fine Gael and Labour. There was no national wealth being created to be redistributed. Great strides have been made towards fulfilment of the recommendations of the Commission on Social Welfare rejected in 1986. Even with the huge pressure caused by the high numbers of unemployed, we are coping very well. Irish people who find themselves out of work abroad come home, because the quality of life and the level of social provision is better here.

Since 1989 we have repaired some deficiencies in the health services. In fact, health spending is now £500 million more than in 1986, and significantly higher in real terms.

There has been a huge expansion in third-level education, and theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress contained a sensible programme of improvements in the educational field. The Green Paper is forward-looking and progressive, and is the subject of a wide-ranging national debate.

The social housing programme contains an enlightened and innovative approach.

No houses.

I recognise that this area needs more resources next year, but analysis of the housing waiting lists shows that there is no return of the acute problems that we had before.

Tell that to the 2,500 people on the housing waiting lists.


I appeal to the House to exercise normal standards at least.

Self restraint, the Chair means.

The last five years have been a great period of social reform, with enlightened legislation on rape, adoption, the abolition of illegitimacy, and judicial separation. We have published a White Paper on marriage breakdown. We have tackled the issue of contraception. Three referenda will be shortly put before the people on the right to travel, the right of freedom of information and the right to life. A unique consensus of four political parties was reached earlier this year with a joint statement by all four leaders to seek public support for the Masstricht Treaty.

There has been a great flourishing of the arts, with major improvements to our national cultural institutions. The success of the lottery has provided extra funding for both culture and sport.

The environment is another area where there has been much enlightened advance. In 1990, we published a ten year environment programme and I expect shortly to receive the report of Green 2000. There is a much more stringent attitude to pollution, and the Environmental Protection Agency will shortly be established in Johnstown Castle near Wexford.

We have worked for peace in Northern Ireland. There have been significant economic and security reforms, following consultations under the Anglo-Irish Agreement, as well as much progress in North-South economic co-operation. We have not only established close relations at Heads of Government level, but we have also opened up direct dialogue with all parties in Northern Ireland.

In most areas of policy, we have long term programmes. While there are many new initiatives that I want to undertake, especially in areas such as industry, energy and transport, the principal policy orientations are in place. What is needed is further development and faster progress rather than totally different directions.

I will now take a brief look at some of the policies offered by the Opposition. Before saying anything of a critical nature, I would like to thank the parties opposite for their many constructive contributions to legislation and to policy debate, and to acknowledge the contribution of the parties of the left to the very good work of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment.

The parties of the left have been good at highlighting problems, sometimes presenting them in over-emotive and exaggerated terms. I am not aware however of any significant policy documents or papers produced by them, that put forward positive solutions.

The left has spent much of its time questioning the integrity not just of the Fianna Fáil led Government, but of a society that is based principally on the market economy, where the profit motive is one of the principal motors of progress. The left is very uncomfortable with this idea, and yet with the collapse of centralised socialist regimes it will have to come to terms with it.

The charges pressed in vain by the former members of the Workers' Party and now Democratic Left against Fianna Fáil are bizarre, when one looks at what has been brought to light in recent months about their financial links with the late Soviet Communist Party and the knowledge within elements of their leadership of what has been described as "special activities", used to raise funds for their party. No one is prepared to stand over the letter recently published, because of its hint of criminal activities. No one could have anticipated in 1986 that it would ever see the light of day. I do not accept that those who broke away to form Democratic Left had no inkling of any of these links. It is clear that a disastrous error of judgment was made by those who saw Leninism as the way to the future, and who ignored the shadow of paramilitary activities in the background. When we look at the appalling tyranny, the economic mismanagement and the environmental chaos to which other European peoples have been subjected, we can thank the good sense of the Irish people that so little progress was made by its representatives here in Ireland.

Fine Gael, under their present leader, talk much about policy documents. Some of the ideas put forward are very ill-digested. One proposal, which we will not find in the Fine Gael manifesto, made by of all people the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, is that Dublin should host a future Olympics. These cost Spain and Barcelona £5.5 billion pounds. A more serious example is Deputy Bruton's insistence that 10 per cent corporation tax for manufacturing industry has to be changed. That would represent a serious breach of public faith on the part of this country, and would keep foreign industry away and cause many of the firms here to leave. It would lead to the decimation of rural Ireland and to even high unemployment in the cities.

Fine Gael have not often in practice showed a great deal of social concern. The Deputy's description of Fine Gael as the party of "the coping classes" is worrying because it excludes those who for whatever reason cannot cope.

Deputy Bruton was a leading figure in the last fairly inglorious Fine Gael-Labour Coalition. While I would not want to be totally disparaging, and I recognise that he made a contribution to improving the procedures governing the work of this House, the fiascos are more present in my mind. These include not only two failed budgets, but also Dublin Gas, into which large sums of money were poured to no avail, and a huge bill, much of it ultimately passed back to the taxpayer, to pay for the collapse of ICI.

Many Nationalists in Northern Ireland regard Deputy Bruton as being deeply unsympathetic to their point of view. He is openly described in the editorial columns of theIrish News as “a neo-Unionist”. Many parties in this House have deep reservations about his willingness to unilaterally abandon Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution, with which Deputy Dukes does not agree, and his desire to ditch at the earliest possible opportunity our proud tradition of neutrality.

It is a complete myth to suggest that coalition is the norm elsewhere. If you look at the countries that have made the most progress, you will see many that have had long periods of single party Government. Good examples are France, Spain, Sweden, Japan and Australia.


Deputy O'Keeffe's party would have us part of the UK if they had their way.

What about Kenya?

I wish to advise that as far as I am concerned unless either side accept that presently they will be looking for an uninterrupted speaking time I shall ask any Deputy who persists——

There was Pinochet.


Please, Deputy Barnes.

What about Idi Amin?

The Taoiseach seems to be rehearsing for the Christmas pantomime.

This is the post-election leader speech of the Taoiseach's parliamentary party.

I am not going to allow the proceedings to continue and I shall ask any Deputy who interrupts — and I am looking now at Deputy Owen — to leave the Chamber.


If any interruption comes from my left when Deputy Bruton addresses the House the Deputy who interrupts will be dealt with in the same way. Any Deputy who interrupts now will be asked to leave the Chamber. I ask Deputies to bear that in mind.

If you get five Deputies out the Government might survive.

I understand that the truth always hurts. I think it was Harry Truman who once said: "I have been accused of giving them hell but when I tell the truth that's giving them hell".

Germany is the main counter-example of coalition governments but their coalition arrangements are long term ones that do not change with each election.

Fianna Fáil provided a highly effective single party Government under Seán Lemass in the 1960s and in the years from 1987 to 1989 under my predecessor, Charles J. Haughey, two periods when we made an enormous impact on the country and set policy direction for the future. Coalition governments in which the junior partner holds the senior partner to ransom, as has been experienced both between 1982 and 1987 and in the past three years, do not work with the same cohesion and effectiveness. They cannot create the same mood of confidence.

I believe that single party Fianna Fáil Government under my leadership can do far more for the country than can a chaotic motley Coalition Government led by Deputy Bruton. I make decisions and stick with them. My strength is my capacity to get things done.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Mr. Fix-It.

I am surprised that the Opposition would not have the good manners to hear out a speech. I would expect that.

The Taoiseach showed fair manners on television on Sunday night, with the kind of language he used.

Deputy Allen might not have heard what I said. If I hear the Deputy's voice again before it is in order for him to speak I shall ask him to leave.

All speakers will have their opportunity and I hope they will not be interrupted. I make that plea to all sides of the House. I believe that single party Fianna Fáil Government under my leadership can do far more for the country than can a chaotic motley Coalition Government led by Deputy Bruton. I make decisions and stick with them. My strength is my capacity to get things done. The 1990s are a great opportunity for a major national breakthrough. Fianna Fáil and the people of Ireland can do it together.

I call Deputy Bruton. I advise the House again that anybody who is not happy to listen to what Deputy Bruton has to say should leave now.

The Fianna Fáil party have held office for the past six years. After six years, they leave office today with the highest level of unemployment in the nation's history, the highest rate of mortgage interest in the nation's history, and the lowest level of economic confidence for years.

It is fitting that the Dáil should now have an opportunity of passing judgment on the Government led by this Taoiseach. In doing this we are forced to review a catalogue of events which are probably without parallel in our history and which have brought the reputation of public life in Ireland to an unprecedented low.

How does one begin to describe the type of Government we have had for the past year? The worst aspect is probably the way in which Ministers in the same Government have publicly dealt with one another. In recent times the Cabinet were clearly riven with dissent. One party show intolerance for the other, without any attempt to understand another point of view or any display of the qualities needed to make a partnership work.

We seem to have a Taoiseach who sees himself in the role of the biggest bully in the schoolyard. He has made contempt for his Government partner a defining characteristic and his highest objective, and has been satisfied with nothing less than the humiliation of his partner in Government at every opportunity. While espousing so-called "open" government, he seems to specialise in the insincere word, the sweet and sugared double-talk which hides hostile motives. The pretence is one of seeking consensus, without any intention of accomodating any view but his own. Indeed, the Taoiseach's behaviour in the past months reminds me of the words of Séamus Heaney. He could have been referring to the Taoiseach when he wrote:

Oh! land of password,

Handgrip, wink and nod,

Of open minds,

As open as a trap.

A Cheann Comhairle, the name of this poem by Heaney is "Whatever you say, say nothing".

Indeed, thinking back to what I said and felt at the time of Deputy Reynolds' appointment as Taoiseach, I am disappointed with the way in which he has conducted his Office. I expected better. The emptiness of his dealings with the Opposition parties, the intolerance he has shown for his political partners, the paranoia he has shown through his many writs and threats to a free media, are all at variance, are all different from what I expected he would be like in the Office to which he was elected by this House. I never expected the Taoiseach to be a great visionary, but I had expected a modicum of balance, of good judgment, of generosity to others and a reasonably competent if not very purposeful stewardship. In all these I and the House have been disappointed.

Though that was a modest expectation, what has happened is a far cry from the reality which soon became apparent. The Taoiseach under pressure exhibited none of these characteristics. He clearly has no conception of what governing a country means, of what running a Government means or of what operating a partnership means. His Government have clearly lost touch with reality. His speech today was probably the best illustration of all that. Indeed, the Government remind me of nothing more than some form of glitzy soap opera, a soap opera where everything is personalised, trivialised, dealt with through glib shallow remarks and smart alec responses; where everything is reduced to a paragraph or a throwaway line; where there is no depth, no understanding, no philosophy and ultimately no direction or purpose.

Many of us in this House, particularly those of us who have served in Government, have been astounded by what we have heard in recent days of how the Taoiseach conducts the business of Government. He proudly boasted that he does not brief himself adequately. He is, in his own words, "a one page man". You just cannot run a modern complex country in that way. Neither does he rely or fall back on the expert advice of the Civil Service. When it was put to him under oath, at Dublin Castle, in regard to a matter involving a huge sum of money, as to whether he took Civil Service advice into account and then ignored it, he replied "precisely". All the public relations in the world will not make up for this lack of substance; the truth always catches up with you. Nothing can disguise the picture that has emerged from the Taoiseach's own lips.

I have said enough about the Taoiseach's failure to live up to the responsibilities of his office. I now reflect on what he and his colleagues have visited on the country during the past six years in Government — six years of Fianna Fáilled Government. The good name of Ireland has not been enhanced during those six years. A sad catalogue — the beef tribunal, the Greencore affair, the Telecom affair, the leaked helicopters affair, the golden circle. We had the spectacle of Government Ministers accusing one another of dishonesty and perjury and still pretending to want to stay together in office; of Ministers on oath, transferring blame for their own actions to civil servants. All of this was at a period when unemployment in Ireland was growing to proportions unparalleled in any country in Europe or at any stage in the history of this country; when interest and mortgage rates were creating unprecedented hardship, when families are now dreading the first week of December or the first week of January when a large increase in their monthly mortgage payments is due to take place. It is happening at a time when the health service is collapsing, partly through mismanagement and neglect, waiting lists are growing longer and the money one has determines whether one will have access to speedy treatment; at a time when the people in many parts of this country, both urban and rural, are being subjected to a crime wave of ever increasing ferocity, of gratuitous and unnecessary violence accompanying minor thefts, of gangs congregating to terrorise whole neighbourhoods at certain times of every day and every week; at a time also when a housing crisis was developing in our cities and towns, when people are living in caravans and overcrowded rooms and children are ill because of overcrowding — although there is not a word about this in the Taoiseach's speech. This is occurring at a time when our education system is suffering from serious neglect, when there has been endless consultation but no commitment from the Government; when our farmers are facing potential disaster from the cutbacks in the Common Agricultural Policy and the development of the world trade talks without any sign of a coherent Irish Government strategy on agriculture and food — simply a response to what others are doing but no Irish policy. Throughout a wide range of areas the Government wait for others to take the initiative because they have no policy of their own.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, it is my duty to give voice to the feelings of the Irish people. Do the Taoiseach and his colleagues have any concept of the hardship and worry which people in all parts of the country are suffering as a result of the increased interest rates and mortgage rates? Do they have any concept of what interest and mortgage rates are doing to Irish businesses at present? Have they any sense of the fear many people feel about what were previously secure jobs.

I listened, as many others will have done, to the Taoiseach's speech today. It consisted of a series of dying kicks at everybody else, but not a single word about the problems of families outside this House, not a single idea about what he or anybody associated with him would do about any of the problems of families outside this House if he were to be given a further lease of life. There was much distortion of other parties' policies, but not an inkling, not a word, comma or paragraph about any policy he has or hopes to implement except "Put me back and hope for the best". That is not good enough.

The Taoiseach has had his chance during the past six years in office. His Government have frittered away the gains which were made when the former Minister of Finance, Mr. MacSharry, built on the budget I had drafted and which he successfully implemented with Fine Gael support.

The coming election will be a watershed in the history of modern Ireland. It is time to take the country back from the golden circle, a time to give this country back to the people who live in it, who work hard, who pay their way, who want to give their children the best education they can get and the best chance in life, who want a safe neighbourhood in which to live and, above all, who want jobs, sustainable jobs for themselves and for their children.

This election is about change — a change of Government, a change of Ministers, a change of policies, a change of values and a change of standards in public life. It is about shaping our country for the future by making it possible to put in place a Government with vision, ability, integrity, idealism and competence. The new Government will have clear aims. It will be built on effective teamwork. Fine Gael intend to play a leading role in such a Government. It is our duty to offer Ireland such a vision, and such a hope. In the coming days I will be outlining our programme of action to fulfil people's hopes and aspirations, which were completely neglected by the Taoiseach in his speech. Integrity will be important to the new Government. Integrity means honest Government. There can be no integrity in a Government in which the Taoiseach believes his fellow Ministers to be dishonest and yet wants to continue working with them.

In the final analysis, there is nothing more fundamental than integrity in public life. A Government must be honest with the electorate but, above all, they must be honest with themselves. In forming the next Government we will put our cards fully on the table and adhere to whatever agreements we come to. That much I can say to the people of Ireland and to the Members of this House. The country now needs a new kind of leadership. It needs a qualitative and generational change. Fine Gael are in a position to provide this. The people of Ireland will not have to continue to endure the empty posturing of recent months and years. There is a clear alternative. This is no one-party State. Single party Fianna Fáil Government is the last thing this country needs.

