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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 15 Dec 1994

Vol. 447 No. 10

Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government.

I beg leave to announce, for the information of the Dáil, that I have informed the President that the Dáil has nominated me to be Taoiseach and that she has appointed me accordingly.

Tairgim: Go gcomhaontóidh Dáil Éireann leis an Taoiseach d'ainmniú na dTeachtaí seo a leanas chun a gceaptha ag an Uachtarán mar chomhaltaí den Rialtas:—

I move: That Dáil Éireann approve the nomination by the Taoiseach of the following Deputies for appointment by the President to be members of the Government:—

Risteárd Mac an Earraigh

Dick Spring

I also propose to nominate him as Tánaiste.

Ruairí Ó Cuinn

Ruairí Quinn

Micheál Ó Núnáin

Michael Noonan

Muirís Táilliúir

Mervyn Taylor

Micheál D. Ó hUiginn

Michael D. Higgins

Breandán Ó Húilín

Brendan Howlin

Niamh Bhreathnach

Niamh Bhreathnach

Nora Bean Mhic Eoghain

Nora Owen

Proinsias De Rossa

Proinsias De Rossa

Éanna Ó Coinnigh

Enda Kenny

Risteárd De Briotún

Richard Bruton

Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

Micheál Ó Labhraí

Michael Lowry



Aodh Ó Caoibheanaigh

Hugh Coveney

It has been the practice at this stage to indicate the Departments to which members of the Government will be assigned. I propose to assign the

Department of Foreign Affairs to Dick Spring.

Department of Finance to Ruairí Quinn.

Department of Health to Michael Noonan.

Department of Equality and Law Reform to Mervyn Taylor.

Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht to Michael D. Higgins.

Department of the Environment to Brendan Howlin.

Department of Education to Niamh Bhreathnach.

Department of Justice to Nora Owen.

Department of Social Welfare to Proinsias De Rossa.

Department of Tourism and Trade to Enda Kenny.

Department of Enterprise and Employment to Richard Bruton.

Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to Ivan Yates.

Department of Transport, Energy and Communications to Michael Lowry.

Department of Defence and Department of the Marine to Hugh Coveney.

I also propose to nominate Deputy Seán Barrett for appointment by the Government as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, with special responsibility as Government Chief Whip. He will also be Minister of State at the Department of Defence.

I propose to nominate Deputy Pat Rabbitte for appointment as Minister of State to the Government and Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment with responsibility for Commerce and Technology. It is my intention that he will attend Government meetings in the same way as the Chief Whip does.

I propose to nominate Mr. Dermot Gleeson, S.C. for appointment by the President to be Attorney General. I will propose the other Ministers of State for appointment by the Government at an early date.

I have the honour to lead a new Government consisting of parties whose history is very different, whose policies may have diverged, but who have always shared a deep, idealistic belief in improving the well-being of the people. We have joined forces to confront and manage the changes that are reshaping our political culture. To this end we have committed ourselves to a Government of renewal. This Administration will ensure that the fruits of economic growth, the priceless dividend of peace, our influence in Europe and the world and our vibrant cultural spirit are the shared property of all the people.

I present the Ministers to the House with confidence in their individual capabilities, but I must also stress their collective responsibilities. This will be neither a Government of individual personalities nor of individual parties. The people deserve and demand better than that. That was the single message this nation sent to all public representatives in the last three weeks.

The events of the last few weeks first shocked people, then sickened them into cynicism. One party may have offended: all of politics was tainted.

As we read ourselves into our portfolios and develop the working methods that will allow Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left to work together in practical partnership, we must concentrate on re-establishing the damaged trust between people and Government.

The paper that voters drop into the ballot box is very light and flimsy, but it carries a profound message. It says: "I am putting you in charge, for a time, of the nation, its peace, its prosperity, its environment, its reputation and its future.

The vote is a significant gesture of trust. The trust demands commitment from a Government and much more. Every voter is entitled to expect a Government to operate to high standards, to be answerable for every action it takes and to be open.

The first imperative facing this Administration is to renew the trust between the people and those who serve them in Government. We cannot renew that trust by a gesture or by an intention. We can only renew it over time, through a demonstrably different way of working. When we complete our task, the people must know that this was a Government they could trust.

This Government is made up of parties whose origins and policies are different. That does not have to be a disadvantage any more than we are disadvantaged by the much greater variety in the way we now think and live. Differences do not have to pose a threat; they can be a great strength. My party has always sought to create tolerance for different viewpoints and traditions within Ireland. This Government will both exemplify and work towards the added energy and strength that difference can give.

We need all the energy and strength we can muster to deliver what the people want from us: they want economic growth, jobs, and reduced taxes; they want peace and the reconciliation that can make peace a permanent reality; they want Ireland to be influential in Europe and on the world stage, not just in political matters, but as a force in the arts. In setting out to meet those needs and demands, this Government not only has a sense of purpose, but an absolute conviction that we are at a vital point of change and opportunity for this nation.

In the lifespan of this Government, these are the actions we are committed to taking and these are the results we will achieve: we will work ceaselessly and sensitively to make peace a permanent part of the future — children will be born into a land of peace, reconciliation and mutual respect. This Government is absolutely committed to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation; we will set out to meet the employment needs of all our people, especially the long term unemployed. This is a clear priority in addressing the causes of poverty and marginalisation; we will radically reform institutions, locally and nationally, so that they provide service, can be held accountable, and so that freedom of information is a citizen's clear right, without delay or fudging; we will push forward tax reform to lift some of the intolerable burdens from people with low incomes: people with families; we will work to develop an innovative, enterprising economy fit to cope with international competition and geared to share the rewards of effort and initiative; our policies will seek the best quality of life for our people when it comes to healthcare, justice, education, protection of children and the family. Those policies will reflect social realities and a wide range of values and patterns of living; running through our policies will be a concern for the environment, to preserve all that is best in our cultural and natural heritage.

Those are the essential policy planks on which this Government of renewal is built: policies helping us develop a deeper and more complex relationship with Europe than the begging bowl approach of the past, allowing us to become a confident, driving, self-reliant society grasping opportunity and embracing innovation.

Renewal is not a facile word. It signifies our pledge to restore the essential trust between the people and their political system. From this moment on, and for the entire life of this Government, I make this commitment, on behalf of my ministerial colleagues and myself: in everything we do, we will honour the character, ambition and spirit of our people.

I congratulate Deputy John Bruton on his appointment. He has worked long and hard and deserves some good fortune. I have no doubt he will do a good job. I also congratulate the incoming Ministers and their teams. They could hardly have imagined their good fortune a few weeks ago.

I congratulate the Taoiseach and his party for standing firm two weeks ago. Despite the pressures they did not commit themselves to the concept of a rotating Taoiseach. This would not be in the country's interest or that of good government. Fianna Fáil's view remains that if any party wants to put forward its leader as Taoiseach, with the support of any other party, it must first win an electoral mandate which makes it either the largest or second largest grouping in the Dáil.

To the Taoiseach and his colleagues in the new Government I promise constructive and vigorous opposition conducted in the national interest at all times. We will defend the policies and plans we approved in Government and the political commitments we have given. We will support their continuation from the Opposition benches. At the same time, it is our duty as an Opposition to be vigilant and constructively critical of the Government and to provide a vehicle for other points of view to be democratically expressed in the House. We, in Fianna Fáil, will also work on the development of new policies which will carry this nation forward into the next century.

This new rainbow Government is novel. Although our first experience of multicoloured Administrations was not entirely encouraging some time ago, we are willing to suspend judgment temporarily — in the festive spirit we will give it until after Christmas. I remind the House of what William Woodsworth said: "the rainbow comes and goes". We, in Fianna Fáil, will try to ensure that it goes as quickly as possible.

I wish our former Labour Party colleagues well. The new Government will be expected to live up to the high standards of efficiency and effectiveness of the last Government in processing Government business. Our former Labour Party colleagues will have learned much from us on how to properly handle the affairs of State. I congratulate my good friend and colleague, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, on his appointment as Minister for Finance. He will do an excellent job.

Deputy Yates had the misfortune of trying to follow me — without success — in recent times as Minister for Finance but I wish him well in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. The Democratic Left Members, as a result of their hard work and ability, deserve to be in Government and I congratulate their new Minister and Minister of State. It will induce a greater sense of realism in the party and among their supporters when they experience the pain of decision making. People will be very interested to see to what extent they have effectively traded in their policies for seats in Government and whether insistence on their demands will impose a new burden on the State and the taxpayer. Again, we will withhold judgment on those matters.

When we last went out of office in December 1982, the Fine Gael and Labour parties formed a Government but, unfortunately, things went from bad to worse. The national debt doubled from £12.7 billion to £25 billion, unemployment soared by 80,000, there was a huge shake out of industry, zero growth and taxes went through the roof. I hope that on this occasion in much more favourable circumstances the Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left term in Government will see a continuation of economic progress, not a deterioration of prospects. The new Government should not take investor confidence for granted and will have to work to establish it. The consequences are enormous either way.

War in Ireland is thankfully over and thanks be to God and all those who helped to make this dream come true. The consolidation of the breakthrough in the peace process will be the most urgent and vitally important task of the new Government. I hope it will move swiftly in the new year to complete negotiations on the Framework Document so that political talks can get underway. The outgoing Government had established a sound negotiating position which addressed all the issues and the relationships in a fundamental way. If the Government carries those negotiations through to a successful outcome on the basis of the position they are taking over, they will have Fianna Fáil support. Deputy Bruton will be aware, as the record and our real achievements show, that Fianna Fáil has always put the North at the top of the national agenda. We want to see institutions evolve which will enable and encourage both traditions to move forward in co-operation and peace to share equitably in the prosperity that peace makes possible.

Fianna Fáil in Opposition will remain deeply committed to the success of the peace process and the progress towards a negotiated settlement on the basis of the Framework Document. I wish the Government well in this regard as peace is infinitely precious, it is the oxygen of political life.

The outgoing Government was pro-enterprise. The operational programme for industrial development has been put in place and amounts to an average annual investment of over £600 million to the end of the decade. Progress has been made in the implementation of the Culliton and Moriarty reports. A new agency structure to implement industrial policy and 36 county enterprise boards were established to turn local initiative into jobs.

The task force on small business and a £100 million low interest fund were established to support small and medium size enterprises. We attached a high priority to training in the Youth-reach programme with over 2,500 places this year, under the vocational training opportunities scheme there were 5,000 places for second chance education; services to industry divisions in FÁS and a new apprenticeship training scheme. Under the community employment scheme 40,000 participants were targeted and we have more or less reached that figure. We introduced pioneering new measures in the area of consumer protection including the new powers to the Director of Consumer Affairs and a major new consumer credit Bill.

The outgoing Government was committed to the growth of the agricultural sector and continuing rural development. Under Fianna Fáil net farm incomes increased by over 30 per cent between 1991-93. The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy has been completed and new headage and premia payments are in place. The GATT negotiations have been successfully concluded and farmers can now plan for the future in relative security. The Leader programme is expected to generate over 2,200 jobs and the next programme will offer even more job creation potential for rural areas. We have always recognised the importance of the agri-sector and between 1987-93 £323 million was invested in this sector. A new body, An Bord Bia, has been established to promote and develop markets for Irish food produce. In the fisheries sector new initiatives were undertaken in angling tourism, research and export promotion.

At the outset we recognised the key role of tourism in generating employment. Under the tourism operational programme, £652 million will be spent in the next six years. A major marketing drive in the United States has been completed; new cross-Border tourism initiatives have been put in place, including a £6 million marketing campaign to promote the island as a whole. A tourism council has been established, a major review of Bord Fáilte has been completed and its recommendations are being put into effect.

The modernisation of transport and communications infrastructure was a key aim of the outgoing Government, this year alone £195 million will be spent on our national roads and over £101 million on other roads. County and regional roads will receive an investment of almost £1 billion in the years ahead. The Dublin light rail system will be commenced and the Dublin Transportation Initiative recommendations will be implemented. Fianna Fáil is committed to the development of the national carrier and the outgoing Government invested £175 million to secure Aer Lingus's future.

