Nomination of Member of Government: Motion.

Before calling the Taoiseach I wish to say that there is a certain level of expectation that an unknown person or persons may be named under the privilege of the House and I would like to make a brief comment on the matter.

While the Chair is cognisant, as are Members, of the right to free speech in this privileged Assembly, which is the cornerstone of our parliamentary democracy, I would remind Members that there is an onus on them to avoid if at all possible referring to persons outside this House in such a manner as could in any way be construed as being prejudicial to any subsequent investigations which may be deemed necessary by appropriate authorities. I must remind Members, therefore, that the Dáil is not a court of law and the adjudication of aspects of this controversy and any individuals associated therewith under fair and proper procedures rests elsewhere in accordance with the law and not in this House. I ask Members, therefore, to bear my remarks in mind when making their contributions to this debate.

I wish to announce for the information of the Dáil that the President, acting on my advice, has accepted the resignation of Deputy Michael Lowry as a member of the Government.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approve the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Alan Dukes for appointment by the Commission, constituted as provided in Section 2 of Article 14 of the Constitution, to be a member of the Government.

Deputy Dukes has already served the country with distinction as Minister for Finance, Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Justice. Prior to that he built up significant experience in EU affairs in Brussels as an economist with the IFA and as a member of Commissioner Burke's Cabinet. I am confident that the skills and determination which he showed in these posts and as leader of the Opposition will equally be applied as a member of the Government. He is well positioned to continue the reforming work begun by Deputy Lowry in the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications.

I wish to outline my beliefs on the matters that have led to this motion. Nobody is above the law; every citizen must abide by it and be amenable to it. There is a higher responsibility on citizens who become public representatives. As well as abiding by the law, public representatives must act as such in a way that is impartial and fair and is seen to be uninfluenced by considerations of private interest.

There is a higher responsibility still on Ministers. Unlike other public representatives, Ministers make executive decisions. They administer the law as well as making it. They act in collective responsibility with other Ministers and are jointly responsible for their collective decisions. Because of their extra responsibilities and powers, Ministers, while they are Ministers, have constraints imposed on them by the law that are more exacting than those imposed either on other public representatives or on ordinary private citizens. Ministers must give up any involvement in private business while they are Ministers. They must make disclosures under the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, that are much fuller than those required of other public representatives. These constraints do not apply to other Members of the Oireachtas. These distinctions between Ministers and other public representatives are real and they were well understood by every Member of the House when I referred to them recently, whatever some of them might have pretended.

No one, be he or she a Minister, a public representative or a private citizen, is above the law. Each is open to investigation and subject to the law, but each is also entitled to the protection of the law, to due process, in any investigation of any alleged transgression. The legal authorities, particularly the tax authorities, are well equipped with the skill, powers, resources and independence to investigate any matter that needs to be investigated. They are obliged to conduct such investigations in a competent and fair way under law.

There is not, and never will be, a system of conviction by denunciation. Independent authorities, not rivals nor those with an axe to grind, make judgments as to culpability. That is the way it should be and I ask Members on all sides who contribute to the debate to bear that in mind. I also ask them to be mindful of the privilege of this House and not to make accusations, under privilege, against people outside the House. Such allegations or accusations should be referred to the relevant authorities who will deal with them by due process.

I now come to the background to the resignation of Deputy Lowry. It relates to his relationship and that of his company, Streamline Enterprises, with Dunnes Stores and with Mr. Ben Dunne prior to his becoming a Minister. Arising from a media report it is appropriate at this point to refer to one further matter. The Attorney General, Mr. Dermot Gleeson, informed me on 30 November that he had acted as counsel for Mr. Ben Dunne in the litigation between Mr. Dunne and other members of the Dunne family. This fact was already public knowledge. No conflict has arisen in respect of any matter upon which the Attorney General has been asked to advise. He is, of course, aware that a conflict could arise if his advice were sought by Government on any issues which arose in the litigation previously referred to. If this should happen, there are procedures in place in the Attorney General's office to ensure the advice required by Government could be provided without the Attorney General becoming involved.

Deputy Lowry has been a hard working Minister and has showed both commitment and vigour in carrying out his duties. In particular, he was responsible for two major achievements in the reform and development of State enterprises. He created an acute sense of awareness of the need — against the background of EU-led liberalisation — to take action to improve competitiveness in the relevant enterprises. He brought to companies providing services to the public a renewed commitment to putting the customer first. He brought to his ministry a reforming zeal and an innovative approach. I appreciate his contribution to the formation and achievements of this Government and his achievements as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.

In regard to his business and other interests, Deputy Lowry has exactly the same responsibilities as everyone else. His obligations are covered by the law of the land. In addition, arising from the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, he has obligations as a TD and they continue following his resignation as a Minister.

Ministerial responsibilities, as a matter of law, fall into a different category. Ministers are collectively responsible for their official actions and are answerable to the Dáil for their actions as Ministers. Under the Ethics in Public Office Act, they have disclosure obligations more exacting than those of other public representatives, and are required to give up their direct involvement in business during their term of office as Ministers. None of the allegations made against Deputy Lowry concerns his actions as a Minister.

Deputy Lowry, in his statement on 30 November, has given four reasons for his decision to resign. He said the Department which he headed and the Government of which he was a member required his full and undivided attention and that it was simply not possible to fulfil those obligations and at the same time deal with sustained attack from certain quarters which was distracting public attention from the important work being done by the Government. He pointed out that to fully and satisfactorily answer in the public arena all the questions which had been raised would involve the disclosure to competitors of information which would place his company at a serious disadvantage in what is a very competitive market. Nor did he wish to embroil Dunnes Stores in what is becoming a political rather than a legal issue. He emphasised he had a responsibility and an obligation to protect the business interests of Streamline Enterprises and the employees whose livelihoods depend on it. Finally, he said the pressures of public life impact not only on the office holder, but also on his family and close friends. He did not wish to prolong the distress to which they had been subjected, especially in recent times.

Those were the reasons Deputy Lowry gave for his resignation, and I accepted his resignation. The allegations made relate to matters which arose before his ministerial appointment. He has resigned ministerial office so that he can have the necessary time and space to deal with these allegations. He deserves the time and space for which he has asked. It would not be appropriate for me or, I suggest, for anyone in this House to deny him that time and space and I hope that, during this debate, Deputies will refrain from demanding the answers that Deputy Lowry has already said he is not yet in a position to give.

For my part, I knew nothing about the matters alleged in theIrish Independent story of 29 November until a few hours before its publication. It is important to stress that the full facts about these disclosures have not yet been established or placed on public record. It is not appropriate or possible for me, as Taoiseach, to form a judgment on matters on which all the facts have yet to be established by the competent authorities. It is not possible for me to act as an investigator in matters which are for inquiry and action, if any, by those properly constituted legal authorities. In this country we live under a system of law which gives all of us the same rights and responsibilities. Deputy Lowry has exactly the same rights — no more or no less — as any other person who lives in this jurisdiction.

The Revenue Commissioners are the appropriate authorities for dealing with tax matters and with alleged infringements of the tax laws. They do not need any prompting from me or from anyone else in Government to carry out their duties. Such prompting would be inappropriate and would infringe on the independence given to them by this House under legislation.

Media reports have suggested that some of the allegations now made have their origins in a Price Waterhouse report commissioned by the board of Dunnes Stores. I do not know, and have no way of knowing, if this is correct. I have not seen any such Price Waterhouse report, nor do I have access to possible sources of information relating to the allegations. The Revenue Commissioners have wide powers to obtain any document or information they might need for the purposes of an investigation into tax irregularities. Companies and individuals have obligations under the law to provide information to the Revenue Commissioners. The Revenue Commissioners have obligations to keep certain matters confidential, but they also have an obligation to make public certain outcomes of their investigations. The Revenue Commissioners act independently in making these decisions. Deputy Lowry has told me he will co-operate fully with any investigation being conducted by the Revenue Commissioners or indeed by any other relevant body.

Deputy Lowry and his company, Streamline Enterprises, have for many years had a successful business relationship with Dunnes Stores. He resigned from his office because he needed more time than was politically available to him to deal with questions posed in connection with that relationship. It is important that he is allowed sufficient time, freed from ministerial office, to establish the facts for the relevant authorities and satisfy the questions that will be in people's minds about the issue. Deputy Lowry, like all public representatives, knows that dealing fully and comprehensively with public concerns about any issue of financial probity is vital to our system.

I congratulate Deputy Dukes on his appointment as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and on his return to Cabinet. He is one of the most experienced Fine Gael Ministers. His period as leader of the Opposition was characterised by a willingness to put country before party, for which he subsequently had to pay a heavy political price. He set an example of a more considered and constructive style of Opposition which included a willingness to back the Government when it was vital to the national interest. Deputy Dukes, who has the respect of this side of the House, despite strongly expressed differences, will do a great public service to all of us. He will deal competently with the challenges and difficulties that face him. When we vote tonight on the motion, we will not be voting against Deputy Dukes on a personal basis. As he proved in the past, he will be a fine Minister.

As Minister, he will have a great deal to tend to in his Department. His most immediate task will be to prevent the threatened public transport strike over the board's threat to not pay the standardProgramme for Competitiveness and Work increase on 1 January. His predecessor encouraged the board to take an untenable position. Only the most exceptional circumstances justify the non-payment of a basic cost of living increase.

If the deficit in public transport operations was a justification, CIE workers would not have had a pay increase for many years. While negotiations on structural reform, company streamlining and productivity are required, this is not the way to proceed. An unreal dispute will do nothing for a new national programme. We have raised the issue of tunnelling for Luas in this House many times. It will be interesting to learn what the cost analysis will be in that regard and I welcome the fact that the new Minister will consider the issue.

The resignation of the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, in the absence of any proper explanations about personal payments received from Dunnes Stores for work done on his home, was correct and inevitable. It was also a personal tragedy. I can understand the upset to his family, supporters and constituents. His greatest achievement, outside politics, for which I admire him, was to clear the debt on Semple Stadium in Thurles. He was also associated with the development of a third level college in Thurles, which was sanctioned by him and announced by Fianna Fáil. That work will be brought to fruition under the next Fianna Fáil-led Government.

We have heard that for 20 years.

The former Minister, Deputy Lowry, was in charge of important semi-State companies. Many controversies during his period in office were ethical issues. The phrase "cosy cartels" and "sweetheart deals" must have come to many people's minds in the past few days. He assailed the reputation of a former chairman of CIE, on an absolutely nominal salary, on the basis of expenses alleged to be of dubious justification. A highly capable chief executive of Bord na Móna was forced to resign because his paperwork on expenses was not in order. No one boasted louder about the high standards he was demanding from State companies. He did not hesitate to claim that all his predecessors had fallen down on the job, a dangerous boast for a new Minister. The reality is that he carried forward their work, with the aid of EU funding negotiated by them. Apart from the controversies, his period in office was unremarkable.

I raised concerns in this House on 23 April last about the controversial awarding of the second mobile telephone licence. I asked the Taoiseach for a comprehensive statement in the light of the "many allegations, accusations and much innuendo" outside the House. Inevitably, concern, especially among competitors who were not awarded the licence and who were unhappy about the decision, will be heightened by the latest revelations. In that context, I ask the Taoiseach to confirm whether Mr. Ben Dunne has any beneficial ownership, direct or indirect with any consortium which is a named or as yet undisclosed investor in ESAT Digifone? The Telecom deal should also be reviewed by the new Minister.

We do not have an adequate explanation of the payment of £208,000 by Dunnes Stores on work at Deputy Lowry's home prior to his becoming a Minister. For a Government that made openness, transparency and accountability its motto, the absence of information is totally indefensible. The distinction drawn by the Taoiseach between ministerial accountability and responsibility for prior actions as a Deputy is neither valid nor relevant. Most people found it shocking. In general terms, the concern would be that a large personal payment to a Deputy might influence his or her subsequent decisions as a Minister. Since the former Minister will not provide an explanation, I propose to analyse the possibilities on the basis of the information provided.

Allegations have been made in respect of the source of payment of home improvements to the home of Deputy Lowry amounting to £207,820. Up to 1994, he was director of Streamline Enterprises Limited which services refrigeration units for Dunnes Stores. The documents unearthed by Mr. Sam Smyth in theIrish Independent consist of a cheque to the builders, Faxhill Homes Limited, for £76,674 drawn on the bank account of Dunnes Stores Ireland dated 24 February 1993 and signed by Ben Dunne, an invoice from Faxhill Homes Limited indicating the work was at the Ilac Shopping Centre in Dublin, an architect's certificate requesting payment from Dunnes Stores for work done at the Ilac centre to a sum of £76,674 and a covering architect's letter which indicates the work being certified was for alterations and additions to Deputy Lowry's house.

The payments made by Dunnes Stores were either directly for Deputy Lowry's personal benefit or some form of advance payment or credit for services rendered by his company to Dunnes Stores. There appear to be three ways of looking at these payments. First, they could be viewed as a personal gift from Dunnes Stores to Deputy Lowry. There is nothing illegal about receiving a gift, but it must be declared to the Revenue Commissioners and capital acquisitions tax paid on it. The rate of capital acquisitions tax is nil on the threshold amount, 20 per cent on the next £10,000, 30 per cent on the next £30,000 and 40 per cent on the balance. The tax threshold applicable would at the time have been £11,450, assuming Deputy Lowry received no previous gifts. Stiff interest and penalties apply on underpayment. Second, the payments could be viewed as payment or part payment of services rendered by Deputy Lowry to Dunnes Stores. This would be taxable as personal income. If not declared, unpaid tax, interest and penalties arise under the Income Tax Act, 1967. Third, the payments could be viewed as payment or part payment for services rendered by Deputy Lowry's company Streamline Enterprises. If this is not declared, then unpaid tax, interest and penalties arise under the Corporation Tax Act, 1976. Additionally, Deputy Lowry could be liable to return the money to his company. This is obviously very important if the company becomes in any way insolvent. If the company recorded approval of the payment due to Deputy Lowry, then this is either a gift, a director's loan, which should be declared in the company accounts, or payment for services rendered to the company, which are taxable as income. It is also difficult to understand why the former Minister would personally benefit in return for services rendered by his company.

Other possible lines of defence are being put forward by way, I suspect, ofex post facto justification. It has been suggested that the payments were a personal loan or credit facility. There would have to be incontrovertible written evidence of that at the time and of arrangements having been made for its repayment. It suggests a possible loophole in the ethics in Government legislation. Why was the original section of the legislation covering this dropped by the Government? The making of such a large personal loan on more favourable conditions than would be available from any lending institution would clearly represent a personal favour that ought to be declared. If it represented advance payments in kind for services rendered, then that would constitute income that would have to be declared for tax at the time they were received. One cannot wait to define as income only the final total payment when everything has been settled.

Deputy Lowry could not have availed of the tax amnesties, as suggested in some articles, as the payments were made and his benefit received after 5 April 1991. If the payments to him are not in order from a tax point of view, then between tax, interest and penalties, having regard to the 24 per cent surcharge, total liability to the State could amount to as much as £300,000 or £400,000.

There are other features of the case. The extension to the former Minister's home did not receive planning permission from the local authority, of which he was then a member. The payments to the Deputy were put under false headings as straightforward payments, which contained no suggestion that they were an advance loan or credit facility. Why? Who was the beneficiary of this concealment in the accounts? Dunnes Stores, the Deputy or both? The Deputy must at least have known whether the payments to him would show up clearly in Dunnes' accounts. The Revenue Commissioners have good reason to be suspicious of false entry accounting.

It should be possible for the Minister to explain simply, quickly and publicly how major works to his home were paid for, and on what basis. The Minister talks about his responsibility to his employees and the need not to involve Dunnes Stores in political controversy. That may be fair but the first duty of any Minister is to the public whom he has been appointed to serve. The public are entitled to an explanation for the unusual character of these arrangements, which, as the Minister for Social Welfare said look awful. If he wants to serve in public office again, he should provide those explanations in full sooner rather than later. A Minister's obligations do not cease just because he has resigned. Resignation is not an excuse for going to ground and hoping that the public lose interest. That would be a travesty of accountability. The public are entitled to know the full reasons for his resignation, and why the facts of the case were incompatible with his remaining in office. It is not a question, as the Taoiseach has suggested, of privately satisfying other authorities. Deputy Lowry has a duty to satisfy Dáil Éireann, the supreme authority in the land and the one to which he remains answerable.

There have been references to other payments by Dunnes Stores. The character of these payments might well throw light on and put into perspective the payments made to Deputy Lowry. There may have been a pattern, which it would be relevant to examine. It is in the public interest that the full Price Waterhouse report be made available. We cannot have a dark cloud hanging over our public life. The management of Dunnes Stores should, in the public interest, publish the report, so that all the individuals concerned can provide the required explanations. I would hope there would be unanimity in the Dáil in that matter.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

It has been suggested that a former prominent member of my party who served in Government may have received, directly or indirectly, financial payments from Dunnes Stores. If that has any substance, the same approach is required. Financial gifts have to be declared for capital acquisitions tax purposes, if they exceed the threshold. In principle, apart from token presentations in respect of functions performed at home and abroad, neither politicians nor officials should accept personal gifts of value from outside their family. However, as I have said over the past few days, campaign contributions or contributions for political expenses are of course in a different category. Any other situation is open to misinterpretation.

We should accept that we have all been much too lax about this in the past, and my party, along with other parties, shares some blame for not doing more about it sooner. Some journalists have campaigned for a long time on this, which I acknowledge. They too have an obligation to display greater transparency and to observe the same high ethical standards that they demand of others.