Let us pause for a moment and think about that. The chain of events that reached its climax in the totally unnecessary but totally deliberate destruction of his Government by the Taoiseach as a witness at the beef tribunal had its origin in the last time that the Fianna Fáil Party had single party Government, which they crave so much. There would have been no need for a beef tribunal, to which Fianna Fáil agreed, were it not for acts or omissions of that last single party Fianna Fáil Government. Other inquiries into Telecom and the leaking of Irish Helicopters data to a rival would not have been necessary if that last single party Fianna Fáil Government had been doing their job properly. I wish to say this about the future. Any Government involving Fianna Fáil will be under a shadow until these inquiries are complete, and, in particular, until the beef tribunal has reported.

The last thing this country needs at this time is a Government that is lingering under such a shadow. A Government riven by the aftermath of the last leadership struggle, and the next leadership struggle, is not what the country needs. A Government put together by someone who sees solemn agreements as no more than "temporary little arrangements" is not what the country needs. A repeat performance of the chaos, uncertainty and disloyalty of past weeks is not what the country needs. Such a Government would not be stable, could not plan for the future and would not have the moral authority to tackle the fundamental causes of high unemployment, high interest rates and low economic confidence in Ireland today. We must not have such a Government, and we will not have such a Government.

Unlike the present Government, the next Government will be formed on the basis of trust and mutual respect. It will be no temporary arrangement. Their policies will respect the priorities expressed by the people in their votes at the election.

For their part, Fine Gael's policy priority is simple and overriding — to make it more profitable and less expensive to create a job and make sure that every person who is unemployed gains financially from taking a job. Those are our simple priorities. Over the past six months, the Fine Gael Party have explained at public meetings to which everybody was invited in every constituency how we intend to give expression in Government to those two simple priorities. By radically changing the structure of the economy to promote and protect jobs at the new, very difficult exchange rate, we will show that that exchange rate policy is genuine, serious and credible. By ensuring that the job protection policies are in place to back the present exchange rate, Fine Gael will eliminate the uncertainty which is now causing high interest rates and bring relief to mortgage holders and struggling businesses throughout the country.

In approaching the formation of a new Government, we recognise that the budgetary situation for 1993 has been deliberately made difficult by the outgoing Government. Financial commitments that should have been met in earlier years were deliberately and consciously postponed to 1993. Their failure to implement any coherent employment policy during the past year has made the anticipated welfare costs, tax losses and unprecedented unemployment for 1993 greater than they need have been. In fact, the implicit policy of postponing difficult decisions to 1993 lends credibility to the belief that the Taoiseach deliberately brought down his Government at the end of 1992 because he is afraid to face 1993. The same belief is prompted by the fact that the Northern talks were not completed before the Taoiseach brought about the end of his Government; he did not want to have to implement that agreement either. For my part I believe a new Government will be much better fitted to complete those vital life-saving Northern talks successfully. We in the next Government of this State will recognise the need to ensure that both Unionists and Nationalists feel secure on this island in their traditions and their allegiances. Any settlement must reflect that, and the settlement we will make will reflect that.

The main issue on which this election will be decided will be very simple indeed: who will be best fitted to manage the economy? By the "economy" I mean the total economy, the budget of every household and not just the budget of the State.

The budget.

Who will be best fitted to lead the next Government? Will it be the Fianna Fáil Party who have brought unemployment and mortgage rates to the highest level in the nation's history or Fine Gael, a party who have made the creation and preservation of jobs their central priority, putting everything else in second place, for the past year; a party who have worked carefully and in detail over recent months on how a stable and mutually respecting Government — respecting other views as well as our own — can be put into place; a party who have prepared for good teamwork; a party who are committed to the core European Christian Democratic principle that every person counts and who are dedicated to the creation of a just society in which that principle is given real expression in the way people are treated in our health services and in their access to education, particularly third level education? We must ensure that the principle "every person counts" is the basis on which our social welfare system is run and is the principle which applies in every aspect of life where the individual citizen interacts with the services administered by the Government. That is the philosophical foundation upon which the next Government will be founded.

I look forward to the opportunity over the next three weeks of putting our policies and priorities before the people. I am confident of their judgment on those policies and priorities because they are not founded on the results of struggles within the corridors of this House but on the real needs of real people trying to make ends meet. It is their concerns that will dominate the meetings of the next Government and it is their concerns we hope to address in the election campaign.

This debate, like so much else about this Government, is a meaningless and empty charade. In common with a clear majority of this House, the Labour Party have no confidence in this Government, and we will be hoping to see it swept out of office when the vote is called this evening. We have never had confidence in them, and would have welcomed an opportunity to vote them out of office at any time in the last three and a half years. Therefore, we regard the vote this evening, which will remove this lost and ineffective Government from office, as long overdue.

For three and a half years, this country has needed grown-up, adult politics. It has needed clear choices, and an opportunity to rally around those choices. It has needed to pull together, in the face of daunting challenges — challenges that are not just for this generation, but whose resolution will affect our children and their children.

Instead of grown-up politics, we have had a Government beset by scandal. They have been obsessed with so-called "fundamentals" which have always failed to include the people who elected them. By their behaviour, time and time again, they have cheapened and debased one of the highest callings there is, and dishonoured those who serve the public in political life.

I could spend the next 45 minutes recounting a long catalogue of misdeeds of the Government elected in July 1989, on a day which saw the spectacle of an outgoing and defeated Taoiseach trying to defy the Constitution. With the benefit of hindsight, that perhaps ought to have been an omen of things to come, a hint of the character of the administration that was to bedevil serious politics in Ireland for all that time.

When that previous Taoiseach resigned from his office to pursue what he has himself described as his "bucolic pursuits", he was succeeded by the present incumbent, the man in whom we are asked to vote confidence today. This is the Taoiseach who promised open Government, but whose Government fought in the Supreme Court to establish a system of Cabinet secrecy that flies in the face of that promise. This is the Taoiseach who stated he had no wish to preside over a police state, but whose Attorney General sought and got an injunction against a 14 year old rape victim.

This is the Taoiseach who talked about a Government for all the people, but whose policies have been viciously cruel to many thousands of people who live on the margins of our society. This is the Taoiseach who talks about consensus, but who governs behind closed doors. This is the Taoiseach who said he does not want an election, and that the country does not need one — but this is the Taoiseach who still refuses to withdraw or substantiate an accusation against a member of his own Cabinet that he has committed a serious criminal offence.

This is the Taoiseach who says, over and over again, that the buck stops with him, but who makes every effort he can to ensure that the buck lands in the lap of the civil servants who work for him on behalf of the State. This is the Taoiseach who preaches about respect for the institutions of State in this House, but who has lost the ability to conduct himself with dignity in any crisis, as we have seen in recent days. But there is one thing that this Taoiseach is not. He is not a Taoiseach who has ever received a mandate from the people. He was elected Taoiseach following a typical Fianna Fáil power play. He owes his mandate as much to the former Cathaoirleach of the Seanad as to anyone else.

We did not know much about the political philosophy of this Taoiseach before he was elected. We were, most of us, prepared to suspend judgement, and to wish his Government well. That was partly because anything had to be an improvement on the scandal-ridden and autocratic Government that went immediately before; and partly it was because the economic and social challenges facing this country needed a Government that had the goodwill of the nation behind it.

If there is one accusation from which this Government will not be able to escape, it is this: this Government came to office a few short months ago, in a position to tape into a reservoir of goodwill, in a position to begin to rebuild the social fabric and economic dynamism. By their own actions and behaviour, this Government have dissipated all of that goodwill. They are now heartily and thoroughly distrusted throughout the length and breadth of the country. They are incapable of providing leadership or direction, or of mobilising the spirit that exists in large measure throughout the community — a spirit of determination to solve our problems working together. We are facing into an election that will not of itself solve any of those problems. But it is, nevertheless, a necessary election, and it will serve a useful purpose if it allows us to rid ourselves of the incompetence and low standards that have characterised the last three and a half years.

What monuments have been left behind, apart from the sour taste left by their behaviour? Of course, the principal monument left by this Government is the 300,000 unemployed people whom they have betrayed by their inaction and meanness of spirit. There are monuments too in the housing crisis, in the continuing crisis of health care, in the deteriorating quality of our education service, in the cutbacks in a whole range of local and social services. Perhaps Fianna Fáil will use their slogan of the 1987 election —"health cuts hurt the sick, the old and the handicapped" adding to that slogan "as well proven by Fianna Fáil".

And of course, there is the Dirty Dozen. The Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat Coalition will be long remembered in this country by those who depend on social welfare, for the policy of systematic dismantling of rights that have long been taken for granted. In the short time since the passage of the Social Welfare Bill, the Minister for Social Welfare of this Government, Deputy McCreevy, has used his powers to implement a dirty dozen of cuts in social provision. Cutting at the rate of once a fortnight, he has attacked the rights of pregnant women, workers who are ill or injured, workers made redundant, part-time workers, deserted wives, men and women in need of dental and optical benefit.

That is not all. Equality payments on which many families depend have been slashed. In some of the meanest measures of all, families living at the very edge of subsistence have been attacked in a variety of different ways.

There is a pattern to all of this, and it is an obvious reflection of the political philosophy I referred to earlier. What the Minister for Social Welfare is deliberately and consciously trying to do is to create a new type of citizen in Ireland, a second-class citizen, depending on handouts. He and Fianna Fáil have gone back to thinking in the kind of terms that were common in "poor law" times — they have come to believe, or at any rate to preach, that the community as a whole owes no obligation except the workhouse to those who are poor.

This is a policy aimed at trying to exploit the fears and anxieties of a mythical "donor" class, by turning the equally mythical "recipient" class into scapegoats. The unemployed are to be held responsible for unemployment, the sick are responsible for the closed down wards in hospitals, the poor are responsible for poverty.

That is what all these cuts are intended to convey — that we are spending more and more on social welfare than we ever did, more than we can afford and, anyway, they do not deserve it. Have we not all seen the posters around the country, which pretend to be encouraging social welfare recipients to be honest, but are actually aimed at persuading us that they are all chancers and spongers?

The policy is based on two lies. First, we are not spending more than we ever did. In fact, the objective research — as opposed to the Minister's propaganda — shows that we are spending less than we did 15 years ago. Second, I have news for the Minister — there is only one class of citizenship in Ireland. All of his efforts to create a second-class citizen, based as they are on an appeal to the politics of envy and begrudgery, will fail and they will certainly fail in the next three weeks. It is in everyone's interest that they fail as quickly as possible.

There has been another striking example of the political philosophy of this Government in their attitude to public enterprise. If it is not nailed to the floor, this Government believe it should be sold. If it cannot be sold, it must be weakened, harassed, under used, and abused.

We have seen examples of this in relation to Aer Lingus, the ESB, Telecom, RTE, and many others. It has been one of the most short-sighted and unthinking aspects of the entire approach of this Government that, on the one hand, they should react to every difficulty in the State sector by proposing the selling off of valuable national assets; and, on the other hand, that they should be eyeing every profitable and dynamic State company to see what they can get by a quick sale. There is no planning, no interest in development, no recognition of the potential contribution that public enterprise can make to solving our unemployment problem. Of course, this policy of privatisation flies in the face of every promise that Fianna Fáil have made, and everything that Fianna Fáil stood for in the building up of the State down through the years.

Given these three things — the low standards exemplified by past and present members of the Government; the policy of forcing the most vulnerable sectors of our community to carry the burden of financial adjustment and modernisation; and the undermining of some of the country's most important economic assets — it must surely be considered amazing that any party would consider coalescing with them.

Of course, the Progressive Democrats are not just any party. They are a party dedicated to office, founded on the spurious premise that they can hold the balance of power indefinitely, and with a political philosophy that is more than capable of absorbing and regurgitating any right-wing prescription. It is a comment on the Progressive Democrats that ought not to be forgotten that it was never an attack on the poor that caused them a problem, never a cutback in health care or education, unless it took place in the Leader's constituency, of course, and never the loss of a job, unless it was one of their own. For the Progressive Democrats, the issues are always personality based. For a party which claim to be policy-led, I cannot recall any policy issue in the lifetime of this Government that caused them any of the fundamental difficulties that the personality issues did.

Hear, hear.

Of course, I must add that I believe they are right to resign in this case. No member of a Government can operate effectively if his or her integrity is challenged — and especially if it is challenged by the Leader of his own Government, for purely political motives.

The Taoiseach made it abundantly clear, after Deputy O'Malley gave evidence to the beef tribunal during the summer, that in his view Deputy O'Malley had not impugned his — the Taoiseach's — personal integrity. That was the line in the sand, according to one of the numerous spokespeople who surround the Taoiseach.

Why then did the Taoiseach deliberately and with premeditation choose to cross that line himself? The answer is clear. This Taoiseach, like other members of the Government, regard the beef tribunal, whose establishment they voted for in this House, as nothing more than a political football. They consistently whisper behind their hands, and encourage others to do so, about the cost of the tribunal — without, of course, ever pointing out that as a direct result of the work of the tribunal, many millions of pounds in tax evasion stand to be recovered by the State.

Why are they doing everything they can to cheapen the tribunal, including the Tanaiste's remarks last weekend? The answer, again, is clear. The truth is hurting them. A political party who are hurt by the truth will be hurt far more by the people, when the people get their opportunity.

Labour will be fighting this election on the issues, and it is those issues that I now wish to turn. Before I do so, I want to spell out our position, as clearly and as unequivocally as I can, in relation to the issue of Government formation.

The election will send back to this House 166 men and women, all of them with an equal responsibility to ensure democratic stability, effective Government, and meaningful opposition. There will, in all probability, be five political parties represented in the House, and again, there will be an equal responsibility on each of them to provide the essential ingredients for our democracy.

The Labour Party are no less committed to power than any other. However, we are interested in real power, the power to work effectively for change. We are committed to securing a mandate for policies that will bring about that change in relation to the issues with which we are going to deal. The Labour Party are not interested in propping up any other party. We are not interested in being the prisoner of anyone else's ideological bias or anyone else's ego. We will not get involved in any Government that are willing to bring politics into disrepute, as this Government have done.

As things stand in Ireland, there are three political parties of the right. They share an analysis of economic and social issues with which I fundamentally disagree. They share a commitment to office at any price. They share policies in relation to the poor, in relation to social issues, which I would never support.

The choices we will make after the election, if choices must be made, will be based on policies, on a commitment to integrity and standards, and on effectiveness. If any party in this House want us to choose to support them, let them take warning now. There will have to be fundamental changes in the present set of policies on offer from them, and a fundamental commitment to a much higher level of integrity than has been evident up to now.

I believe that the Labour Party have been effective in their Opposition role for the past five years. I also believe that the role of an effective Opposition is a vital one. Opposition can offer the people real choices, as it did, for instance, in the presidential election. Opposition can expose the double standards and hypocrisy inherent in Government policies, and can often change those policies; that has happened again and again in the past five years.

If the past five years have proved anything, in fact, it is that democracy works best when the Opposition is strong, vigilant, and effective. The Labour Party have played their role in that regard, and are prepared to do so again — all the more if right-wing prescriptions are in danger of being forced through this House.

Let no one therefore think that the Labour Party are for sale in this election, or any other. We stand on the side of the dispossessed, the marginalised, the vulnerable. We stand for the reconciliation of economic efficiency and dynamism with social justice. We stand for the creation of wealth, and its fair distribution. We stand for the restoration of standards in politics, respect for politics, and for a concept of fair play for every citizen emerging in our country.

If, in our judgement after the election, we can pursue those goals through redoubling our efforts to be an effective Opposition, we will take on that job with relish and vigour. If any other political party, on the other hand, want us to join them in Government, it is they that will have to change fundamentally before they even approach us, because we will not. If that means that they have to cast off their encumbrances of history, or personality, of ideological bias, of ego, of low standards and hypocrisy, then those are the choices they will have to make.