Up to £7 million has already been invested in the marine sector, largely in the development of ports and harbours. The effect of this investment on new jobs, sustained and in construction is in the order of 4,000.

For Fianna Fáil, being in Government is about making a real difference to the people it serves. This means ensuring a better quality of life, creating opportunities and caring for the less well off. It is about investing in education, health and social welfare and the outgoing Government acted with success on all these principles. There was a massive investment in education over the term of the outgoing Government, with the pupil-teacher ratio being improved and greater resources being allocated to school buildings and improvement works. There has been a strong focus on the needs of pupils in schools in disadvantaged areas with greatly increased funding and teacher allocation. The number of remedial, resource and guidance teachers has been greatly increased. The post primary capital programme has been increased and there are currently 450 projects in the course of implementation, including many green field developments. We have facilitated greater access to third level education and sport.

Our commitment to improve health care is clearly evident. Action has been taken to cut hospital waiting lists, to eliminate the out-patient charge and investment in the facilities for the mentally handicapped has been greatly increased. The Nursing Homes Act was implemented and £4 million has been made available to fund the initiative for the elderly. This year £100 million was allocated to put hospitals and health boards on a more secure financial basis. Work has begun on the construction of the Tallaght Hospital and the HIV-AIDS prevention programme was launched.

The Fianna Fáil Party has always been committed to a strong social welfare system. The outgoing Government increased all the social welfare and health board payments ahead of the rate of inflation in all years. This year, the package of increases amounted to £168 million and will benefit 822,000 people and their 627,000 dependants, including pensioners, lone parents and families out of work. All the weekly payments have now reached the priority rate of payment recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare. In Government we have adopted a vigorous work support approach to assist the unemployed, including a back to work allowance which provides unemployed people with 75 per cent of their social welfare payment. Measures were also introduced to support jobs in hard pressed labour intensive areas, including the PRSI reliefs and other exemptions. We had a great deal of success in the areas of equality, housing, arts, culture and the Gaeltacht, and my colleague, the former Minister for Defence and the Marine, Deputy Andrews will outline his contribution in detail.

During the Fianna Fáil term of office the economy has been one of the star performers on the world stage with the highest growth rate in the European Union. The European recession has ended, there has been growth in output and employment continued to strengthen as a result of favourable domestic developments and an improving international environment.

Domestic demand has also grown strongly. The combined effect of the tax changes in this year's budget, the moderate pay increases under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work and the continued low inflation will translate into significant growth in real disposable incomes both this year and next. For the year as a whole, consumer spending should rise by 4.5 per cent and investment by over 6.5 per cent. Overall, the outlook for 1995 is for real GDP growth of over 6 per cent and GNP growth of 5.5 per cent. Employment should increase significantly this year and the live register is expected to fall by some 12,000.

While unemployment remains much too high, we should take heart from recent progress. As a result of Fianna Fáil's policy in Government, strong output growth has been translated into significant and sustainable employment growth. Despite strong improvements this year, inflation has been moderate and is expected to remain at 2.5 per cent.

Hand in hand with a strong economic performance, the outgoing Government has made considerable progress on the budgetary front. The Exchequer borrowing requirement is well under 3 per cent of GNP, the general Government deficit — the key figure on which our colleagues in Europe judge us — has not exceeded 2.25 per cent of GDP since 1988. This year Exchequer borrowing will again come in below the budget target. Indeed, depending on the precise timing of the Structural Fund receipts from the European Union, we will see a current budget surplus for the first time since the mid-1960s.

Public spending increased significantly this year. Much of this increased spending has gone on seeking improvements in the extensive range of services provided by the Government and as outlined in our Programme for Government. Much of the progress in reducing Government borrowing in the past few years came from higher tax revenues which outpaced the rise in spending. As a result, the tax burden as a proportion of GNP has risen in recent years. It must be remembered that this rise in the share of taxes in GNP over the past few years partly reflects improved efficiency in revenue collection procedures. When an analysis is done we will see that most of that has occurred as a result of closing loopholes such as section 84 and not increased taxes in any particular area. Unfortunately the argument about increased taxes is a flawed argument which some people who do not understand the figures continue to make. In regard to employment, it is important to note that the burden has shifted from income tax which has fallen by half a percentage point of GNP since 1991.

If we are to reduce the proportion of GNP taken by taxes, priority must be given to using the fruits of growth to lower the overall tax burden rather than improving public services. Every additional pound spent on developing public services however worthy or badly needed the service may be, is a pound which cannot be used to reduce taxes. I made that argument continually at the Cabinet table and I will continue to make it in Opposition.

A firm hand on public spending is also needed to further reduce our debt exposure which remains too high and leaves us vulnerable to increases in international interest rates or other external shocks. That vulnerability must be removed.

The outlook for next year is good. If international interest rates and inflation rates remain broadly at current levels, next year looks like being another year of strong economic growth, both domestically and internationally. GDP growth should be over 5 per cent with most of this growth coming from domestic demand — sufficient for a further increase in employment and a continuing decline in the numbers out of work. I do not intend to spell out today what we should gain by these figures but the Minister for Finance will soon see that the outlook for 1995 is good.

The International Financial Services Centre has made a significant contribution to employment creation, tax revenues and inner city renewal. Over 300 projects are now in operation or committed to the centre. Approximately 2,000 people are directly employed and a further substantial number are indirectly employed. At the end of November, which is the latest figure available to me, over £10 billion is under management in the collective fund sector. That figure was £2 billion when I took over in the Department of Finance and the sector has contributed significantly to job creation and to the huge increase this year in tax revenues. Time was lost in the political difficulties of recent weeks but extra time now available will allow a number of years in which to market the centre. That marketing should be continued by the new Government. The strong support of the Taoiseach will be required in this regard. The international institutions will not take an interest unless the Taoiseach of the day continues to monitor that centre. There are notices on the Taoiseach's desk of at least three meetings at very senior level which require attention, perhaps not before Christmas but certainly immediately afterwards, which will mean significant gains for the IFSC. It is good news for him but it must be done in the short term.

On national consensus, I would direct the attention of this new Administration to two major achievements of the last two Fianna Fáil led Governments. These achievements are central to the economic success story we have left for our successors. The Programme for Economic and Social Progress and the Programme for Competitiveness and Work were a vital factor in bringing our economy back on the road to recovery in the late 1980s. The spirit of co-operation, the sense of realism, the growing awareness of interdependence between both sides of industry, and indeed the appreciation of the interdependence of Government, public service, trade unions, employers and farmers, have given this country the competitive edge now reflected in industrial peace, record exports and increasingly favourable trade balances. We have left the new Government with a sound basis on which to build a new programme. As I said this morning, I do not want, on return to office in a few years, to have to start from scratch.

The Government will appreciate that we only received the programme negotiated by the rainbow parties this morning and have carried out only a limited study of it. This programme appears to replace the January 1993 Fianna Fáil-Labour Programme for a Partnership Government which was an excellent, comprehensive and detailed programme. The recent negotiations between Labour and Fianna Fáil proposed to add to that programme, not replace it. I can find no clear commitment in writing to that programme in the documentation I have received.

There are a number of attractive proposals in the new programme, and we look forward to debating those, but everybody should pay close attention not just to the new attractive commitments but to those that have been quietly dropped, presumably with the consent of the Labour Party. Time will tell whether the omissions are significant.

The new programme is quite fuzzy in many areas. In education, for example, the specific commitment to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools appears to have been dropped, as well as the commitment to equal status legislation. The entire women's rights section appears to have been dropped in the new programme in addition to the policy of decentralisation.

The substance of the new section entitled Strategy for Renewal comes, in very large part, from the Fianna Fáil paper drafted and presented by my colleague, the former Chief Whip, Deputy Dempsey, two weeks ago. Other people have talked endlessly about openness, transparency and accountability. We, as a party, have devised concrete proposals and I am glad to see that the new Government will implement them almost to the word. I am glad that Fine Gael is now more committed to the virtues of social partnership which it opposed over the past eight years. It was the only party in this House to totally oppose the last programme. I welcome Fine Gael recognition that that was a grave error on its part that it has now moved away from all it said in Opposition and has adopted a policy we strongly pursued over the years.

I am glad to see that Fine Gael has signed up lock, stock and barrel to the third banking force concept.

A Deputy

At least it is a change.

Having accused us of being a tax and spend Government it agreed to a rise of 6 per cent in current supply services which is 1.5 per cent higher than necessary. There is no commitment to maintain a serious current budget deficit such as there was in the Fianna Fáil-Labour programme. Fianna Fáil was insisting on tighter control on public spending in 1995.

The tax policy section is weak because the Government has restricted the scope for tax reform. You cannot have tax reform if you do not move into new areas. There is little about maintaining or improving the physical infrastructure, which tends to be a blind spot in a Fine Gael-Labour administration. The Labour Party seems to have agreed to drop the job targets in the community based employment programme. Apart from equality payments, gender equality has been dropped. There no longer seems to be the same urgency about homelessness and there are weaker commitments to public transport.

Democratic Left does not seem to have won substantial concessions. It had three important priorities, the first was the removal of taxation on unemployment and disability benefit. The programme refers to restructuring these through general income tax improvements with specific measures to target families with children. It is all very woolly. Apart from alleviating cases of hardship, which we were prepared to do, it is not clear that it has won any substantial additional concessions.

On equality payments it states that the Government is committed to paying the legally determined entitlements of married women. So is everyone else. The truth is no Government can do less than implement the law.


There is no suggestion that the payments will be made regardless of the impact on public finances. That is what Democratic Left promised the electorate in the recent by-elections. The issue of local service charges, on which Democratic Left campaigned so hard, is kicked to touch with a study in hand. That sometimes means "I am afraid to take a decision". A stick and carrot approach is adopted. A tax allowance for service charges is to be introduced to compensate for the double taxation element. Some of the sanctions for non-payment of these charges are to be removed but it is all unclear.

The section on defence policy is more equivocal with regard to the Western European Union than the programme of the outgoing Government. Is the position of Democratic Left on Irish neutrality weakened somewhat? I am concerned about the section on Northern Ireland. While the three strand approach is maintained, all reference to North-South bodies with executive powers, one of the main aims of the negotiations in the Fianna Fáil-Labour programme, has been dropped from the section which, otherwise, is remarkably similar to one proposed by Fianna Fáil-Labour. This omission could undermine the existing Irish negotiating position on the Framework Document. If there is one thing on which there is consensus in the Nationalist community and which the British Government has come to accept it is that an internal solution will not work. The declaration refers to North-South institutions. Why are we weakening the hard won position we argued for?

Today I set out the record of the Fianna Fáil-Labour partnership Government and some of the issues on which we worked in the failed talks last week. It shows clearly what was in the programme. Though brief, it is a record that will stand the test of time. Fianna Fáil will want to see similar progress made by the Government. What may have seemed slow progress to the then Opposition may now seem incredibly fast to the incoming Government. The demands for instant action may seem unreasonable to the new Government.

There is a power of work to be done for the people and the country and as the new Leader of Fianna Fáil I pledge myself and my party to work mightily on behalf of the nation in our new role in Opposition. It is not a role we are used to or like. From the beginning, we will concentrate on the issues which will unite the people rather than the personality clashes which divide politicians. Fianna Fáil will busy itself renewing and revitalising its structures. The doors of the party will be open to the new generation, we will prepare it for Government and formulate policies. When we complete our preparations we will be a formidable Opposition, a transformed party ready for Government again. The minutes are already ticking away for this Government and I hope to lead the next Government.

My colleagues in Fianna Fáil have work to do. Let us get on with it and make life difficult for this new Government from the first day.

I extend congratulations and good wishes to the members of the Government and to Deputy Bruton on his election as Taoiseach. I share from a distance the sense of pride which those elected to office for the first time and their families must feel on this occasion. I share the frustration and sadness of those leaving office, some through no fault of their own. I congratulate Mr. Dermot Gleeson and pay tribute to the outgoing Attorney General, Eoghan Fitzsimons, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude.