There is no valid comparison between this affair and other controversies of the past few years. The beef tribunal found no evidence of any political favouritism or lack of integrity on the part of any Government member. The files on the passport for sale scheme involving the Masri family contained no evidence of impropriety. Fine Gael demanded a committee of inquiry on that occasion. Perhaps they will agree to set up one now. The Arcon controversy was about ministerial oversight of a small shareholding worth a few hundred pounds, with no evidence of improper influences. We must be extremely careful in this House about demanding resignations the moment any controversy arises, otherwise it would be a simple matter to orchestrate or to manipulate the resignation of any Minister.

At the same time, under the rules of natural justice, Ministers and Deputies must be given an adequate opportunity of putting forward their defences and of vindicating their reputations. We cannot allow political lynchings or mob justice, or to have Ministers sink beneath the waves of media hysteria and feeding frenzy. This is why I have always been slow to call for ministerial resignations before Ministers have had any chance to defend themselves. None of my colleagues called for resignations until Deputy Lowry had the opportunity to which he was entitled to gather his affairs and make a statement.

Political contributions are perfectly legitimate. The law was to have been tightened up with a threshold for declarations by political parties. My party was not responsible for delaying that legislation but we will all have to deal with it now. Gifts of any substantial character have to be declared under the ethics in Government legislation because of a legitimate concern that substantial undeclared gifts could have a hidden influence on political or other types of decision-making. It is well accepted that public officials, whether elected or otherwise, with responsibility for planning matters should not accept gifts that could be, or could be construed as, bribes. During the year I raised with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste the fact that every Member should understand current legislation in this matter. Many Members on all sides of the House still do not understand what is already in law. People do not understand their obligations. One would need an accountant and lawyer to understand the booklet on this subject but there must be a way to explain the law clearly.

We cannot apply new legislation retrospectively, but the authorities have a right to insist that all laws in force at the time have been respected, and, where this has not been the case, the appropriate tax or other penalties applied. Where payments have on both sides been legitimately given and received, in the legal and tax sense, it would still be important that they be put in their overall context, allowing people to be satisfied that they were purelyex gratia and not connected, either before or after, to any particular decisions. It is precisely because that may not always be easy to do that we are in the process of establishing a much tighter regime.

Politics and participation in public life is a career of public service. It is not an avenue of enrichment or lifestyle enhancement from private donors, even where they only want to help people perform in a particular manner. My party and my Front Bench are determined that financial scrupulousness will be strictly observed by all our elected members without fear or favour. Anyone who abuses their position or knowingly flouts the rules will go. The political fabric of our democracy is precious. The public are entitled to have an absolute guarantee of the financial probity and integrity of their elected representatives, their officials, and above all of Ministers. They need to know that they are under financial obligations to nobody, other than public lending institutions, except to the extent that they are publicly declared. New strict standards must apply. We must draw a line under bad habits that may have grown up over the last 30 years, and return to the ethos and public spirit that prevailed under the founders of this State, Eamon de Valera and W.T. Cosgrave.

I am surprised that the Taoiseach did not take the opportunity for a broader reshuffle, given the less than adequate performance of some of his Ministers. This Government has been shaken by controversy. Their competence has been open to question. Two Ministers and a Minister of State have had to resign. Question marks remain over at least one other member of the Government, who is due to be in court again over matters that have to be cleared up. As some commentators have suggested, a general election should be brought forward. What we need is not a new Minister but a new Government.

This debate is nominally about the appointment of Deputy Alan Dukes to the post of Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. I wish him well. He is one of the most able and experienced Deputies in the House.

In reality this debate is on the remarkable resignation of Deputy Michael Lowry as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. It is remarkable because it is the first time a Minister has resigned and we do not as yet know why. Yesterday and today the Taoiseach put forward the reason of time pressure. Deputy Lowry had not had enough time to come up with an explanation. What do we know? Last Friday, 29 November, theIrish Independent published details of the dealings with Deputy Lowry and Dunnes Stores. It was not idle speculation. Comprehensive details were published. Most people inside and outside this House who read the article were shocked.

What was even more shocking to most people was the manner in which the Taoiseach sought to deal with the issue, not just last Friday but today. There has been no expression of concern or regret. Not an eyebrow was raised about what happened. Last Friday the Taoiseach said it only merits a cursory glance. If the leader of any party——

I did not say that it only merited a cursory glance. I had had the opportunity only to have a cursory glance at the article.

Deputy Harney should withdraw that remark.

Deputies

Withdraw.

This is a subtle alteration of what was said.

I withdraw the remark.

(Interruptions.)

Five or six hours after the newspaper was published all the Taoiseach could tell us at lunchtime — I am sure he had been made aware of it early that day — was that he had only an opportunity to take a cursory glance at the article. This speaks volumes for the concern he expressed. He went on to say that he had only a brief conversation with the former Minister. I imagine that the leader of any party on seeing such an article would read it carefully, speak to his or her advisers and close allies about it and have a thorough conversation with the Minister concerned before lunchtime. I accept, however, that the Taoiseach was caught on the doorstep but he may have known this would happen.

What is more disturbing is that the Taoiseach then said: "I have no doubt that Michael will be studying the matter and if any comments or explanations are necessary, he will be providing those". He did not believe that an explanation might be necessary and went on to draw a distinction — not a legal one — between what happens before and after somebody assumes ministerial office. Ministers have greater responsibilities but suitability for ministerial office depends on his or her behaviour, not just as a Deputy in Opposition but before election to this House. That is the reason different standards cannot be applied to Deputies and Ministers.

We are not talking about the law. If somebody was to offer me £100,000 tomorrow, it would not be illegal for me to accept it provided I paid the right taxes but would it be right for me to accept it?

Five days after the article was published and brought to our attention there has been no explanation and nobody has said anything about wrongdoing. On the contrary, the former Minister told us that he did nothing wrong, that he acted properly and with integrity. He said that he resigned in the interests of his company, his family and the company with which he did business. He said nothing about the public interest, the public's right to know, and the interests of his colleagues in politics. He made the extraordinary comment: "To fully and satisfactorily answer in the public arena all the questions which have been raised would involve the disclosure to competitors of information which would place my company at a serious disadvantage in what is a very competitive market". I do not accept that. Neither do I accept, as the Taoiseach said, that we have no right to ask Deputy Lowry questions and that we should give him time.

I did not say we have no right to ask him questions, I said he is entitled to time. Again, the Deputy is distorting what I said.

I did not interrupt the Taoiseach who said: "Deputies will refrain from demanding the answers that Deputy Lowry has already said he is not yet in a position to give". I do not accept that; we have a right to ask questions.

As we cannot ask Deputy Lowry questions, as he is no longer a Minister, will the Taoiseach answer the following questions? Did Dunnes Stores pay over £208,000 towards the cost of renovating Deputy Lowry's house? The answer is either "yes" or "no". Were the details of this transaction fully reported to the Revenue Commissioners? Again, the answer is either "yes" or "no". Will the Taoiseach assure the House that Mr. Ben Dunne did not make representations to influence any of the decisions made by Deputy Lowry as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications? Will the Taoiseach assure the House that Mr. Dunne did not derive any financial benefit from any of the decisions made by Deputy Lowry in his capacity as Minister? Will the Taoiseach assure the House that Mr. Dunne was and is not a shareholder of any company, either onshore or offshore, which benefited from any of the decisions made by Deputy Lowry and the Department? Did Price Waterhouse contact Deputy Lowry when conducting its investigations?

On 17 October 1995 when I asked the Taoiseach if he believed it was appropriate that a Minister should appoint to a State board somebody with whom his company had serious commercial dealings — I had in mind the appointment of a close associate of Mr. Dunne to the board of the ESB by Deputy Lowry — he said in response: "On my appointment as Taoiseach I took the unprecedented step of requesting all Ministers, Ministers of State and the Attorney General upon their assuming office to furnish me with declarations of their financial interests. I obtained information on a scale unheard of before and I have kept a record of what I was told". In view of this, did the incoming Minister make him aware of all aspects of his relationship with Dunnes Stores? Was he aware that Deputy Lowry continued to hold a loan from Dunnes Stores after his appointment?

It is important, in the public interest, that all these questions are answered fully. I agree equally that the Taoiseach should publish the record he kept of what Deputy Lowry told him on assuming office.

When questioned yesterday about why the former Minister resigned the Taoiseach said: "In fairness to himself, in fairness to those who work in his business and in fairness to those who work with his business he is entitled to take time to provide explanations". In fairness to those involved in politics he should provide an explanation given that there has been a crisis of confidence in the political system for a considerable length of time. In my experience, the vast majority who serve the public either in this House or at local authority level are honourable people. We will do their contribution a disservice and diminish our role if we fail to seek explanations and answers to these questions.

Recently we got what was described as accountability without responsibility, there was no resignation. In this instance, we got a resignation without accountability. That is not good enough.

The Government has suggested that an inquiry should be carried out by the Revenue Commissioners but their findings cannot be made public. On taking office they swear an oath that they will deal with taxpayers on a confidential basis. The only information that can be published is the name of a defaulter.

Under section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990, the Government should seek the permission of the High Court to appoint an inspector to Dunnes Stores and Streamline Trading. It is not just in the interest of the public but of all those involved in politics that no stone is left unturned in discovering the facts of this case. It is not good enough to buy time in the hope the matter will fade from public memory. It is not good enough for a Minister to resign without giving a reason. If nothing wrong was done, nobody should resign. One should not resign because of embarrassment or a perception. The Taoiseach can sigh but that is a fact.

It is not good enough to say that Deputy Lowry will co-operate with the Revenue Commissioners. If the Government wants to ensure that the public is not denied its right to know, it should seek the appointment of an inspector under the Companies Act. This would not cost the taxpayer anything as the companies in question would be required under section 13 of that Act to foot the cost.

Writing inThe Irish Times on 13 August 1994 Garret FitzGerald said: “If the electorate comes to lose faith in all politicians because they attribute to all the deficiencies of a few, the maintenance of standards in politics will quickly become impossible”. I agree. On 30 October the Tánaiste said: “The credibility of politics is far more important than the fate of any Government”. What we are talking about is confidence in our political institutions.

I wish that our defamation laws were such that the Price Waterhouse report could be published because there is now rumour and innuendo about other public persons. For as long as they exist everybody in politics will be tarnished by them. On bar stools throughout the country people are saying: "they are all the same". They are not. The vast majority of Members earn no more than their income. We will do politicians and their profession a great disservice if, for whatever reason, we do not go out of our way to ensure the truth comes out in this matter.

There was a reference to the human or personal tragedy. I do not wish anyone any harm. Contrary to what has been suggested, we did not ask for anybody's resignation. Before we made a statement our spokesperson, Deputy Molloy, made contact with Deputy Lowry. All we are asking for is answers to questions. All we seek are simple explanations. There are clear answers to the questions I posed earlier and if we do not get them, the Government may yet be involved in this matter because decisions were made by Deputy Lowry on its behalf. That is why it is important the Government ensures all the questions I raised are answered.

It is a pity that on the day of Deputy Dukes's appointment we must raise such questions. However, it is not enough just to have a resignation or for the Taoiseach to quote the law. This is about much more than the law — it is about standards in public, the integrity of the political system and ethics in public office. Legislation does not make dishonest people honest. For as long as we can, we must use every measure at our disposal to ensure the truth comes out. That is how we will best serve politics.

I hope whoever responds on behalf of the Government will be in a position to respond positively to the questions I raised and, in particular, to say whether the Government is prepared to appoint an inspector to Dunnes Stores and Streamline Enterprises under the 1990 Companies Act to ensure everything was above board. For somebody to have had £208,000 to spend on their house, it would have involved a company with a turnover of approximately £750,000 after tax, VAT and, presumably, costs associated with making a profit. It is a because of that it matters. Even if it were a smaller sum of money, the principle is the same.

We must ask questions. If it was a legitimate deal, why was it falsified in the accounts of Dunnes Stores? We will not get the answer to these questions from a secret Revenue inquiry. The public is entitled to more, in particular from a Taoiseach who promised that his Government would be open, transparent and accountable and would be run as if behind a pane of glass.

Occasions like this are always difficult for both Government and Opposition. Our purpose today is to nominate a new member of Government and to mark the departure of a colleague. In many ways, it is also an occasion in which the Opposition must be free to criticise and to challenge confidence in the Government.

I would like to think, however, that at least as far as the two people at the heart of this debate are concerned, it will be free of personal rancour or political opportunism. It is appropriate that the Opposition should seek a full accounting for the way in which the Government has handled a difficult situation and that the Government should be held to such account. The elevation of one person at the cost of the downfall of another is never an occasion of unalloyed celebration.

Having said that, I have no hesitation in adding my support for the words spoken by the Taoiseach in respect of Deputy Dukes. He is a person of immense ability and experience in politics who will once again make an outstanding Minister, as he did in the past. Over many years I worked with him in different capacities. We have even crossed political swords once or twice in the course of our different roles but I never lost my respect for his commitment, ability and dedication to excellence. In recent times I worked closely with him in his role as Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and valued his insights and always telling contributions to that committee. I congratulate him on his appointment and look forward to working closely with him for the next year and, indeed, after next November's general election when the Government will be returned to office.

As is evident from the debate so far, this is also an occasion of personal sadness. Deputy Lowry was an excellent colleague in Government. I do not believe any Member can take pleasure in his resignation. He was a dedicated and energetic Minister and the reforms he sought to introduce were to the benefit of the State companies under his authority. What we can take pleasure in is the fact that Deputy Lowry behaved impeccably when questions were raised about his business dealings. Because he needed time and opportunity to answer the questions and because he knew his position would undermine the Government he helped to establish, he offered his resignation without equivocation or bluster.

Deputy Lowry owes it to himself — I believe he knows this — to offer answers in a way that people can fully understand and appreciate. I welcome his public commitment to co-operate fully with the Revenue Commissioners and any other relevant public authorities which have inquiries to make about the transactions involved. I urge him also to recognise, as I am sure he does, that the people who elected him to Dáil Éireann will feel entitled to answers. I have no difficulty in accepting Deputy Lowry's assertion of integrity and propriety — indeed, I believe he has established a high level of personal integrity by the way he reacted last weekend. However, I know he will feel that a cloud will hang over the his head until this matter is cleared up.

I do not accept the shrill demands of some on the Opposition benches, and some commentators, that Deputy Lowry should in some way have a sanction imposed on him by the Government until he satisfies all their vengeful instincts. Even if such a thing was possible, I would say to the House that if a Minister honourably and voluntarily resigns and asks for time to get his affairs in order, then it should accept that he has already paid a heavy price.

Of course, these transactions need to satisfy the law and be seen to do so. Deputy Lowry is not above the law any more than any other citizen. People are entitled to ask questions about transactions which are highly unusual to most of us. In the absence of information, people will not be able to resist drawing conclusions although I hope such conclusions would avoid damning the character of any individual without evidence.

It is not, and cannot be, the political responsibility of the Government to force Deputy Lowry to lay bare all his private dealings for the delectation of some on the Opposition benches, and some commentators. Now that he is no longer a member of Government, those transactions are in the first place a matter between him and the relevant State authorities. Ultimately, he will face the judgment of his electors, as we all must. I believe, as I already said, he knows they are entitled to answers.

I want to refer to the way in which the Taoiseach handled this matter. It has been a personally difficult few days for him, but I strongly believe that any fair-minded observer accepts the Taoiseach has behaved appropriately and with the interests of the community first and foremost at heart. There will be those who will be hoping that this incident will weaken the Government in some way but I assure the House, it will not. This Government will go on until its due time. The honourable and open way in which this matter has been dealt with will make the Government stronger, not weaker, more cohesive, not less. We will continue to apply the highest standards we can and we will not be found wanting when difficult decisions have to be taken.

This has been a Government which has combined the best analysis of the three parties in it to tackle a range of challenges. Anyone who wishes to compare the social and economic trends of the 1989-92 period with those of the past four years will realise that we have turned the direction of the country around. We intend to continue to shape the direction of the country for a long time yet.

When we face the people, it is my hope that this Government takes on the mé féiners in the Progressive Democrats and the lads in Fianna Fáil——

Read the script.

——and the chancers in Fianna Fáil, as I said before——

He has not got the nerve to read it.

——and keeps them on the benches where they belong. They will, of course, keep up the constant barrage of criticism for which they are becoming well known. They will continue to rely on criticism as a substitute for any thought out approach to the issue of how the lives of people can be made better. They will refrain from criticism of the management of the economy because even they know how hollow and hypocritical such criticism would be. They will not attack us about our job creation record because it is so much better than anything they could have managed to achieved.

They will not carp at the interest rates that now run at half the level they were when we came into office. They will be silent about the housing programmes which run at seven or eight times the level when we came into office. They will have nothing to say about the extraordinary levels of economic growth we have been able to achieve. If any of them have a shred of political honesty, they will recognise the huge and historic changes that we have made in education, the most important investment this community can make in its future. We have dramatically reduced class sizes. We have protected the viability of small and threatened rural schools.

Rat infested schools.

We have set out to use falling enrolments to make every school a better place for teachers and students.

We have concentrated even more on areas of disadvantage to bring the pupil-teacher ratio down to its lowest level. We have more than doubled the capitation rates to make every school easier to run on a daily basis. We have created nearly 500 remedial and career guidance posts because we know that educational disadvantage can happen in any family, irrespective of income.