I believe one political party in this House have gone so far down the road of blindness to standards, and of blindness to the people they are supposed to represent that it is impossible to see how anyone could support them in the future without seeing them first undergo the most radical transformation. We will not support any Government with the track record of this one. We will fight for the highest standards of public life, and above all for the right of people in this society to be included in the economy, to be taken in from the margins and given fresh hope of a better future.

Ireland needs a new deal. This election, untimely and undesirable as it is, is an opportunity for Ireland to be offered a new deal. The phrase may be an old one, but it was never more necessary than now. I want to spell out the reasons. This election will ultimately be about two things. It will be about the need to restore trust to politics, and justice to economics. In the case of the first issue, I have argued again and again that politics has been debased by the disreputable behaviour of this Government since 1987. This election can bring an end to the era of scandals, and an opportunity to rebuild trust in politics. The other issue, the restoring of justice to economics, will take longer, no matter what the outcome of this election.

However, it must come. We cannot any longer continue to operate as if this were an economy without people, without rights, without pain, without feelings, without hope. If I concentrate for the remainder of this speech on the unemployment issue, it is because that issue pinpoints more than any other the weakness of an economy without justice. As the campaign unfolds, many other issues will emerge — the treatment of people with a mental handicap, the issue of homelessness, the ever-growing spiral of poverty, and the inadequacy of the health service to name just a few. Each of them will be a further illustration of an economy without justice; and each of them is bound up, inextricably, with the crisis of unemployment.

Our national unemployment crisis is more than a social or economic problem. It is now a moral crisis. That is so because the Government have, for all practical purposes, allowed it to happen, and at the same time are well advanced in their plans to cut back on support for the unemployed — the moral equivalent of blaming the unemployed for the absence of work.

There must be serious question marks surrounding the viability of a society in which 35-40 per cent of the population have only unemployment to look forward to. The real underlying unemployment figures are made up of thousands of young people who have not worked yet, thousands of people who have been out of work for more than a year or even two, and thousands of people who will never work again under present policies.

All these people are under a sentence of economic death inflicted by a Government who appear to care little and are prepared to do less. Unemployment is a national emergency, requiring leadership, imagination and courage. We need radical policies, not the right-wing kind that seek to heap all the blame for unemployment on the unemployed, but policies aimed at encouraging the whole community to share the burden.

The time has come for a re-direction of Government policy to the objective of full employment at adequate levels of income. This must be sufficient to provide for a standard of living which improves in line with the increase in wealth and income generated in Ireland and the European Community. With total unemployment in the European Community heading for 16 million, and Ireland's total out of work numbering nearly 300,000, this may seem unrealistic. Seven million have been out of work for over a year in the Community, and involuntary unemployment in the European Community, and particularly in Ireland, will continue to grow unless Governments re-dedicate the main priority of public policy to full employment. Besides, nothing less will achieve the necessary political mobilisation of people and of resources.

It ought not to be forgotten that full employment was the policy of successive Governments in Ireland, for more than 20 years from the middle of the sixties, when an official report on full employment was published. At the time of publication of that report by the National Industrial and Economic Council unemployment in Ireland stood at 6 per cent.

The Government statement accompanying the report in 1967 agreed with the conclusion that "full employment will not be achieved without a fuller sense of social interdependence and national identity, and without a widespread feeling of obligation to make this country a progressive and distinctive political and economic activity." They also concurred with the council's conclusion that "the questions raised in the report concern the will and conscience of the whole community."

Now, unemployment is more than three times higher in percentage terms, and at historic numbers. All this Government have been able to do is to bicker among themselves about implementation of the Culliton report, and to try to save money on the backs of the unemployed. We have already published a number of detailed proposals for action. They have all been carefully prepared and analysed. I intend to spell out some of them, without going into undue detail, in this debate. These ideas and others will dominate debate over the next few weeks here.

Most objective commentators accept that if this crisis is to be addressed the Government of the day must ruthlessly focus every policy on maximising economic growth and employment. No organisation or vested interest group should be sacred. Yet our interest rates, which are crucial to development and growth, have been allowed to rise inexorably until they are among the highest in Europe. A Government who are serious about jobs would simply not have allowed that to happen. Our unemployment rate is twice the European average, and our unemployment crisis is by far the worst in Europe. By that logic, Irish interest rates should be the last in Europe to rise. Instead, they have nearly always been the first.

The people who have given this Government a mandate, and particularly the unemployed, have the right to ask what action the Government have taken to ensure that all decisions about interest rates are taken with the interests of the whole economy in mind. The kind of approach which is needed to the economic crisis we face would demand a radical overhaul of Government structures, a radical overhaul of taxation, a radical approach to institutional development and radical new policies for reorienting all economic efforts in the direction of an all-out attack on unemployment.

No such policies are forthcoming from this Government. It is the Opposition parties, senior Church leaders and groups representing the unemployed who are forcing the agenda. If Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats ever believed that a few cosmetic gestures are sufficient to assuage the growing anger in the community over unemployment, they are deluding themselves.

It is for that reason that the European dimension to Ireland's unemployment crisis is critically important. There is no simple domestic instrument of policy, no set of projects, that on their own can solve the crisis and generate the lasting employment we need. If we are to seriously reduce the current level of unemployment, we cannot ignore the need for a combination of: higher EC growth rate stimulated through additional demand generated in the stronger economies, and concerted EC policies designed to reduce unemployment and to reduce the disparities between regions.

The obligations arising from membership of the EC mean that a framework of ideas, instruments and laws are imposed and arise from the very nature of the community itself and its decision making process. It is possible for us, in co-operation with the Governments of other peripheral member states, to influence the evolution of economic, regional and industrial policy in the EC.

Progress to date in the adoption of genuine convergence or regional policies at EC level has been, to say the least, limited. On the other hand, progress towards the completion of the Internal Market whether it proceeds slowly or gathers momentum will mean that the Irish economy which is open anyway will become more open.

We cannot expect the EC, or even the political left in Europe generally, to be uniquely sympathetic to Irish priorities. Ireland is part of a broader community and world problem of economic development and adjustment, of re-distribution of resources and of the search for social justice. In the sphere of industrial policy we cannot expect schemes of aid to eliminate inefficiencies which are our own responsibility. It is not a question of throwing European money at Irish problems.

What we have a right to, and what we must fight for, are convergence and regional policies that will be planned, effective and enduring. These will not be obtained easily. There is no real EC regional policy, only national regional policies supported by European aid.

In the run-up to the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty this summer, the Labour Party argued consistently that voting Yes — hoping there's a pot of gold in Maastricht — is just not enough.

If and when the Treaty is ratified by the Twelve — a prospect that is becoming daily less certain — the campaign for improvements must go on. Ireland will face enormous challenges after the Treaty is ratified, and to pretend otherwise is counter-productive, dangerous, and dishonest. The Maastricht Treaty process can lead to a more prosperous Europe, but much remains to be done if that prosperity is to be fairly spread throughout the regions of Europe.

The Maastricht Treaty must not be allowed to enrich the few at the expense of the many. In that context, it must be recognised that there are many instruments in the Maastricht Treaty that will enable wealth creation. The continuing process must add instruments to enable the fair distribution of the extra wealth. Specifically, a number of tasks remain to be accomplished. Ireland must lead a major campaign seeking the inclusion of full employment as a specific Community objective, and demanding the adoption of policies based on State and Community involvement in working towards that objective. We must recognise that Ireland will have to fight, together with other less-developed regions of the Community, for proper funding for structural and cohesion funds. The proposed budget of 1.37 per cent of Community GNP by 1997, even if it is achieved, is still not enough. Of course, we are a long way from achieving it, and one of the promises that will return to haunt the Taoiseach in this campaign will be his repeated insistence that £6 billion was just around the corner. Efforts must be redoubled in Ireland to ensure that indigenous industry is enabled to compete effectively in the new environment. This can only be done by an unprecedented emphasis on excellence of product, efficiency of manufacture, high-quality marketing, and reliability of supply. This will involve a major test of leadership and a united effort here at home.

The Social Chapter of the Treaty will need immediate strengthening. The Irish Government, no more than any other, must not be allowed to dodge the objective of the Social Chapter, which is to promote "employment, improved living and working conditions, proper social protection...the development of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and the combating of exclusion." The original Social Charter, with its commitment to children, the elderly, and other citizens apart from those at work, must be got back on the Europen agenda.

Apart from the campaign that we need to wage in Europe, a campaign that is central to the battle against unemployment in Ireland, we must also recognise that for too long we have turned our back on the need for job creation here at home. Since 1987, and more particularly since 1989, the Irish public capital programme has been decimated. The gospel of fiscal rectitude has ensured that every social priority has taken second place to the need to reduce borrowing. As a result, our borrowing level is now among the lowest in Europe. At the same time, our hospitals are in crisis, communities with an overwhelmining case for a new hospital have been told to wait for years, our schools are in disrepair and our roads are crumbling. Indeed, there is a new illness in this country and it is described as "pothole nervosa". Unfortunately, many people are suffering from it due to the condition of our roads in all counties. We face a housing shortage worse than any since the sixties.

We have great roads and good councillors in County Offaly.

Thousands of jobs could be created over the next couple of years if we were to begin to address this problem with the urgency which it needs to be addressed. That can only be done if the Government chosen after this election resolve to begin restoring the public capital programme to a position where it will be possible to begin to build houses, hospitals, schools and roads again. Let me therefore serve notice that the issue of borrowing will be on the agenda of this election campaign. I believe, and I say it here, that there is a strong case to be made for a judicious and carefully planned increase in our borrowing capacity.

Such an increase must be part of an overall strategy, and it must balance prudence with social necessity, but I strongly challenge anyone who wishes to assert that it is impossible to borrow wisely for productive capital purposes. A change in policy is needed now if we are to repair and protect the social fabric of this country, and if we are to create even a fraction of the jobs that are desperately needed. As opposed to the privatisation bias of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Labour stand for a strongly interventionist role for the State in industrial policy. However, industrial policy will not be successful unless it is part of a coherent overall economic and social policy. This has been one of the problems in the past.

Labour believe in a major role for public enterprise; this can find expression in stand-alone situations, in joint ventures with the private and co-operatives sectors, and in other forms of co-operation where risks are shared. State participation must not be structured so that public capital investment in traded enterprise or in potentially commercial situations stands exposed to most of the risks while owners of the private capital are allowed to retain or distribute most of any profits that may arise. In joint venture situations, State and private capital must be mutually reinforcing elements.

Enterprise in the sense of combining land, labour and capital in commercialising ideas and projects into industrial activity is central to industrial development. The economy needs more enterprise; public, private and co-operative. The State, through companies and agencies, must have a significant capacity to generate and control traded enterprises on its own. It must also have an active developmental role in conjunction with private and foreign enterprise. Finally, there must be a regulatory role which applies with equal firmness and fairness to all enterprises public, private, co-operative and mixed.

The semi-State sector has been clouded in the last couple of years by scandal. In the eyes of some, the scandals that affected Greencore and Telecom enhanced the case for privatisation, and weakened the argument for any involvement by the State in the creation of wealth. This is a dangerous and foolish approach. The private sector in Ireland has not shown itself to be less in need of regulation, or less prone to scandal. It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that we cannot rely exclusively on that sector to solve the jobs crisis — history alone shows that clearly.

Labour have always stood for the highest standards of integrity and accountability in business, no matter what sector, but that does not mean that we believe the public sector has lost its ability to contribute to economic development — far from it. The argument that only free market forces will ensure growth and efficiency is at best a partial analysis. It is not universally valid, either historically or in terms of modern experience. The economies of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan which are not socialist in character, nor run by socialists, were not built on this basis over recent decades. There were major elements of planning and intervention, much State ownership of key resources, and commercial direction of the business sector. The Marxist-Leninist approach in the USSR and elsewhere represented, of course, an entirely different experience, and the absence of individual freedoms and choices in those economies held the seeds of their ultimate destruction.

In addition, the real world of western business is not composed of perfectly rational businessmen operating in perfectly free markets according to some economic model. Every industry, large or small, is seeking to differentiate, to build specific markets for products or services, to tend towards monopoly or at least oligopoly on a small or large scale.

At any given time there are different situations of market power in the economy directed by different companies, associations, institutions or individuals both domestic and foreign or by the State itself. National or political objectives like employment, growth or a more equal distribution of income and wealth are not in any individual case a necessary or continuing purpose of any of them. Automatic achievement of these goals has not followed historically from a theoretical adherence to a free market philosophy.

Whatever the doubtful merits of the free market doctrine as the sole valid answer for the further development of the advanced economies such as USA, Japan and Germany, it is not the answer for a relatively late-developing country such as Ireland. State intervention is required to build strong indigenous industry for the decades ahead. Irish industry must compete on a wide scale in European and world markets if industrial employment is to grow again. In the medium term, the growth of output and employment required even to dent the unemployment crisis will not be achieved by "chance", by the containment of the debt issue, or by merely correcting the environment for foreign multi-national or indigenous enterprise.

In any programme targeted at the long term unemployed, the Irish Government and society in general should first address the shameful neglect of the group most vulnerable to discrimination — those with physical disability or mental handicap. The 3 per cent quota introduced in the late seventies should be given the place it was originally accorded and met in earnest. The Government can give a lead by honouring their own pledge in the public sector, and serious consideration should be given to legislation for a quota throughout the economy. At the very least, this issue should be on top of the agenda for any future talks between Government and the social partners.

Ireland must recognise the growing plight of the 400 million inhabitants of the continent of Africa who are in danger of drought, famine and disease while the countries of the North continue to prosper. There are, of course, many countries of the Third World outside of Africa which also need key personnel and aid. By increasing Ireland's commitment to ODA from the current shameful level of 0.2 per cent of GNP to 0.7 per cent by the year 2000 we could provide professional trained personnel free of salary costs to developing countries for up to 6,000 Irish people.

It is time that we began to treat the long term unemployed on the basis of equality with other job seekers in the labour market, and not permit the growth of a kind of social apartheid where they become excluded from the world of work in social welfare ghettoes, or in employment schemes where the pay and conditions are clearly inferior to normal employment. This is institutionalising inequality.

We will be demanding a national employment job-placement and training scheme for the long term unemployed. A targeted strategy is absolutely essential to reduce long term unemployment to even tolerable levels over the next decade. It must have the following features: targeted at the filling of any vacancy and not additional vacancies, as in the new employment subsidy scheme; geared to those who have been out of work for 12 months or longer or are currently on training/employment schemes, having been 12 months out of work; include employer subsidies which are realistic, and considerably greater than those in force at present; aim at an agreed quota of vacancies reserved for the unemployed in the public and private sectors by agreement of employers and unions, initiated by Government if necessary; all long term unemployed taken on under the scheme should be enabled to participate in FÁS funded training where necessary and should include a national pre-return to work counselling service which all those recruited under the scheme would attend to be instituted. Funding for a scheme on these lines would qualify under the second Structural Funds programme and would be largely self-financing in the long term.

These are only some of the measures that we intend to spell out in more detail over the coming weeks of this campaign. We believe that our community already recognises two facts quite clearly; first, that unemployment is an issue involving justice and choice and, secondly, that means there is no reason for a Government to stand idly by in the face of the greatest economic, social, and moral challenge we face.