Hear, hear.

The formation of a new left wing coalition in present circumstances is not what the country needs. While the country needed an alternative to the partnership of Fianna Fáil and Labour, it does not need a Government which is politically and personally dominated by the Labour Party and committed to ever-increasing public expenditure linked inexorably to socialist dogma. If there were ever an indication that the levers of power are in the hands of the Labour Party it is indicated symbolically by the fact that Deputy Quinn has been granted the Finance portfolio. It is only a matter of days since he gave me a lecture on the necessity, from an ideological point of view, of Ministers having their hand on the lever of power and I said: "This sounds like the commanding heights of the economy. Has the Labour Party in Ireland more in common with Benn or with Blair?" The Programme for Government shows the kind of reactionary revisionary socialism which is about to be imposed on the people. Not everything in the programme is bad, there are several good features. Among the positive features identified by the Progressive Democrats is the commitment to a radical revision of the Constitution and to bring before the House a report for the complete recasting of our Constitution based on an in-depth analysis and an inter-party parliamentary committee debate.

Another good feature is the system of changes proposed for child benefit. In our brief and somewhat unsuccessful preliminary discussions with the Labour Party we proposed such changes. The proposals for institutional reform, changing the laws of Cabinet confidentiality, reform of the Oireachtas, ending the culture and legislative framework of secrecy in society and the enactment of freedom of information legislation are all welcome measures. However, in the area of economics the programme is fatally flawed. On public expenditure, the programme in paragraph 3 provides that in 1995 there will be a growth in supply service expenditure of 6 per cent, more than twice the rate of inflation. For 1996 and 1997 we have a loosely stated intention to achieve an annual growth rate in that area of 2 per cent in addition to inflation, that is probably 5 per cent in each of those years. It is noteworthy that this commitment only relates to supply service expenditure and does not dictate any limit to capital expenditure.

One of the most worrying features of our brief encounter with the Labour Party in the last fortnight was to be told it was their stated intention to inject another £60 million to the Irish Steel business in Cork. We were told it was an unshakeable, political commitment. When we asked if the investment would make the business viable we were told it was not certain it would but that the cash injection would be made in any event.

The Deputy's party would close down the country if it had the chance.

Deputy Mulvihill must restrain himself. The Deputy in possession without interruption.

We were told that the reason for all of this was to protect Labour Party seats, as was the cash injection of £1 million for a peat-fired power station to be built in the midlands.

One thousand jobs.

What about Barrington's Hospital?

Deputy Mulvihill may not interrupt in such a fashion.

Deputy McDowell is being very provocative.

Deputy Molloy and I left that meeting convinced of one thing, that political cynicism is alive and well in one corner of this House.

Such purity.

There is every indication that the Government intends to comply with the Maastricht convergence criteria. The great regret of the Progressive Democrats is that an ideologically left of centre Government is about to blow Ireland's greatest ever opportunity to use expanding economic activity and the growing capacity of the Irish Exchequer to fund tax reform to bring about what the Commission on Taxation, the OECD, the NESC and the Culliton report said was the centre point of any long term prospect for economic recovery, that is radical, pro-jobs and pro-enterprise tax reform.

We make no apology for saying that in our brief and ineffectual discussions with the other party which were predetermined from the very beginning to be a failure because of other people's agendas, we put tax reform centre stage and said that every budgetary process in which our party would be involved would start with tax reform, that it would not be the ultimate political residual, the thing to which people turn their mind when all the other bills have been paid and all the other electoral commitments have been complied with.

In contrast, we believe that tax reform is the starting point of every budget, not the bottom line balancing item which other parties seem to believe it to be. In addition, we sought reform of both employer and employee PRSI. We made these proposals, albeit in outline form, to the Labour Party. We did not know at that time that we were scripted out of the entire arrangement and that in large measure we were wasting our sweetness on the desert air. Members of the House will be particularly interested to note that the residential tax is alive and well; it will be restored to its old obnoxious pre-1994 form. I am glad the two parties who brought this tax about in the first place are committed to keeping it in the long run. However, I give the House a guarantee that whatever Government we participate in after the next general election will repeal that obnoxious tax immediately.

Deputies opposite should not hold their breath.

The Government parties have engaged in what I regard as Tommy Cooper economics.


They have agreed the extraordinary proposal that those who pay their local charges will be entitled to an allowance of £150 each year in their tax bill when they get a demand from the Revenue Commissioners. The effect of that stupid, crazy proposal will mean that in the Dublin Corporation area the £150 charge will be imposed with effect from next year and that in every local authority where that limit has not yet been reached the local county or city manager will run up the charge to that extent and say to his councillors, "Do not blame me, tell your voters they will get it all back from the Revenue Commissioners". In effect, the Government is narrowing the tax base and transferring the cost of all local services back on to the central Exchequer. That is Tommy Cooper economics, it will not wash and it does not work.

Instead of adopting a realistic case by case approach to the ownership, management and structuring of the semi-State sector, the Government has committed itself very clearly against any form of privatisation. The reason for this was explained to the Progressive Democrats by the Labour Party during the negotiations. We were told that the great majority of Labour Party support comes from the employees in this sector and that their great increase in support in recent years was not going to be frittered away by anything which endangered the present ownership of the semi-State sector. We were told, for example, that the Electricity Supply Board would build three new power stations in Dublin and that they would not be the subject of private tendering or competitive generating policy, as is required by European Union directive. These stations will be rushed through now in order to keep industrial peace in the ESB. An ideological approach was taken at every turn by the Labour Party and this country will pay the price.

The Deputy has no idea——

The people who will chiefly pay the price will be the employees in those companies. There will be more cases like Aer Lingus and Irish Steel as long as the Government persists in pursuing policies which rule out entirely practical case by case pragmatic approaches to changing the structure of the semi-State sector and, where necessary, transferring ownership in that sector to those who are able and willing to run these services efficiently and profitably for the benefit of the consumer.

It is sad that in 1994 the Labour Party in Ireland cannot even show the same flexibility which has been shown in English politics by Tony Blair — it is more Tony Benn than Tony Blair. We have not seen the flexibility shown by Francois Mitterrand who in France commenced the privatisation process.

Not true.

We have not seen what Felipe González did in Spain — he championed privatisation from a left wing perspective — or the radicalism of the Labour Party in New Zealand which transformed its economy from a sick economy, which this programme is designed to keep in place, into a thriving economy which has begun to turn that country around from failure to success.

All of these things could be done if the Labour Party and Fine Gael had become modern in their approach and if the social democrats among the Labour Party had been willing to ally with a liberal party in the European mode in this House and to set about the radical transformation of the Irish economy and bring it into the European mainstream. That great opportunity was lost and cast away and instead we have a Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left Coalition Government which, on the basis of the Programme for Government it has tendered, seems fated to fail.

While looking through the programme I was struck by the number of studies, committees, study groups and research groups, a theoretical abstract approach to real economic problems. Every help short of aid is to be given. We are now in the position where any hard decision which can be postponed will be handed to a study or review group, as if the Government was setting out on a five-year Programme for Government. This is not the case, rather there are two and a half years left in the life of the Dáil. This is a short time within which to effect radical change. If the Progressive Democrats had been given the opportunity to serve in Government it would have effected radical change——

The Deputy's party served in Government.

——and would not have stood for a Programme for Government which is full of waffle, to borrow Deputy Ahern's phrase.

The Deputy is not bad at it himself.

It is full of aspiration, long on theory and short on practicalities.

The Deputy's party served in Government and I should like to know where the radical reforms——

Deputy McDowell without interruption, please.

I wish to refer to the provisions in the Programme for Government which deal with the issue of tax reform. Having searched through the entire section, I could not find one single commitment or statement about how large the standard rate tax band will be.

Has the Deputy ever heard of budgets?

There is no statement about the rates of tax which will apply in 1995, 1996 and 1997. If one does not set targets one will never achieve anything and if the Government does not state in its programme where it intends to arrive it will never get there. On the question of taxation, the Taoiseach in his speech stated — I ask every Member of the House to consider these words very carefully — that one of the chief aims of the Government is to push forward tax reform to lift some of the intolerable burdens from people with low incomes, people with families. Some of the intolerable burdens will be lifted but others most certainly will remain.

If the Government starts with a weak minded approach, without setting targets, and allows itself every scope in relation to public expenditure, the inevitable consequence is that in two years' time when the electoral pressures are increasing — not even those about which the incoming Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, spoke to me when discussing the prospect of forming a Government — there will be less performance and delivery on what really matters — a radical transformation of the tax system which makes it pro jobs and pro enterprise.

During the week while the Government was negotiating, the Irish small and medium enterprises group published a report — which I recommend to every Member — prepared by an economist, George Lee. He said that in the period 1987-94 average industrial real take home pay for industrial workers in the private sector went up by 44.5 per cent. Average Government pay, by contrast, went up by 70.56 per cent. One may think the Government is dealing with people at the lower end of the earning scale but that is not the case, because elsewhere in the report you will find that average pay for the public sector is £24,000 whereas in the private sector the average industrial worker is earning £14,000.

Much has been made here of the importance of having a consensus among the social partners. If the consensus among the social partners is that one group of workers get a real increase in pay over seven years of 70 per cent whereas those in the real economic world, fighting to hold jobs, facing imminent redundancy and having to deal with declining profitability and so on are confined to increases during the same period of comparative prosperity of 44 per cent, there is something radically wrong. It is about time Governments in Ireland realised that you cannot put in place agreements among the social partners that buy industrial relations peace at the price of competitiveness and which buy for Government an easy ride from some sections of the community while at the same time grinding down the ordinary Joe and Josephine soap who have to make their way in the real world.

We start now in the life of this Government from a position where people earning the average industrial wage have 55 per cent of their marginal earnings confiscated in taxes and levies. This is too high a percentage to take even from the super-rich let alone those who are single workers earning less than the average industrial wage. As a party we set out to enter negotiations with the other parties whom we thought were acting in good faith to transform that position dramatically and radically. We said there was now sufficient strength in the economy to channel economic growth into a transformation of our system of taxation and at the same time that public expenditure could be controlled but we were rejected. That is the prerogative of others. We will take advantage of the next two years in Opposition to develop our party, to gather strength and to ensure that the calamitous decision, which the Labour and Fine Gael Parties — and particularly the Fine Gael Party — made in deciding to go to the left and establish a left of centre Government on this occasion, committed to high expenditure, will be reversed at the earliest opportunity. We will avail of every opportunity to oppose, and to oppose vigorously, and to bring these issues to the people, whose judgment on these matters will be decisive and damning of those who have not faced up with political courage to the real challenges of the day.

I am calling Deputy McCreevy.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the new Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, on the great honour bestowed on him and the other new members of Cabinet. I am particularly pleased for the Taoiseach who is in an adjoining constituency. Many of his relations and friends are mutual friends of both of us and his brother Richard. He knows I wish him sincere personal success in the years to come. I congratulate the other new members of the Government and wish them success, particularly the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy Enda Kenny, who waited a little longer for advancement than I did when I became Minister for Social Welfare in 1992. Next year he will have been in the House for 20 years. No better and no nicer person could be a member of any Cabinet or political party.

There has been a trend in the House in recent weeks to begin speeches with apt and telling quotations. My good friend, the leader of the Progressive Democrats, to whom I am returning in Opposition after a brief sojourn on the Government benches, is particularly good at finding a good secondhand turn of phrase or, as one wit once put it — leaving no turn unstoned.

With all due respect to the Bard of Avon, I am going to horribly misquote Mark Anthony at Caeser's funeral by saying that I come here to praise the outgoing Government, not to bury it. Let the good it has done live after it and let the bad be interred with its bones.

The agenda for the Fianna Fáil partnership Government was worked out in great detail by both parties before the Government was formed. It was generally agreed that the country had never seen as comprehensive or ambitious a programme which recognised that tourism has a proven potential for additional large scale job creation with beneficial effects spread throughout the country.