There are now, for the first time in our history, 1,800 children in State-run pre-schools helping to break through the cycle of disadvantage and neglect. There are more than double the number in adult and continuing education. In the biggest psychological breakthrough of all, it is possible for every family to consider, in some cases for the first time in their family's history, the possibility of third level education without the stress of thousands of pounds in fees.

Next week, when the Book of Estimates is published, it will be clear that once again this Government has been able to produce the type of performance on public spending which the Progressive Democrats, with their short and miserable track record, can only dream about. Side by side with that, we have been able to make further progress across a wide range of areas, from legal aid to foreign aid, from county roads to more investment in education at every level. Through prudent management, we have been able to ensure that next year's budget will represent further significant progress for taxpayers, especially those on modest incomes. There will be scope too to ensure that all those who depend on the State for protection and quality of life will not be let down. Side by side with the work of economic management and social development and investment, we will continue to work night and day to seek to restore peace and stability to Northern Ireland.

The rainbow is only a halo.

I have already said elsewhere that in regard to Northern Ireland, for instance, we remain tantalisingly close to the restoration of a full peace and dangerously close to total breakdown. We have worked hard to create the necessary conditions of trust and inclusion to encourage Sinn Féin to cross the bridge between the two and we are absolutely determined to overcome every set-back in the way of progress.

The people of Northern Ireland, indeed the people of this entire island, would rejoice at the prospect of a Christmas this year without violence or the threat of violence. A decision by Sinn Féin now or in the near future to ask the IRA to lay down its arms and allow this generation not to repeat the mistakes of the past would be a powerful message of peace and hope with which to start the new year.

Why does the Tánaiste not deal with the issue before us?

Mr. Tully dealt with the Deputy on the issues a long time ago. It is often said that the man who never made anything never made a mistake. It is inevitable that in a Government that is meeting, and overcoming, huge challenges and that is carrying a huge burden of work, there will be mistakes from time to time. The difference is, of course, that when mistakes are made, they are admitted and we set about rectifying them. That is an approach that makes at least some of those on the Opposition benches deeply uncomfortable, but they will have to get used to it. This Government has made a very good start. We have a huge amount of work to do and we intend to get on with it.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Dermot Ahern.

I am sure that is agreed. Agreed.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Deputy Dukes on his return to Government. I hope my congratulations to him bring him better luck than on the last occasion I congratulated him in this House, early in his term of office as leader of the Fine Gael Party. I said then that he was doing a service to the people and that, despite what the pundits were saying about him, he would be rewarded. A few years later, however, he was turfed out. I am glad Deputy Dukes is returning to the Government. As the Tánaiste said, an occasion such as this is difficult for Members on all sides of the House. There is always the danger in politics that people will go overboard, but the issue is never so serious as when someone has to resign or is turfed out of Government.

A number of issues of recent days deserve to be raised and my party leader, Deputy Bertie Ahern, raised some of them. Government scriptwriters will have to change some of the words in the word processor because, as is evident from the Tánaiste's speech, he found it difficult to read some terms such as "the chancers in Fianna Fáil". Such terms have created much of the difficulty of the past ten years or so. A culture has developed over a long period of time whereby parties, politicians and a large segment of the media get away from analysing issues and policies and at election time the trend has been to hurl insults at Fianna Fáil. Perhaps by actions of mine some years ago I contributed to that, and I readily admit it, but the raising of such issues in the past — I am not the only Member on this side of the House who contributed to that trend — has done us all a disservice and diminished politics. The practice of politicians commenting about each other, with media people feeding on innuendo and rumour, has demeaned the profession of politics in the past ten or 15 years. It would be much better to concentrate on the issues that arise.

It is ironic that the first Minister who has had to resign on an issue such as this is a member of the Fine Gael Party. The attitude of the Taoiseach last Friday when he was confronted on this issue did not help the body politic. He should not have said what he said. I give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he meant to do the right thing — I have no hesitation in saying that — but it would have been much better if he had admitted that he made a mistake in his comments of last Friday rather than try to justify them. There can be no difference between what a politician does before elevation to ministerial office and after his appointment as Minister.

Deputy Ahern raised many tax issues that must be addressed by the Revenue Commissioners. Deputy Lowry has asked for some time to deal with these matters and he is entitled to that time. As the Tánaiste said, the people of Tipperary North will be the judges in that regard. There have been many people in this House in the past 70 years or so who, if all their affairs had been examined, would never have been allowed inside the front gates, let alone to sit in the Chamber. If any person in the House can hold up his or her hand and say that he or she has never done the slightest incorrect thing, I will be the first to walk out because I do not believe there is such a person.

Deputy Lowry, as a backbencher, is entitled to time to decide what he wants to do regarding his financial affairs. If he was a Minister today, I would be the first person to ask questions about company law and tax law and the House would be entitled to an explanation from the Minister. Perhaps a parliamentary inquiry would be set up to inquire into the matter. However, now that Deputy Lowry has retired to the backbenches he is entitled to time to answer the questions and if at the end of the day he decides not to answer them in public, that is his decision. If we were to follow any other line, every Member would have to come before the House and lay out his or her financial affairs.

There is an Ethics in Public Office Act under which Members must declare their interests and the gifts they receive. Severe sanctions may be imposed for non-compliance with the Act. My colleagues who sat through Committee Stage of that legislation said that many questions were raised with which they were uncomfortable. The Act which has been in force since early this year relates to activities from 1995. The Dáil decided that Members should put on the record information relating to their financial affairs and that is open to public scrutiny.

I may be accused of referring to the political content of the Front Bench, but the present Fianna Fáil Front Bench is the poorest in the history of the party. None of its members are wealthy and 99 per cent of the Members of Dáil Éireann live on their salaries and have no other income. Knowing the financial background of some current and former Deputies, I can say that most of them are considerably less well off having entered this House.

It would be in the interests of everybody if the relevant sections of the report commissioned by Dunnes Stores, as they pertain to public figures, were made available because there is a cloud hanging over all political parties in this House. Some mechanism will have to be found whereby people's names can be cleared and they can give adequate explanations as to the reason their names appear in the report.

The country is awash with rumours and nobody will be left unscathed unless some mechanism is put in place to clear up this matter. I ask those who might be in a position to make public this report to do so as a matter of urgency because people are engaging in speculation and counter speculation which is bad for all of us. The political system has been damaged by the events of the past few days and a number of matters must be addressed in the context of those events.

The people now in Government supported the idea of reducing the salaries of politicians, contrary to the recommendation of an independent commission. An ethics Bill has been introduced and we will soon debate legislation on funding political parties, but if we continue to denigrate ourselves in the eyes of the public, people will be entitled to say politicians should not be paid anything.

Politicians and members of the Government should be paid a realistic salary and the Government should not ignore the recommendation of an independent commission. If members of the Government do not think they are worth those salaries, they can hardly expect the public to think they are entitled to them. Every time a salary increase is proposed we feel obliged to play up to people in the media and denigrate ourselves, even though everybody knows, including the public, that 95 per cent of politicians are skint.

The result of an inquiry will be that business people will not put themselves forward for election. Without any disrespect intended, Members will be made up of lawyers, teachers and others in PAYE employment. There will not be any farmers, shopkeepers or entrepreneurs. Many people in the media may stand for election also but we will not have anybody in this House who has created employment. I say this with some sadness but business people would be daft to leave themselves open to innuendo and accusations.

This House has been done a disservice by the events of the past week. It will take some time for the Irish body politic to recover but we should try to resolve this matter and get on with our business.

There are many red faces on the opposite side of the House.

I thank my colleague for sharing his time with me. In the recent debate on the motion of confidence in the Government I referred to a certain Labour adviser as the ventriloquist leader of the Labour Party. It is obvious the puppet was not working properly today because in the Tánaiste's script, to which my colleague Deputy Power took offence, and tore up, there was a reference to a word, chancers, which he saw fit not to read out, perhaps because he thought it unparliamentary.

An absolute disgrace.

Members on this side of the House resent that, regardless of whether it came from the Tánaiste or Mr. Finlay. It is fortunate that I did not tear up the Tánaiste's — or Mr. Finlay's — speech because a portion of it states: "Now that he is no longer a member of the Government, those transactions are in the first place a matter between him and the relevant State authorities". I do not accept that. The logical extension of that argument is as the Taoiseach said last Friday, that a different standard applies to Ministers than applies to ordinary Deputies. We on this side of the House do not accept that and the Tánaiste knows that.

The Taoiseach surprised us all when he said these matters were in a different category. Those of us on this side of the House did not misinterpret the Taoiseach's words because on the 6 o'clock news later that day, Deputy Lowry referred three times to the fact that these matters arose before he became a Minister. We do not accept that because the highest possible standards must apply regardless of whether the person is a Minister or an ordinary Member of the House.

On the issue of the disclosure of this report, it is ironic — and I say this in some defence of Deputy Lowry — that the full facts of the matters in which he was involved are in the public domain whereas there is a great deal of innuendo and supposition in relation to other people both inside and outside this House. That is wrong. Whatever powers the Taoiseach has in relation to the Revenue Commissioners or the Minister for Finance, they should be used to find out who is implicated in this matter and if there is any proof. We should start by dealing with the hearsay, innuendo and character assassination that is taking place in the corridors of this House and outside it.

I congratulate Deputy Dukes on his appointment but it must be said that it is not long ago since he voted against the Taoiseach. Deputy Dukes's tenure will be interesting — although we wish him well — and some of us would like to be a fly on the wall in the Cabinet room when he has to deal with the Labour Party and Democratic Left, particularly in view of his comments about those parties over the years.

It astounded us on this side of the House that the Taoiseach did not take the opportunity to reshuffle some of the Ministers who have given a substandard performance in their ministries. It would have been far better if the Taoiseach had appointed Deputy Owen as Minister for Health and given Deputy Noonan the Justice portfolio. That might have introduced a new light into those two Departments but the way things are going Fine Gael will not have many more people to nominate as Ministers.

The most able and best performing "Fine Gael" Minister is the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, who has constantly defended the Taoiseach in recent days. On today's 1 o'clock news, the one and a half Democratic Left representatives on the Cabinet were much more effusive in their comments — at least to the cameras — about the Taoiseach than some of his own Ministers.

While we have some sympathy, from a personal point of view, for Deputy Lowry, he was the person who referred to cosy cartels and sweetheart deals. He is the one who said he would go through the semi-State bodies like a dose of salts. It should be remembered that people who push up bars higher and higher eventually have to jump over them.

When will the Deputy go to majorca?

A number of excuses were given for the Minister's resignation, and Deputy Harney referred to this also. A number of Fine Gael backbenchers said Deputy Lowry fell on his sword because he wanted to protect the cohesion of the Government. Deputy O'Rourke made a good point when she said it was all very well having trust and cohesion but what were people saying?

Deputy Lowry also said he wanted to save Dunnes Stores and his company from the impact revelations might have on his company's competitiveness. This is not on. His first obligation, as a Minister or TD, is to Dáil Éireann and the people he represents.

The issue of drip-drip allegations is putting a cloud over the body politic. I appeal to the Taoiseach and the Revenue Commissioners to ensure the full facts are revealed. The Tánaiste, in his speech earlier, seemed to imply that the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, does not have to come forward at this stage. The Tánaiste said on Saturday that these issues were unorthodox. Does he not accept that they are still unorthodox and that we must have the full facts? It is not just a matter of falling on your sword and saying "I did nothing wrong but I am still falling on my sword". We must have all the facts on everyone implicated. The Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, also said on Saturday that these were extremely serious matters, which they are, and must be brought out into the open.

I remind the Taoiseach about some of the remarks he made not long ago about the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen. He said we needed to know not only what happened but when and why it happened and that only a completed inquiry would enable us to achieve that. He went on to emphasise the commitment of the Government to make information available. This House wants the information made available. I refer not only to Deputy Lowry but to all the issues relating to the Price Waterhouse report. We have the mechanism which was well tested in regard to the sub-committee investigating the breakdown of the previous Government. It worked well but we need a compellability of witnesses Bill. I appeal to the Taoiseach in that regard.

Finally, someone referred to this Government as boring but they could hardly be called that after the last number of months. We have had many special debates. It reminds me of what Deputy De Rossa said in 1994, that we needed a Government which did not go from crisis to crisis and scandal to scandal. If ever a Government did so this is it.

On a point of order, I ask the Tánaiste to withdraw the reference in his speech to the chancers in Fianna Fáil as it is offensive, unparliamentary and untrue.

I believe that statement was not made, Deputy.

I support the motion that Deputy Dukes be nominated for appointment as a member of the Government. Deputy Dukes is an exceptionally experienced Member of the Dáil, having been a Member since 1981 and having held ministerial office in three demanding Government Departments: Agriculture, Finance and Justice. The experience he has built up will be invaluable to him in tackling the issues he will face as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and this experience will be a considerable asset around the Cabinet table in the collective approach of the Government to the various issues which must be dealt with over the next year.

Transport, Energy and Communications is a demanding portfolio. Deputy Dukes will have responsibility not just for key policy decisions in regard to transport, energy and communications but will also oversee ten commercial semi-State companies which, between them, employ almost 60,000 people and which have a turnover of around £4 billion. These include some of the largest and most important enterprises in the country — like the ESB, Bord na Móna and Aer Lingus — which contributed so much to making modern Ireland. Public enterprise has made an immeasurable contribution to the social and economic development of this country over six decades, and will have an equally important role to play in the decades to come.

The importance of these companies was recognised in the programme, A Government of Renewal which committed this Administration to revitalising public enterprise and which guaranteed that State assets will not be sold except where it protects employment and is in the long-term strategic interest of the company and its shareholders. However, as the programme for Government noted, "...the twin drivers of technological change and EU competition rules ...", are radically altering the environment in which these companies operate and, to survive and prosper, they must change.

Much change has been effected in this area under the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, with major restructuring agreed for vital companies such as the ESB, Telecom Éireann and Aer Lingus. Much more remains to be done and in this Deputy Dukes faces a formidable challenge. He can be certain of my full co-operation and that of my Democratic Left colleagues in implementing the commitments in the programme for Government in the area for which he now has responsibility.

I wish Deputy Dukes well in his new ministerial appointment but I share the sentiment he expressed when he wished the appointment had come about in different circumstances. In all my dealings with Deputy Lowry as a member of the Government over the past two years, I have always found him to be an honourable and efficient Minister committed to the work of his Department and to the implementation of the programme of the three party Government. His contributions at the Cabinet table were valued by us all and he still has much to contribute to politics and to public life. The developments of the past few days must have been traumatic for him, his family and his party and constituency colleagues but, in his response to these developments, Deputy Lowry acted with propriety and dignity and in the interests of good government. That is not in any way to minimise the issues raised in theIrish Independent article or to ignore the questions which remain to be answered.

In his statement of resignation on Saturday night, Deputy Lowry said categorically that there was no impropriety on his part in respect of any payments for work carried out on his house. He made two further important points: that it was not possible to fulfil his commitments to the Department and to the Government and, at the same time deal adequately with the issues which had been raised, and that to fully and satisfactorily answer in the public arena all the questions which have been raised would involve the disclosure to competitors of information which would place his company at a serious disadvantage in a competitive market. I have no doubt that Deputy Lowry will take the time and find the mechanism, consistent with the need to protect the interests of his company, to answer all the questions which have been raised as fully and promptly as is humanly possible. I want to see Deputy Lowry clear his good name. His interests and the interests of politics generally will be greatly served by his doing so.

The public controversy created by theIrish Independent article has once again focused attention on the relationship between business and politics. It has also focused attention on the relationship between Dunnes Stores and those in various walks of public life. Further media claims are now being made which, if true, will raise further doubts in the public mind about the interaction of business, politics and the media. The Price Waterhouse report, which was apparently commissioned privately as part of the internal struggle within the Dunne family for control of its company, seems vital in this regard. According to newspaper reports at the weekend, the report lists payments from Dunnes Stores to up to 100 people from various walks of public life, including politics and the media. At a minimum, this report must be made available to the Revenue Commissioners to assess not just whether Deputy Lowry and the other figures named complied with all tax requirements but also to assess whether Dunnes Stores complied with all its obligations.

It may also be in the public interest that the report is published in full. We have claims by people who are reported to have seen the document that other prominent persons have been identified as receiving money from Dunnes Stores. It has been suggested that a prominent RTÉ broadcaster also received substantial sums from Dunnes Stores. What is RTÉ doing to investigate this allegation? It has been claimed that a prominent former Fianna Fáil Minister and his wife received a substantial sum of money. It is claimed that sums of more than £1 million were paid into bank accounts in Britain, using cover names, during the early 1990s. It is of critical importance to know if these allegations are true and if the person concerned was a serving Minister at the time. If so, it has the most serious ramifications.

Dunnes Stores is an enormously powerful company, which has often seemed to consider it itself free to ignore the norms of industrial relations and business practice, set its own rules and dictate its own terms. Many people, not just those on the left or in the trade union movement but also responsible commercial people and independent commentators, have been critical of the business practices of Dunnes Stores. It is an enormously powerful institution and one of the biggest supermarket and clothing chains in the State with 73 outlets and the ability to make and break supplier companies. It is tightly controlled by a small group of the Dunne family. It does not publish accounts but it is estimated that it has a turnover of around £900 million each year generating profits of around £45 million. Dunnes Stores has faced two major industrial disputes over the past two years arising from its abysmal treatment of its workers. Its insistence on the recruitment primarily of part-time staff, the use of zero hour contracts, compelling personnel to undertake Sunday work, and the rock bottom wage rates and conditions offered reflect no credit on the company. Until recently it has refused to recognise or accept the standard industrial relations structures established by the Oireachtas to help prevent, and where necessary, settle industrial disputes.