Before concluding, I want to address one other issue that I believe will be of crucial importance for any Government that takes office after this election — the issue of Northern Ireland. It is clear that the Northern talks process is in deep trouble. The reason, essentially, is that all sides have taken entrenched positions on Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. For the talks to break down on that issue would be a betrayal of both communities and of everyone living on this island. That is all the more the case because it is not necessary. Some time ago I pointed out that the assent of the people to change can be willingly given in the right set of conditions. I also stressed that those conditions must be put in place; that the process of change requires painstaking analysis and it must be embarked on in full respect for the fact that we represent above all else an intelligent people, capable of making up their own minds on every issue.

We must contribute to the conditions, just as much as any of the parties in the North, and if the conditions are right we must be prepared to go as far as is necessary. That may mean being prepared to go even further than changing Articles 2 and 3 alone. The tragedy of failure, if it happens, will lie in the fact that already the talks process has revealed that all the parties to the talks have a great deal in common, as well as a great deal that divides them.

The betrayal inherent in failure will arise from the fact that the parties to the talks have allowed what divides them to transcend what they have in common. Whether one listens to Unionist or Nationalist politicians, to British or Irish politicians, in public or in private, they all say and believe the same thing about a number of key issues, issues like the abhorrent nature of violence as a means of resolving the problem or the need for democratic traditions and rights to be asserted and re-asserted. Above all, everyone involved in the process recognises the legitimate existence of two traditions on this island, which together form the Irish nation.

The New Ireland Forum report, published eight years ago, recognised that. It said the solution to both the historic problem and the current crisis in Northern Ireland, together with the continuing problems of relations between the two Governments — the three strands — required new structures, including new constitutional structures, which would accommodate two sets of legitimate rights — those of the Unionist tradition and those of the Nationalist tradition. In other ways too the New Ireland Forum recognised the legitimacy of the two traditions and went further to stress that a new Ireland must be "a society within which, ... all cultural, political, and religious belief can be freely expressed and practised". If that is to mean anything, it must mean that the New Ireland Forum recognised that the professed political belief of Unionsts, in declaring their allegiance to the British Government, must be freely expressed and practised. Surely the time has come for us now, especially those of us who participated in the New Ireland Forum, to put our money where our mouths are.

There is a sense of national identity that unites us, even as a sense of political allegiance divides us. If a solution to the impasse is to be found, therefore, it must be found in a definition of national identity that is inclusive of both traditions and not threatening to either.

Whatever Government are elected next, the issue of reconciling national identity with political allegiance must be high on the agenda. It must be approached with a commitment to change in every area where change is necessary, including changes in our Constitution. We have a chance to break the impasse, and we will be held to have betrayed future generations of Irish people if we fail to grasp the opportunity that is presented to us now.

As we face into an election, caused by the incompetence and discrediting of this Government, it promises to be a tough and bruising encounter for every Member and every aspiring Member of this House. I will conclude by expressing the hope that at the end of the process, all of us will have learned the lesson that the people of Ireland want and expect us to act like adults. The politics of stunts, strokes, and scandals must be brought to an end once and for all. We represent a mature and sophisticated people — it is time that we gave them the democracy they deserve. Perhaps these words will be of assistance to you, a Chathaoirligh, during the campaign: "In the world's broad field of battle, in the bivouac of life; be not like dumb driven cattle, be a hero in the strife."

None of the hundreds of thousands of people who have suffered as a result of the economic policies of this Government will shed a single tear at the disintegration of the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition. When this Government were elected in 1989 there were 230,000 people unemployed. Now there are 306,000 unemployed. This is the damning epitaph which should be inscribed on the tombstone of these two parties when they are buried by the electorate on 26 November. They have added 76,000 people to the dole queues. Neither of the two parties have emerged from their three and a half years in office or from recent events with any credit. The manner of their going has been marked by the same ugly features which have characterised much of their time in office — personal abuse and political infighting to the total neglect of the social and economic problems of the people.

The Progressive Democrats are now clearly attempting to distance themselves from the record of their Government and have spent the last week trying furiously to sound like an Opposition party. They cannot walk away from their share of the responsibility for the appalling economic record of this Government — the 306,000 people out of work, the sweeping social welfare cuts, the growing housing lists and the crippling mortgage levels.

This Government did not become a bad Government just when Albert Reynolds was elected Taoiseach. This Government did not just suddenly start to go downhill when Deputy O'Malley made accusations against the Taoiseach in the witness box in the beef tribunal last June. This Government were politically bankrupt long before the Taoiseach returned the compliment by accusing his Minister for Industry and Commerce of dishonesty in the tribunal witness box. From July 1989, this was an incompetent and uninspiring Government, without the vision or the courage to tackle our social and economic problems.

People have, quite rightly, been sickened by the sordid spectacle of the two Government parties engaging in a game of political brinkmanship as they tried to blame each other for the collapse of the Government and shuffled for whatever marginal political advantage could be secured. The events of the past two weeks and the conduct of the two parties has brought further discredit to the whole political process here. Unrestrained public hostility has replaced sullen contempt. The long suffering people of this country looked on aghast as the leading members of this discredited Government snarled and spat insults at each other. They knew that the whole decision-making process of Government had ground to a halt as Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats Ministers devoted all their energies to devise new and more vicious ways of stabbing each other in the back.

It is hard to know which of the two parties emerge more discredited. Fianna Fáil clearly wanted to end the coalition arrangement with the Progressive Democrats but were unwilling to publicly say so. The Progressive Democrats seem to feel that the honour of Deputy Desmond O'Malley is sufficient grounds to justify the fall of the Government and the holding of a general election. They did not believe that 306,000 unemployed was of sufficient importance to justify this; neither were the whole range of social welfare cuts, or the fact that families were being driven close to or over the poverty line. Most tellingly of all, only two weeks ago they said that a constitutional amendment which they acknowledged constituted a threat to the health and lives of Irish women was not a sufficient reason to bring down the Government. I am sure that the electorate in general, and Irish women in particular, will take a harsh view of a party that attach greater importance to the hurt feelings of their leader than to the health and lives of Irish women.

While the factor which brought the crisis in Government to a head were the accusations hurled at each other by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the key issue in the election will not be the personal credibility of Deputy O'Malley or Deputy Reynolds but the credibility of the performance of the two parties in office over a period of almost three and a half years. On their performance on the employment question alone, this Government deserve to be treated without mercy by the electorate and booted out of office without further delay. Those who have to trek every week to the labour exchange to sign on, have reacted with incredulity to repeated statements, from the Minister for Industry and Commerce as often as the Taoiseach, that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. The only acceptable measure of the success of an economy should be the proportion of people in secure, well paid jobs. Judged against this yard stick the Irish economy is in a tail spin, and has been in a tail spin virtually since this Government were elected.

The utter failure on unemployment has been the greatest possible indictment of successive Governments, particularly of this administration. It is an appalling reflection on the values of the parties which have been in office over the past decade that unemployment has not been below 100,000 since 1980, that it has never been below 200,000 since 1984, and that the underlying upward trend shows signs of ending — this year the number unemployed is 306,000. We estimate that the annual direct cost of unemployment to the Exchequer in terms of social welfare payments and tax foregone is now more than £2,300 million per annum, representing about £663 for every man, woman and child in the State.

To this we must add indirect losses to the State such as lower VAT and excise returns arising from the reduced purchasing powers of the unemployed, lower rent returns to local authorities because of the structure of the differential rents system, extra health costs, supplementary welfare payments and so on. We can only speculate as to the cost of these elements, but when they are taken into account, the total cost of unemployment is likely to be approaching £3,000 million.

The Government have, for a long time, appeared to be totally devoid of any new ideas and incapable of taking initiatives of any significance. Not only have they done nothing to create new jobs, they have stood paralysed as jobs in long established industries have disappeared. When the jobs crisis reached a new intensity during August when closure followed closure, there was a flurry of public activity, with emergency Cabinet meetings and promises of new initiatives and new job creation programmes but little or nothing has happened.

Nobody is suggesting that there is any instant solution to the unemployment problem but there were a number of simple steps the Government could have taken. They could have given the go-ahead for a number of long promised projects which would boost jobs in the construction industry. The full scale Tallaght Hospital project would, for instance, create up to 1,000 jobs during construction. The reopening of the Harcourt Street line and the construction of a light rail link to the airport would bring many more. The Government could have changed the focus of the Department of Industry and Commerce to deal solely with the jobs crisis, giving single ministerial responsibility. The other functions of the existing Department should be allocated to the Ministers of State. They could have taken a policy decision that Ireland will insist, as a pre-condition for Irish consent for further moves towards European union, on the establishment of an interventionist EC common industrial policy which would aim to bring jobs to the people, and not the other way round. As the EC country with by far the highest level of unemployment we have every right to demand that the Community treats it as the emergency it is. The Government could have agreed that the second Finance Bill, which was due before the end of this year, will broaden the tax base and remove a substantial number of the lower paid from the tax net, both to make it attractive for employers to take on additional staff and to boost consumer spending.

A ministerial task force could have been established by the Government to identify firms which may be facing difficulties and to examine ways in which further redundancies can be avoided. The current level of job losses has reached such a stage that we need to create a huge number of jobs simply to stand still. It is often easier — and cheaper — to save 100 jobs in an existing enterprise than to create 100 new jobs in a greenfield factory. Instead the Government continued with their slavish adherence to conservative economic thinking that has led us to a level of unemployment which, only a few years ago, would have been considered a calamity. If we want to make any significant inroads on unemployment we must, as a society, throw off the shackles of conservatism and try some new ideas. This election should be the start of this process. We have nothing to lose but the dole queues.

The bitter fruit of massive, long term unemployment is poverty. It might have been hoped that the report published by the Combat Poverty Agency last summer, which showed such a huge gap in income levels between those on social welfare and those on the average industrial wage, would have helped to focus attention on the problem of poverty. Instead it did not even get a token nod from this Government.

We need a Government that will put poverty back at the top of the political agenda. The "p" word did not even merit a mention in the Programme for Government agreed between the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil in 1989 or in the review published last year. Presumably the attitude is that if we do not mention it, it does not exist, but it does.

Apart from the direct financial hardship caused for families by unemployment, the consequent policy is having a soul destroying effect on whole communities. There is seething discontent and alienation among those on low incomes, especially among the young. This was reflected in the poor turnout by many such people in the Maastricht referendum, and there is a danger of a similar pattern in this election. It is reflected in the growing problem of crime and vandalism. One of the most alarming figures hidden away in the recent report of the Garda Commissioner was that more than 50 per cent of all those convicted for offences during 1991 were under 21 years of age. There have been sporadic outbreaks of mass violence involving young people in a number of urban areas. It is a problem we ignore at our peril.

Instead of reacting to the level of deprivation with a comprehensive anti-poverty programme, this Government responded with a sweeping range of social welfare cuts. The Government found a willing axe wielder in Deputy McCreevy. Since he has taken office the Minister has shown no appreciation of the needs of the poorest sections of Irish society and has embarked on a series of cuts which are seriously undermining the value of our social welfare system.

In his short period in office Minister McCreevy has introduced some of the most sweeping cuts ever implemented, which are causing significant hardship. Among the measures taken by the Minister were: the introduction of means-testing for health benefits and family income support; the abolition of pay-related benefits for a number of categories, most notably part-time, sick and injured workers; the abolition of maternity payments to certain categories of pregnant women; the penalisation of unemployed who manage to find occasional work; the slashing of payments for work-related injuries; the disqualification of many redundant workers from unemployment and pay-related benefit; the imposition of new charges for dental treatment for insured workers; the abolition of alleviation payments of up to £16 per week for thousands on social welfare, including many pensioners and the impositions of the most stringent restrictions on many welfare allowance from health board clinics.

Few Ministers for Social Welfare have managed to do so much damage to the social welfare system in such a relatively short period in office. The Minister has shown all the qualities of an accountant, but none of those of a carer. The Minister likes to talk about the better targeting of resources. This is a phrase that was much loved by Mrs. Thatcher and her Ministers. The concept may seem harmless at face value but in reality it usually means taking money away from those who are poor and diverting it to those who are even more poor.

Everyone is, of course, concerned about the overall cost of social welfare, and it is a cause of particular concern to PAYE taxpayers who have to foot most of the bill. However, what has to be said is that social welfare is not charity. One of the biggest groups of people on social welfare are the unemployed who would be in work, were it not for the total failure of Government policies to help to create employment. There are also the old and the sick, those who have made their contribution to society by paying taxes over a lifetime, and there are dependants of all these groups. People are on social welfare because due to one reason or another — they are not able to look after themselves. They must not be abandoned or left behind by Irish society. The whole thrust of social welfare policy under the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government must be reversed.

Of course, it is not just the poor who have suffered. People who are lucky enough to be in employment have felt the economic lash also. Workers who have paid PRSI contributions week in and week out have found that their entitlements to dental and other benefits have been snatched away. What of taxation? This was to have been the Government that would deliver on tax reform. We were assured that the impact of the Progressive Democrats would be seen in the generous improvements that would be secured for the PAYE sector. But the figures show something else entirely. The average tax paid by a PAYE worker in 1989, the year the Government were elected, was £3,127. By 1991 this had jumped by £438 to £3,565, representing an increase of 14 per cent. This is twice the ratio at which earnings increased. But it is only when compared with other sectors that the real injustice done to the PAYE sector can be properly seen.

In the same period, between 1989 and 1991, the average tax paid by the self-employed — a category which includes high-earning groups such as lawyers, doctors, architects and other professionals — increased by just £44 annually or 1.6 per cent, that compared with 14 per cent in the case of the PAYE sector. Farmers did even better under Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. When they assumed office the average tax paid by farmers was a princely £768 per annum whereas, by last year, that figure had decreased to just £537 representing a drop of 30 per cent. When this Government were elected the average PAYE worker paid in tax each year £529 more than the self-employed and £2,395 more than the farmers. By 1991 the PAYE worker was paying £923 more than the self-employed and an astonishing £2,642 more than farmers. That is some tax reform; some Government. What PAYE workers want is fair play. They do not object to paying their fair share but this is quite ridiculous.

This Government have been so preoccupied with their personal battles they could not be bothered to do anything to help those householders who had seen their disposable incomes wiped out by the 3 per cent increase in mortgage interest rates. Suddenly families have seen their mortgage repayments rise by £80 or more per month; in many cases those mortgage increases wiped out the benefit of the wage increases won under theProgramme for Economic and Social Progress over the past two years. For example, a worker on the average industrial wage would have benefited by approximately £17 per week from the Programme for Economic and Social Progress increases. If the same worker has a mortgage today of £40,000 he or she will see their income drop by a gross figure of approximately £21 per week. The Government have done nothing for them. There is a real sense of anger and frustration on the part of ordinary people at the inability of democratically-elected Governments to properly regulate the money markets and curb the obscene activities of currency speculators. Huge fortunes have been made in currency speculation here and elsewhere. These people speculate not merely in currencies; they destroy the jobs and living standards of workers and their families. Yet, between them, the members of this Government could not come up with one initiative or suggestion to curb the damage being done.

People have become increasingly cynical about the whole political process. Is that any wonder when they see parties promising, if elected, to do one thing and then, when in office, failing to deliver? Fianna Fáil told the people in 1987 that health cuts hit the old, the sick and the handicapped but, as soon as they assumed office, they initiated wholesale, sweeping health cuts. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats told the people in 1989 that they would initiate genuine tax reform but, in office, that translated into PAYE workers paying more and everyone else paying less.

