It is regrettable that we are spending the first and second days of the new Dáil session engaging in a debate of this type, but I make no apologies for contributing, nor do I apologise for the stance that I and my party have taken on this matter.
The massive pay hike which was awarded in a most surreptitious manner on the eve of the debate on the Beef Tribunal report was as cynical as it was unjustified. In any business the underlying thread is that of performance and remuneration is linked to performance and productivity. Not so in regard to the business of this Government. Our Constitution, a solemn document which underpins the existence of democracy in this State, expressly states that the Government shall be responsible at all times to Dáil Éireann. This fundamental provision has been flouted consistently by Ministers who regard the Dáil as at worst, a nuisance and at best a rubber stamp for decrees and ordinances of this tarnished flying circus masquerading as a Government.
Frequently important matters of public concern brought to the attention of the Taoiseach are disallowed and questions are transferred or watered down and replied to by way of bland statements lacking in information and dressed up as answers. The mantra of the Government — and I have heard it more from the Minister of State opposite, Deputy Fitzgerald, than from anybody else — appears to be to flaunt empty formulas about ethics, accountability, transparency, openness, and freedom of information while the day to day practice of the House is one that imparts as little information as possible to Deputies on matters of grave public concern. I am not surprised, because the concepts of accountability, openness and freedom of information are alien to Fianna Fáil as they are to any party which has held the reins of power in any State for such uninterrupted period of time as have Fianna Fáil since the foundation of this State.
It is no surprise then that the Taoiseach, Leader of Fianna Fáil, and his Ministers become confused on the matter of the national interest because for Fianna Fáil the national interest is and always has been the party interest, and the Government of this State becomes proprietorial in nature. The European league table or comparison of ministerial salaries and allowances that was read into the record of the House last night by numerous Deputies in the course of this debate is self-explanatory. However, coupled with the elaborate cushion of handlers, and fondlers, advisers and spin doctors and family assistants all paid for by the Exchequer, it is a sad commentary on Irish public life which, in time, will be judged by the people.
Last night the Minister for Finance who has graced the House with his presence again this evening failed miserably in his defence of the indefensible. I ask the Minister who made particular reference last night——