On the basis of such information as we have to date it seems probable that Dunnes Stores has as much to learn about good business practice as it has to learn about good industrial relations practice. Let me illustrate the point. In June 1995 there was an industrial dispute between Dunnes and its employees. The issues in dispute were Sunday trading and zero hour contracts. The core of the dispute, however, was an unwillingness on the part of the company to consult its employees in a reasonable manner about significant changes in work practices.

This is not just my view. The judgment of the independent Social Welfare Adjudication Tribunal which considered the case was that "the dominant feature of this dispute was the failure of the company to engage reasonably and consistently in discussions or negotiations or to have adequate consultation with the union on the issues". The tribunal concluded that the employees in question were "unreasonably put in a position where, by normal standards of industrial relations practice, they had no reasonable alternative to taking strike action".

No doubt Deputies Mary Harney and Michael McDowell would say "So what? Any employer has the right to play hardball with their employees". The point is that the unreasonable behaviour of Dunnes cost the taxpayer approximately £600,000 in unemployment payments to the 5,800 persons who found themselves in an industrial dispute through no fault of their own.

The question of possible tax fraud needs to be tackled with the same urgency, commitment and sense of fairness applied to social welfare fraud. I am confident that there are the powers to do this. Under the provisions of the tax Acts and related fiscal legislation, the Revenue Commissioners can access the salient details in the Price Waterhouse report. We must ensure that it is done.

The Revenue Commissioners, in their statement of Strategy 1997-99, state that they "will pursue non-compliance, be it for failure to furnish returns, failure to furnish correct returns, failure to comply with statutory obligations or outright evasion". They further add that they "aim to maintain public confidence in the equity of Revenue administration by adopting a tough stance on tax evasion and avoidance, the black economy and other illegal activity". They conclude by stating that they will "initiate the prosecution of offenders in cases of serious evasion or fraud".

It is inevitable that there will be links between business, politics and the media, especially since a considerable number of Members of the Oireachtas have a business background. It is inevitable that business people would want to contribute to political parties or to individual politicians, and there is nothing wrong in principle with that. The media will want to protect their advertising income from business. However, it is essential that any relationship between business and politics and the media be entirely above board and open to full public scrutiny.

In the political area, some progress has been made in recent years, largely as a result of public concerns generated by a sequence of controversial events during the lifetime of the last two Fianna Fáil-led Governments — the Greencore affair, the Ballsbridge site story, Carysfort, the Masri/passports for sale episode. Public concern resulted in the introduction of the Ethics in Public Office Act which now obliges ministerial officeholders, Members of the Dáil, senior civil servants, directors and senior executives of semi-State companies, as well as senior political appointees working to Government Ministers to make extensive disclosures in regard to any business or property interests they hold and any gifts, services or loans they receive. In addition, in the case of officeholders certain disclosures are required in regard to spouses and children.

The Ethics in Public Office Act is intended to be one part of a twin-track strategy to ensure greater openness and accountability about the financial interests of politicians and political parties. The second track was to be the 1994 electoral Bill which was to provide for payments from public funds to political parties, to require the disclosure of substantial donations received by political parties and Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas and impose limits on election expenditure by political parties and candidates during election campaigns.

When the Bill completed its Second Stage, problems arose regarding the formula set out for providing funds for political parties as a result of the McKenna judgment in the Supreme Court last November. The issues raised are difficult and complex and the Government has been working to overcome them. However, this second track needs to be quickly enacted as soon as possible. Exchequer funding for political parties would be acceptable to the public in return for disclosure of private donations to political parties and the sources of their funds. Most people would prefer that political parties receive open, accountable funding from the State than that they become subject to pressures by powerful boards or media interests contrary to the public interest.

The other important dimension to events leading to Deputy Michael Lowry's resignation is that of tax and compliance with all requirements of the tax regime. I note Deputy Lowry has said that the deal involving Dunnes Stores was legitimate in regard to tax, that this is the professional advice available to him, that he is confident that it will be upheld by the Revenue Commissioners and that he will co-operate in any investigation undertaken by the tax authorities. I hope Dunnes Stores will adopt a similar approach to co-operation with the Revenue Commissioners and that the matter will be clarified beyond doubt as soon as possible.

However, it does focus attention once again on the whole question of tax evasion and avoidance. Tax evasion is illegal, while tax avoidance is legal, but often ethically questionable, especially as the devices used to legally avoid tax are not normally available to the majority of taxpayers — the PAYE sector. In recent months much public and media attention has been focused on the question of abuse of the social welfare system, and especially social welfare fraud. As a result of improved control measures introduced by my Department, 20,000 people have signed off the live register and a further 11,000 have had their payments suspended pending further investigation. This has led to projected savings in 1996 and 1997 of £84 million to the taxpayer. A major advertising campaign is now under way using television, radio and press, stressing that social welfare fraud is an antisocial offence which will not be tolerated.

Now is an appropriate time for a similar offensive in regard to tax fraud. I fully acknowledge the trojan work done by the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners in recent years in tackling evasion, closing off loopholes and generally ensuring greater compliance. However, it often seems like a vicious circle. No sooner does the Government close one loophole than the professional wise boys find another. There is a need to tackle the social culture which results in some people in the business and professional sectors seeming to regard tax evasion as a sort of national sport. If it is conceded as illegal at all, it is often viewed with about the same seriousness as parking on double yellow lines.

If those who abuse the social welfare system are generally on lower income levels, the majority of those who abuse the tax system are wealthy businesses and individuals. One only needs to look at the most recent report of the Revenue Commissioners to read the list of the pillars of society who were forced to make settlements and pay financial penalties as a result of irregularities in their tax affairs. More than 500 individuals and companies made payments of more than £10 million. They include farmers, publicans, wholesalers, retailers, builders, company directors, engineers, property developers and many others.

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General comes out each year showing astronomical sums outstanding in uncollected taxes — almost £2,000 million at the end of May 1996, according to the most recent report. While it is accepted that much of this is a notional figure based on sums assessed which were never realistically expected to be paid, there are still huge sums that are genuinely owed and that can and must be collected — more than £552 million according to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

We must build on the work done by the Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, and a number of his predecessors, including Deputy Ahern, to totally end equivocation in regard to public attitudes to compliance with tax law, to close off remaining loopholes, to bring in all arrears and to ensure the highest possible level of compliance from now on.

Some commentators have questioned whether this issue will affect the cohesion of the Government. The answer is no. This Government will hold together because there is confidence in all three parties that when an issue arises, especially in relation to ethical questions, it will be dealt with promptly, efficiently and without equivocation.

The Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, has shown exceptional qualities of leadership, courage and judgment. He has overseen the successful resolution of various and inevitable political controversies that Governments face, as well as dealing with the ongoing Northern Ireland peace process and fulfilling his duties as President of the European Council. The EU Presidency has placed an enormous additional burden on him in terms of the time required and travel commitments involved. The leadership the Taoiseach has shown is widely acknowledged throughout Europe and will be reflected no doubt in a very successful summit in Dublin in ten days' time.

I wish Deputy Dukes well as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications and reassure the Opposition parties they will remain in opposition for at least another year and after the next general election for another four to five years.

The Government will cling to office.

I wish to share time with Deputy O'Dea.

Time sharing is provided for in this debate.

I congratulate Deputy Dukes and wish him well. Little did we think when we debated matters recently on a late night programme, when this matter was referred to, that in such a short space of time Deputy Dukes would return to Government. I wish him well and I concur with the many other Members who believe this is an appropriate appointment.

I am delighted to be given the opportunity.

The Taoiseach delivered a lacklustre and uncertain speech. Clearly he is deeply wounded and concerned for his Government and seems to be holding his breath in the hope there will not be further repercussions from Deputy Lowry's actions as Minister. The Taoiseach went out of his way to say the Revenue Commissioners needed no prompting from him to look into the matters surrounding this issue. He referred to the Revenue Commissioners no less than seven times. This says much for his concern about the issues surrounding Deputy Lowry. I smiled inwardly when he said:

In this country there is not now, and never will be, a system of conviction by denunciation. Independent authorities, not rivals, nor those with an axe to grind, make judgments as to culpability.

I looked at the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs when those words issued and they rang hollow in view of his record on a number of issues in recent years. It was interesting to contrast the Tanaiste's speech with that of the Taoiseach. The Tánaiste clearly defined the rainbow Government as the halo that surrounds his own head. The Taoiseach and the other Members seem to have little to do with the actions of this Government. Everything that has happened here for the past ten years seems to come down to the ingenuity and ability of the Tánaiste. He balked only at delivering the now familiar poisonous words of his guru, Mr. Finlay, when he could not get the words out of his mouth to refer to my colleagues and my party as chancers. I reject what the Tánaiste said. If any Member has been responsible in recent years for denigrating politicians and creating the now familiar odour that surrounds all of us, the Tánaiste can take a bow and move centre stage. Many of the allegations he has made failed to stand up when scrutinised.

I take issue with the Taoiseach when he referred to Deputy Lowry's stewardship in the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications. I disagree with his assertion that Deputy Lowry achieved much. In almost ten years in the Oireachtas I have never come across a Minister who has been so personal and even evangelical in his attacks on individuals in semi-State companies. He demeaned the opportunities that occurred within his office to lead the State sector in a new direction by his vilification of individuals and the grounds on which he laid his attacks have become his own circumstances. I take no pleasure in saying such things and I wish him and his family no ill but I reject the Taoiseach's notion of that Minister's stewardship. He was wrong and ill judged on the way he led the Department. In that context the appointment of Deputy Dukes is a bonus, albeit in sad circumstances for Deputy Lowry, and it will give a new breath of life to the semi-State sector. I hope it will lift morale which had been low during Deputy Lowry's stewardship. His vision and style will restore much needed confidence in those companies.

Within the State sector he referred to the cosy cartels which failed to be proved. How hollow those words were. As vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies I have been in argument, debate and discussion with Deputy Lowry on many occasions during his tenure of office over the past two years. If he had concentrated on a future vision for the semi-State sector and had led by example, rather than by vilification of individuals, the semi-State sector would be in a stronger and more robust position. He liked to use the correct buzz words such as "liberalisation", "break down of markets", "end to monopolies" and so on, but there was little evidence in his stewardship that they were at the core of the new philosophy he wanted to bring to bear. With his colleagues he was a master of leaks and innuendo to bolster his cases. He used the media in a way that no other Minister had done in recent years. All of those matters have coloured his tenure in office and his stay as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. I welcome the appointment of Deputy Dukes and I hope it will bring a new vision to the leadership that is so badly required within the State sector.

In his contribution the Taoiseach referred to the position of the Attorney General and this raises some questions. That the Taoiseach has put it on the record indicates he has some concerns about the position of the Attorney General with regard to a conflict of interest in this matter. Will the Taoiseach outline what arrangements he has made in the event of the matter becoming so serious as to give rise to a conflict of interest for the Attorney General? Steps should be taken in the short term to ensure there is a smooth transition to whatever individual may have to deal with the matters on behalf of the Government. It is not enough for the Taoiseach to refer to the matter and to assure the House there is no difficulty "to date". The Government should be ready and the Taoiseach should outline the alternative arrangements.

The issues that have caused serious consternation to the Government in recent weeks, months and indeed in the past year show the Taoiseach's failure to deal with Ministers who clearly are not capable of dealing with some of the portfolios assigned to them. I am disappointed he has not availed of the opportunity, with the appointment of Deputy Dukes, to have a wide ranging reshuffle of Members within the Cabinet. He would have done more justice to the present position and to the recent controversies had he the courage to move the Minister for Justice and to deal with the other matters that have arisen during the past six or seven months.

I reject and resent very much the tone of the Tánaiste's contribution. It was typical of him and his now infamous script writer, Mr. Finlay, that he would try to malign the Fianna Fáil Party in defence of his position. If anybody came close to giving an impression as to how long the Government might last it was the Tánaiste in setting out what can only be described as the closest thing to an election platform when he ignored the issues surrounding Deputy Lowry's resignation and the appointment of Deputy Dukes in his place.

Despite his appalling record as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, I sympathise on a personal level with Deputy Lowry. He represents a neighbouring consitituency to my own and I am aware of the trauma he and his family must be going through. However, this country will not be the poorer for his leaving office. I congratulate Deputy Dukes on his appointment. Why he chose to join this ramshackle collection of blunderers I will never know but such are the mysteries of politics. He has apparently accepted the poisoned chalice and I wish him well. He can only improve the Government in view of the performance of some of the personnel who have remained in office.

I deplore the shabby and self-serving manner in which the Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, has dealt with this matter. His first reaction when he appeared on television last Friday night was to say he had only cursorily glanced at the story and therefore was not in a position to say much about it. The lie was given to that by the Taoiseach himself when he said today: "For my own part, I knew nothing about the matters alleged in theIrish Independent story of 29 November until a few hours before its publication”. The Taoiseach, who did not wish to voice a detailed reaction on Friday afternoon because he had only cursorily glanced at the Irish Independent, has admitted that he knew the facts of the case hours before that newspaper hit the streets.

That is not what he said.

That is exactly what he said in his speech.

He knew of the event, not of the text.

I also resent the attempt by the Taoiseach last Friday to imply that the consequences of this unusual deal, to put it at its mildest, would be different if these events had occurred after Deputy Lowry became a Minister. In other words, the Taoiseach expects us to accept the following principle: if somebody, whether he be a private citizen or backbencher, does something today that would make it untenable for him to occupy office as a Minister, and if he gets away with it, and if he is appointed a Minister in six months' time and the matter is discovered, it is all right because he did not do it while he was a Minister.

That is not the point.

That is the principle the Taoiseach expects us to accept. He implied, whether Deputy Durkan likes it or not, that a mitigatory distinction applied because the affair occurred before Deputy Lowry became a Minister.

I will explain it.

That leads me to the conclusion that the Taoiseach's initial reaction was to brazen this matter out but he was forced by his colleagues to request Deputy Lowry's resignation when the Deputy could not come up with a rational explanation.

Absolutely not.

The silver platter came out.

That is not true and the Deputy knows it.

He was very convincing last night, in fairness.

I heard him and he was his usual convincing self.

In a democracy ministerial resignations are usually accompanied by a personal statement by the Minister explaining why he resigned. The Tánaiste told the House today that the Government cannot force Deputy Lowry to lay out his personal affairs for the delectation of Members of the Opposition. I do not have the slightest interest in Deputy Lowry's personal affairs but rarely has a ministerial resignation in the history of the State taken place in more serious circumstances. In order to restore the integrity of the political process it is important that Deputy Lowry makes as full a statement as possible at the earliest opportunity.

Deputy Lowry said the deal in question was "an entirely legitimate and normal commercial agreement that would satisfy any accountant". If that is the position, Deputy Lowry has the unique distinction of being the first Minister in the history of the State to resign for no reason. If the transaction was legitimate, why resign? He said he did not want to embroil Dunnes Stores in a political issue. How does explaining a legitimate arrangement between supplier and customer and the handling of its tax implications embroil Dunnes Stores in a political issue? The Minister also wishes to protect the employees of Streamline Enterprises Limited. I accept that. However, surely by resigning Deputy Lowry is giving the impression of guilt. At a minimum, he is saying he cannot give a reasonable explanation within a reasonable time. How does that help the employees of his company? Would it not be better for the employees if he gave an answer now and showed there was nothing to hide?

I wish to discuss this legitimate deal that would "satisfy any accountant". We have heard various versions of what was involved in the deal. Last Friday, Deputy Lowry's spin doctors told us it was a contra deal. On Saturday we were told it was not a contra deal in the normal sense of the word but a particular type of contra deal. It was a contra deal in which goods and services were supplied by Streamline Enterprises to Dunnes Stores as a result of which the latter owed the former money and the transaction in question was a loan which would be repaid when the money was ultimately paid out. This gave rise to an obvious question. If Dunnes Stores owed money to Streamline Enterprises Limited, how did the loan that was given against the debt find its way into Deputy Lowry's pocket?

When that question was asked a new twist was given to the story yesterday by "sources close to" Deputy Lowry. We were told it would be argued that the money was a loan against money owed directly to Deputy Lowry, not his company, for his services as a consultant. The story changes with each day to accommodate the latest questions about it. That is why Deputy Lowry should, at the earliest opportunity, lay out the facts before the House.

Deputy Lowry could answer a number of obvious questions which do not require six months in conclave with his accountants. In addition to the questions Deputy Harney asked with regard to income tax and corporation tax, I wish to ask Deputy Lowry a number of questions. First, if this was a loan against moneys owed to Streamline Enterprises Limited, why did it go directly to Deputy Lowry or for his benefit? Second, how is the loan treated in the accounts of Streamline Enterprises Limited? Third, if the money was paid initially to Streamline Enterprises Limited and then lent to Deputy Lowry, was section 31 of the Companies (Amendment) Act, 1990 complied with? If this money was lent to Deputy Lowry by his company, was section 98 of the Corporation Tax Act, 1976 complied with and advance corporation tax paid? Streamline Enterprises Limited is a close company under the relevant definition in the Corporation Tax Act.