We must restore a sense of confidence in the political system. We must restore a sense of hope, showing people that circumstances do not always have to remain as they are at present. For some years past the political pendulum has been swinging to the right throughout most of the world but is now beginning to swing back the other way. I detect a real desire for change here and indeed throughout much of the world. For example, within six months of the reelection of the Tory Government people in Britain are saying they have had enough of harsh, uncaring right-wing politics. That was typified by the popular revolt against Mr. John Major's proposals to destroy the jobs of 30,000 miners. That desire for change was evident also in the election in the United States of President-elect, Mr. Bill Clinton, which represented a rejection of conservative economics and a repudiation of narrow, right-wing, quasi-religious fundamentalism.

Women's rights proved to be a significant issue in the course of the Presidential election in the United States. I predict they will have an impact on our forthcoming general election campaign.

Women's rights are also a symbol of changing public attitudes on social issues in Ireland. People now realise that a woman's right to life and health is much too complex to be dealt with adequately by a short constitutional amendment. The wording of the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution gambles with the lives and health of Irish women. A majority of Members of this House believe that to be the case, that had it not been for the manoeuvrings of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, that wording could have been defeated. That issue will now be put to the people on the same day as the general election and it must be defeated there.

The fact that the referenda will be held on the same day as the general election is a mixed blessing; there is no doubt about that. On the positive side it will ensure a larger turn-out of voters than would have been the case had the referenda been held on a separate date. On the negative side there is a danger that politicians will become preoccupied with their election campaigns and that the referenda issues will fade into the background. I must stress that these issues are far too important for that. Democratic Left will not allow those issues disappear from the agenda. In tandem with our election campaign we shall be campaigning extensively on the three referenda, urging a rejection of the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution — which gambles with the health and lives of women — and shall be seeking support for the amendments providing the right to travel and information. I hope other parties will do likewise.

Democratic Left are a new party. It is less than nine months since our founding conference. Of course, in many respects we would have preferred to have had more time to develop our organisation and establish more clearly our political identity before a general election was called. But we never flinched in our opposition to this Government, just as my colleagues and I did not flinch when we had to take very difficult decisions about our political futures earlier this year, when we decided to resign from The Workers' Party and establish a new openly-democratic socialist party. It was not an easy decision for me and my colleagues to leave a party to which we had given a large part of our lives. As I said at the time, the concept of "my party right or wrong" is no more acceptable to me than is the concept of "my country right or wrong".

It appears to me that since we left The Workers' Party to establish Democratic Left the main focus of political and media criticism has not been directed at those who remained behind and continued the old, discredited ways but rather at those of us who had had enough, who had the courage to decide to begin afresh with a new political party, whose commitment to democratic principles would be beyound question. Such criticisms were typified by the Taoiseach's comments today when he raised the matter of an alleged letter sent to the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union in 1986. I have made it clear outside of this House, and do so here again today, that I did not write that letter; I did not sign that letter nor did I have any knowledge of that letter. The Taoiseach knows I have made this clear outside of this House. I am quite happy to make that categorical statement in this House today. I would expect that the Taoiseach would accept my integrity is at least as important to me as he seems to believe his integrity is to him.

In this election we will ask the people, the ultimate arbiters in these matters, to judge Democratic Left on the basis of our record as public representatives at local and national level and on the policies we will put before them. Ours is a democratic, socialist party. We believe that the idea of socialism, coupled with the practice of democracy, provides the basis for radical change in Irish society. We are a feminist party. It would be my hope — despite the male nature of the benches of the left here — that after this election we shall have such outstanding people as Liz McManus from Wicklow and Kathleen Lynch from Cork to add a feminine as well as a feminist flavour to the left here. We are also an environmentally-friendly party, a party of the unemployed and the low-paid. We are a champion of personal freedom, a friend and ally of the Third World. We are also, and proud to be, an integral part of the new European Left.

Our socialism is rooted in the great democratic principles of the French Revolution — Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. For us there can be no socialism without liberty and democracy. We perceive democracy as the full, active participation of all citizens in decision-making and in controlling their lives. For us socialism is the political, economic and social development of society in order to achieve personal freedom, economic and socila rights, equality of citizenship and an equitable distribution of wealth and social solidarity within that democracy.

In particular we want to develop an economy to serve the interests of society rather than society serving a system which enriches a few, provides a living for some, and impoverishes many. We want to see an end to the endemic corruption in much of public life — which has been highlighted by the various business scandals during the lifetime of this Government — by extending the principle of accountability in all areas.

These are the broad principles on which Democratic Left were founded and on which we will be standing in this election. We will be contesting as an independent democratic socialist party and we will not be entering into any preelection pact with any other party on the formation of any possible future Governments. We believe that the interests of political change will best be served by the election of the maximum number possible of Democratic Left TDs. We believe that the process of change will also be aided by the election of more Labour Party TDs, who are committed to the realignment of Irish politics. The PR system is an invaluable asset and it should be used to the full by the electorate. We will be encouraging Democratic Left voters to give their transfer to socialist candidates and Green candidates, who are committed to democratic, progressive change. In those constitutuencies where Labour are running and where there is no Democratic Left candidate we will be urging our members and supporters to vote for Labour. We hope that the Labour Party will give similar advice to their members and supporters.

Already the head-counting for the post election situation has started and there is speculation about possible combinations and permutations which might form a new Government. Let me say at this stage that we will not participate in any Government in which conservative parties form the majority. It is up to each party to decide on their position, but I do not believe that it should be the function of my party to provide a mudguard for conservative parties, and their disastrous policies.

In the event of no single party having an overall majority after the next election, the obligation will rest with those parties which are closest together in terms of philosophy and policy to come together and form a Government. If the left have a majority, then the obligation will be with us; if the conservative parties have the majority then the responsibility is their's. For my party to take any other approach would be simply to prolong the dominance of conservative parties in our political system.

In whatever discussions take place between parties in the aftermath of a general election, the priority must be not the number of "Mercs" to be dished out but the number of jobs which will be created, the number of people who will be taken off the dole queue, the number of homeless who will be housed, the number of those who will be lifted out of poverty and, indeed, how quickly we can end the appalling slaughter in Northern Ireland.

Since the foundation of the Progressive Democrats in 1985 our sole aim has been to try to replace the personality-centred, historically dominated introspective politics which then existed, with a new policy-driven, outward and forward-looking politics.

The priorities of the Progressive Democrats are simple — a cleaner, safer country which encourages enterprise and hard work, and cares for the disadvantaged. We have consistently advanced that cause in the past seven years. We have also created the political circumstances in which others were encouraged to change.

I need only instance the Tallaght strategy pursued by one party, the willingness of another party to depart from a traditional non-coalition stance, and the particular circumstances in which major economic difficulties were tackled by a minority Government from 1987 to 1989, to show that Irish politics have changed fundamentally for the better on account of the emergence of the Progressive Democrats. Naturally, I would fear a regression to the old pattern — the politics of failure.

One thing is clear — good Government does not require any one party to have a monopoly of power. Indeed, our experience shows that policy achievements are better delivered by a genuine partnership Government, and a genuine partnership Government are more open, more accountable, and make better decisions.

In two general elections, we have enjoyed varying degrees of success with widely different results. In 1989, when the voters reduced our Dáil representatives from 14 to 6 Deputies, by an unusual irony they cast on those six Deputies a heavy responsibility. We held the balance of power. The Progressive Democrats decided to enter a coalition Government on the basis of an ambitious but achievable policy programme. We demonstrated then — as is still the case today — that we are always willing to set aside and to overcome personal difficulties in the proper pursuit of policy objectives.

It has been obvious to the people of Ireland that, however difficult it was to negotiate the policy programme of this Government, the Progressive Democrats have given loyal and committed support to pushing through and renewing that programme. We have constantly urged publicly and privately the speeding up of reform and change.

In the areas not covered by the agreed programme, the Progressive Democrats have played an active role. At European level, in the Northern Ireland talks and in the area of international environmental and economic matters, our Ministers have, by any standards, given time, commitment and contributed new policy initiatives.

Many unforseen problems emerged. Among these were a number of scandals involving the semi-State sector and the relationship between business and Government. The Progressive Democrats were at all times concerned to ensure that these scandals were thoroughly investigated so that a repetition might be prevented. Government is for the people, all the people — not for the privileged few. Naturally, I regret resigning my position before some of the inquiries are completed, but the need to give this country the opportunity to choose an effective Government must come first.

It is true that the Coalition came under strain in a series of crisis. But despite accusations that the small number of Progressive Democrats Deputies had disproportionate influence, I have to say that the positions we adopted in those difficulties were always motivated by a desire to preserve the integrity and credibility of the Government.

Working with Fianna Fáil on a Government agenda for the first three years, was for the most part neither problem-free nor unduly difficult. Major achievements of this Government for which we justifiably claim credit include the commencement of a total transformation of our tax system to make it fairer, simpler and more employment friendly.

Until the Progressive Democrats came forward with our radical programme of tax reform, we had three income tax rates, and a top rate of over 60 per cent. We have made very rapid progress on implementing this programme. There are now just two tax rates: 27 per cent and 48 per cent and the revised Programme for Government, which we negotiated a year ago, envisaged these two rates being further brought down to 25 per cent and 44 per cent. Contrast this rapid progress with the fact that prior to the implementation of our policy, the standard tax rate had stood unchanged at 35 per cent for over 20 years.

Of course much still remains to be done with our tax system and, in particular, the widening of the standard bands is of vital importance so that people up to, and at the average industrial wage in this country, at least, will pay income tax only at the standard rate.

The Progressive Democrats have also campaigned for a reduction in PRSI, which is simply another tax on work. I have often said how perverse it is that that in an economy with a major unemployment crisis, we should tax work as if it were some kind of luxury item. That is why I particularly welcome the recent initiative that employers will be exempt from paying employers PRSI for any extra workers which they take on between now and the end of March next for a two year period starting in April 1993.

My party's industrial strategy is not only to reduce the level to taxation on work, to reward hard work, initiative and enterprise, but also to make our industrial policy instruments more practical and effective. That is why in June of last year I took the initiative of appointing the Culliton Committee comprising leading and successful business people and other specialists. They reported within six months and already significant progress has been made on implementing the radical blueprint to enable all industrial policy instruments to better respond to the needs of business people, and especially people going into business for the first time.

I have been finalising the legislation to give effect to the most important proposal in the Culliton blueprint — namely the establishment of a one-stop-shop agency to help native industry through amalgamating the various agencies which cover the provision of equity, research and development, job training and market development.

In less than 18 months therefore, we are in a position to put into place the most radical overhaul of industrial policy in this country since the foundation of the State. This has been essential because our record of job creation over the past decade has unfortunately, been very disappointing notwithstanding investment by the State from direct and indirect resources of massive amounts of money. Over the past decade, for instance, State investment in native industry was £670 million and yet there was a net loss of 2,000 jobs in that period.

I am quite confident that within a short period the new industrial policy framework will see a dramatic improvement in the job creation capacity of the Irish economy. Of course, I sadly recognise that no matter what pace of job creation we can realise in this country over the next five to ten years, we will be still faced with the major unemployment crisis, deriving in particular from the demographic nature of our society with up to 25,000 new entrants to the labour force each year.

It is vital therefore that we devise new ways and means of ensuring that the unemployed, and in particular the 100,000 plus people who have been out of work for 12 months and more, are afforded the opportunity of working for at least a number of days per week.

The objective of the Progressive Democrats is the creation of a national community employment scheme, based in large measure on the existing more limited social employment schemes. We must develop an overall national framework and we must give this problem the urgency, the resources and the imagination it desperately requires.

A national community employment scheme providing work for two to three days a week for the unemployed would not only enable these people to use their talents and abilities and give them a greater sense of dignity and belonging within their own families and communities, but would also enable to be carried out an enormous range of very valuable work through community and environment schemes, expanded home help services, and other socially caring services.

On environmental matters, the Progressive Democrats depart from Government with a record of achievement without any parallel in the history of the State. A new Environmental Protection Agency is now being set up which will standardise environmental protection and control measures for the whole country.

It was a long time coming.

In Dublin as a result of the courageous and pioneering policies of Deputy Harney as Minister with responsibility for environmental protection, the effective banishment of Dublin's smog problem has literally saved lives.

Our party also take great pride in a wide range of local government reforms which have been spearheaded by Deputy Molloy. These of course have only commenced and our policy for the next number of years is to ensure the effective devolution of a whole range of Government functions down to local communities, to be administered by an overhauled and more localised local government system so that real power will be put back into the hands of local communities.

Through our initiatives within Government in the past three years, we have outlawed the section 4 abuse of proper planning procedures and we have also got rid of the notorious compensation clause whereby unscrupulous property developers were able to push ahead with totally unacceptable projects because the local authority would otherwise have to pay them huge compensation.

For farming and rural society, I have sought, as the Irish trade Minister, to preserve and protect our vital national interests during the marathon GATT negotiations. The situation remains delicately balanced but I am quite confident that the correct stance has been taken on behalf of this country in recent years.

I am also particularly proud that it was an initiative of the Progressive Democrats which saw the establishment of the Appeals Board to enable farmers in disadvantaged areas who felt unfairly excluded to appeal that exclusion. There have been many many other policy successes which I take great pride in, as my small party find ourselves being forced out of Government, with so much else still to be achieved.

None of you over there was in Government.

We have pioneered major legal reform measures and we have finally seen some progress on the traumatic social problem of irretrievable marriage breakdown with the recent publication of the Government White Paper which envisages the holding of a further divorce referendum.

We have also ensured that the death penalty is removed from our statute book, and a major programme of Oireachtas reform is now ready for implementation. We were motivated to pursue this programme because I realise that there is no point in preaching reforms to the general public if the Oireachtas continues to operate more in the mode of the British Parliament in the 19th century.

The new proposals which are now being considered by all the parties in this House include longer weekly sittings, a much reduced summer recess, speedier voting procedures, and a register of members' interests. Allied to other initiatives by the Progressive Democrats in this area including the Phone Tapping Bill, and the Ministerial Pensions Bill to reform the system of payment to former Ministers, they will ensure that more effective standards and practices will also apply at Government and Oireachtas level from now on.

Since we are about to commence a new General Election campaign, it is no harm either to remind the Irish people that it was the Progressive Democrats who reversed the attempted gerrymandering of the Dáil constituencies which was intended to go ahead just prior to our arrival in Government in July of 1989. At that time, we insisted on the establishment of a new Boundary Commission which reversed the plan to reduce the number of five seat Dáil constituencies from 15 to five, which was proposed by Fianna Fáil when they were last in government on their own. That would have dramatically reduced the range of electoral choice which our people can enjoy and clearly was intended to ensure that smaller parties, and the Progressive Democrats in particular, would not win seats in Dáil Eireann and would not be in a position to advance the common sense, realistic and fresh ideas which we have been so successful in implementing over the past three and a quarter years.

Sadly the implementation of further reform measures has now been interrupted by the deliberate forcing of the Progressive Democrats out of Government by the presiding Taoiseach.

The circumstances which gave rise to the departure of Deputy Haughey as Taoiseach and his replacement by Deputy Reynolds are well known. We properly stood aside from the initial and unsuccessful efforts made by Deputy Reynolds to become leader of his party. It was an irony that Deputy Haughey's departure was brought about by a strategy which involved Deputy Reynold's reliance on the Progressive Democrats determination to maintain the authority and credibility of the Government. It is also an irony that it is a further attack on its standards and credibility which has brought this Government to an end.

In the last few months it has become increasingly obvious that the cohesion, trust and partnership which underlies all Government; and is especially essential in a Coalition arrangement, was withdrawn and replaced by a strategy which was the exact opposite — an approach of non-consultation, and taking advantage of deep-seated institutional loyalty. The publicly visible aspects of this reflect only part of the reality.