The Programme for Government proposed a series of measures aimed at increasing foreign earnings in real terms by 50 per cent and providing an additional 35,000 jobs.

In line with the programme, the Department of Tourism and Trade was established in January 1993. In the intervening period the resources deployed on tourism work within the Department have been greatly increased and the Department is now widely recognised by the industry as playing a leading and constructive role in the development of the sector.

In September 1993 I established the Tourism Council as a consultative and advisory body under my chairmanship. In the last 15 months, the council has done much useful work and is widely regarded by industry as a significant forum through which it can put forward its views on policy development and implementation.

This year also saw the birth of a new type of partnership with the tourism industry through the operation of the US marketing initiative which put an unprecedented £3 million into consumer advertising of Ireland in the US. The benefits of the increased business — US visitors are up by over 15 per cent this year-brought about by this initiative have been felt throughout the country.

As recently as 24 November, I was able to announce, in conjunction with my counterpart in Northern Ireland, Baroness Denton, a £6 million consumer marketing programme which would advertise the island of Ireland as a tourist destination in four overseas markets, the US, the UK, Germany and France. This was tangible evidence of how the peace process has set the scene for greater North-South co-operation in a wide range of economic areas and I look forward to the incoming Government building on this initiative.

Deputies will be aware that in recent weeks I announced the Government's acceptance of the recommendations of the Arthur D. Little report which will ensure that a refocused and restructured Bord Fáilte will in future concentrate on its core promotional and marketing role. I would urge the incoming Minister to press on with the reforms recommended by Arthur D. Little and not to be deflected by the web of red herrings, smokescreens and cul de sacs which will be put in his way.

The Programme for Government promised increased support for overseas marketing in the next round of Structural Funds. The new tourism operational programme will result in £125 million being invested in marketing Irish tourism over the next six years. This will more than double the previous annual marketing spend.

The programme also promised "that substantially increased funding for tourism infrastructure and tourism development will be sought in the next round of Structural Funds". Yet again the promise has been delivered on, perhaps even beyond the expectations of many. A total investment of £652 million over the next six years includes £125 million to be invested in cultural tourism, a further £287 million in product development and £110 million on training for the industry. Also provided for in the programme is the building of a national conference centre which can accommodate up to 2,000 participants, thus filling a major gap in our tourism infrastructure. Additionally tourism benefited to the tune of £25 million from the small business expansion loans scheme which the Government put in place this year.

The programme also promised to develop heritage attractions. The tourism operational programme contains a special provision of £125 million for natural and cultural development.

On the trade side, a major focus of my Department's work has been to enable Irish companies to overcome the disadvantages of peripherality by means of strengthening their marketing capability, identifying new markets and consolidating existing ones, and by actively promoting Irish goods and services.

The Government set An Bord Tráchtála a target of increasing the exports of indigenous industry to £4.5 billion by the mid-nineties. One crucial element in achieving that target was a commitment to ensure that more Irish salespeople are located in overseas markets, and the EUROPLACE scheme, which I launched last year, aims to double the number of Irish salespeople in overseas markets, by 1996. I am glad to say that the scheme is now ahead of target with approximately 70 new salespeople in place.

Exports from the indigenous sector grew to an estimated £4 billion in 1993, an increase of 8 per cent over 1992 and a cumulative increase of 30 per cent over the past five years.

Latest estimates for 1994 are that indigenous exports are growing by around 15 per cent this year, with the increase spread well over all sectors.

We must congratulate Irish exporters on this outstanding performance, and especially in 1993, when most of our major markets were in recession and when the effects of the currency crisis made their task an exceptionally difficult one. For indigenous companies, in particular, it was a demonstration of exceptional resilience and determination.

I am confident that with the significant resources which have been made available through the Structural Funds programme for industry, indigenous industry and the internationally traded services sector will continue to strengthen. In total £166 million has been allocated for the market development programme 1994-99 to enhance the ability of Irish firms to compete successfully with their international competitors.

The completion of the GATT Uruguay Round has created a new confidence and stability in world trade. The crucial benefit of the agreement will be its long term impact, which will undoubtedly build a stronger and more dynamic world trade structure.

As I indicated earlier, I have taken this opportunity to demonstrate the substantial progress which I have made in my Department in meeting the terms of the Programme for Government. The record shows that the commitments have been substantially delivered on if not exceeded.

I have no intention of dwelling on the circumstances which led to the fall of the outgoing Government except to say that when I read so called authoritative accounts of these events penned by journalists who rely on the great well placed sources I am reminded of the commitment: "history is a record of events that didn't happen — made by someone who wasn't there."

The incoming Government are blessed in many ways. They are blessed with the healthiest set of Exchequer accounts for many years. I urge them to use the resources available to build on productive investment which will yield real results and real jobs in the years to come. I urge them not to take the soft option of frittering away money on day to day made up schemes which artificially hold down unemployment figures but do nothing for long term wealth creation or employment creation.

They are also blessed with ownership of the high moral ground of Irish politics, but when one is on the top of the mountain there is only one way to go. Those Deputies who have been so adept at moralising from the Opposition benches will now find that Government is about making choices and sometimes those choices are not black and white. They are never black and white. The difference between being in Opposition and being in Government is that when in Government, the available resources are finite. If one scheme is increased, another must suffer.

I sincerely hope that this Government will make choices and will not be afflicted by the paralysis which has befallen many of its predecessors. There are times when a bad decision is better than no decision.

This House has been awash with rumour in recent weeks. I would like to share one such rumour with Deputies, and I can assure them that I have it from the proverbial good source, programme managers are to be abolished by the new Government. Instead each Minister will appoint one accountability activist, one transparency technician and one openness operative. I wish them all well.

I look forward to a period in Opposition for Fianna Fáil and for myself. I will look on the bright side. Before taking part in Government I spent a considerable number of my days trying to make a living not alone as an accountant but also by spending a little time gambling on horses, dogs and other things. When one tries to make a living at that sport one learns that there is always another day, that there is never a last race and never a last hand of cards. I wish Deputy Bruton the best of good luck because he had a bad run for a long time but stuck at it. Some of his partners who have experienced good luck in the past few weeks should be reminded that fortune has a habit of going around and that people who have had a rub of the green in the past few weeks — I am not referring to Deputy Bruton or his party — might remember that when history is written my party may not appear as it does now. Whatever differences I may have had in the past with certain members of the incoming Government, I wish them success in the interest of the country. It would behove the new Government to get down to business early. It does not have an easy task. I wish them and their families well and hope that people will look back on this period of Irish history and learn from it.

Is it traditional to call speakers from the same side of the House in succession?

It is a tradition that the Deputy's side of the House does not offer at this time, but I will be happy to call the Deputy.

I will yield to Deputy Woods.

At the outset I should like to congratulate Deputy John Bruton on becoming Taoiseach and also the new members of the Cabinet who are about to undergo a voting procedure. I should also like to congratulate Deputy Proinsias De Rossa on taking over the Department of Social Welfare, an area in which he has expressed great interest in the past two years and of which he has considerable knowledge. I wish him every success in that Department.

The outgoing Government's two years in office have been characterised by hard work and achievement. The Programme for a Partnership Government set an ambitious agenda for social, economic and institutional development. In the past two years there has been an unprecedented legislative programme and far reaching policy innovations which will be the blueprint for this country's development in the next few years. In Opposition we will pursue the Government to continue this progress.

The economic situation has never been better. The prospects for 1995-96 and beyond are excellent. All the financial and economic indicators are positive and must be maintained. It is vital that we build on the solid and hard won achievements of the past few years. It is vital that the benefits of sound financial and economic management are not frittered away by the new Government. Continued prudent management of the economy is called for, and we will be monitoring the situation closely.

It is equally important and vital that the benefits of this economic prosperity are shared by the whole community and not just by the few. Taxpayers and people dependent on social welfare must all benefit. The long term unemployed and people with disabilities must be included. Their participation and access to new opportunities must be a priority. There are over 30,000 more people in employment this year. That growth is projected to continue and increase in 1995.

Each successive economic commentary and forecast brings even better news. Recent Central Bank and the ESRI forecasts for 1995 can leave nobody in doubt that employment and growth will increase considerably next year. Within those projections the long term unemployed must be accommodated.

Tax revenues have increased, employment has increased, unemployment has decreased, inflation is low and there is confidence in the business community, the like of which has not been seen for years. This is observed by independent commentators and we owe it to the people of Ireland to continue that progress. Before these difficulties arose, it was said that we were a good hard working Government.

My Department has a particularly proud record of fulfilling its responsibilities in promoting the social well being of the community, its weaker members in particular. Income support is an important way of fulfilling those responsibilities, but this drive is particularly evident in the many innovative services recently introduced. Our support and encouragement for community development, voluntary bodies, employment support services, moneylending and household budgeting initiatives reflect a broader response to emerging needs.

Fianna Fáil in Government can stand over a proud record of achievement. We introduced a more proactive approach to unemployment, an issue which was high on our agenda. We also introduced a range of steps to complement our successful economic strategy which led to higher levels of employment. We expect the incoming Government to maintain this momentum. We in Opposition want to see results. In the social welfare area I want to see the worthwhile initiatives aimed specifically at the long term unemployed developed and expanded.

We maintained the real value of social welfare payments. This year, again, increases were ahead of inflation. We brought weekly payments up to the priority rate of payment recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare. All weekly rates are now at least 90 per cent of the commission's main recommended rate, some are more. One of my objectives for the coming year was to pass 100 per cent for all rates, an easy target at this stage. We introduced an innovative back-to-work allowance which gives unemployed people 75 per cent of their social welfare payments plus their secondary benefits while pursuing work opportunities in indigenous and voluntary community sectors.

A total of 4,700 people are employed already under that scheme and almost 70 per cent are self-employed, while 6,700 real commercial jobs were identified. We introduced job facilitators in social welfare offices throughout the country as part of our proactive work support policies directed at the unemployed. Approximately 6,500 unemployed people are now pursuing second chance education. The scheme has also been extended to lone parents to help them return to the workforce. The two year PRSI exemption scheme has been successful and generated almost 4,000 jobs in the past two years. This year alone 2,400 applications were received to date.

Two thirds of employers are benefiting from one or more elements of our 1994 package of measures introduced to support jobs in hard pressed labour intensive sectors, such as clothing, manufacturing and footwear. The cash injection of £89 million in support for jobs included a reduction in employers' share of PRSI from 12.2 per cent to 9 per cent for employees earning £173 or less per week, an exemption from the health contribution and the 1 per cent employment and training levy for employees and the self-employed on low incomes, the abolition of the liability of employers to pay the 2.25 per cent for medical card holders and an improvement in the family income supplement, resulting in some 10,000 people benefiting under the scheme.

The success of those initiatives must not be underestimated. We owe it to the long term unemployed to give them opportunities to benefit from the success of the Government's macro-economic policies. We increased child benefit significantly. The committee I set up to review the child benefit scheme is concluding its report and its publication is imminent. Many of the recent proposals are the result of advance little snippets of the work of that committee. We continued to improve and develop the family income supplement with an increase of approximately 40 per cent in the participation rate in the past 18 months.

Delivery of our social welfare services was transformed in the last few years. More than half the social welfare offices have been computerised leading to less frequent signing on, better information and advice for customers, new easy to use payment methods and a household budgeting scheme of which 7,384 people are availing. We built new state of the art offices in Tallaght, new offices on the Navan Road, in Kilkenny, Longford, Mallow and Carlow. Our aim was to provide our customers with the best service new technology would allow. I provided for the transfer of the disabled person's maintenance allowance scheme to the Department of Social Welfare. I was anxious to bring about that much called for change and was delighted to be able to start the development which was made possible by new technological developments. I ask the Taoiseach specifically not to reverse the transfer on 1 July 1995 of the disabled person's maintenance allowance scheme to the Department of Social Welfare, which is provided for in the Estimates.