If the money was earned by Streamline Enterprises Limited, would it not beultra vires and contrary to company law to allow Deputy Lowry to get the benefit of that money for himself? With regard to the latest explanation offered, and the one most likely to be used if and when Deputy Lowry brings the matter into the public domain, if the money which was lent to personally for services provided by him as a consultant, did he declare it as a benefit in kind? An interest free loan is taxable as a benefit in kind. If this happened, by what process of logic can Deputy Lowry claim that this was a loan rather than part payment? After all, the work had been done, the service or goods had been supplied several years ago and this was a payment to Deputy Lowry.

The Revenue Commissioners would not accept that this money would constitute a loan. If they did there would be the unusual situation where anybody supplying goods or services to a firm in respect of which they got paid could adopt a transparent and simple tax avoidance mechanism. They could simply leave a nominal amount of what they are owed, let us say £1 out of £1 million, and say the £999,999 is a loan and the matter can be cleared up and tax paid when the last £1 is paid back. That would be a transparent tax avoidance mechanism. As somebody who has advised people on tax matters from time to time, I doubt that it would be acceptable to the Revenue Commissioners.

Did Deputy Lowry draw this to the attention of the Revenue Commissioners and did he get written clearance for it? Did he declare the interest free loan as a benefit in kind? If it was in respect of work done by him personally, did he pay tax on that benefit in kind and has he a receipt for it? The work in respect of which the money was paid was carried out many years ago. Why has it taken so long to bring matters to finality and settle a final payment? I do not have the time or opportunity to go into the VAT implications in respect of which Deputy Lowry has many questions to answer.

In relation to planning, will Deputy Lowry state — which does not require a great deal of research or consultation with his financial advisers — whether his architect consulted the planning section of North Tipperary County Council to ascertain whether his interpretation of the Planning Acts, which I view as rather peculiar, is correct and that, therefore, he did not need planning permission? According to reports from North Tipperary County Council, it heard nothing about it. Therefore, the answer to that question obviously is "no". Deputy Lowry's total reliance on his architect in relation to the building of this Taj Mahal extension is inexplicable.

While I sympathise with Deputy Lowry on a personal level I do not regret his departure from Government. In so far as anything favourable can be said about it, the Government will be the better for his departure and the inclusion of Deputy Dukes.

The average life of a Dáil is approximately three years. This Government does not have a mandate from the people. It came to power in unusual circumstances and has continued in power, without a mandate from the people, over two years. When contributing to the motion of confidence in the Government the Taoiseach said that the Government had the confidence of the people. Since he will be afforded no better opportunity, I invite him to put that to the test now.

I would love to have more time to answer the various queries raised by Deputy O'Dea.

I would love to hear them.

I am quite sure I could entertain him, as no doubt he could entertain me, for many long hours going through the various permutations and possibilities he listed.

Entertain is the word.

If Deputy Lowry cannot answer them I cannot see how the Minister of State can.

On the one hand this is a happy occasion and, on the other, a sad one. First I congratulate my former constituency colleague, Deputy Dukes, on his elevation to ministerial office. We have served in the same constituency for 15 years during which we have had many very interesting Derbys in all of which, with the exception of one, we were both successful. I was unsuccessful on one occasion but recovered reasonably well to participate thereafter. It was always a pleasure to work with him in the Kildare constituency. Deputy Dukes always showed a willingness to co-operate, to listen, to put up a good performance in the face of any, and there were many, very imposing oppositions. Alas, on the occasion of the next General Election we shall be seeking seats in different constituencies. I wish him well on that occasion.

I assure the House that my elation at his elevation does not arise entirely from the fact that we shall be contesting different constituencies because one always should congratulate and wish colleagues well on improving their position. I wish him every success and know he will be a very successful Minister. I am quite certain that his contribution to Government will be strong, reliable and worthwhile. I am sure that members of the Government and of the Opposition alike readily recognise and accept his contribution and value in the past which no doubt will continue in the future.

It is always a sad occasion when one speaks following the resignation of a Government Minister and a colleague in Fine Gael. We can all understand the personal trauma and hurt suffered by anybody in that position. Indeed, with the exception of the individual concerned, it is impossible for anybody to appreciate the full extent of the hurt felt following on such circumstances.

Having said that, I emphasise, as the Taoiseach and other speakers on this side of the House did, that whenever something untoward occurs, in circumstances as set out — and I emphasise "as set out"— without speculating, it must always be followed by a procedure whereby everybody is reassured that all the regulations laid down by law are followed and adhered to. Deputy Lowry has already indicated quite clearly and unequivocally that it is his intention to ensure that all matters surrounding these circumstances and the issues relating to them are fully clarified and a clear explanation given, which is in Deputy Lowry's interests and those of the House. He has also rightly indicated that he requires time to prepare to answer the questions raised.

It is not helpful that anybody should automatically condemn another before an accused person is clearly shown to be in the wrong, a sentiment already expressed by Members on both sides of the House, although they have tended to adopt a peculiar attitude in the manner in which they deal with such events or circumstances. Whenever somebody is accused of wrongdoing by the media or other commentator until such time as an explanation is furnished or proof obtained, surely that person should be deemed to be innocent or at least entitled to furnish an explanation.

Some of the comments I heard and read recently appear to be based on less than a full and fair hearing. While calls for changes in our libel laws are fine — and the present position readily accommodates some comments I have heard — I should hate to anticipate what will happen if and when those laws are changed to provide such accommodation. That is not to suggest that any excuse should be advanced for a Member of the House or of Government in the event of an impropriety of any kind but particularly in relation to the administration of his or her office, whether as a Deputy or Minister. At the same time we should recognise that, in the heat of the moment, in the nature of debate in this arena, Members may tend to use language not resorted to on another occasion. Within my period of membership of this House, inside and outside it, I have always endeavoured not to imply something that is not true. Such imputations seriously damage the credibility of Members, regardless of their party allegiance.

I have been appalled at the extent to which public speculation can undermine credibility in the entire body politic or democratic system, very often in a manner that irreparably damages or tarnishes the reputation of its target and the organs through which such allegations are channelled.

Over the period I have worked with the former Minister for Energy, Transport and Communications, Deputy Lowry, I always found him to be direct, hard-hitting, totally honest andau fait with his portfolio. Therefore, I shall be very surprised if what he has already indicated to us is not accurate. Why then should there be so much speculation, such an extended painting of a picture much worse than should be the case until the contrary is proven?

In our own interests Members must look to the future and ask to what extent we should allow ourselves be governed by the opportunity of making a quick kill. I also emphasise — already mentioned by a Member of the Opposition — that whenever allegations of a wrongdoing are levelled at any Minister, regardless of whether they are right or wrong or accompanied by proof, any such Minister has no option but to resign. That is the most serious repercussion I perceive of the events of the past few days.

People have suggested that nobody from the Opposition benches resigned when in Government. That may or may not be something about which to boast, dependent on one view but, unless instant answers can be furnished in the event of the kind of allegations levelled over the past few days — not possible on every occasion — it is impossible for any Minister implicated to remain in office. Deputy Lowry took this courageous decision even though it would have been easier to batten down the hatches and brazen it out. This House is like a goldfish bowl and I hope that those in the vast public arena outside who look at us critically, as they have a right to do, will recognise the sacrifices he has made.

Deputy O'Dea referred to the Taoiseach's statement about the different obligations on Ministers and Deputies. As the Deputies opposite know, a Member of Cabinet cannot be directly involved in a company while in office. This point has been debated in the House on numerous occasions in recent years — I am sure the Deputies opposite remember one particular occasion with clarity. The Taoiseach correctly pointed out that it would be a much more serious matter if a Minister was directly involved in a company. The rules governing this area were introduced long before the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995. It was necessary for the Taoiseach to clarify the position. A Member of the House is subject to the law and it is disingenuous of the Opposition to suggest that the Taoiseach was inferring anything else. They know the regulations by which we must all abide.

I often wonder if debates in the House are driven by speculation outside rather than by the collective wisdom of Members on all sides. With the notable exception of the Ceann Comhairle and some other Deputies, I have been a Member of the House longer than most Deputies. In recent years I have noticed a change in debates in the House. It is now common to use the privilege of the House to make allegations which can be used in the courts. Many court cases take place at the same time as debates in the House, and I am not sure this is a good development. We are blessed with having Deputies who are also eminent members of the legal profession. I am not a member of this profession and I often wonder to what extent they believe they are doing a service to themselves and their profession by bringing the business of the courts into the House. The courts and this House are different arenas and should not be intermingled. Deputies should not use this House as a platform for enhancing their private professions.

If an issue is of public importance then the details should be published. I have no difficulty with the publication of accurate details but I am concerned about the tendency to publish details regardless of whether they are correct or whether someone will be hurt by them. I do not say this in an acrimonious way but I am concerned about some developments in recent years. It is very easy in the heat of the moment to make comments about Deputies on the other side of the House which we might regret later. However, I find it difficult to understand how any of us could write comments which could damage a person's integrity or character.

Some of the printed comments I have seen recently give rise to concern about the direction in which we are going. If we go down this road people inside and outside the House will find it difficult to go about their daily business. It is all very well to have a situation where everything goes — this will ensure the jollification of the multitudes — but I am not sure what contribution it will make to society in the long-term. I sincerely hope that during my time as a public representative I have not maligned anybody's character by remarks made inside or outside the House. It is with revulsion that I note some of the comments made recently, many of which were made on the airwaves.

We must look at this issue seriously. If we decide to go down this road with no holds barred and say what we like, then we should all be involved. In this way we will all know where we stand. I am not making allegations about any group or person but this point needs to be made in case we lose the run of ourselves in the mad rush to obtain supposed facts which with the benefit of hindsight may merely turn out to be expedients. This is something we should avoid.

It has been stated that a number of Ministers in this Administration had to resign. They did not have to resign but they did so because issues needed to be dealt with and they had to pay the price. It is readily agreed and recognised that these issues were minor ones and it is not fair for Members of the Opposition to suggest that these Ministers had to resign. One could equally suggest that members of other Administrations should also have resigned. It is to their credit that those Ministers resigned and we should not minimise their sacrifice because that might suggest their character is less than it should be. It was because of their integrity and character that they took those decisions and they will reap the rewards in the future. I have no hesitation in saying Deputy Lowry will give a full explanation in time. He could not do that as Minister of a Department and I am sure Members opposite, who have experience of Government office, accept that.

I congratulate my colleague from south Kildare, Deputy Dukes, on his appointment. I look forward to following his progress in Government and reaping the rewards of his ability and thinking. I also express regret at the loss of another colleague, Deputy Lowry, but I have no doubt he will be back in the not too distant future.

I wish to share time with Deputy Martin.

That is permissible.

As the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on transport matters, I wish the new Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications well, but if I have anything to do with it he will not have too much success. I subscribe to the view that he is a man of great competence and I will put that to the test in the weeks and months ahead.

The former Minister, Deputy Lowry, must explain the payment issue. On the "Farrell" programme on Sunday night I pointed out that if there is proven impropriety, the matter must be dealt with firmly and that applies to all parties in the House.

I join my party leader and others in calling for the publication in full of the report by Dunnes Stores. There is no other way to deal with this matter. If it is not published now, various stories will be told about the matter for many years to come and the amount of money involved will increase exponentially.

I have been a Member of the House for 15 years and have always taken the view that every Member is entitled to be regarded as honest and honourable until proven otherwise. There is no other way to proceed. As many people outside the House regard us with suspicion, it is incumbent on us, when such an opportunity arises, to remind ourselves of the basic rule that there is a presumption of honesty across the board. However, when a problem arises, it must be dealt with by the House and the Government, if necessary. Such matters should not be swept under the carpet.

For the past two years I have had the opportunity to be Deputy Lowry's opposite number and I criticised him trenchantly on policy matters. Now that he has resigned I do not propose to change my policy in those areas. I remind the Government of which he was a member of the betrayal of the taxpayer on the Telecom Éireann issue and the scandalous sell off for £183 million of 20 per cent of that company. Despite a recent article inThe Sunday Times which took me to task, I reiterate that that 20 per cent is worth at least £400 million and when I have more time I will explain that.

The Swedes and the Dutch will make a windfall profit. They will make millions when they sell the 20 per cent this Government gave them. Deputy Lowry and the Government allowed this to happen even though the taxpayer put approximately £2 billion into that company, which includes Eirecell and Cablelink, over a long period. The original ten bidders were whittled down to one and the 20 per cent was sold on the cheap and in a panic. I invite the new Minister, Deputy Dukes, to cancel the deal. While I accept an initial contract has been signed, the sale is not closed. If he does not examine this deal critically and cancel it, he will rue the day. An objective assessment would show that it is nothing other than a rotten deal for the Irish taxpayer and Telecom Éireann. I invite the new Minister to take that step. A total of £5 million was spent on consultancy fees to select a winner in a one horse race. We are told there will be technological benefits from the two regional players. I do not know how they could benefit Telecom Éireann from a technology point of view.

The deal was negotiated in secret and not discussed in the House. I call again for the contract document selling 20 per cent of Telecom Éireann to be made available to the House. The House was not given details of the vetoes held by the people coming into the arrangement. As my time is short I will not dwell on the matter, but I ask the incoming Minister to examine the deal critically. As it is one of the most scandalous political and financial decisions ever taken, the new Minister would be well advised to cancel it forthwith.

It is interesting to note the soundings in the past 24 hours from Deputy Dukes that he might consider the underground option in the light rail system. The Minister opposite, Deputy Howlin, stated earlier that he would await proposals from the Minister and the Cabinet would then make a decision. I thought the Cabinet had decided to build the city centre part of the light rail system over ground.

I had been advising the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, for a long time to carry out an independent assessment, not a CIE handout, of what it would cost to build the light rail system under ground in the city centre. I am please to note the stirrings of a U-turn from the Government in that regard. Given the current traffic problems, it would be lunacy to consider giving up half of Stephen's Green and most of Dawson Street and Nassau Street to the light rail system. The Minister stated earlier that present traffic levels are at the rate projected for five years' time. The former Minister, Deputy Lowry, told me month after month that he would not consider carrying out an independent study of what it would cost to put the city centre part of the system under ground.

The former Minister showed a reprehensible attitude to semi-State companies. I advise the new Minister to take a different tack when dealing with such companies.

The former Minister, Deputy Lowry, talked about a does of salts, cosy cartels, sweetheart deals and told the companies to stick to their knitting. He regaled the Dáil with images of semi-State companies rife with corruption. He ordered consultants' reports. He upset and annoyed thousands of semi-State workers and their families. What did those consultants' reports turn up? Nothing, except a suggestion about the Horgan's Quay site in Cork. Due to the former Minister's intervention, the only people who have lost as a result of that deal are the people of Cork. That site is now idle, but it might not have been. He drew attention to that one example where he thought there was corruption because he thought tenders should have been issued for the sale of that site. It is interesting that tenders were not issued for the sale of 20 per cent of Telecom Éireann, which occurred through a process of negotiation. Tenders were not to be issued for the sale of 20 per cent of Telecom Éireann, but the former Minister held up the country because he wanted tenders issued for the sale of a site in Cork, which represented a fraction of the value of the sale of part of Telecom Éireann.

To date there has not been an apology, an expression of regret, a clearing of individuals' names or a withdrawal of the impression left by the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, as a result of that semi-State saga. He will be remembered most as a Minister who took on the semi-State bodies and accused them in different words of some type of misbehaviour. That did not wash and he will be remembered long and hard for that.

There are other issues I wanted to deal with, including Esat Digifone consultancy fees, the ESB, Bord na Móna, Moneypoint and other examples where the policy of the departing Minister was wrong. The new Minister should read those files and change the policies in those areas. If he does that, he will do a good day's work for his Government and country.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. I wish Deputy Dukes every success in his new portfolio. He is a decent and honourable man who has a distinguished record of public service as a former Minister and as a regular contributor to Dáil debates.

His appointment has been brought about by the resignation of the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, which is a personal tragedy and trauma for him. The manner in which the Government handled the issue has been unsatisfactory. There has been a lack of accountability to the House and to our people. There has been a lack of desire on the part of the Government to put the public interest first. The Taoiseach's contribution today was somewhat disturbing from that point of view. He asked people to refrain from asking questions, from raising this issue and to give all concerned appropriate time to deal with it.

We must be extremely blunt about this matter. The perception of public life has been undermined by this issue, irrespective of what the explanations may be. Arising from it, there is an urgent need to improve the perception of public life. Regardless of where we meet people, we hear that this issue has undermined public confidence in the political system and in Dáil Éireann. That is the main reason this House and the public are entitled to a full and comprehensive explanation as to the nature of the transaction between the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, and Dunnes Stores, but that has not been forthcoming today. It is disturbing that the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Leader of Democratic Left are not too anxious that it should be forthcoming.

I found the performance of the Tánaiste, in terms of the content of his speech, breathtaking. We have witnessed an attempt by the Government side to politically whitewash this issue. There are political double standards at work here. The political culture of Irish society tends to apply double standards to Fianna Fáil when it is in office and other standards to other parties when they are in office. John Waters devoted considerable space in an article inThe Irish Times dated 19 November 1996 to articulating that issue, that clear different standards applied to Fianna Fáil as opposed to any other party in this State. He concluded by saying that, in short, there is no protecting Fianna Fáil from anything that the political culture throws at it and no indicting any other party for actions or inactions whose consequences fall short of rocking the State to its foundations.