We accept that even within Government there is inevitably a degree of competition and rivalry. With that we could cope, but when ordinary competitiveness gave way to a pattern of dictation, it became clear to me, to Deputy Bobby Molloy in particular, and to our Parliamentary Party, that the effectiveness of the Government could only be sustained by huge sacrifices on our part.

Over the last few months we made those sacrifices, because we believed that the national interest required us to maintain the appearance of effective Government even though its reality was ebbing away.

Our currency difficulties, the employment crisis and the Northern talks all constituted powerful arguments for carrying on with the mechanics of Government. Even the proposed constitutional referenda on abortion show that the Progressive Democrats were obliged to make their case on those vital issues to the people, as we will, rather than insist on our way in Dáil Éireann at the expense of the Government's existence.

Once it became clear that the Taoiseach proposed to escalate the barely hidden pattern of behaviour into public attacks on the honesty and integrity of his Cabinet colleagues, it also became clear that my further participation at the Cabinet table was to be publicly rendered meaningless, and the Irish people can see that clearly. Faced with that situation, I actively considered the possibility of sustaining the Government, by resigning and requesting the Taoiseach to appoint Deputy Harney in my place at the Cabinet table, to serve there with Deputy Molloy. This course seemed honourable but we concluded, after much thought, that the effectiveness of the Government would remain hopelessly compromised if I, as my party's leader, were to function outside the Cabinet. I mention this as an example of the extent to which the Progressive Democrats have explored every honourable course of action to prevent a dissolution of the Dáil.

I have also explored the possibility of resignation, but supporting the Fianna Fáil party as a minority for the foreseeable future. However, my best judgement of the national interest is that the jobs crisis, the currency difficulties, the Northern problem and the forthcoming budget all require an effective and cohesive Government supported unconditionally by a majority in Dáil Éireann, and a Government who are credible and working collectively to the same agenda.

I know that many people wish that the present Government could continue as an effective Government. They will have to take it on trust from me, however, that for some time effective government has been choked by the pursuit of a political agenda directed towards its destruction. I cannot prevent a head of Government who, despite carefully packaged presentations to the contrary, is determined to destroy his own Government's capacity to succeed.

So, what now? We will vote against the motion of confidence in the Government from which I, Deputy Molloy and Deputy Harney resigned last night. We do not have confidence in it. If we did, we would not have resigned from it. We will ask the people of Ireland to give us a mandate to pursue the policy-driven politics which the Progressive Democrats brought about. We fully appreciate that the actions we are taking will be misrepresented by others as unnecessary, self-indulgent or hasty.

I have never been overly sensitive to criticism, of which I have received at least my fair share. The same goes for abuse. Unlike others, I have not sought to protect my reputation by litigation with the news media. I have broad shoulders and can easily bear disparagement from my competitors. But I cannot properly or honourably acquiesce in a premeditated and repeated charge that I knowingly and dishonestly deceived a tribunal on oath when that charge — which is acknowledged by independent observers as a charge of criminal behaviour — came from the leader of the Government of which I was a member and to which I owe my loyalty.

Before I conclude I should like to take the opportunity to refer briefly to a few of the matters mentioned by the Taoiseach in his speech this morning. Unfortunately, at present I have no office, I have almost no secretarial facilities and I cannot find most of my papers. Notwithstanding those difficulties, I want to make a few comments on what was said. It is unfortunate that I will not be able to comment on all of the matters that I would wish.

The Taoiseach in his speech when referring to the decision made on the Culliton recommendations said that Ministers do not always get their way fully and that I should not complain if I got only 95 per cent or whatever it was of my way. I do not complain about that. I have often gone to Cabinet meetings — and the House should remember that I sat at the Cabinet table as far back as the sixties, which is a long time ago — and come away with perhaps 5 per cent or 10 per cent of what I wanted, let alone 95 per cent, and I had no feeling of grievance about that. I do not disagree with that at all. What was intolerable in that situation was not the fact that we did not have 100 per cent agreement between us but that on the morning of the meeting at which the Government were to consider the matter I read in the newspaper of the Government's decision — that was before the meeting had taken place. It is impossible to contend with that. Those circumstances clearly indicated a position in which one simply could not operate. One could not operate in Cabinet Government on that basis.

The Taoiseach made lengthy references to the beef tribunal and to evidence that has been given at the tribunal. I was somewhat surprised that he did; nonetheless, he did. I cannot go through all that the Taoiseach said because he said a good deal but some of the Taoiseach's statements were rather strange, to say the least, and I feel that I am entitled to comment on them.

The Taoiseach said in an extremely proud way — I could almost say he spoke in a boastful way, and I do not want to be offensive in that — that cattle prices increased in the autumns of 1987 and 1988. He said that cattle prices increased significantly as a result of what he had done. We have now discovered — although perhaps the Taoiseach has not yet fully grasped this — through the tribunal that 38 per cent of the beef that was exported to Iraq came from outside the country. I do not recognise what influence that would have had on cattle prices in 1987 and 1988. It has also been discovered at the tribunal that 85 per cent of the reminder of the beef — that is, the beef that did come from physically within the country — came out of intervention stocks and was bought from farmers one, two, three or maybe even four years earlier by the EC and kept in cold storage here. It seems that the Taoiseach is entirely mistaken in the claim or the boast that he made in the House today.

The Deputy was never an expert on agriculture.

The Taoiseach claimed here — to put it bluntly or fundamentally, I suppose — that I said things about him that were roughly the same as what he said about me. He likes to give an impression that this is just a battle between people who are insulting one another. I remind the House that when I was giving evidence at the beef tribunal at the end of June and early in July this year there was a curious spectacle in the newspapers of the time. Every morning I went to the tribunal I would read the Taoiseach's assessment of the evidence I had given the previous day. One of the Taoiseach's spokespersons would issue a statement at the end of my evidence each day saying that the Taoiseach was carefully monitoring everything I said. What I read was that if I did not overstep a particular line in the sand that had been drawn by the Taoiseach that would be all right. I read that it did not matter what I said about the Taoiseach's policies, actions and so on, so long as I did not question the Taoiseach's personal integrity. That monitoring on behalf of the Taoiseach went on for a week. I was interested — I would not say that I was relieved — to find out that I did not overstep that line and that is why I am flabbergasted to find in the past week that I appear to have overstepped the line grossly.

The Taoiseach went into a long argument about figures. I understand that this aspect will be dealt with by an official at the tribunal next Monday, Monday now being the proposed date. I am somewhat loath to get into this issue, to be frank, but I feel I may well have no option.

The Deputy did not mind making a statement the other day.

To my mind there is one matter that I should deal with now lest the time I should have to spend on those figures would cause my half-hour — which I understand is the time I am allowed — to expire.

The Deputy now has roughly four minutes left.

The Taoiseach's script contains a reference to Deputy Harney. It stated that:

Deputy Harney only two months before made a public attack on Government policy on Northern Ireland, which was carried in the Northern newspapers. On that basis alone, can anyone seriously suggest that someone who could not be trusted to act as a loyal member of a united team was a fit person to take part in sensitive negotiations?

I repudiate that statement utterly. That was a disgraceful allegation to make in the House about a Deputy who has served loyally and well for more than three and a quarter years in awfully difficult circumstances.

As we have.

If people knew the circumstances in which she had to serve they would see her loyalty and her suitability standing out in every way. To describe her as someone who could not be trusted is disgraceful.

The Deputy should have been in Dublin Castle instead of at Blanchardstown.

Acting Chairman

Please, Deputy Lawlor. Deputy O'Malley to continue without interruption, he has only four minutes remaining.

Whatever Deputy Harney said in regard to Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland policy is similar to what I have said. Therefore, the same point could be made in regard to me. I want to say, Sir, in regard to the question of the potential contingent liability of the State, based on the Goodman claim, that the figure I mentioned at the tribunal, and in my statement to it, was £170 million plus.

(Wexford): What about the £53 million?

I said plus because I did not know exactly how much in excess of £170 million the figure would be. I want to give the House a breakdown of the figures from the statement of claim and the amended statement of claim. The Goodman organisation—

Is this the tribunal?

—are claiming under three headings, a sum of £76.7 million on foot of an indemnity at 80 per cent on cover of $134.5 million; a claim in respect of contracts obtained by that organisation in December 1988 to an aggregate value of £76.5 million — based on promises given by or on behalf of the Minister in November 1987 and November 1988 — and further claims of £80.19 million on foot of allocations proposed to be given on 21 October. Those figures total £233.39 million. Some time afterwards an amended statement of claim was served in which it was stated that the claim under the first of these three headings was reduced to £23.3 million; that reduces the claim, as enunciated by the company, to £179.99 million. The figure I gave was £170 million. In fact this figure is £180 million. The claim does not include interest which is also claimed and which, obviously, if the claim were to succeed would be very substantial. Neither does it include a claim for general damages for breach of contract, because I cannot estimate what that would be. It would depend on the circumstances of the hearing.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy has one minute in which to conclude.

The figure I gave at the tribunal in respect of this claim, is incorrect in this degree, that it understates the claim. That is borne out by Mr. Dermot Gleeson, Senior Counsel, for the Goodman organisation who, at Volume 109 A, page 35 of the transcript, on question No. 131 said, in reply to an inquiry from the chairman, that the Goodman organisation would not limit their claim to £213 million.

This is the real agenda.

That makes it abundantly clear that the possibility of my committing perjury, as the Taoiseach put it, by deliberately overstating things and by, not alone giving wrong figures but giving them when I knew they were wrong — which constitutes a criminal offence — is an absolute farce. It is a charge that should never have been made and it is a charge on which the Irish people can now pass judgment.

I wish to share my time with the Minister for Labour, Deputy Cowen, and Deputy Blaney.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I never have a problem with elections but on this occasion I do have a problem. I have to interrupt work which could not be more important, to fight an election brought about by a small group who present themselves daily as the conscience of the nation. The Taoiseach, all my Fianna Fáil colleagues and myself are professionals put into this House to undertake the work of Government on behalf of the electorate and we continue to do that. We have not stood around during the summer making an issue out of our wounded pride because we could not afford to. We could not afford to do that last June or July nor more recently because we had to deal with the Maastricht Treaty, the second Finance Bill and the unemployment problem. I would dearly like to list all the issues but time does not permit. The urgent business we have to deal with is about keeping our head above water, obtaining the funding we need from the EC, creating better trading conditions and providing the climate for job creation and for profit. In the middle of all that, because of one man's hurt feelings, we have to stop the nation dead in its tracks. It is unbelievable. It is easy to take a high moral tone and I could claim the same as anybody else in this House in that respect.

Politics is about triumphs and setbacks, achievements and defeats, swings and roundabouts. Every politican, at some stage, has to make a choice based on the following question: do I sit down and whinge for the rest of my life and complain about other people and about circumstances or do I get up, move on and try to learn from the experience. Clearly, the Progressive Democrats have chosen to take the first of those options. They are addicted to outrage, to annoyance and are hooked on a high moral tone. Consequently, at a time of international economic instabilty they are prepared to halt progress and stability to pay homage to the outraged feelings of their leader. They do not care about the damage this will do to the country, to Ireland's image overseas, or about the negative effect it will have on our currency. Clearly economic considerations do not matter as much to the Progressive Democrats as does their own status.

Last night, speaking with German, American and British investors in town, I had to explain, because they do not understand themselves, that most people in this House have the same economic policies as regards the protection of our currency. After three hours I think we convinced them of that, using statements from other political parties. They find it difficult to understand that, at a time of international turmoil when we are putting up a solid defence in favour of the Irish pound and trying to continue to help our exporters, we can take off over a war of words on what seems to be totally unnecessary.

It must all stop. The Progressive Democrats have decided that. It is true that the turmoil in the currency markets in recent weeks has caused serious problems for sectors of our economy. I do not wish to downplay the seriousness of these problems in anyway but recently there has been a reference of the kind that used to be all too familiar some years ago, to the effect that the economy is in some kind of a parlous condition. It most certainly is not and that kind of talk is not only inaccurate but is also potentially damaging when it comes to a time of uncertainty.

I would like briefly to put the record straight in respect of some issues which if left unexplained, as we go out into an election, will damage our country and create grave uncertainty. The fact is that all the economic fundamentals of this country are correct — our inflation, our balance of payments, the control of our Exchequer borrowing deficit and all the other areas about which I have been speaking in recent months.

I should like to turn the clock back to the eighties when we had major difficulties when the economy was in an extremely vulnerable position, when consumer prices rose by over 20 per cent, when the public sector borrowing requirement exceeded 20 per cent, when there was a balance of payments deficit equivalent to 14 per cent. At that time an important element in restoring economic stability had already started to be put in place, the decision to participate in the exchange rate mechanism of the European monitory system. We are one of the core countries in that respect, one of the countries willing to accept the disciplines of a strong currency regime. This was a declaration of national self confidence which we still hold. It was both an assertion that Ireland was no longer as dependent for its economic welfare on its nearest neighbour and a pragmatic recognition that we live in an increasingly interdependent world, that we needed to seek closer ties with the strongest economies in Europe and not with the weaker economies.

By 1991 we had become established as a high growth, low inflation economy which had successfully restored stability to the public finances. We had adopted and maintained over a number of years a consistent set of adjustment policies and these were paying off in terms of output and employment. Our success was recognised by investors in both physical and financial assets. The interest rate differetialvis-á-vis German rates narrowed to less than one point. Last February the EC Council of Finance Ministers discussed the Irish economy. The Minister in welcoming the Irish achievements declared, “Ireland, at present, complies with the objective criteria for a move towards the third stage of economic and monetary union.” We are still in that position. We are held in high standing by our partners in Europe, and I hope this will continue to be the case. Regardless of the outcome of the election, no one should make any damaging comment which would in any way undermine what we have achieved over the past number of years.

The fundamental strengths of the Irish economy enabled our currency to withstand the most concerted attack by the forces of speculation in September. The devaluation of sterling, the political uncertainty about economic policy in Great Britain, constant high German interest rates and the devaluation of the lira and peseta, combined with seemingly temporary paralysis in political will in Europe, led to an extraordinary time for the EC and its monetary mechanisms of the EMS. This is clearly a time of stress and strain not only in regard to the EMS but also in terms of the philosophy of common purpose which has been broadly seen throughout Europe. It has been claimed that the cost of German unification is the major factor which influenced the tumultous events in September and October. However, this view does not take account of the inherent weaknesses which were reasonably apparent in other EC economies.

Our total volume of retail sales fell marginally in 1991, but sales for the first half of this year were 3 per cent higher than sales for the same period last year. Export volume growth was strong at 12 per cent for the seven months up to July. Manufacturing output in the first seven months of the year was almost 11 per cent higher than the figure for the same period last year. The leading sectors continued to provide the main impetus to growth. Inflation was eased somewhat to 2.8 per cent and is expected to be less than 2 per cent next year. With regard to the employment levies, we have more or less maintained stability in employment. According to the labour force study figures issued last week, apart from agriculture, there has been no fall off in employment in any of the sectors. The figure will rise sharply due to labour force issues. Hopefully my colleague, the Minister for Labour, Deputy Cowen, will have an opportunity to deal with these issues.

We also set up the county enterprise boards. My Department intended to provide the financial mechanism which would encourage investors to pledge their money to Irish equities for the purpose of growing existing businesses and providing seed capital for start-up enterprises. All these measures were to be contained in the second Finance Bill, which sadly has to be held over until the next Government are appointed. Regrettably, the proposals to expand the BES and introduce special investment accounts to parallel the special savings accounts cannot now be implemented.