The social insurance fund to which workers, employers and the State contribute their share is healthy. The taxpayers' contribution to the deficit in the fund was reduced from 30 per cent to approximately 3 per cent this year and it is now slightly in surplus. More workers are now protected by social insurance cover and greater compliance with the PRSI obligations by employers has been achieved. Approximately 120,000 self-employed people will contribute £81 million this year and part time workers have been included in the benefits of the scheme.

Good management and progressive development over the past few years means that the PRSI fund is healthier than for many years. It will provide a strong basis for the development of a social insurance system to cope with future new demands. All this was achieved while protecting the entitlements of workers. The commitment to the stability of the workers fund must be maintained. In addition we introduced a new survivor's contributory pension which, for the first time, includes widowers. We also introduced the students summer job scheme which is very successful and pensioners living on islands have benefited from the free travel scheme by the inclusion of air travel to and from our islands. In the Year of the Family we introduced 14 family resource centres throughout the country.

All social welfare legislation has been consolidated and a new user friendly guide to the law was published. Earlier this week the regulations covering all insurance and assistance payments were consolidated. I am glad to have achieved that during my period of office.

We have had considerable success in our major drive against illegal moneylenders. In addition to the 13 debt advice and moneylending projects in operation, we introduced an additional five. We appointed a national co-ordinator to spearhead the drive. He is working with the credit unions in particular. The household budgeting facility is very popular and those on unemployment payments are using it to the extent of £6.5 million per annum to meet essential bills. I had planned to expand this facility to lone parents and pensioners. There are technical difficulties involved which are at present being overcome.

Many projects nationwide bear witness to the success of the community development programme — for example, the women's grant scheme, support for voluntary and community groups, the respite care fund, all welcome schemes which are working very successfully. The Christmas bonus this year includes for the first time all participants in the community employment scheme, at a cost of £37.4 million.

All of these successes could be achieved only through the determination of Fianna Fáil in Government to effect a difference in people's lives. We have made enormous progress vis-á-vis legislation and reform of the Oireachtas with the establishment of four new committees and, in conjunction with the Labour Party, the establishment of the National Economic and Social Forum which has produced five important reports. Above all, it will be the peace process which will remain our greatest achievement in that, for the first time, a whole generation face a peaceful Christmas. We have achieved what no other Government could do. Singlemindedness in the pursuit of peace and reconciliation was crucial to this overall process. Total commitment to peace has won through. The incoming Government must continue this process because the scope for mutually beneficial development on this island is now immense and the economic challenges can best be met on an island-wide basis. There is a tradition within both communities on this island of promoting the welfare and protection of vulnerable members of society. There are numerous links, in voluntary and community work between ourselves and those in Northern Ireland which should be developed.

The first half of the life of this Dáil has been highly successful. As we enter the second half the Members of Dáil Éireann have decided to change horses. We wish the new Government well. We can assure them of our full support and constructive opposition where such is needed.

I note also that, as far as equal treatment is concerned, the delay on the part of the Coalition Government in power between the years 1984 and 1986, now the subject of two test cases heard in the High Court in June, is about to be resolved. I understand the High Court made it known earlier this week that its decision will be given in January, when the legal issues will be clarified and the payments due can be effected. That was a decision of the outgoing Government. I am glad to note that the incoming Government is committed to that decision although, to some extent, it constitutes chickens coming home to roost. Had that Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government implemented equal treatment between 1984 and 1986 the cost would have been less than £35 million, whereas the additional sums now being discussed are of the order of £350 million, which must constitute one of the greatest mismanagements on the part of any Government in the history of this State. The taxpayer will have to pay the moneys due as soon as the issue has been resolved in the courts.

I wish the incoming Government and its new Ministers every success in the tasks ahead.

It is appropriate that a Member on this side of the House, who is not a member of the Government, should speak on this historic occasion, the first time there has been a change of Government within the lifetime of the same Dáil involving different parties from those that formed the Government immediately following a general election. It is the first time we have had a Minister of Democratic Left. That is not an insignificant event, given the background of that party, demonstrating that democratic politics is a worthwhile pursuit leading to the achievement of many objectives. The transformation of Democratic Left from having once supported physical force right through to the democratic process constitutes a most important transition and an example to others, illustrating that there is a method of achieving things through democratic politics. The third historic event today is the appointment of the first Labour Minister for Finance.

I wish the new Government every success. However, I might contest some of the things said by the Leader of the Opposition earlier, repeated by some of his former colleagues in Government, notably the former Minister for Social Welfare, Dr. Woods, who in his closing remarks highlighted what is wrong with Fianna Fáil — they do not understand truth. Deputy Woods tried to place all of the blame on the failure to deal with equality payments between 1984 and 1986 on the Coalition Government, conveniently ignoring the fact that he has been a member of the Government since 1987.

Fianna Fáil Ministers have talked during the past five weeks, and again today, about how good everything is economically, how good it is that the peace process has begun. They must wonder why it is they are now out of office. It has nothing to do with the North or with our economy but rather with their standards and the fact that they are not a truthful party. I regret to say they have learned nothing.

I do not mean to make a partisan political speech——

Putting in the boot.

——but because of the fall of the outgoing Government, it is worth placing on record the background to that fall——

Fine Gael compassion.

——in the hope that that party will avail of its time in Opposition to renew itself and learn from its dreadful past mistakes.

Within the past 20 odd years there have been approximately a dozen major scandals in this country. While it may be painful for the party opposite to recollect, one consistent feature of all those scandals was the presence of Fianna Fáil in Government.

What about the heavy gang?

And the interference with the Garda when Deputy Jim Mitchell was Minister for Justice?

There was the Arms Trial, the telephone bugging scandal, Dowra, Greencore, Telecom Éireann, the diamonds affair, helicopters, the Kinsealy pipeline, the passports scandal and the beef tribunal. Perhaps Members opposite would listen because they have not learned the lesson that this is the reason we have had a change of Government today. It is the reason they will not return to Government for a long time unless they have learned that lesson.

It does not appear that Deputy Jim Mitchell will be a member of the Government either.

Deputy Mitchell to continue without further interruption.

I do not mind being provocative, in the hope that, within Fianna Fáil, I would provoke at least some serious soul-searching rather than a tendency to cover up. It is important to the democratic process that there be an acceptable alternative Government at all times.


Given the record of eight of the outgoing Cabinet Ministers, there is now no acceptable alternative Government. This change of Government has nothing to do with our economy or the position in Northern Ireland but rather with standards in public life. For some reason Fianna Fáil has gone into a huge decline in that respect over the past 25 years. Anybody wanting to be fair about the history of Irish politics will concede that the Fianna Fáil Party has made a major contribution to the progress of this State. In its formative years extremely high standards obtained, even though politically one might have disagreed with them. It would be a sad day if a change of Government was effected without Fianna Fáil having learned that lesson. Nevertheless, I do not believe it to be a lesson they can learn very quickly. I hope they will have a long period in Opposition within which to renew themselves because we should recall they have been in Government for 47 of the past 62 years. They suffer from the same disease as the Christian Democratic Party in Italy and the Conservative Party in Canada, both of which have virtually disappeared from the political map.

Do not hold your breath.

Fianna Fál have been too long in office for their own good and that of the country.

It is the people's wish.

It is my hope that this historic change of Government will signal the beginning of a new Government majority which will be the norm here in future years. Certainly it would be my hope that the three parties who have entered Government today are not engaging in this exercise on the basis of a short term arrangement of two, two-and-a-half or even three years. I hope it is the intention of the parties who go into Government today to face the next general election together and to win because in so doing they would create history. That would mean that it would be the first outgoing Government in many years to be re-elected and the first Coalition ever. That is not a tall order, but it is the challenge the Government must adopt as its major priority.

Having criticised Deputy Woods's closing statement tonight, because of the basic fallacy it contained, I must say that of all the Ministers in the past seven-and-a-half years he has performed a very good job in modernising the Department of Social Welfare. He has been much more adept in bringing about changes than, for instance, his colleague, Deputy McCreevy. Some of those changes are unacceptable and some are wise but, many more are necessary.

One of the problems associated with the Department of Social Welfare, the main purpose of which is to alleviate poverty, is that up to approximately five years ago it perpetuated poverty by the manner in which the money allocated to it was being spent. There has been some modest improvement in that respect in the past few years. Our system of social welfare, as it relates to our taxation system, is littered with poverty traps in that it has become impossible for people to improve their positions. I have likened it to the caste system in India where people are trapped by their circumstances and cannot escape. It is manifestly absurd that a married person with children and in receipt of low social welfare — it must be emphasised that people living on the dole or on disability benefit with or without a family are not living in style but on the breadline, especially if they have children — who subsequently obtains work and is paid an average industrial wage or less will be worse off than if they had remained on the dole when the loss of benefits to which they were previously entitled is taken into account.

I hope the new Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, when he takes up office tomorrow will in the coming weeks face the challenge of alleviating poverty and, hopefully, eliminating it. He must consider the issues causing the poverty trap. I hope some simple changes will be made. For instance, means testing is one measure which contributes significantly to the poverty trap. I have raised that point several times over the past seven-and-a-half years. I raised it privately in a former Government of which I was a member. Unfortunately, at that time it was seen as an attack on the social welfare system, but it is nothing of the kind. I do not mind repeating that social welfare is not a system for perpetuating poverty, it is one to help alleviate it. Yet, unfortunately our system of social welfare has perpetuated poverty.

People who work are means tested on their gross pay and forfeit benefits to which they would be entitled if in receipt of social welfare benefit such as access to a medical card and higher education grants, and they would pay a higher differential rent. Under the 1981 Social Welfare Act they are specifically excluded from receiving supplementary welfare benefit regardless of how low an income they receive. A person earning £240 per week gross pay can end up less well off than a person in receipt of £140 per week on social welfare. When deductions, such as, PRSI, tax, transport costs to and from work, pension and trade union contributions, additional differential rent, the lack of a rent subsidy for a person living in a private house and all the other benefits workers forego such as access to a medical card, school book subsidy etc. are taken into account it is clear that workers fare less well than people in receipt of social welfare benefit. All social welfare recipients and workers are aware that is the position and wonder why politicians allow it continue.

I hope the new Minister for Social Welfare will not adopt the approach of simply throwing money at the problem, although extra money is badly needed by many social welfare recipients. I am mindful in particular of widows living alone, one of the worst off categories here. Widows need additional money urgently. They are much worse off at 65 than they would be at 66 because they do not have access to benefits such as free electricity, free television licence, free telephone or free travel. Their weekly income is somewhat less than that of an old age pensioner.

Some other categories of social welfare recipients, too, are urgently in need of additional income. That should not be the general approach adopted, though, unless there are fundamental changes in the system the poverty trap will be accentuated as will the problem of unemployment. If a figure of £240 gross pay is worth less in real terms than a social welfare income of £140, what employer can afford to pay more than that gross figure to ensure that a social welfare recipient who takes up a job is in a better position than he or she was previously. Employers cannot afford to pay higher salaries and as a result jobs are not created but lost. A social welfare recipient cannot afford to take up a job because no man or woman in receipt of social welfare benefit who is already badly off can be expected to take a job which will leave him or her with less disposable income.

The Leader of the Opposition was disingenuous in his speech when he repeated the fallacies of Fianna Fáil about the performance of the 1982-87 Fine Gael-Labour Government of which I was privileged to be a member. When we entered Government inflation was 21 per cent, twice the British level. On our leaving office it was 3 per cent below the British level and has remained below that level since. In 1982 we had a balance of trade deficit of crisis proportion of £1,800 million. It was in surplus in 1987 and has remained in surplus ever since. The same applies to the balance of payments. We reduced the top rate of VAT from 35 per cent to 25 per cent and the top rate of income tax. We made many other changes, including transforming most of the State sector bodies — which were all loss making in 1982 — into an improved position so that by 1987 many were making a profit. The growth in debt during that period arose because we had to pay the financial commitments made by the 1977-81 Government. We inherited the debt. It has trebled in the four years up to 1982 but we succeeded in bringing it to no more than double and it was continuing to decrease. Exchequer borrowing requirement in 1986 or 1987 was 10 per cent down from the figure of 17 per cent in 1982. It is important to put that on record because the 1982-87 Government inherited the profligacy of the 1977-81 Government and its financial commitments.