I have been a Member of this House for only six years and have spent most of that time as a Government backbencher. I have witnessed all the traumas of Fianna Fáil Ministers resigning from Deputy McDaid to the late Deputy Brian Lenihan to Deputy Reynolds. I can recall the language used by Members of the Opposition, in editorials and by media personalities. If that language is compared to that used in regard to this issue, the Judge Dominic Lynch débâcle or the other debacles that have befallen the Government since it came to office, there is a difference in terms of the extreme language used. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that different standards apply to the Fianna Fáil Party as opposed to any other party. We have witnessed an example of that today.

I noted the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, in his contribution debated the issue of political funding and the source of funding of political parties. If we want to inquire into the source of party political funding, such a study should be all embracing and comprehensive. Articles have been written by reputable journalists in the past ten years concerning dubious methods of fund-raising by people connected to the then Workers' Party. We have heard of the infamous counterfeit operation of a massive forgery of £5 notes. There is a Garda file on that operation which took place close to the rear of the headquarters of the then Workers' Party. I am disturbed there was never any attempt by the State or by the political system to investigate that issue because very serious allegations were made at the time by reputable journalists who are still around. No effort was ever made to pursue that issue in great depth.

Allegations were made by that party and personnel in it about the infiltration of the trade union movement with a view to achieving political aims. Allegations were also made by that party about the infiltration of the State's broadcasting agency with a defined political objective to serve its political interests above those of other political parties in this House and to undermine proactively some political parties. Those allegations were made in public by reputable journalists and the political system did not bother responding or attempt to investigate those issues of fundamental concern to a democracy. If those allegations were borne out, they would rock the State to its foundations and have major repercussions. It is disturbing that little attempt was made by those in the various agencies of power or authority in the State, be it the media, the political system or the Judiciary to investigate those issues which should be investigated further.

I disagree fundamentally with the assertion made by the Minister of State, Deputy Durkan, that once allegations are made someone should resign. People should not resign on the basis of allegations made against them. One should only resign if allegations are proven, if one has done something wrong or if one has been negligent in one's duty as Minister. The former Minister, Deputy Lowry, did not give the type of comprehensive or adequate explanation for resigning that he should have given. The public interest is the number one interest that should have informed his decision. It should not have been a matter of convenience for a private firm or of political convenience for the Government.

The Labour Party leader asked us not to judge without evidence. With respect, the Labour Party leader has judged very quickly — without evidence — in his contributions in Opposition and in Government. We witnessed considerable hypocrisy today. What is disturbing about the last five major débâcles in this Government is the refusal to be accountable to Dáil Éireann. Is it not extraordinary that the Taoiseach has not answered one question on the Judge Dominic Lynch issue in the House? That issue is four weeks old and he has not answered a single question on it. He promised reform of Question Time yet Ministers, including the Minister for Education, refuse to answer questions, offering to do so on a confidential basis about certain issues. The Tánaiste then says we need a Freedom of Information Bill. It is a joke. Language from the Labour Party has become very cheap. One sensed in contributions today a smugness, complacency and cynicism that has become the hallmark of that party in recent times. They have lost touch with reality and the people as evidenced by the contributions of all Government parties. They should take the time to walk the streets of our cities and go into the countryside to listen to people. Then the degree of public cynicism in regard to the public system and particularly the Government parties may be understood.

I wish to share my time with the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Taylor.

That is in order and provided for in this debate.

Deputy Martin accused my party of smugness. There was never an utterance more smug in this House than that he is somehow exclusively in touch with the views of the people. Every member of my party in the House and in Government is well attuned to the wishes, moods and aspirations of the people. That aspiration has been served very well for the four years Labour Ministers have been in office.

I listened to a radio report on the beginning of this debate. The reporter characterised the debate as sombre and that all sides of the House reflected on the seriousness of the issue being debated. Part of the seriousness is the regret I and many Members have about the circumstances necessitating this debate: the resignation of Deputy Lowry from his position as Minister in the Government.

Deputy Lowry was elected to the Dáil the same day as I was. I did not know him very well for the seven years he was here up to the negotiations on the formation of the current Government, when he and I were in the negotiating teams. Over a short and intense period I learned to know him. I learned quickly about his qualities of incisiveness and comprehension of difficult and complex policies. He brought these qualities to bear later in a Department with huge responsibilities when appointed Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. That Department was and is pivotal to the changing nature of the semi-State companies. As Minister, Deputy Lowry managed change in a way that is acknowledged across the social partnership because the challenges that faced the semi-State sector could be addressed in two ways. One is the slash and sell approach and the other is the manage and develop approach. We all know the party or parties in the House who would adopt the slash and sell approach, those who have no understanding of the contribution of the semi-States to the development of the nation. The Progressive Democrats would happily sell them off, sacrificing the workers involved. Regrettably, Fianna Fáil in recent policy statements seem very ready to sell off the semi-States in their courtship of the Progressive Democrats, regardless of the effect it would have on the thousands of people who work in vital sections of our economy. Deputy Lowry did a difficult job in a good and fair way. He managed change and enhanced the semi-States in a radical and dramatic time. I pay tribute to him on my behalf and on behalf of my party.

The issues raised in a newspaper last Friday were reflected upon by Deputy Lowry and after he consulted the Taoiseach, he did the honourable and good thing. Rather than get into a protracted explanation of very detailed issues which he knew would put great pressure on the Government at an important time, with the EU Presidency and the approaching summit, crucial ongoing peace talks, finalising budget details and other current matters, he chose to stand aside from Government to give himself time to prepare answers to the legitimate queries posed. I respect him for that decision.

The motion before the House asks Members to endorse the nomination of Deputy Alan Dukes to be a member of the Government. Virtually every Member who has spoken on both sides of the House paid tribute to the character and ability of Deputy Dukes. He is one of the most able and experienced Members of Dáil Éireann, he will bring a new incisiveness and talent to the difficult task he now faces in the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications and bring wise counsel to the Cabinet.

Several issues have occupied time in the House in recent weeks, each responding to the right of the Opposition and the Oireachtas to have full accountability from those who hold office here. This process is healthy and positive and vital to our democracy. It ensures the Executive is always subject to the scrutiny of the Dáil, as it should be. Every person who runs for public office opens his or her every action and utterance to public audit. In recent times, the yardstick of probity has been finely measured and precisely applied. Each action and utterance is measured and judged. The consequence of that measuring can be swift and cruel, as we see in the case before us. We have ourselves enacted standards and put the Ethics in Public Office Act into law. We negotiated this with Fianna Fáil and our current partnership. It is vital those standards are set in law and complied with by all. While this process was ongoing here, other things were happening and being managed by this Government. In nominating a member of the Government, it is important that the total work of Government be mentioned. The healthy state of the economy is acknowledged at home and abroad. As a Government we have achieved historic milestones. More people now come home to Ireland than emigrate from it. Is that not a tremendous achievement after the anguish of decades of emigration? There is a buoyant, vibrant and confident cultural community and identity for all the people and unprecedented levels of real employment. These issues are fundamental to people's lives and well-being. It is important they are mentioned in this debate.

In my own area of responsibility, I am proud of the Government's record on housing. Ten thousand families will be housed under the social housing programme this year. This is in contrast to the position in the early part of the decade when virtually nobody was being housed.

The rate of road development is unprecedented. I will have the privilege on Friday of this week of opening the northern cross route. The unprecedented level of investment in the non-national road system has been recognised and applauded by rural communities in particular. By understanding their dilemma and providing a system which will allow them to flourish and thrive, they have been given a new sense of identity and purpose.

I do not have the time to mention all of the environmental initiatives which have been taken. They include the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, the introduction of the Waste Management Bill, measures to control litter, the promotion of recycling and many others. There will be other opportunities to deal with them.

The Government of which I am a member has been and remains a good one. As the Tánaiste said, the vote that will take place at 9.30 p.m. will give it a new impetus and bond it closer together. It will give it an opportunity to reflect on its most important job, securing a better future for all the people who send us here.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of the motion for the appointment of Deputy Alan Dukes as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. His appointment will contribute significantly to the continued effectiveness of the coalition Government and his contribution to the running of Government during the next 12 months will be widely welcomed. There can be no Deputy on any side of the House who has doubts about his ability, capacity for hard work or the range and breadth of his experience. There are few more formidable and talented Members of the House.

The contribution of the outgoing Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry, to the work of the Government has been significant. Irrespective of the merits or otherwise of the issues surrounding his resignation, nothing can detract from the importance of his contribution to the work of the Government and the ministerial office he held.

The Government has given good, effective and coherent government for the past two years. The economy has never been so strong. There has never been such well-balanced growth which is being reflected in higher employment. We have never had a situation where inflation has remained as moderate over such a long period of time and we have not in recent years maintained the budgetary discipline which has been maintained under this Government.

All of these facts are due, to a great extent, to the unity and cohesiveness of the coalition Government. We have achieved a great deal in the past two years but there is still much to be done. There is undoubtedly plenty of life left in the Government.

During the past ten years the rate of growth in the economy has been twice as fast as the EU average. In recent years employment growth has also been faster than the EU average. The national accounts data confirm that Ireland continues to have one of the best economic performances in the industrialised world. It shows that we continue to combine strong output and employment growth, low inflation, moderate Government borrowing and a satisfactory balance of payments position. Was this country ever in better economic shape? I doubt it and I doubt if the Opposition parties can genuinely find fault with Government policies on the economic front.

The most important element of the strong Government performance in the past two years has been its success in creating new jobs. Manufacturing employment grew by 6.1 per cent on average last year while the corresponding increase in the building and construction sector was 4.5 per cent. These figures clearly show that strong output growth is being translated into impressive rates of employment growth. This strong economic performance continues to be maintained. The volume of retail sales in the first quarter of this year was up by 6.75 per cent compared with the first quarter of 1995.

Our remarkable economic performance in recent years did not occur by accident. Our success is largely attributable to the constant adherence by the Government to consistent budgetary, monetary and other policies aimed at improving our competitiveness, providing stable exchange rates and low inflation. Confidence in the economy is running at an all time high. Our international credibility has been given an enormous boost by the achievements of recent years and this is reflected in the willingness of investors to put their funds into Irish pounds.

In relation to my own Department's responsibilities, we have made and are continuing to make considerable progress. Recently President Robinson signed into law the Family Law (Divorce) Bill. This was an historic occasion for Ireland and the Irish people. We have now provided a civil right which is taken for granted in every modern democracy.

The Government, through my Department, continues to take measures to protect and support the family and the institution of marriage. Among the measures we have taken so far are the following: the Maintenance Act, which came into effect in November last year, enabled Ireland to ratify the United Nations convention on the recovery abroad of maintenance payments. The convention provides for a central authority system under which the person seeking maintenance in another country can be helped in taking an action in that country.

The Family Law Act, 1995, which came into operation on 1 August last, strengthens the law in relation to orders of the court in financial support of spouses and children following breakdown of a marriage. It allows for financial protection following foreign divorce or separation. It improves the law on applying for declarations as to marital status and gives the Circuit Court jurisdiction in nullity cases.

The Domestic Violence Act came into force in March this year. This legislation strengthens the power of the courts to make orders for the protection of people in the home whose safety or welfare requires it. It strengthens the powers of arrest of the Garda to intervene in domestic violence cases and significantly improves the protections for victims of domestic violence.

The Civil Legal Aid Act provides a statutory framework for the system of civil legal aid and advice. I recently signed regulations giving effect to that Act.

My Department continues continues to support organisations which assist families in difficulty. We have been successful in maintaining unprecedented levels of grants-in-aid to marriage counselling services, the Legal Aid Board and the Family Mediation Service. The allocation to marriage counselling services this year is an unprecedented £900,000. This money is used to assist marriage counselling organisations in their work and to encourage them to develop and expand their services. It also provides assistance to organisations providing counselling services to children whose parents have separated. My Department provided £6.5 million this year to the Legal Aid Board, an increase of 5 per cent over the allocation of the previous year. The Family Mediation Service was provided with £300,000 this year, more than double the amount allocated to the service three years ago.

The House is considering the Employment Equality Bill which prohibits discrimination in employment on a wide range of grounds. This Bill passed Committee Stage in the House last week. Work is proceeding on the preparation of the Equal Status Bill which deals with discrimination in the provision of goods and services. This is complex and wide-ranging legislation and extensive consultations have been taking place with interested parties in preparation for it.

The net result of all this legislative activity is that many people who heretofore did not have protection under the law which they need and which is their right will now have such protection. The legislative work of the Department of Equality and Law Reform will have a profound and beneficial effect on society for many years to come.

What has been achieved by the Government in the past two years on the economic and social fronts has been remarkable. It could not have been accomplished without the commitment and dedication of each member of the Government and of the Deputies and Senators of the three parties comprising the coalition.

The Opposition parties have been desperately and fruitlessly seeking in recent months a chink in the armour of the Government. They are, as most Opposition parties are, hungry for an election. They are anxious for any sign of divisions or dissension. I am sorry to have to disappoint them but this Government is more united than many a previous Government. I have no doubt that we will carry on to complete the considerable amount of work we still have to do in 1997.

Deputy Dukes, who has been nominated by the Taoiseach as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, will be a welcome member of the Government team. He has had a distinguished career as a Minister, as a Deputy and as an economist before his election to the House. His ability is beyond question. All of us know the constructive contribution he can and will make to this Government. I warmly welcome his nomination as Minister.

I would like to share my time with Deputy Tom Kitt and Deputy Molloy.

That is in order.

I, too congratulate Deputy Dukes on his nomination as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Howlin said Deputy Lowry did the honourable thing, that he needed time to explain, so he resigned. It seems he needed Thursday, Friday and Saturday to explain matters at which point the Government decided he had had as much time as it would allow. Let us be honest and not say he did the honourable thing and that he needed time to explain. It is hard to explain how this transaction took place. Deputy Lowry, a colleague of the Minister for Equality and Law Reform and other Ministers who have spoken, chose to resign and to explain later. Apparently it was not possible to explain in the time available which would have been preferable from the viewpoint of Members of this House.

The Taoiseach immediately said there were two standards — one for Ministers and one for backbenchers. We all know that is not right. The Taoiseach has been trying to row back from this statement since he made it. It calls into question his judgement in this affair. There can only be one standard for all Members of the House in a matter of this magnitude and one way to proceed. As the Minister for Equality and Law Reform said, it is all about cohesiveness and that as long as the Government sticks together it is all right. The Government has been badly shaken and was in danger of collapse having faced weekly crises. However, it is afraid to face the electorate. It is not all right to stick together and it cannot cover over the cracks by saying it will be cohesive.

I refer to a meeting that took place last Saturday which was reported in the newspapers. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste's representative, Mr. Greg Sparks, who is his programme manager, the Attorney General, Mr. Sean Donlon, an adviser to the Taoiseach and his programme manager, and Mr. Shane Kenny, the Government Press Secretary, met before Deputy Lowry arrived. I believe they decided the Minister had to resign. I suspect they also decided on a damage limitation exercise to divert attention from the Deputy and his resignation. Hence names on a list of which they were aware were spread about to create as much confusion as possible.

The Attorney General was at that meeting. We now know, from what the Taoiseach said today, that he had a client relationship with Mr. Ben Dunne. We also know he only declared an interest on 30 November. The question is, did he have the list? Was he aware of the information pertaining to Members or former Members of the House or members of the public service? The Taoiseach should answer those questions. Did the Attorney General tell the Taoiseach who was on the list or did he choose not to do so? The Taoiseach said he was not aware of this matter before 29 November.

On his appointment as Minister, Deputy Lowry had an obligation to tell the Taoiseach about any previous happening which would affect his position. That is an issue which Deputy Harney raised today and of which any former Minister will be fully aware. At that first meeting with the Taoiseach, each Minister is asked to declare anything which might have implications for him and to ensure the Taoiseach is made aware of it. Deputy Lowry either told the Taoiseach at that time or he did not. If we are to believe the Taoiseach, he did not tell him but should have done so.

Did the Attorney General warn the Taoiseach that a time bomb of which he must have been aware was ticking in the Cabinet? Did he believe he had a client relationship which he could not disclose and, therefore, had to stay quiet? If that was the case, why did he attend the meeting last Saturday? Why did he not stand aside while the Taoiseach made this important decision? The Taoiseach must clear up this issue and let us know if the Attorney General knew about the list in the Price Waterhouse report, if he informed him after 29 November or if he left this time bomb ticking in the Cabinet.

The allegations and innuendoes surrounding this affair should be cleared up by the publication of relevant facts available in the Price Waterhouse report. Not only does every political party in Dáil Éireann have an interest in clearing up this matter, but every citizen has a right to know their affairs and those of the country are being managed in a way which is untouched by a whiff of corruption and which is not under the shadow of special interest. Nobody must be allowed to buy with millions of pounds any special privileges with members of any Government. Members of this House or Government must not allow themselves to be beholden to wealthy special interests or to any improper special interest regardless of which party they belong. No citizen should have grounds to believe those who are wealthier than they are can buy special privilege or preferred position with public men or women of whatever party. It is crucial that this affair is publicly examined. It requires the fullest and most detailed investigation possible and those involved must be treated with the same presumption of innocence to which even the meanest criminal is entitled.