As we enter into the Single Market, there will be major changes in the VAT system. I could refer to ten or 15 changes but I will mention only one. As everyone knows, the vehicle registration tax system will no longer be operated after 1 January next. There is a risk to a revenue base of £200 million in that. The necessary provisions to make the new system operable were to be contained in the second Finance Bill which was to be issued this day week. Unfortunately, these proposals have all had to be put back.

I do not wish to take up the time of the Minister for Labour or Deputy Blaney, but I must point out that this election will create major financial difficulties. Hopefully these difficulties can be minimised. This House will have to sit right up to Christmas to debate the Appropriations Bill, the second Finance Bill and the Supplementary Estimates which were not ready to be dealt with this morning. We will also have to implement directives to enable us to meet the requirements of the Single Market.

It is a pity that the sound and sensible economic policies pursued by the Government are not being matched by sound and sensible policies by the Progressive Democrats who, for reasons which are transparent to the electorate, have decided to pull out of Government. I have no doubt that they will be punished severely for their dereliction of duty. They knew exactly what was involved. A few days ago I outlined to the former Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, the seriousness of the timing of this election. He was well aware of this already.

I can assure the House that Fianna Fáil are fully committed to keeping the finances of the country in order. We will continue to press forward urgently in tackling the problem of unemployment while at the same time protecting our currency between now and the convening of the next Dáil. The nation was almost at one in opting for short term pain for long term gain when we firmly rejected the foolishness of devaluation. There are signs that the terrible pain of high interest rates will be abated over the next few months. Unfortunately, this election will slow down that process. That short term pain will only be extended if the Government are defeated today. This will be a bad day's work on behalf of the Irish people. Politicians should lead people out of crises, not lead them into crises. I do not suppose there is anything I can say which will stop the Progressive Democrats voting against the Government today. They are the victims of their own illusions and they have foolishly decided to plunge the nation into this crisis. Fianna Fáil will break from that stupidity. I do not think the electorate will support the Progressive Democrats.

Hopefully people will understand that the difficulties in terms of investment and the currency crisis will continue to be monitored throughout the election by the people who have successfully done so since mid-September. There will be no change in that policy. There is no need for panic. Panic will only be created if people make remarks similar to the ones made on the Order of Business this morning when a Deputy tried to hype-up the issue. There is no necessity for this; it will only lead to massive outflows from the country which effectively will reduce our already low reserves. Wild statements made by people who do not know the facts will only cause damage to our economy.

I ask Deputies who feel obliged to make wild statements during the election campaign to first talk to the responsible people from the National Treasury Management Agency, the Central Bank, the monitoring section of the Department of Finance or senior officials of that Department so that they will at least minimise the damage they cause to themselves — I should say I am not too worried about that — and the nation. I hope they will take that advice.

I understand I have seven minutes. I will not require all that time to say to the House that I deplore in the fullest possible terms the attempts made by Deputy O'Malley in his speech to fly in the face of the very strict instructions given by the Ceann Comhairle this morning in relation to the relaxation of thesub judice rule in this debate. I wish to quote the following from that statement:

I think it would be unreasonable to apply thesub judice rule to the extent that there would be a serious imbalance in this important debate because the inherent right of the Dáil to debate matters of public importance on the one hand and the necessity to ensure that such a debate would not prejudice the proceedings of the tribunal on the other.

He went on to say:

A passing reference may be made to the factual matters which have come before the tribunal in so far as they are relevant to this debate provided, of course, the references made do not constitute a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the proceedings of the tribunal or reflect on the independence of the Chairman.

I suggest that the statement made by Deputy O'Malley to this House today was an abuse of the privilege available in this House in line——

Acting Chairman

Minister, I was in the Chair when Deputy O'Malley made his speech and I was not of the opinion that what he said could cause a substantial danger of prejudice to the proceedings of the tribunal or reflect on the independent judgment of the Chairman.

I respect the Chair's judgment in the matter, apart from my view of the statements made. As I said to Mr. Pat Cox, a possible candidate in the general election, on "Morning Ireland" this week, it has been made very clear by Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton in his statement directed to the Progressive Democrats that he will not be deviated in his efforts to ensure that the independence of this tribunal is upheld. The statement made by Deputy O'Malley today — in deference to the ruling of the Chair, I make this a political charge — was an assertion which he sought to portray as a fact.

Mr. Justice Hamilton has made it quite clear that nobody, including Deputy O'Malley, despite whatever deep personal hurt he may feel, can indicate to the press, the public or anybody in this House that interim conclusions can be drawn in respect of matters which have yet to be clarified. It suggests that we have finally exposed the real reason this election has been called by the Progressive Democrats. The Taoiseach's basic allegation against Deputy O'Malley is that he misled the tribunal. It is interesting that the chairman this week had to expose Deputy O'Malley, who tried to mislead the public as to what the tribunal is trying to do and as to its proceedings. I make the political charge that he still seeks to mislead the public as to the proceedings of the tribunal by making assertions dressed up as facts, although the facts have yet to be verified. I deplore a person of such experience seeking to pull the wool over everyone's eyes and to fly in the face of the chairman's letter to him and his party when he could not decide last Tuesday whether he was in or out, as we sought to continue with the business of Government.

We face this election with great trust in the commonsense of the electorate. This party has served the country well. I heard Deputy O'Malley claim that in the six or seven years since his party was established they have achieved progress which is unprecedented in the history of the State. Were it not for the Progressive Democrats, I presume, all the previous work of Fianna Fáil Governments in the past would not have happened. I take grave exception to the idea that we started to be honest and truthful from the year the Progressive Democrats were established. I belong to and love the Fianna Fáil tradition and I will not have it set aside by Deputy O'Malley, nor will I allow any attempt to dilute its achievements. He walked away from that political tradition. We are here to uphold it and we do so proudly. The electorate will show that they believe in the commonsense of this party.

I understand that opinion polls allow for a margin of error of 3 per cent. The Progressive Democrates stand at present at 4 per cent, 1 per cent from the margin of error.

When this election is over I hope we will get rid of moral indignation in politics, the attempt to put oneself above the rest. I will not concede my integrity to Deputy O'Malley or anybody else. He does not speak on my behalf in relation to integrity. I have been reared in a political tradition which is as true as it ever was. I am the third generation Fianna Fáil man in my family and the esteem in which I and my political tradition are held is something I am prepared to put before the electorate at any time. If it suits Deputy O'Malley's political agenda, let it be in three weeks' time. I suggest to Deputy O'Malley that it is time to rid the country of this superfluous attempt to indicate moral indignation at every twist and turn. He indicates a persecution complex in respect of the difficult circumstances in which he has lived for the past three years and he claims that finally he had to give way.

I have been proud to be a member of Government for the past eight months. Under this Taoiseach we will fight this election and go to the people. We expect a result which will reflect the commonsense approach that he espouses and we will take no more moral indignation from Deputy O'Malley or anybody else.

The Whips have agreed that there is to be an extra half hour. My colleagues and I have arranged that I will have ten minutes and each of them will have five minutes. I say this for the guidance of the Chair, in order to avoid confusion.

We have had many crisis in the past two or three years which have been more serious than this one. When one considers the events of last June and last week, it is clear that two people, using very different terms of language, said exactly the same thing about each other, each calling the other a liar. That is the way I see it. Neither of the two is as great as the crisis that follows from it and I suggest they should call it quits. No doubt each believes the other a liar. So what?

Regarding the allocation of time, I would point out that the Progressive Democrats had 30 minutes and Democratic Left 30 minutes. There are five of us and if we count the Ceann Comhairle as another Independent, we are six. We are being treated equally but not always equally.

Articles 2 and 3 cannot and must not be put on the table to pander to hard line Unionists who are giving nothing whatsoever in return. Article 75 of the Ireland Act must be on the table alongside those two Articles. I say this with the greatest conviction as a northerner, an Ulsterman, as a neighbour of these people and as a Deputy who is elected by many of their brethren on my side of the Border. It is nonsense to say that Articles 2 and 3 must be abandoned. This is an absolute historical claim which cannot be abandoned while Britain claims and occupies part of our country.

Those of us who opposed the Maastricht Treaty were told that if we voted against it we would be insane. We have much company in other countries among people who have voted against it. Half the world must be insane — certainly half of Europe seems to be, judging by that yardstick. The Cohesion Fund is as far distant now as before the referendum. There is one cohesion fund of which there has been no talk, amounting to £1.5 billion. This is not to be confused with the £6 billion which is related to the Maastricht Treaty. The £1.5 billion is to be subscribed by the members of EFTA as part of their agreement with the EC. We can get more than our fair share of that £1.5 billion.

Unemployment has been and will continue to be the absolute crisis in society. There are measures we could take but we are not doing so. The housing crisis is almost as bad as anything I have seen since 1948. In my county there are 2,300 cases which have been approved for public housing, yet we have sanction to build only 50 houses this year. I leave it to somebody else to calculate how long it would take to house 2,300 at that rate of building. Throughout the country about 40,000 houses are urgently needed to accommodate those who cannot house themselves. I warned ten years ago at the beginning of the economic crisis that at the end of that crisis there would not be houses for people, even if there were jobs. The incoming Government must get up off their behinds and start building. One cannot idle one's way out of depression; one must work one's way out, if there is useful work to do. There is no more useful work than housing.

We are spending millions of pounds, which we are being given by the European Community, on our main primary roads. It is like draining the main river and forgetting its tributaries. There is no reason this Government, or the next, cannot seek and get the authority of the EC Commission to spend a percentage — 10 per cent or 15 per cent — of the moneys allocated for road infrastructure on our county and secondary roads which are in a dreadful condition, and breaking down. Indeed, this was prophesied ten years ago.

Our fisheries are up for grabs at present and we are doing very little about it. The agreement relating to our fisheries was supposed to run to the year 2003 but it is being scrapped at present by Commissioner Marin of Spain. We are not in there fighting, as we ought to be, for a renegotiation of that agreement. If we were getting a fair share of the catch more jobs could be created on the west coast than could be provided by any other effort.

Many of our schools are badly neglected. Many new school projects are on shelves in the Department of Education, covered in cobwebs, awaiting sanction. In my own constituency tenders for the refurbishment and extension of the national school at Milford were to be sought this month but that has been held up despite all the promises we received only a few months ago. The technical school there is bursting at the seams with students but we are not making any progress in regard to that school either. Approximately half the students of the regional technical college — in Letterkenny about 700 — are housed in a rented premises, in the old mental hospital, one mile from the existing campus. Surely this is not progress.

The tourism college in Killybegs from which practically every graduate is employed — no other school or college holds that record — is crying out for a doubling of its size, yet we have not been able, in the past four years, to obtain the necessary sanction. Since 1954, 38 years ago, we have been seeking the establishment of an airport in County Donegal but, so far, we have only acquired the site. We cannot develop in the same way as the rest of the country without that very necessary facility. Instead of providing an airport in the north west, we are supporting the extension of Eglinton Airport in Derry which is of no value to Derry not to mention Donegal. It has proved to be a white elephant, with our agreement, nine million pounds has been allocated from the EC to extend it. It will be some white elephant by the time it is completed.

I want to stress a point in regard to the freedom of movement between member states which will come into force on 1 January next. People should come up and see for themselves the Border fortifications. They should acquaint themselves with the proposals outlined yesterday by John Major in regard to checking passports, etc. Such checks, he says, will not be necessary. Day in and day out we are checked crossing the Border and asked stupid questions. People are held up going about their business. Those steel fortifications are now on every hillock from Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough and we are doing nothing about it apart from talking about talks that will achieve nothing so far as Belfast is concerned.

I have listened to speakers here today, particularly the first two who trotted out their record relating to their time both in Government and in Opposition. I am completing my 44th year in this House. I spent 13 successive years in Government and I have spent 20 odd years on local and education authorities of which I am still a member so my record too, as well as everyone else's record, should be taken into account. If I again gain the confidence of my electorate, I will continue to do as I have done always, that is, to work in the interest of everybody in my constituency without regard to creed, class or politics. I am happy to have been able to do that up to now.

I raised the question of the US trade war this morning, but I would like to mention it again briefly. A total of £350 million is likely to be lost because of the imposition of penal duties on our exports. We stand to lose more than any other member of the Community because of the nature of our exports. Before this happens we must ensure that EC money is provided to compensate for the loss we will suffer which will be greater than any other member of the Twelve. If we do not act quickly we will not be able to obtain any compensation in that regard.

Acting Chairman

It is now my privilege to call on Deputy FitzGerald, a former Taoiseach and my own constituency colleague for the past ten years, to make his final contribution to Dáil Éireann.

I wish to share 20 minutes of my time with Deputy Creed and give the final ten minutes to Deputies MacGiolla and Garland.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

As I have to leave the House at this stage, I wish to extend my good wishes to Deputy FitzGerald.


Hear, hear.

I thank Deputies for their good wishes. I do not propose to waste the limited time at my disposal on defending my record in Government, except for remarking that between the two Governments I led, administrations who inherited the consequences of a tripling of the national debt by Fianna Fáil in the post-1977 Governments, we halved the appalling deficit of almost 22 per cent of GNP with which we were faced when we took office in June 1981. We slashed inflation from 21 per cent to 3 per cent, turned an external deficit of 10 per cent of GNP into a surplus and left behind a growth rate of almost 6 per cent in 1987. I do not see much to apologise for there.

Nor do I propose to engage in an exercise of nostalgia although I should like to express my deep gratitude for the warmth and camaraderie that I have experienced on all sides in this House, and at an earlier stage in the Seanad during the twenty seven and a half years I spent here.

I want to address three issues: the maturing of Irish nationalism that has taken place during the past two decades; the crucial importance of integrity in public life; and the adequacy of our parliamentary institutions in their present from to cope with the challenge of the 21st century.

On the first issue, I believe that in the past 20 years Ireland has come to terms with and has transcended the single ethos nationalism which was an inevitable inheritance from its colonial history and partial conquest and settlement by neighbouring people. This inheritance could very easily have led us some 20 years ago into conflict with fellow Irishmen in Northern Ireland had it not been mastered and controlled in the early years of the violence in that area. This is an achievement for which the former Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, deserves the principal credit, but in which he was supported by all on this side of the House, even as he struggled with dissidents in his own party.

Thereafter, we on this side of the House took the lead in guiding our people away from the sterile irredentism of the past to acceptance of the principle of reunification only with the consent of a majority in Northern Ireland. By doing this we opened the way to an eventual agreed Ireland, towards which, for the past six months, the Irish and British Governments and the four constitutional parties in Northern Ireland have been working and which I hope and believe will eventually emerge from these or subsequent discussions.

However, we in Ireland also had to transcend our nationalism in another arena — that of Europe. Here also we on this side of the House have played a leading role in rejecting the emotional temptation, natural within a new State, to try within the context of the European Community to hang on to as much theoretical sovereignty as possible against the tide of history. I believe that our efforts helped to secure the necessary public acceptance of the fact that the interests of our people lie rather in the economic and political integration of Europe. This involves a sharing of sovereignty that will limit the power of larger states to exploit us, at the cost of yielding our right — necessarily inoperative because of our small size — to try to exploit them.

I am happy to have been able to play a part in this constructive rechannelling, both here in this island and in the European context of the Irish nationalism which inspired my parents from 1913 onwards to struggle for the freedom of Ireland, that would enable it to order its own affairs and to play its own distinctive role in the modern world.