This Government inherits a different position. Economically, the position is better although it is not perfect, there are still many problems. The debt figure is too high and there are too many poverty traps. Public spending is still too high. I hope the Government and, particularly, the new Minister for Finance understand and do not completely ignore the warnings issued to the House by Deputy McDowell earlier. Even though Deputy McDowell comes from Dublin 4 and may not understand the real level of deprivation in many parts of this city and country, I agree with him that a basic way to achieve social justice is through economic soundness.

I wish to congratulate a number of Ministers in the new Government on their appointments. It falls to me to congratulate my successor in office, Deputy Hugh Coveney, who is now to be Minister for Defence and the Marine. I am sure he will do an exceptionally good job as he is a very able politician and is a straight and direct man. My experience of him in the House in the past is that he is a man of integrity. I think he will bring all those qualities to bear on those two very important portfolios. It is an extremely exciting and difficult time in Defence and the Marine, but I have no doubt Deputy Coveney will have the ability to overcome the challenges which undoubtedly face him in future months, maybe years. If I can give him any help — this may be a presumption on my part — either publicly or privately, I will be glad to do so. If I give it privately, it certainly will not come into the public domain. If he asks for my help, I will be at his disposal.

I have had a long association with Deputy Enda Kenny and I am glad he has finally been appointed to a ministry. It is tremendous for a young politician like Deputy Kenny to finally "make it". I knew his father who was a gentleman and a very able man. I am sure he transferred many of his qualities to his son, Enda, and I wish him well.

I wish my two constituency colleagues well but I wish to express a slight disappointment — not in a tedious fashion — on behalf of my friend and colleague, Deputy Seán Barrett, although I welcome the fact that he has been appointed Chief Whip. I was Chief Whip in the Government of 1970-73 and I have a very good idea of the type of work he will do and the difficulties he will face. It is a very onerous, decent and honourable position in Government and he can take heart from that. Inevitably, in the event of a vacancy arising in the Cabinet, the first call will be made on the Chief Whip. However, taking account of Irish politics I do not think that is likely and he will probably remain as Chief Whip until the next election.

I offer my congratulations to Deputy Bhreathnach, Minister for Education, who is a neighbour of mine in Black-rock. She has been very decent to my family on a number of occasions. I acknowledge her re-elevation to the position of Minister for Education.

It makes me almost physically ill to listen to Deputy Jim Mitchell lecturing this party from the moral high ground which is a very dangerous and crowded place in politics at present. There are many moralists who preach from that overcrowded place, but if you slip off the moral high ground you are in difficulty. This is a historic debate. It is the first time in the history of the State that the office of Taoiseach and positions in Government have changed hands without recourse to a general election or to the President, but I will leave others to judge whether it is a good principle. I will not go into the events of recent weeks. I will have an opportunity to present my case to the Selection Committee on Legislation and Security — I have very strong views on that committee but I will not voice them today. I look forward to giving evidence before the committee, but that is a matter for another day.

Promises have been made and positions taken on the moral high ground. Standards have been set by certain Members of the House by which they have sought to judge and prejudge other Members. My hope for the Mitchells of this world is, if in future they are judged by the same standards, they will not be found wanting. In Opposition, Fianna Fáil will be fair but vigilant. There appears to be a perennial requirement for a pecking order in Government Departments. When I came to the Department of Defence and the Marine, from the lofty heights of the Department of Foreign Affairs, there was a perception of a demotion or a movement downwards in the pecking order, but I refute that. Regardless of where you serve in Government, as Taoiseach, Minister for Finance, Minister for Foreign Affairs or Minister for Justice, it is a privilege and an honour.

In my time in the Departments of Defence and the Marine, I tried to overcome a perception I saw as damaging to some people, and I hope my work in those Departments has gone some way towards redressing that perception. In that regard I would like to put on public record my appreciation of the unsung heroes, the public servants who assisted me in my many hours of need in the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Marine. They are exceptional public servants of the very highest character and have been very good in their service of the Minister and I have no doubt that Deputy Coveney will receive the same dedication and service from them. I think it was John Healy who described them as the permanent Government. That may be so, but I hope not. I hope that the newly elected Government will be transient.

My time in office was notable for unprecedented levels of investment and a very successful commitment on my part to job creation. In Defence, the recruitment of more than 1,100 new members of the Defence Forces was authorised. Ireland's role in the United Nations service was enhanced. I am particularly proud of the development of a humanitarian emphasis in the work of the Defence Forces under the United Nations flag, notably in Rwanda and Zaire, both of which countries I had the privilege to visit as Minister for Defence.

There was a huge investment in maritime surveillance aircraft to defend our waters. Only a few days ago two new CASA aircraft were delivered at a cost of £35 million. In Marine, the heaviest ever investment programme was made in ports, access roads and vessels. The effects of this investment will be immense on new jobs in industry, agribusiness, services and tourism. The intractable problem of the decline in sea trout numbers has been tackled and the Irish sea fisheries industry has been defended and promoted effectively in Europe. I have no doubt the new Minister will continue this work because it is in the national interest to do so. In that regard, he will attend an extraordinarily important Council meeting on Monday and Tuesday next and I genuinely wish him well in defending Ireland's best interests against countries such as Spain who have no morality when it comes to fishing. New initiatives were undertaken in investment in angling tourism, research in coastal protection and export promotion.

Investment in job creation in the marine sector reached its highest level ever. A record of £251 million has been secured for investment in a number of key areas. This includes more than £100 million for the development of commercial ports, £120 million for the development of the sea fisheries sector, £8 million on marine research and £18 million on tourism angling. For the first time the National Development Plan includes funding for coastal protection.

The programme of investment has been enhanced by sustained political action at EU level to ensure that our marine resources are protected and developed. We had considerable success at various ministerial councils particularly in relation to the fishing industry.

A number of fishery issues, including the Iberian Accession deserves mention. Substantial progress is being made in achieving an EU fisheries control regime which will apply after 31 December 1995 when the so-called Irish box is due to lapse under EU law. These include agreement, for the first time, on a 20 per cent reduction in the Spanish fishing fleet; the retention of the Irish fishing box between the dates laid down in the EU treaties; a ban on Spanish fishing vessels in the Irish Sea and a new system of fishing permits which can be used by coastal member states, such as Ireland, to control the fishing efforts of fleets such as the Spanish. The system will be effective in controlling fishing in our waters. At the same time it will not place any undue constraints on Irish vessels as most of the Irish fleet will be exempt from the licensing requirements. In addition, by voting against the initial framework regulation on Spanish and Portuguese accession Ireland has reserved the right to pursue a case on these issues before the European Court.

Under the heading "protection", inshore fisheries and increased penalties were addressed. Under the heading "development" additional quotas were addressed and under the heading "fishery harbours" new facilities were addressed. On development, a major review of the functions, structures and future development of BIM is under way with a view to making it more effective in providing an enhanced service to the fishing industry. If properly structured, BIM has a major marketing and educational function in the fishing industry's interests. It has a fish teaching school at Greencastle. There should be such a school somewhere in the south.

Under the compensation for bad weather scheme, in recognition of the crucial role played by fisheries we approved for the first time a £5 million compensation package for fishing boat owners and crews whose livelihoods had been treated by the exceptionally bad weather last winter.

Ports and harbours were improved while the issues of competitiveness and transport were addressed. For example, investment of up to £20 million was approved in a new state of the art ferry terminal at Dún Laoghaire. I would appreciate it if the Minister was not deflected by those who say it is a controversial development as it is an exceptional development in the national interest, apart from any advantages and benefits it may bring to the constituency of Dún Laoghaire.

Other developments include the provision of £45 million for enhanced facilities at Dublin Port; the successful brokering of an agreement between B & I and Stena Sealink on unhindered access for the Irish company to Holyhead and the investment of £50 million in the Minister's home port of Cork. I had the pleasure and privilege of being wined and dined by the harbour commissioners and I have not experienced a more pleasant occasion in a long time. The investments will include £65 million for the redevelopment of Holyhead, £45 million for a new B & I super ferry and £70 million for a new Stena Sealink fast ferry.

The issues of Irish Shipping compensation, tourism angling, research and safety were also addressed while the conflict over the existence of salmon farms at the mouth of estuaries was almost solved. In addition, much legislation was put in place and much remains to be enacted including the harbours Bill which will be long and difficult but I see myself as assisting the Minister rather than opposing him.

I congratulate Deputy Bruton and each of the Ministers on their appointments and wish them well. I hope they will have a successful period in office. It is hard to foretell how long or short this will be; I am sure they are no more confident about its length than I am. In particular, I congratulate Deputy Coveney who is present in the House although Deputy Andrews seemed to suggest he has not been appoined to the highest office in the land. I assure Deputy Andrews that the sense of demotion he felt when he left the rarefied atmosphere of the Department of Foreign Affairs was unjustified as most of us in this House have been forced at all times to look up to him and will continue to do so.

The most significant appointments which will have a huge influence on the work and policy of the Government are the appointment of Deputy Quinn as Minister for Finance and Deputy Howlin as Minister for the Environment. These are key offices. I am extremely unhappy about the way in which they have been filled. By virtue of a confluence of international events and other factors, including, in part, some previous Government policy, not necessarily the last one, we are in an extraordinarily favourable position and I am terrified that this glorious opportunity will be frittered away. Given that Ireland has never had such an opportunity in its history to get its financial affairs under control it would be a tragedy if the incoming Government were to allow this to happen.

Some years ago I did not think I would ever live to see the day when the current budget would be in surplus. This is significant and it gives the Minister for Finance and enormous opportunity. The one thing he should not do is talk about significant increases, in real terms, in public expenditure but from what we can gather this, apparently, has already been agreed. It is proposed to increase expenditure by 6 per cent next year — so far. I would hate to think what the figure might be in a few months time.

Something significant happened in this House this morning and, apart from what Deputy Harney said about it, it did not receive any notice: the publication of the Estimates has been put back until 28 February. The House will recall that for some years the Estimates for each year were published before the end of the previous year. That they will not be published until 28 February suggests that much time will be spent on going back over them and increasing them.

The increase of 6 per cent relates to supply services only. We do not know what the figure for capital spending will be. In this regard the facts speak for themselves; unhappily for all of us, most of it has been wasted. Most public capital expenditure on, apparently, commercial projects failed to remunerate itself. That is a great pity. We do not need further increases at this time. During the past two years there was a real increase of 12 per cent in expenditure at a time when inflation was at its lowest.

I have no confidence in the determination of Deputy Quinn to tackle this problem. I have served with many Ministers for Finance going back to the sixties and into the nineties. While I have seen some good ones I have also seen some bad ones. I know how difficult the job is. The most important asset that one needs in that job is the ability to say "no"— constantly and unremittingly. Does anyone who knows him think seriously that Deputy Quinn is the man to say "no", particularly at a time when the underlying public finances have shown a great improvement? I doubt very much if he will be able to do that. I regard the Department of the Environment as crucial in many ways, as regards spending and its relationship with local authorities. It is the Department with the greatest need for the introduction of reforms in the whole area of its jurisdiction, particularly if we are to restore even a semblance of local democracy, which has been missing for quite some time. There are huge areas of activity that are carried out by local authorities which are crying out to be handed over to private contractors and not to do so up to now has been very foolish. It has been done to a very limited extent in some local authorities but it has been very widely done in other countries, with great success. I have no confidence that under Deputy Howlin movement of the kind that is needed will be achieved.