I thank Deputy Woods for giving me the opportunity to speak. I congratulate Deputy Dukes and express my commiserations to the former Minister, Deputy Lowry. I did not intend to speak on this matter but decided to do so when I listened to the contribution of the Tánaiste, which I found sickening. Overall this has been an honourable debate, but a colleague of mine, Deputy Power, who sat beside me during the Tánaiste's speech, tore up the prepared script and walked out, and I do not blame him. The Tánaiste's parliamentary performance today was a disgrace. I am sick and tired of the holier than thou approach of that politician. He had some difficulty in describing our party as chancers — the script did not quite fit. Is the Tánaiste somehow different from and better than the rest of us in claiming this special high moral ground position for himself and his party? He talks a lot about his integrity, and that is fine, but he should lay off our party, a party of hard working, decent people. The old style of name-calling is something on which he is an expert, but he is impressing nobody, least of all the public.

There is an innate decency in the people and they can see through this tactic. The Tánaiste's speech today was empty and hollow, a shell. We would like to hear what he really believes in. Will he make a credible statement or will he continue to throw dirt at Fianna Fáil? He tried that in Opposition and presented himself as a knight in shining armour, but it is a tired tale. It will be a long day before he can stand up here and take credit for the achievements we brought about such as bringing peace to Northern Ireland, initiating and building social partnership, creating jobs, bringing investment to the country and providing education, housing and social welfare for our people, achievements made under Fianna Fáil from de Valera's time up to the present. The only principle under which the Tánaiste works is one of survival. Northern Ireland and the economy take second place to self-preservation. The Tánaiste has some neck to come into the House today, a day when he should keep his head down, and repeat his well tried trick of throwing shovels of muck in this direction. He will fool nobody with that tactic because it does not work. It proves that the man behind the pen has not learned a lot.

I thank Deputies for giving me time to make that point in an important debate on integrity, about which we are all concerned.

Neither the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste nor the Leader of Democratic Left distinguished themselves in this debate. The three wise men of the rainbow coalition had little or nothing to say about the substance of the allegations made in the press concerning their former ministerial colleague, Deputy Lowry. The Taoiseach failed completely to address the issues involved. Instead he confined himself to platitudes, hiding behind generalities and legal jargon. His was one of the poorest and least convincing performances of any Taoiseach in a major set piece debate in this House for a very long time.

The Tánaiste, on the other hand, sought to trivialise the issue. He criticised the Opposition as mé féiners and chancers, even though his nerve deserted him when it came to uttering that term of abuse. The Democratic Left leader used his contribution to go off on a tangent about employment practices in Dunnes Stores, all very interesting but hardly of immediate interest in the current debate. He talked of the need for a major crackdown on tax evasion without accepting that Deputy Lowry's transactions amounted to that. The three senior members of the Government made no effort to answer the important questions arising from the Lowry affair. The two most basic of these questions are very simple: did Dunnes Stores pay for the renovation of Deputy Lowry's house and were the full details of this transaction reported to the Revenue Commissioners?

The Taoiseach said that Deputy Lowry must be given time and space to answer these simple questions, but how much does he need? It is five days since the first reports of this affair appeared in the press. If ordinary PAYE taxpayers were asked how they paid for their house, they would not need five days or even five minutes to reply. They would be able to say straight away from where they got the money. Why is Deputy Lowry unable to provide a simple, straightforward answer to such a simple, straightforward question? Are we expected to wait indefinitely for him to come forward with an explanation for this whole affair on his own terms in his own time? That is not good enough. There must be a full and proper investigation of these matters.

There is a major crisis of public confidence in politicians and politics. We urgently need to restore public confidence in our democratic institutions, otherwise the reputation of all upright, honourable Members of this House will be tarnished by innuendo, rumour and bar stool gossip. The Taoiseach must realise that a full investigation of all these matters is required, not only in regard to payments to Deputy Lowry but those reportedly made to an unnamed Fianna Fáil politician and to any other politician named in the Price Waterhouse report. The Taoiseach has made no commitment that any such investigation will be undertaken. He is leaving it up to the Revenue Commissioners who conduct their business in private. There is no obligation on the Revenue Commissioners to make public any of their findings. A line inIris Oifigiúil in three years time may be all the public will ever hear about the results of a Revenue investigation, but that will not be sufficient to restore public confidence in the political system.

The basic question here is a straightforward one, does the public have a right to see the Price Waterhouse report and the evidence it contains of unorthodox payments by Dunnes Stores to politicians? The answer is a resounding yes. It only remains for the Government to find a suitable mechanism to bring that report into the public arena as speedily as possible.

In the debate earlier today my party leader, Deputy Harney, outlined one course of action which is open to the Government if it really wants to get to the bottom of this affair. She called for the appointment of inspectors under the Companies Act, 1990, to investigate fully the affairs of Dunnes Stores and Streamline Enterprises. It will be necessary to appoint independent inspectors with full power to summon witnesses and subpoena documents to discover the full facts and put them before the public. I have yet to hear a formal response from the Government to Deputy Harney's proposal. The three men who lead the Government were great disciples of openness, accountability and transparency when they were on this side of the House at various times in recent years. They were never slow to call for investigations for disclosure of facts for full and fair accounting, and they were right, but they abandoned their previous principles simply because they are in Government. I call on the Taoiseach to make a formal response tonight to Deputy Harney's request. Is he willing to appoint inspectors to investigate this matter fully and, if not, why not? Surely the public has a right to know.

I congratulate Deputy Dukes on his elevation to the Cabinet and look forward with interest to the attitude he adopts to the future of the semi-State companies. In the past four years the Labour Party ensured that the subject of privatisation was taken off the political agenda. Fine Gael supporters of privatisation in Opposition have meekly gone along with the Labour view in Government. Will the new Minister, Deputy Dukes, go along with this policy of appeasement? One of his first duties in office should be to bring forward a comprehensive policy statement on the Government's attitude to the semi-State sector. He would also do us a service by publishing the contract document for the sale of a 20 per cent stake in Telecom Éireann. Telecom Éireann is the most valuable of all the State's commercial assets and it is unthinkable that the Government should dispose of a 20 per cent stake in it by way of a secret deal.

I wish to raise the issue of the second mobile phone licence awarded to Esat Digifone earlier this year. Even though the official response from the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications states that 20 per cent of the winning consortium was owned by Investment International Underwriting Nominees Limited, a company which it states is wholly and exclusively owned by Dermot Desmond, the investors in that company have not been disclosed.

That there were other investors in Dermot Desmond's company was referred to in a departmental press conference on 20 April reported in theIrish Independent as follows:

Asked about the 20 pc stake Esat Digifone had reserved for institutional investors (which is underwritten by Dermot Desmond's International Investors Underwriters), Mr. Loughrey said the Department was given a list with the identity of potential investors.

The shareholders in the remaining 20 pc stake would be drawn from this list, he said, adding that the quality of the "shopping list was perfectly acceptable".

It is incumbent on the incoming Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications to state clearly for the public record the names of the beneficial owners of all the shares in Esat Digifone, particularly the investors in Investments International Underwriting Nominees Limited. I hope the new Minister will see fit to disclose this information which was withheld by his predecessor. These are extraordinary events but more surprising and extraordinary is the fact that even though they have resulted in Minister Lowry resigning from his Ministry, we have had no explanation from him of the reason for the house payments or the manner in which the payments were made. We have had no explanation from the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste in their contributions about what these dealings represented. They were both reticent in these matters and are displaying a dangerous tolerance of low standards in high places. No censure was issued. Instead, these extraordinary events are allowed to hang as a dark cloud of suspicion over all politicians in this House giving the impression that these matters do not warrant immediate, vigorous investigation at the highest level.

If no wrongdoing was involved, Deputy Lowry is entitled to have his name cleared at the earliest opportunity. Every other Member of this House is no less entitled to have any shadow of suspicion removed from him at the earliest opportunity.

I have no doubt that if an Opposition Deputy had been at the centre of this affair, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste would immediately set up a judicial review to inquire into all matters relating to these events. Because it is a member of the rainbow Coalition, however, different standards are being applied. No investigating committee is to be established, a judicial review will not be set up and there will not be an inspector appointed under the Companies Act. What happens if the Revenue Commissioners decide not to investigate? We already know that North Tipperary County Council decided not to bother investigating the illegal extension to Deputy Lowry's house.

The Government's tactics seem to be to let time pass. It hopes that public interest will wane and that the matter will be forgotten. In time people will not even remember what the Lowry-Dunne affair was all about. In the meantime, politics and politicians will remain under a cloud of suspicion. That is not good enough.

With the agreement of the House I wish to share my time with Deputies McGinley and McGahon.

That is quite satisfactory.

I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Dukes, on his promotion to Cabinet and on accepting the important responsibilities' that have been given to him. A primary criterion for appointment to Government should be the competence and ability of those appointed to carry on the business of Government. Deputy Dukes has in the past ably demonstrated that he has both that competence and ability, and his becoming part of the Government will strengthen it. I have no doubt he will have important contributions to make both within his Ministry and within the collegiate group of the Cabinet.

None of us in this House get any delight out of the events that have resulted in tonight's debate. They are events we would all wish had not happened. Revelations have now come into the public domain. If there was wrongdoing it is right that these revelations be in the public domain. It is unfortunate, however, that, in the context of these events, we are only getting bits of the story. I agree with other Members of the House who said that the Price Waterhouse report or document should be made public. It is unfortunate that, in the context of the Fianna Fáil Party, there is an allegation that someone has been in receipt of moneys in circumstances that give rise to suspicion without the detail of that being known and without the person to whom the rumours relate stating his or her position or being in a position to explain the background to the matter.

I am pleased the debate has been a little different from the debate I anticipated when I first came into the House this afternoon. I feared we would have some of the usual party political slapstick that on occasions masquerades as serious debate in this House. Apart from a couple of contributions we have managed not to engage in that type of debate.

Serious issues have been discussed and questions legitimately raised on different sides of the House. It is important to emphasise a particular sentence in the Taoiseach's contribution where he states: "It is very important to stress that the full facts about these disclosures have not yet been established or placed on public record". Just as I believe the Price Waterhouse report or document should now be put into the public domain to end rumours and speculation, my colleague, Deputy Lowry, has a public duty also to state clearly the background to this matter.

All of us as public representatives, be it members of Cabinet or backbenchers, are in a privileged position. It is a privilege to be a Member of this House. As Members we have a public duty to be open in our dealings and to deal in matters relating to our business affairs in a way that is above suspicion. Very frequently in this House, and on occasions rightly so, Members draw attention to wrongdoing or misbehaviour by others outside this House, and if we are to do that from a position of credibility, if we are to pass legislation to ensure the people who are alleged to be engaged in wrongdoing are dealt with properly according to our laws, we must do so from a position of strength.

It is not appropriate that this particular matter is left without an explanation being put on the record of this House by the Minister who has had to resign. That is unfortunate. All of us have a duty to ensure that if an issue arises in which it is alleged there could be a conflict of interest as between our private lives and our public duty, we have a duty to those who elect us to set out the position clearly. I hope that will happen in the coming days. It is of some importance that it does.

The sadness of this debate and the events surrounding it is that it may help to fuel public cynicism about politicians generally, their commitments and motives. The events of recent days are good in so far as they will explain something if it needs to be explained but they are bad in so far as they are further undermining our parliamentary democracy; they are adding to people's cynicism.

There is a view outside this House with which Deputies on both sides are familiar, that we are all the same and there is no difference between us. If there is a suspicion that someone on any side of this House has done something wrong, the man having his pint of beer in the public house on the corner of the street in various constituencies throughout the country will say that we are all alike. There is a need for the record to be put right and for the full story to be known. There is a need also to ensure that the probity of Members of this House is above suspicion.

It is fair to say that there have been many good achievements on the part of this Government in a variety of areas, be it in its general dealings or in the enactment of a wide variety of legislation across a broad spectrum of issues which have been gathering dust on ministerial shelves for many years. There is a danger that the achievements of this Government will be overshadowed by difficulties caused by or to individual Ministers, on occasion through no fault of their own, and that is sad. If this Government is going through an accident-prone phase, it is in the interests of the country and of the parties in Government that phase passes. That will not happen, however, unless the full background to the resignation of the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, is put on the public record. That should be done. I agree with Members that he is entitled to time to explain the events which have occurred. Outside that, the public is entitled to know the detail of these events and to be given explanations. I hope that will happen so that this issue will be resolved and we can move on to further business.

I propose to share my time with Deputy McGinley. As one who voted for Deputy Dukes in 1987 and who would have voted for him had the occasion arisen subsequently, I wish to express my pleasure and appreciation that he is back in the Cabinet. Everyone in this House accepts the undoubted ability of Deputy Dukes. His absence from the Cabinet was a loss to the Irish people. Most people in the House appreciate his ability and welcome and endorse my words.

On what is a sad day for the Irish body politic, I have no pleasure in saying that Deputy Lowry had no option but to resign. I say that, not out of any sympathy for him, but in the belief that he could not have had a fair trial. He certainly could not get one in these days of media trial and hype. In recent years, we witnessed this during the beef controversy and the passports for sale scandal.

No Deputy gets any pleasure out of the suggestion that an unnamed former Minister has been the beneficiary of in excess of £1 million because it reflects on us and adds, as Deputy Shatter, to the perception that politicians are all receiving similar payments. I have never even got a discount for buying a shirt in Dunnes Stores. I wonder where the potential lies for this?

I always found Deputy Lowry a straightforward young man. He was a successful businessman before he came into Dáil Éireann and had established definite links with Dunnes Stores. I do not accept his position was compromised. Given the nature of Dunnes Stores' methods of doing business which is fairly well-known — on occasions, it has forced small companies over the brink by keeping them waiting for payments for a long time and were the cause of the operations of small suppliers being no longer viable — it is possible that Deputy Lowry's company could be owed money by Dunnes Stores and he has already hinted at that.

He had no option but to resign in the precipitate manner he did because he was not in a position to come in here today and give an explanation. That is a reasonable assumption. He owes it, not only to the Irish people but to his colleagues in this House, to give a rational explanation in the future. The Fianna Fáil contributions today were fairly measured and did not fulfil the expectations of the newspapers of a terrible battle ensuing. It is reasonable to wait until the resumption of the Dáil in the new year for an explanation by Deputy Lowry of his business dealings, possibly accompanied by some comment from the Revenue Commissioners. Deputy Lowry has said he has no problem with them. That has yet to be clarified. The Revenue Commissioners should, as Deputy Shatter said, make public the payments relating to all of the 100 or more people named in the Price Waterhouse report. They should be named. The internal business of the Dunne family need not necessarily be made public but the beneficiaries should be named in the interests of the future of politics in Ireland.

If some type of media trial is enacted it will prevent any businessperson seeking entry to Dáil Éireann. We would be left with a proliferation of farmers, lawyers and teachers. That would be regrettable because business people are needed in this House. A witchunt against the business community would not be appreciated.

I agree with Deputy McGahon that we have had a reasonable and responsible debate this evening and not the battle and bloodshed the media expected. We are all concerned about what has been reported in these last few days. We want the truth to come out so that no one is under undue suspicion because we are all, as politicians, in it together.

Like Deputy McGahon, I have known Deputy Lowry since he was elected in 1987 and especially during his time as a Minister. I always found him a good and co-operative colleague and a responsive and sympathetic Minister since he took over the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications. I remember leading a deputation of turf producers from west Donegal to Dublin last year. The local turf burning power station was being closed down and these people did not know what the future held for them. They were small families from a poor rural part of Ireland whose livelihoods were on the line. We arranged a meeting with the Minister who received them sympathetically. As a result, they were looked after very generously when the station closed down. They did not belong to a union and no body or organisation represented them but the Minister looked after them well nonetheless.

Deputy Lowry's statement last Saturday was courageous and magnanimous. Allegations were made and he decided he would answer them outside of Government. That was the right decision for him to take. Deputy Lowry has been vilified and accused before. I remember allegations being made on television such that one would have sworn that the Government was about to fall, but the Minister was vindicated because there was a question of forgery — I do not wish to dwell on that.

The Minister's resignation has brought greater cohesiveness to the Government. It is great to see the trust between the three party leaders, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Social Welfare. Deputy Lowry's resignation shows that there are standards in Government. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s there were controversies, allegations etc., but no Minister resigned. During the past two years three Ministers have resigned. The fact that Ministers can go but the Government keeps on governing is an indication that we have standards. The resignation of Ministers is something we associate with the British. Many years ago when Harry West, a Minister in Northern Ireland resigned because of a controversy over a land deal, it was said that was something that would never happen here. I do not know whether anything was ever proven but Mr. West acted according to a code of honour which is beginning to operate here.

I am delighted that we have a replacement in Deputy Alan Dukes, a man who will bring wide and deep experience to the Ministry in question having acted as Minister for Finance, Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Justice. During the past two years he has been a very effective chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and is held in high esteem not alone nationally but internationally. If I am not mistaken, he is the chairman of all the committees of foreign affairs throughout the European Union. He will bring much experience to Government for the remainder of its term.

The Government is doing very well. The only criticism commentators can make about the Government is that it is dull and unexciting. They have not much to criticise because all the economic indicators are positive. There is high growth rate and low inflation and next year, for the first time ever, theper capita income of the people here will surpass that of our great and strong neighbour, the United Kingdom. That will be an historic economic landmark in the history of the country. We have a good Government and it is a sign of its health that Ministers can be replaced and the Government can continue to pursue the progressive and excellent economic policies it has pursued for the past number of years.

I wish to share time with my colleague, Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. Let me begin by referring to the motion before us tonight, the appointment of Deputy Dukes as a Minister of the Government. I congratulate Deputy Dukes on his appointment, belated as it is. He is a man who will enhance this Administration and be a good Minister on behalf of the people. I have worked with Deputy Dukes for the past two years as his vice-chairman on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I found him to be competent and fair. He does not suffer fools gladly. He has a good grasp of his brief and worked hard as chairman of the committee. He will be a loss to that committee. On a personal basis I wish him well.