I wish to turn to the issue of integrity in political life. The events of this Dáil have demonstrated the importance of this issue of integrity. One of the preconditions of a true democracy is that the public have confidence in those they elect to office to act always in what they believe to be the public interest, short term or long term. If the conviction is allowed to grow that politicians are using office for their own personal advantage, then the trust between politicians and people upon which democracy is founded is threatened. I was deeply disturbed by the manner in which, from 1985 onwards, a Fianna Fáil majority on Dublin County Council abused its power and, ignoring the interests of the people of that area for whatever reason, devoted all the meetings of the council for six years to the undermining of the county development plan in the interests of property developers.

In the last two years the issue of integrity has become one of national and not merely of local concern in the Dublin area, as the words "Telecom", "Carysfort", "Celtic Helicopters" and "Beef" have conjured up for people an image of business and politics being linked in a way that has been seriously damaging to public life in Ireland.

I hope that a lesson has been learned from this and that, in the future, politicians will keep a suitable distance between themselves and business interests. I know that politicians should have an understanding of business. I have sympathy with the genuine concerns and interests of business on whose entrepreneurial capacity we depend for the good of our economy but that does not mean that they should not keep a careful distance between themselves and specific business interests. If public confidence in politics is to be restored, two steps must be taken which I recommend in the strongest terms to the new Government following the election on 26 November.

The first of these is the funding of the party political system and of election campaigns by the Exchequer, combined with legal provision to restrict the financial support that can lawfully be accepted by political parties from private sources. Only by such a measure will the public be reassured that the decisions taken by politicians, and above all by those in Government, are free from any influence that might distort their judgment into pursuing courses of action designed to favour private interests against the interests of the people as a whole.

Leaving aside the possible impact of individual decisions specific to particular interests, the fact of dependence upon subscriptions from, necessarily, the better-off part of the community has its dangers in terms of the possible subliminal effects on how we approach issues involving redistribution and the problems of the underprivileged elements in our society. How can we be sure, given where the support comes from for politics, that we are not influenced at times unconsciously, without even realising it ourselves, to take up positions which are not those which we would take up were we totally free from any such consideration.

Associated with this there should be a requirement of full disclosure of interests, not merely of the interests of the Members of the Oireachtas which is now proposed on a voluntary basis and is quite inadequate, but also of the financial position of members of the Government while in office and for some time afterwards, if not publicly at least to an appropriate impartial commission under a judicial chairmanship. That commission should monitor and, where necessary, investigate any allegation of politicians benefiting financially from decisions they are required to take in the public interest. If those measures were taken I believe confidence would be restored, I hope fully restored, in our political institutions and the concern now so widely felt and the cynicism now so prevalent about politicians would be brought under control, because that cynicism is dangerous and potentially fatal to our institutions and the stability of our society.

The third and final point I want to make relates to the composition and method of election of the Dáil. Our electoral system puts greater pressure on politicians than any other system in the world that I am aware of. Politicians are legitimately concerned to secure their reelection to office at the end of each parliamentary session. If they were not so concerned, they would not be much good as politicians. In Ireland our politicians have to face the threat of being displaced not merely by their opponents but, unlike anywhere else, by members of their own party. In the last four Dála, of 44 Fianna Fáil Deputies who lost their seats over two-thirds lost them to members of their own party. I am sure that in this election that pattern will be repeated, that there are Deputies sitting here who will not come back and will be replaced not by us — we will win seats too, I hope — but by members of their own parties who have been burrowing away locally while they have been up here doing their best for the country in this House. The consequence of this electoral system has been a diversion of the energies of national politicians into local politics when they have sought to protect themselves from being displaced by local political figures of their own party who are free to seek popular support in their constituencies while those whose positions they threaten are engaged in work in Dáil Éireann at national level.

As a result of the operation of this electoral system over 85 per cent of the Members of this House are or have at an earlier stage before going into Government been engaged in local politics and, in the nature of things, the natural instinct of self-preservation requires that Deputies give to local politics a measure of priority which is seriously damaging to the effective carrying on of politics at national level.

It is not without significance that as the years have passed this House has been able to draw less and less upon the kinds of skills and expertise which play such a large part in the world of business, the professions and the rest of our national life. The channels through which talent flows into this House are becoming increasingly narrowed to a degree that is damaging to the national interest. It has meant that in relationship with sectoral interests and in negotiation, for example, with the European Community, Governments here are increasingly at a disadvantage in terms of the relative talent available to them.

Are we not conscious of the fact that there is this disparity, that there is the freedom to recruit the ablest and best into other professions that are notably better paid than politics and the fact that the only way into politics for almost everybody — at least 85 per cent — is through local politics, a channel which is not easily open to people whose talents have brought them into significant positions in the life of our country. That situation means that we cannot — as this House has done in the past to some degree — draw on the whole range of talents available.

In the past Governments were able to draw on a wider expertise in the post-revolutionary period than is the case now. This must be a matter for concern. When we come to negotiate with the European Community and see the kinds of politicians that come through their systems who are not liable to that competition, where people come more freely from outside into politics, can we always be happy that drawing from such a small population we are capable of mobilising the talent necessary to negotiate and compete on level terms with those from other countries? We cannot afford, in a small country where talent is necessarily more limited than in a large one, to choke off talent from politics as happens under our present system.

The next Dáil should therefore give serious attention to the examination of our electoral system, to introducing a two-tier system — probably along the German line — on the one hand, single seat constituencies with the alternative vote and, on the other hand, wider regional or national constituencies. This system could be designed to ensure that, unlike the House of Commons in Britain, Dáil Éireann remains as it should and must remain proportionately representative of the political loyalties and stances of our people at the same time as its membership is determined by a process that does not tempt its members to spend the greater part of their time looking over their shoulders at possible rivals who may threaten them at local level instead of concentrating on the national task of effectively governing our State.

I commend these deeply felt concerns to those who will be elected on 26 November and to the Government that will come into office shortly afterwards.

I should like, finally, to express my thanks for the very kind words spoken by my old friend Deputy Paddy Harte this morning on the Order of Business and by the Leaders of all the parties in this House concerning myself in conjunction with Deputy Haughey.

Might I be allowed join with others on all sides of the House in offering my good wishes to Dr. FitzGerald and his wife, Joan, on what appears to be his last day in the House — this has not been decided yet. I had the honour and pleasure of participating in two administrations as a Cabinet Minister under Dr. FitzGerald's leadership as Taoiseach. When those administrations ended they did so with both parties having respect for each other which is in marked contrast to what we are witnessing today. My good wishes go to Dr. FitzGerald.

I would first like to thank Dr. FitzGerald for sharing his time with me and I would like to be associated with the good wishes extended to him. For the duration of his membership of this House he has been the epitome of high standards and integrity in public life. It is ironic that it is the lack of those standards in public life which has drawn us, screaming, from Dublin Castle to this motion of confidence today.

It is absolutely imperative that the institutions of State be held in the highest esteem by the public. Unfortunately the public have lost confidence in politicians because of the shenanigans that pass for politics in this House. It must be remembered that the Taoiseach is not just the leader of his own political party and the Government but is perceived as a figurehead which all the people, no matter to which political party they owe allegience should be able to look as an honourable ambassador for this country. It is my opinion, and I believe it will be shown to be correct in the forthcoming election, that the vast majority of the public do not hold that view of the Taoiseach.

This administration is politically incredible. Their economic policies have failed and their leadership potential has been sadly lacking. Impressive statistics in relation to GDP, GNP, the national debt and inflation figures have been trotted out but the real barometer of success of any government is not bland statistics — Deputy Higgins of the Labour Party constituently refers to this as the depeopled economy — but rather a contented and satisfied electorate. Unfortunately, for too many people the opportunities to participate in a meaningful way in society have been narrowed significantly by the activities of this Government.

In 1987, we had significant unemployment problems and which were cynically exploited for political purposes by Fianna Fáil who were in Opposition and they were re-elected as a minority Government. Since then the unemployment figure has increased from 230,000 to 310,000. I would be the first to admit that this problem will not be resolved overnight by a change of Government but the most offensive aspect of the 1987 general election campaign was the cynical attempt to score political points on the backs of those people who have been forced through no fault of their own to remain on the margins of society. Furthermore, the Government have failed in the intervening period to do anything meaningful to solve that problem. That is one good reason this Government should no longer remain in control of the destiny of the people.

The real issue in this election campaign is not who was at fault but rather the economic policies which have led to so many people being marginalised. The one issue which my constituents bring to my attention week in week out at my advice clinics — Deputy Blaney also mentioned this — is the housing crisis. Single parents and young married couples are unable to provide accommodation for themselves and the State has turned its back on them. As a consequence, single parents who have been marginalised and who are discriminated against are forced to live in private accommodation for which they pay high rents with no prospect of securing quality accommodation in the near future.

What should we say to these people? Should we tell them they must continue to wait? With the unemployed, these are the people who have contributed most to the statistics the Government trot out to show that there has been an economic miracle. The Government have achieved an economic miracle on the backs of those people. However that is not what we want because in this society we start with people and the statistics are not relevant if the result is that hundreds of thousands of people are marginalised.

I instance the health services as another example. It is clear that people can gain access to these services provided they have the ability to pay. I do not want to dwell on this issue for too long because last night we debated the GMS scheme which is about to collapse. On 8 December, 1.25 million medical card holders will be thrown on the scrap heap by the Government. This is further evidence that the coalition mentality is collapsing given that there has always been a coalition involving the medical organisations and the Department of Health.

Finally, I would like to deal with the crisis in agriculture. Before I became a Member of this House I was involved for many years with Macra na Feirme, an organisation which provides leadership development and training courses for young farmers. Young farmers have never had it as bad. They are handicapped by acquisition and inheritance taxes. Their access to farming has been blocked because of quotas in milk, beef and sheep. What enterprise is open to these qualified and trained young farmers?

Has the Deputy any suggestion to make?

On all these issues, this Administration has failed. They have turned their backs on these people and, because of this, they are no longer worthy to hold office.

I thank the Fine Gael Party for sharing their time with me and send my very best wishes to Deputy FitzGerald who is leaving the House on his retirement.

Whatever about the Members of this House, the people who supported The Workers' Party during the last election and who elected seven Workers' Party Deputies to this House have lost all confidence both in the Government and in the effectiveness of this Dáil. The Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat Coalition have clearly said that it was not the function of the Government to create jobs; they see their function as merely an agency to collect money from the taxpayers, primarily PAYE workers, and hand over hundreds of millions of pounds to private enterprises which spend it on new technology which results in more jobs being lost. The Government also use taxpayers' money to increase salaries and perks to directors and chief executives. This has been happening for years but the Government refuse to change their policies and continue to place their faith in the market forces which will force a further 40,000 people on to the dole queues during the next six months.

These Thatcherite policies have been totally discredited in Britain and now in the United States where the Democrats have swept to power on policies of caring for their people first. Instead of cutting back on hand-outs to their friends in business the Government, through the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy McCreevy, are actually cutting back on social welfare assistance and payments to people who are already finding it increasingly difficult to put food on the table for themselves and their children. So far, the Government have cut back £20 million from the poor and further savage cuts are to be made in the next budget. Similarly, health and education services have also been drastically cut back again, hitting the poor and the most deprived areas.

In this election campaign The Workers' Party will be stressing the fact that the Republic is divided into three groups: the rich and hangers-on who own and control the vast majority of our wealth and use it in their own interests; some hundreds of thousands of people who battle daily to maintain their jobs, pay the mortgage, educate their children and barely manage to make ends meet and, finally, at least 500,000 citizens who live in poverty below the breadline and who know that the Republic is a corrupt and stagnant whirlpool which sucks them down deeper and deeper into despair.

The Workers' Party stand unequivocally for those people who suffer the degradation and indignity of a system which says that they are only valuable as long as they can pay their way and cease to be of any value when they fall below the cruel symbolism of the breadline. The great Dean Swift was once moved to savage indignation, and so too are The Workers' Party. We will express this indignation in this short campaign.

The time has run out for the monetarists who ran the United States. The people there have called for change in a system which ignored poverty, home-lessness and falling educational and health standards. They have demanded changes to eradicate these man-made phenomena, and so too have the Irish people and we stand with them.

The Workers' Party have always stood firmly and honestly with the working people, employed and unemployed, against the wealthy 10 per cent who seem to control both the economy and the Government as is evidenced daily from reports from the beef tribunal. Because of our stand we have been viciously and persistently attacked by all other political groups as well as by the media. Despite these attacks we gained increasing support because of the clarity and correctness of our policies.

Early this year a number of Deputies who were elected to carry out The Workers' Party policy ran away and set up a new party with new policies and a new agenda which denied the history of oppression of our people and the traditions of our party. This stab in the back will not go unpunished during the course of this election. It is interesting that in Deputy De Rossa's speech today he used extracts from The Workers' Party document which states that The Workers' Party — he called it Democratic Left— are a democratic socialist party and more for we cannot stand still; The Workers' Party must also be a feminist party, a Green party, a party of the unemployed and low paid, a champion of personal freedom, a friend and ally of the Third World and an integral part of the European Left. That statement is from The Workers' Party document from which Deputy De Rossa had the gall to quote today.

I thank Fine Gael for giving me a few minutes of their time. On behalf of the Green Party — Comhaontas Glas — I will be opposing the vote of confidence in the Government today. There are two main reasons I am taking this course of action, first the Government's almost total lack of concern for the environment and, second, their equally total lack of concern for the 300,000 people who are unemployed.

In regard to the environment, the considerable delay in setting up the Environmental Protection Agency has been extremely damaging to the environment. It cannot be stressed too much how important this agency will be if operated correctly. It is essential that there be a body aside from the Department of the Environment and local authorities to oversee environmental matters and ensure that in the relevant legislation and the administration of Government full cognisance is taken of the environmental consequences of any action taken. The Government's much vaunted environmental action programme introduced in January 1990 highlighted 12 years which required legislation, but only eight of those areas have been dealt with. In the other four cases Bills have not been published. Much of the legislation which has been passed has been considerably watered down at the behest of the chemical lobby and large farmers.

The most serious defect of this Government is their failure to deal with the whole question of national parks and areas of scientific interest. In County Wicklow conflicts arise between on the one hand picnickers and hill walkers and on the other hand sheep farmers and the local people. It is important that this matter be resolved because it is potentially explosive. Walking tracks in County Wicklow are being destroyed by motor cyclists who create a tremendous amount of noise and disturb the peace. What is needed is proper national park legislation. The Office of Public Works are taking a cavalier attitude to the so-called interpretative centres which are invariably set in areas of wilderness or of scientific interest. Unfortunately, the centres at Luggala, County Wicklow, and in the Burren are now steaming ahead in spite of opposition from international environmental organisations such as Plantlife and the World Wildlife Federation as well as An Taisce and Earthwatch. I hope whatever Government succeed the present administration will have the courage to admit that a mistake was made in this area.

The failure of the Government to take on the British Government in the European Court in relation to Sellafield is a mystery to me, although perhaps it is connected with a decision by the European Community in 1990 to grant a loan of 4,000 million ECUs for the purpose of financing nuclear power stations. The resolution authorising this loan was signed by the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. Need I say more?

Even as I speak, the future of Ireland's last major oak wood at Coolattin in County Wicklow is under threat. This is yet another example of the failure of this Government to safeguard our precious environment.

On unemployment, the Government clearly failed to grasp the reality of the effect of new technology on the work-force. This Government have done nothing to confront this issue. The simple answer is often the best, that is why the Green Party advocate the reduction of the working week and job-sharing so that virtually everyone who seeks paid work will find it. A complete rehash of the social welfare system to eliminate the poverty trap is also essential, and this can only be achieved by the introduction of a basic income scheme to replace tax allowances and social welfare payments.

I hope the next Government have more concern for the environment than had this Government. If not, they will be harassed by a number of Green Party Deputies in the next Dáil.