The situation in regard to public expenditure is perhaps best demonstrated by the startling figures quoted from Professor Lee's recent report by my colleague, Deputy Michael McDowell. Even though he has quoted them in the House I think they are so significant they are worth adverting to again: the gross salary increase in industry in the seven year period 1987-94 was 35 per cent; the public sector gross salary increase was 62 per cent and if it is expressed in real terms after allowing for inflation, which over that period totalled 22 per cent, the average increase in the private sector was 13 per cent and the average increase in the public sector was 40 per cent. An increase of 40 per cent in that time is indefensible and that is the central area that needs to be tackled. I find it very hard to believe that the incoming Minister for Finance is prepared to tackle that, I am sure it is the kind of problem he does not want to know about or, if he does know about it, he probably does not regard it as a problem.

I have had neither the opportunity nor the time to go through the document. A Government for Renewal, that was finally published this morning, I have not got a complete copy of it and was only able to pick up what I could read in the newspapers. There are many aspects one would like to talk about but what struck me is the dogmatic ideological agreement by the three parties concerned that any form of privatisation unless, rather curiously, it protects jobs — and I cannot see that arising too often — is out. At this stage, it is crazy for the country to take that line. Even countries that have had socialist governments for years realise that State companies have to come into the real world and are much more likely to do so if they are in private ownership. From now on State companies in the European Union will operate at a significant disadvantage because they are suspect and any form of Government assistance to them has to be justified because in the eyes of the Commission it implies unfair competition. It seems extraordinarily unwise that a country which probably has a higher proportion of State companies than any other in Western Europe should seek to preserve this situation indefinitely, not because they argue it is right but purely for ideological reasons. I see no justification for that.

It seems a great pity that many State assets which are totally non-performing and which frequently need a subsidy to keep them in existence should be allowed to continue in the same way. We have many examples over the years of constant failures and it is not necessary to recite tham all. People from abroad find it hard to believe that not alone does the State do all the things one would expect the State to do but a whole range of unexpected things such as making fertiliser and steel. It is very commendable that somebody in this country should make fertiliser but it certainly does not have to be the State.

The State was the major provider of life assurance until quite recently and one might ask why. It is no longer a provider of life assurance and I do no think anyone is at a disadvantage whereas the State is at great advantage. Up until quite recently the State manufactured sugar and one may ask why. The fact that it no longer manufactures sugar does not seem to put anybody at a disadvantage. I think the same is true for a whole range of other things. In particular, we will have to look at important areas such as telecommunications where there is a need for the State to be involved.

This Government looked undone again when I turned on the 8 o'clock news this morning and I discovered, a bit to my surprise, that the Democratic Left Party had blinked. Deputy Rabbitte is in some in between situation. I remember exactly the same position was offered to me by the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, who told me we could have such a post, but I said "no, thank you very much". The post was held once before by the late Senator Alexis FitzGerald and I do not think it made a great impact on the affairs of the nation or impinged greatly on its consciousness. Because the Democratic Left Party has blinked it amounts to an increase in the supremacy of the Labour Party. If I had time to go into it, there are many reasons both political and otherwise — having watched what I have watched over a period of years — why I am nervous of a Government so dominated by the Labour Party and why so many people are nervous of a Government that is undoubtedly dominated by the Labour Party as we have seen from events today. I think it is dangerous, however I would be untruthful if I did not say that I am glad that after a long interval of over a month that finally today we have had a change of Government. I felt an oppressive atmosphere in the country and in this House in recent months. Whatever faults one may find with some of the members of the incoming Government they are not the fundamental concerns we have had up to now and what I can only describe as the aura of Berlusconi that hung over this House for several months past has at last lifted.

I wish to join with previous speakers in congratulating Deputy Bruton on his elevation to the position of Taoiseach and the Deputies he has chosen to serve with him in Government. As Deputy Coveney is in the House, I sincerely congratulate him also and wish him well.

The Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, in his opening address stated that one of the objectives of this Government will be to reshape the political culture. Fianna Fáil has been subjected to that type of metaphysics for some time. I stand here proudly tonight as a former member of a Government which was one of the most successful in the history of the State, a member of a party which came into Government in 1987 when the country was on the brink of bankruptcy, when there was an all-pervasive sense of defeatism and no prospect of a future at home or abroad. Seven years later, with the one constant being Fianna Fáil in Government, the economic figures are the best in 27 years, there is unprecedented economic growth and we have a confident and vibrant economy that is facing the challenges in an increasingly competitive environment. What is new? That is the Fianna Fáil political culture of which we are proud and the continuing begrudgery from the opposite side of the House will never change those immutable facts.

Fianna Fáil has served this country in the past seven years with the same distinction, credibility, integrity and honesty with which its predecessors had the privilege to serve it in the past. I reject with contempt the continuing unspecific innuendo against my party and what we represent. We will continue, no matter how vehement or vitriolic the attack, to stand here four square behind the constitutional republican philosophy of which we are proud and in the advancement of which we have helped shape the modern nation that is Ireland today. The continuing claptrap about political culture — which we have heard from others in the House this evening, for the past three weeks and the past 40 years — stands baldly against the record of achievement and progress that Fianna Fáil has been instrumental in bringing to this country. We stand over that record and we are prepared to be vigilant and constructive, to put up the alternatives and to be ready to go to the far side of the House at the first available opportunity when the people are allowed to speak.

Some people continue to tell us to learn our lessons, that we have been in Government for 42 of the past 60 years. The only reason we have been in Government for that length of time is because of the confidence that has been bestowed upon this party by the people under the Constitution, which is theirs as a result of the author of that Constitution putting it to the people and ensuring that the basic credentials of a Republic were instilled in our basic law.

Much of the new programme for Government is part of a programme I negotiated in good faith on behalf of the leadership of my party a few weeks ago on the basis of honesty and integrity. People walked away from that programme because they were media led and were afraid to face whatever examinations were required. I will vindicate my good name and the good name of my party without fear or favour from anybody.

When we look at this document, once again the question of a review of our Constitution is raised. To suggest that the 1937 Constitution holds tightly to mores that existed at that time is to totally misunderstand and be ignorant of the internal dynamic of constitutional law that that basic law provides for this country, whether through the Judiciary or through Parliament. It betrays the sort of abject revisionist philosophy that has no basis in fact and that seeks to demean the basic document that has served these institutions and this nation well over the past 60 years. I will watch closely anybody who tries to tamper with it in the sense of taking away the basic freedoms enshrined in it which are the fundamentals of our democratic system.

Deputy Bruton has another aspiration, a Government that would be of neither individual personalities nor individual parties. From bitter experience I tell him to be very vigilant in that regard, particularly with three parties in Government, all of whom quite rightly seek to assert their own identities. The idea that they will be submerged under the leadership of Deputy Bruton will not stand up, particularly when I recall a Labour Party press statement of 24 October last when Deputy Spring, during the unfair furore about the trip home from Corfu, quite rightly criticised those who attacked spouses or people other than politicians — a view I very much share. Part of the statement referred to the fact that whatever remnant of respect he had for Deputy Bruton, he had forfeited it on that occasion because of an attributable comment that was made in regard to that matter by Deputy Bruton. When one forfeits respect, it can be regained very quickly if the circumstances suit.

Fianna Fáil is about integrity and respect and it will always be upfront, but we will have to start learning the buzz words, talk the good game. We take the decisions on the basis on which we go through that process. Deputy Bruton said we deserve better than what we got in the past three weeks and I agree with him. We certainly deserve better than the farce that took place here last week. We deserve better than the comment, without foundation, from Deputy Rabbitte on another occasion that will stand in ignominy in parliamentary debate in this House. We deserve better from those who conspired to organise a witch-hunt against my party in the past three weeks and from those who agree to take decisions on a certain basis and do not follow them through. I refer to published Government statements, statements on foot of Cabinet subcommitee decisions, Cabinet decisions, agreed deferrals and agreements on new appointments to positions that were to become vacant because of another appointment being made. I refer to everything that is consistent with credibility, integrity and respect and this party has nothing to fear tested on those principles in relation to those matters. The truth, the full facts and the context will be shown. As has been said by another young tiger who went into journalism rather than taking on lofty heights here, that deflection which has suddenly become the issue upon which Governments stand or fall will be seen in its proper context because the issue of accountability, in terms of good governance, is based on Government decision followed by accountability to Parliament. They are precisely the principles of good governance that were followed in relation to the recent furore.

I do not believe that, because there is a problem in a particular Department, one should victimise an individual when that individual's personal integrity is quite clearly accepted by everybody not to be in question. We have been saying this for some time — and it is now part of the new programme — that we will have to amend the Ministers and Secretaries Act to ensure proper accountability in modern Government. We agree with that course of action and if proper accountability were allowed to hold sway, the real accountability would be the collective responsibility of Government to acknowledge that there was a need to make reforms in certain Departments of State, to face up to that and implement those reforms.

That was precisely the proper and accountable way we were going about our business when post facto justifications were sought for previous unspecified innuendo against people about whom no lack of confidence was ever expressed throughout the period of Government. Those are the salient facts, not the facts that are suddenly of interest to people because they have a certain connotation, the type of facts that make front page news. When we want to talk about political accountability, Government decision making and relationship between Government and Parliament, the salient facts will show that the principles of good governance were followed by this party in Government right down the line in terms of integrity and respect.

We have paid the full price asked, and could not have paid anything higher. I was asked by the new leader of Fianna Fáil, on the request of the Labour Party, to reopen negotiations, which I did. Is it seriously being suggested that those negotiations could have been reopened if people believed in a conspiracy theory rather than what has been termed a mistake theory? Are we to believe, having gone through that process in good faith, reached agreement and achieved mutual respect, that a rehashed story which appeared in the media two weeks previously, with a preset editorial agenda by a particular newspaper which never wanted Fianna Fáil and Labour in Government, led to my integrity and credibility being put on the line?

That is the reality of what happened, and we take it for what it is. The political philosophy of Fianna Fáil goes much deeper than the length of a dip stick in the petrol tank of a State car. The political philosophy of my party will not be besmirched by innuendo or implication. We admit our mistakes, acknowledge our achievements and point to areas of failure in public policy, and I challenge any political organisation to point out, on the basis of objective criteria, how they could even come close to Fianna Fáil in this respect and ensure that everything that happens is to the benefit of the public.

Fianna Fáil remains steadfast against all attacks. None of these attacks is unprecedented; we have faced similar attacks in the past and will do so again. We stand alone as a bulwark against hypocrisy and double standards which have suddenly become the norm in the school of political correctness. We will allow our achievements and performance to speak for themselves. Whether in Government or Opposition, Fianna Fáil proudly awaits the opportunity of going to the electorate not just on this issue but on the real issues which affect ordinary people — security in their homes, education and jobs for their children and hope for the future.

The leader of my party put down a marker on the other essential component of Fianna Fáil philosophy. No one should think that we will be less vigilant in Opposition in ensuring that the principles of the Downing Street Declaration are implemented in full and that our negotiating position is not tampered with so as to meet a limited narrow agenda which is not in the national interest. We are prepared to insist, as we have done in our declaration, on parity of esteem not just between the two communities in Northern Ireland but also between Britain and Ireland, equal sovereign states, in attempting to solve a problem which was not of our making historically and to bring about, without conflict, peace, justice, harmony and self-determination by ourselves, the ultimate republican principle we want to see exercised both North and South with the necessary structures to ensures it happens.

The Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, welcomes the document A Government of Renewal as many of its aims on work, the economy and the environment have clearly been borrowed from earlier Green Party statements. If one looks at the proposals on the development of a new set of indicators of sustainable economic development, a European-wide carbon tax etc. one can see that this is the case. The Green Party believes that the electorate will remember the source of these new ideas at the next general election. If a general election had been held at this time the electorate would have elected six or more Green Party candidates. This is one of the main reasons the parties in Government decided not to call an election.

The document fails to mention that the fruits of economic growth include many of the things against which the Government says it is fighting, for example, poverty, unemployment and environmental destruction, as outlined in Richard Douthwaite's book The Growth Illusion. The document outlines the laudable aim of integrating environmental considerations into all aspects of development and action so that our natural and cultural heritages will continue to be available to future generations. However, this clearly clashes with the growth philosophy endorsed in the document which is based solely on the development of a strong industrial sector. The Green Party is particularly concerned that this sector should not be dominated by polluting industries at the expense of ecologically sustainable enterprises. It also believes that the social insurance scheme which the document endorses is outdated and outmoded and should be scrapped in favour of a fully fledged system of a guaranteed basic income.

The Government represents a mismatch of the left and right, wherever that is on the political spectrum. It has taken a minuscule leap into ecological thinking and as a result, the document is full of contradictions. For example, it talks about retaining GNP and GDP as the main indicators of economic growth, despite the fact that the measurement of GNP and GDP is added to by tragedies such as road accidents, hospitalisation, crime and violence. The more of those tragedies that occur the higher GNP becomes a factor often ignored by those from the established parties who try to simplify economics.

I welcome the reference to community employment which is a defence against many forms of poverty. The document states that this should include women in low income families but it fails to recognise that work in the home such as raising a family and caring for the elderly and people with disabilities is work within the system. For that reason the argument in favour of a guaranteed basic income is very strong.

There is much reference to tax reform. This is welcome as tax reform is long overdue and high levels of tax act as a disincentive to people taking up employment. However, there is no commitment to replacing income tax with a carbon tax. Instead, reference to a carbon tax is pigeon-holed under the section dealing with the environment. This aspiration is less likely to see the light of day under this section than if it was included under the section dealing with tax reform.

The proposed facilities for Members are aspirational and I hope any new facilities will take the need for energy efficiency into account. The windows in Kildare House cannot be opened and this is a very bad example to those interested in energy efficiency. It says much that the plants which thrive in the offices in Kildare House are those native to the Nevada Desert. That is not to anybody's advantage. I hope crèche facilites will be provided as well as facilities for the Members from all parties who use bicycles as a means of transport in the city.

I am keen to see Members take a more active role in drawing up legislation. This is mentioned by way of aspiration in the document but I hope it will be developed. There is an appalling division between those in Government and those not in Government when it comes to drawing up legislation and having a real input. No matter how good the reform in that area most Members of the House are still members of county councils, while some others are members of the European Parliament. So long as that continues, this House will have part time politicians whose interests will lie at the parish pump, fixing the footpath or the light at the corner of the street. If that is allowed to continue, any talk of reform of facilities in this House will be hypocritical. Will the Government take that into account?

Services for those with disability — I feel like remarking with tongue in cheek, those using wheelchairs — are to be improved. From my reading of the document I wonder if those who speak Irish are considered to have a disability. Little consideration is given to improving services for those who normally conduct business in the State through Irish.

The citizens' information centres, which are an important part of the fabric of the nation, are referred to in the document. I am glad there is a commitment to improve this service but I hope the funding to back up that commitment is real and that the instinct of the Democratic Left and Labour parties will not be allowed to wreck the independent status of the citizens' information centres. Perhaps Fine Gael will keep an eye on that.

The section dealing with agriculture refers in glowing terms to the possibilities of alternative rural enterprise alongside normal farming practice. I am surprised the opportunity has not been grasped not alone to refer to the potential for organic farming but to plan for its development. It is an area of insatiable consumer demand. Production in that area at present is insufficient. At the same time we read in the document that this will be a consumerled agricultural policy. That does not appear as if the Government is serious about developing that area.

Maidir le cúrsaí Gaeilge sa cháipéis, ceapaim go bhfuil i bhfad níos mó le déanamh. Déantar tagairt don Ghaeltacht mar áit ina labhraítear an Ghaeilge, agus is fíor sin gan amhras. Ach mar duine atá ina chónaí i mBaile Atha Cliath, i dtuaisceart Chontae Átha Cliath go h-áirithe, tá sé an-soiléir dom go bhfuil i bhfad níos mó daoine sna cathracha atá gníomhach agus atá ag labhairt na Gaeilge ó lá go lá ná mar atá sa Ghaeltacht faoi láthair. Is mór an trua sin. De bharr mar atá an cháipéis faoi láthair, is mar sin a leanfaidh sé ar aghaidh agus ní ag dul i méid a bheidh an Ghaeltacht, faraoir. Ceapaim féin gur cheart aitheantas ceart a thabhairt do na daoine atá taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht a labhraíonn Gaeilge. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an Rialtas in ann é sin a dhéanamh mar atá scríobhtha sa cháipéis seo.

Tagaim leis an méid atá sa chlár ó thaobh na h-ionaid oidhreachta, más féidir é sin a rá, i Mullach Mór agus sna ceantair eile. Tá áthas orm go bhfuil an Teachta Micheál D. Ó hUigínn i gceannas ar an Roinn sin faoi láthair.

At a minimum, what I, as a Green Party Deputy, would have supported in the Programme for Government would have included the following: a structured formula for a radical decentralisation of powers from the central and metropolitan apparatus of the State to representatives and accountable democratic bodies at local level; implicitly a call for the reform of our system of localised administration, namely the local authorities, and of the functions of the Department of the Environment; an incrementally realised basic income system to replace the anomaly-riddled and at times arbitrary system of income support operated by the Department of Social Welfare and the health boards; a commitment to meaningful parliamentary reform — this would include a fixed term of parliament, something which was spoken about but obviously is not considered sufficiently important to act on. I see this as a problem for the Government down the line, if it does not act as other democracies have done in providing for coalition type governments. The absence of a fixed term of Government will come back to haunt us. I fear it will give rise to the type of instability we have seen in the past.

I would like to see the expeditious abandonment of double-jobbing, as happened in the case of the unconscionable ministerial pay increases. In the previous Government the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Mervyn Taylor, tried to move on the area of separating local and national representation but it was turned down by Fianna Fáil. The former Minister for the Environment, Deputy Michael Smith, made it clear he could not proceed in that area. As a new dawn rises for this Government I hope the Minister, Deputy Taylor, who has arrived in timely fashion, will pursue that matter.

On behalf of the Independent Deputies and myself I thank the party Leaders, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring, for their courtesy in keeping in touch with us in the course of the formation of this Government. Since it is a Government that does not see fit to deal with these fundamental issues it is, unfortunately, not a Government I can support, representing as I do a green constituency as well as the constituency of Dublin North. There will be some disappointment among Green activists and potential candidates in both urban and rural constituencies that the means to increase our parliamentary representation to something approximating to our growing electoral support has been postponed. It is a disappointment I share but our day will come and tokenism on the part of this Government will not delay it.

I wish to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Mary O'Rourke.

I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Ba mhaith liom ar dtús comhghairdeachas a dhéanamh leis an Teachta John Bruton, ceannaire Fhine Gael, as ucht a thoghadh inniu mar Thaoiseach. Ba mhaith liom chuile áth a ghuí air sa téarma oifige atá amach roimhe. Ba mhaith liom freisin comhghairdeachas a dhéanamh leis an Teachta Coveney. Tugann sé dóchas do go leor daoine mar gur toghadh don Teach seo é, gur fhág sé an Teach, gur tháinig sé ar ais i bhfothoghchán agus, taobh istigh de 33 lá nó mar sin, go bhfuil sé ar ais mar Aire Rialtais.

I will not comment on recent events except to say two things: first, I look forward with great eagerness to the cross-examination by the committee of inquiry so far as it refers to areas in which I had an involvement during those recent political traumatic events; second, not alone is the high moral ground crowded at this time but it is overcrowded. Perhaps those on the high moral ground in that overcrowded position have a greater danger of becoming homeless in times to come than the rest of us. I had no ambition in the past nor have I now to occupy that same high moral ground.

I sincerely congratulate Deputy Owen on her appointment as the second woman Minister for Justice in the history of the State. It is a Department for which no politician ever volunteers. It is fraught with danger as I found to my personal cost. Whatever bad news hits Government usually ends up, in one form or another, on the desk of the Minister for Justice. However, I hope Deputy Owen's tenure in the Department will be as challenging and fulfilling as mine.

In common with my former Cabinet colleagues I am proud to say that my record as a Minister has been one of solid achievement. I am happy to say that those achievements have been generously and publicly recognised more than once, not just by people outside this House but also by many of my colleagues on all sides of the House. I will not mention the things I have achieved in which I take a measure of satisfaction and pride. During the vote of confidence debate I outlined those achievements in great detail.

The more important thing I want to do today is to signal to the incoming Government some of the things that can and must be achieved in the Justice area in the immediate period ahead. The work I commenced presents an opportunity, perhaps I should say it presents an imperative, for further and extensive progress and developments on many fronts — in the areas of the Garda Síochána and crime, the prisons, the courts, law reform, immigration matters, Land Registry and the peace process.

The Department of Justice and the Minister for Justice have a central part to play in Northern Ireland matters and on aspects of the peace process now under way. Thanks to the determination of the last Government in working with others in the pursuit of peace we can all now look forward to the real prospect of a true and lasting settlement to conflict on this island. The momentous and historic developments of the past 12 months, including the Downing Street Joint Declaration — I was privileged to have been one of the five signatories to that declaration which we celebrated in this House one year ago today — and the Provisional IRA and Loyalist cessations of violence are achievements for which the outgoing Government can rightly claim a great deal of credit. I will return to the peace process before I conclude, but I want to proceed to give a signal to the incoming Government and to my successor as Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, some of the things that can and must be achieved in the period ahead for which my work has provided a solid foundation.

Care for the victims of crime and a broadly based comprehensive approach towards the problems of crime must be a core concern. Today's victimised mother or child, whether through psychological, physical or sexual abuse, most assuredly paves the way for tomorrow's scourge on the law abiding majority. The Government must implement the plans and policies contained in the report of the Interdepartmental Group on Urban Crime and Disorder which embodies a new and broadly based approach to crime on which I have made significant progress. It is crucial that the Government provide the resources and the drive to ensure that the Garda corporate strategy plan, for which I had secured substantial resources for it and other developments, is fully implemented.

Tackling the drugs problem must remain a top priority. I have commissioned a study on inter-agency co-operation and that study is now complete. The Minister will shortly be presented by the Department of Justice with a major report on that subject. The success of our battle against the drugs scourge depends on the Minister's commitment and determination to see that report implemented. She cannot afford to leave the report on a shelf. If there are resource implications, and I believe there are, she must face them or face the public who will suffer the consequences of drug abuse and drug related crime.

The Minister has been given a clear map of the road ahead on the complex and difficult areas of prisons and offender management. We now have a five year plan for the strategic management of offenders. It will cost money but I have, nevertheless, committed myself to its implementation and the new Minister cannot afford to slacken on it. The Minister, Deputy Owen, is duty bound to see that work commenced on immigration, courts accommodation and the Land Registry is brought to fruition and that it is done on time.

Most of the ground work for essential upcoming law reform has already been laid during my term in office — on juvenile justice, the transfer of sentenced persons from other jurisdictions, criminal insanity, a Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and fraud. If the new Government is as committed to law reform as the outgoing Government we will expect to see legislation on all these measures before this House in the near future.

To the incoming Government as a whole, but to my successor in particular, I want to emphasise the substantial responsibility she will have as Minister for Justice to ensure that certain essential elements of the peace process — among other things, the decommissioning of arms — are handled with care, sensitivity and with positive effect. The new Minister is coming to her task in the Justice area with two major advantages. First, because of the prudent management of the economy by the outgoing Government, she will be in a uniquely strong position to commit the financial and other resources necessary to maintain and improve the rate of progress made by those of us who preceded her. In Opposition we will, in discharge of our responsibilities to the electorate and knowing that we have left the Government with the necessary resources, see to it that there is no slackening of pace. The second asset is a large and dedicated body of State employees, about 16,000 in all, between gardaí, prison officers and civil servants. For my part I have been honoured to work with all of those concerned for the benefit of the community. I thank them for their dedication, their courtesy at all times, their many kindnesses, their sense of public service and for all they managed to achieve in making my time as Minister for Justice the most rewarding of my political career.

Before I call Deputy O'Rourke, I understand that the Minister of State and Government Chief Whip, Deputy Seán Barrett, wishes to intervene regarding a matter of Business of the House.

Debate adjourned.