His appointment has come about as a result of the resignation or firing of Deputy Lowry from his position as Minister for Transport and Communications. I do not intend to go into the details surrounding his resignation except to say that I was taken with the last three speakers from Fine Gael who all called for a full explanation from the Deputy of the reasons for his resignation.

I should like to refer also to the comments of Deputy McGahon who complimented this side of the House on the constructive and serious manner in which it has handled the debate. Deputy McGahon is a long-time Member of this House, as I am — I have been here almost 24 years. This is a serious matter not just for one side of the House or the other but for the House as a whole. It is only right and proper that it be dealt with in an appropriate manner. That is why I find it difficult not to respond to the comments of the Tánaiste who, in his usual role as arbiter of the morals of this country, referred to colleagues on this side and to the million people that support and work for us, as Fianna Fáil chancers. I reject that description. It does little to enhance the reputation of the Tánaiste that he should reduce this debate to the level of personal abuse.

We have heard much in the past few days about the reason for Deputy Lowry's resignation. We have heard much in the media about the fact that other people will be in some way be "outed" by the Price Waterhouse report. I call here and now for the full publication of that report. It is a fiction to suggest that this is a private report for a private company. Dunnes is a massive organisation doing business in every county and in most of the major cities and county towns. It is a fiction to suggest that it is such a private organisation that a report which is being leaked in the manner in which it is, to do the maximum amount of damage to the body politic, should be held back from the public arena. I call for the publication of that report, not just as it relates to elected political figures but as it relates to whoever is named in it. Let the cards fall where they may; the institutions of this State deserve and require nothing less.

I want to refer also to the myth that this is a good Government. I am glad Deputy Rabbitte is here. I watched his performance on television last night with growing amazement. Even the audience responded with a certain——

Admiration is the word the Deputy is searching for.

It is not the word that immediately comes to mind. We are told the Government is cohesive and therefore it is good. It reminds me of the good old days of Ceaucescu. I am even reminded of the people now parading in Belgrade because the election result was one the Government did not like. It says it is a strong Government, it is in control of the country, it is cohesive. It has the cohesiveness of Evostik. It is bound together in an embrace of death because it is afraid to face the public. That is what we should be discussing this evening rather than the promotion of Deputy Dukes, deserved as it is. It is appalling that he was treated in such a manner for so long and kept out of Government for petty reasons.

It happened to the Deputy.

What have we had from this Government? We had the incident concerning the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Yates, with the long gun from Enniscorthy to the VIP lounge in my constituency, the disgraceful comments in this House by the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, about the lady who died of HIV, the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, who cannot figure out how the postal service works, the Attorney General who is so lax in the performance of his duties as adviser to the Government and elsewhere that he does not even advise the Minister about the Special Criminal Court, and the resignations as Ministers of Deputies Phil Hogan and Hugh Coveney. At the same time we hear of cohesiveness. Let us test the cohesiveness outside and give the public the opportunity to make a judgment as to its effectiveness. The Government sticks together in this dance of death but it is afraid to face the public.

If Deputy Lowry did not have to resign for personal reasons he should have resigned over the sale of Telecom and the fact that it was being privatised in Holland while the citizens of this country were debarred from an opportunity, under their pension funds, to have a share of Telecom. The workers of this country, through their pension funds, could invest in the Stock Exchange in The Hague but they could not do it at home. This was fiction from the Government. On that issue alone Deputy Lowry should have resigned.

It is essential for the body politic that the Price Waterhouse report is published in full at the earliest possible date. As mature politicians from all sides, let us handle the outcome and the fall out from that report. It is wrong and damaging that it is being leaked, talked about behind hands and that names are being tossed about. That is unfair to all concerned. Let us have it in the public arena.

Ar dtús is é an rún atá os comhair an Tí ná go nglacaimid leis an moladh Alan Dukes a ainmniú mar Aire sa Rialtas seo. Ba mhaith liom mo chomhgháirdeachas a dhéanamh leis an Teachta Dukes. Credim go dtuigeann an pobal agus go dtuigeann muintir an Tí seo gur fear cumasach é, go bhfuil sé fíorchliste agus go bhfuil taithí thar cuimse aige ins na hAireachtaí ar fad ina raibh sé.

Ar ndóigh, aireoidh mise uaim é go speisialta mar is é mo chomhleachaí chraoltóireachta é le mí nó dhó anois. Ba mhaith liom chuile adh a ghuí air i Roinn Stáit in a bhfuil go leor faoin a chúram agus go leor le déanamh. Tá mé cinnte go ndéanfaidh sé é sin mar a rinne sé a chuid ghnó roimhe seo.

I welcome the appointment of Deputy Alan Dukes, a long awaited appointment. Many of us felt he should have been in the original Cabinet nominated by the Taoiseach. He is an intelligent man of tremendous experience in many Departments. He was vilified for putting the country before his party in the Tallaght strategy. Even though I am losing a broadcasting partner, the Cabinet is gaining a person of immense stature. I wish him well in his position.

One of the things we all have is our integrity. Deputy McGahon, Deputy Burke and all who contributed spoke of it. While the Price Waterhouse report is being speculated about in the media, in every public house and in every kitchen, there will be a cloud of suspicion over every Member, male or female. We have come in here with our integrity and as upright citizens and are proud of that. One of my colleagues said today that most politicians leave this House much poorer than when they entered it. It is interesting to note the comments of Deputy De Rossa on 15 November 1994 when he stated:

Democratic Left want a Government in which the public can have confidence. We want a clean Government from which sleaze will be eliminated, which will not stumble from scandal to scandal or crisis to crisis.

It is interesting to look back on what has happened during the past two years or so. We had the Lowry crisis; the cosy cartel allegations; the allegations of Fianna Fáil surveillance, all of the unproven allegations made at that time and this from a Minister who came in riding on a white charger to clean out semi-State companies which he alleged were polluted in some way; we had the hepatitis C scandal and the fact that the Government and the Minister for Health refused to treat all those victims, men, women and children, with any sense of dignity. We then had a Minister who did not know whether Enniscorthy was based at Dublin Airport or whether he was sitting in Kavanagh's pub in Enniscorthy or at the Dublin Airport signing a document with the Russians. There was the scandal in that Department where a very important document relating to antibiotic residues in pigmeat was suppressed in the Department by that same Minister. This was followed by the greatest crisis of all time relating to the delisting of Judge Lynch.

The Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Rabbitte, is present. Unfortunately I was not here when he made various allegations about wheelbarrows on two previous occasions. It is interesting that in 1994 he had evidence as an Opposition Deputy to suggest there was a document in the Attorney General's Office which was going to shake the foundations of the State. I have not missed an opportunity since he became a Minister of State at the Cabinet table to ask him whether he has found this document which was going to shake the foundations of the State. Instead, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, has returned — it was proved last night beyond a shadow of a doubt — to his roots and he is now the best Fine Gael Minister in the Cabinet.

The resignation of a Minister is not a source of joy for any Member. In this case it has cast a cloud of suspicion over all Members. The lifting of this cloud is in the hands of the Government. As my colleague, Deputy Burke, said, no Price Waterhouse report into any company, public or private, can afford to be kept out of the public domain. It is important that that document be made public as soon as possible. The Government will agree it is important that if politicians, members of the media or public officials up and down the country are named in a document we owe it to all the upright Members, the media and public officialdom to publish that list. If Members of this or the other House have been compromised in any way, they owe it to their party leader to come forward and make it known. In Fianna Fáil they will be dealt with in an appropriate and fast manner.

I wish to discuss the ultimate insult to all Members which was offered by the holder of the second highest position in the Government and the keeper of the moral high ground in political life, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring. He spoke about the "chancers" in Fianna Fáil. I resent, on behalf of my party, that a Member of this House or anybody outside it feel they could refer to my party and its members as chancers. Not only did the Tánaiste insult my party, he also insulted the people who elect its members to this House. As a constitutional officer of the State the Tánaiste has demeaned the integrity of the membership of its democratically elected Parliament. The unbridled hypocrisy and double standards of this man know no bounds.

That is sour grapes.

Sir Patrick speaks.

The moral high ground has been occupied by the Tánaiste for a period of time. I told the House in December 1994, following the fall of the Government, that the moral high ground was the one place on this planet I had no wish to occupy. Space on that ground is rather limited and when one occupies it there is only one direction to go and that is down. The slippery slide in this context began in the last two years and I wonder where it will end.

They are suffering from altitude sickness.

The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, has had altitude sickness for a long time. The Tánaiste owes it to the House to apologise for the insulting remarks he made against my party. We will certainly raise it with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. On a previous occasion when a Member of the Fine Gael Party used a word which I, as a Minister in the Government at the time, considered offensive, the word was banned from the parliamentary lexicon of the House by the Ceann Comhairle. I hope he will ensure that the Tánaiste offers an apology to our party for his remark today.

What was the role of the Attorney General in this matter? Can the Taoiseach confirm that the Attorney General was contacted by Mr. Ben Dunne since this matter became public and what did the Attorney General say to Mr. Dunne? Did he inform the Taoiseach of this fact prior to the date on which the Taoiseach said he was informed by the Attorney General of his legal relationship with Mr. Dunne? Have the Revenue Commissioners sought the Price Waterhouse report and will the Taoiseach insist through the Minister for Finance that they do so? This is a very serious matter for the Government and questions must be answered. The Taoiseach owes it to the House to explain what was so serious in the Price Waterhouse report that a Minister has to resign or be fired. These questions must be answered and I am not sure that the Government is prepared to face up to that fact and to answer them.

While the report remains unpublished, all Members of the Oireachtas are under suspicion and the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, must agree.

Am I permitted to make an intervention?

I am not prepared to accept an intervention from the Minister of State.

The Minister of State did not concede when we asked to make an intervention.

The Deputy is in her last minute. Does she wish to accept an intervention?

Let not the imputation remain on the record that this Government tried to prevent the publication of that report.

The Opposition needs to worry about that.

Have it published.

It is interesting to see the moral indignation being expressed by the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte.

Appoint an inspector as soon as the Government has the report.

I wonder how he would feel if I referred to him as a chancer, which I would not.

I did not refer to the Deputy as a chancer.

I did not say the Minister of State did so. I said the Tánaiste referred to my party as chancers.

He did not use that word.

It was in his script.

He did not use that word.

It was circulated in his script.

He did not use it.

He did not have the guts to do it.

He intended to.

The Deputy is deliberately misleading the House. He did not use the word.

I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, to desist.

The Deputy is deliberately misleading the House.

The report must be published to clear the names of the Members of the House who have had no business or financial dealings with Mr. Ben Dunne. Until the report is published a cloud of suspicion will remain over every Member.

The Government side of the House is not offering so I call Deputy Michael McDowell.

I yield to Deputy O'Rourke.

The co-operation between the two parties in Opposition knows no bounds.

An investment in the future.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Joe Walsh.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

This debate is, on the face of it, a discussion on the nomination of Deputy Dukes as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. I welcome his appointment. I have known Deputy Dukes for a number of years. He is patriotic, sometimes patronising, able, efficient and political.

When I was Minister for Education he was the Leader of the Opposition and the Fine Gael Party. The stance he took then in the context of the Tallaght Strategy, as acknowledged by Deputy Bertie Ahern, was patriotic and led to his downfall as leader of Fine Gael. It is amazing how the scales have dropped from the eyes of its members and that they have welcomed him back to the fold. He will bring a sense of realism to the party. I wish him well in his position.

However, I wonder how the temperature around the Cabinet table will be maintained now that Deputy Dukes has been welcomed from the cold into the fold. I recall the descriptions of the hospital bed meeting when Deputy Dukes, as Minister for Finance, sought to impress his views on the spendthrift Labour Party.

On a personal level, I offer my regrets to Deputy Lowry, Mrs. Lowry and their family in this personal difficulty. That is separate from what is forcefully said in the Dáil. At the end of the day, all a politician has to buttress him or her against the ill winds and misfortunes of political life is the family. There is nobody on whom one can rely except one's partner and family, if one is lucky enough to have them, or a close relationship or home to which one can return and in which one can talk about one's difficulties. Politics is a rough business and politicians know that vicissitudes are daily occurrences. The extent to which they cope with and fight them is funded from the resources of their spirit. That can be difficult at times and all Members are aware of what they must do on such occasions.

The Taoiseach differentiated between the role of Deputy Lowry as Minister and his previous role in Opposition as a Front Bench spokesperson and a person of renown in local and national politics when the alleged incidents took place. Therefore, the dichotomy drawn by the Taoiseach does not withstand scrutiny. Admirable though it may sound, neither do I hold truck with Deputy Lowry's comment yesterday to Marian Finucane on "Liveline" that he must now devote his time and attention to his family and his family business and to securing their economic and financial future. Equally he must remember he is a public representative, that it is for him to decide whether he is prepared publicly to explain exactly what he did, how he did it and what happened in the case of the incident about which we have read so much in recent days. He cannot say he will tell only as much as he wants and when and how he wants. He must furnish a full, comprehensive public explanation.

I echo the comments of Deputies Shatter and McGahon. This debate is proving to be very interesting, with different wings of Fine Gael emerging. Those who supported Deputy Dukes in earlier days are very outspoken, none more so than Deputies Shatter and McGahon, both of whom called publicly for Deputy Lowry to state his case comprehensively in this House. I hope the Taoiseach will so ensure because it requires to be done.

There are two other matters to which I want to refer, the first being the more serious. It is the besmirching of all politicians resulting from what has occurred and the manner of its disclosure. Whenever a politician appears on a television programme in a publichouse the comments to be heard are riveting, but not to politicians' ears. The Ceann Comhairle, who seeks to maintain decorum and the good name of this House, knows only too well that the manner in which events of the past few days have been dealt with by the Government, along with a series of other incidents, has the electorate reeling in disbelief and shock and wanting to know precisely what happened.

I speak for all politicians in this House regardless of party allegiance because we have all been besmirched and sullied by what has occurred and the lack of adequate explanation. It is not sufficient for the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, who comes from a family with a renowned lineage in Irish politics, to toss across the floor of this Chamber the appellation he attributed to our party. The member of Government who used the word "chancer" in the course of his contribution is not fit to grace this House. How dare he contribute in that fashion? How dare he call anybody by that name? I feel very strongly about it since my late father and brother also served in this House, as did the Tánaiste's father, with great renown and to a very high standard. The comments of some elected representatives this afternoon represent a besmirching of us all.

When we approach the doors of our electorate, our badge of honour is our good name. When that is taken from those of us whose sole income is derived from participation in political life, we are left with no livelihood. Once one's good name is taken away, one is left with nothing with which to approach the electorate. This means one can no longer say one has done one's best and endeavoured to represent the interests of constituents to the best of one's ability in the political forum. That sole badge of honour has been sullied in the House this afternoon and all Members must deprecate it.

I want to echo the call by the Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Mary Harney, who repeated the earlier call by our party leader for the full publication of the Price Waterhouse report. Only then can its precise contents be revealed and examined. I refer to the full revelation of the names of politicians and of public administrators in local and national government. Members of this House should be afforded an opportunity to probe its contents because it becomes ever clearer they have much wider implications than those we debate now as we deal with the many rumours and innuendoes circulating. Sufficient information has emerged in the public domain to indicate that it contains many pertinent facts concerning life at local and national level which must be publicly explained. I echo Deputy Harney's comment when she called for the deployment of the mechanism used in the case of the Glacken report of 1990 and to have an inspector sent into Dunnes Stores to obtain the Price Waterhouse report and report publicly to the House thereon. Any conduit or channel to enable the contents of that report to be made public should be used. I cannot see any other way since clearly Price Waterhouse has a contractual arrangement with the person who commissioned the report and cannot publish it. Clearly, the Revenue Commissioners will not do so but perhaps there is some other mechanism of which I am unaware. Bearing in mind that we on this side of the House have called consistently for its publication, if the imposition of any inspector under the relevant legislation constitutes a mechanism by which that can be achieved it is the duty of Government to do so.

With the exception of that one shameful example, to which I have already referred, I am glad this very serious debate has not descended into a haranguing match or name calling. If all Members do not get our house in order, if we do not cease to treat as trivia the Special Criminal Court, agriculture, our largest industry, the health and lives of women and business dealings warranting explanation — they were described as trivia last evening — democracy is in very serious danger. What occurs in this House never should be regarded as trivia. Our Legislature deals with and passes legislation affecting all our citizens. Anything that impedes its progress, as has been the case in recent weeks with mishap after mishap, must be eliminated so that we assert the primacy of this House and the vulnerability of its Members unless there are very full explanations forthcoming of all that has happened.

Therefore, the publication of the report would appear to me to be the logical outcome of this debate.

First let me congratulate Deputy Dukes on his entirely deserving elevation to the Government. He has been quite outstanding as a Member of the House and in public life generally. During the period 1987-89 he helped in the restoration of order in the national finances and the economy. I wish him well in office.

The reason Deputy Dukes is being nominated as the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications is that Deputy Lowry was asked to resign. When the Government came to office it made a virtue of being open, transparent and accountable. However, it has so butchered these virtues that those words are in danger of losing all their meaning. The Government has elevated obfuscation to a prime level on the ladder.

On 15 November 1994 the Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, stated "... it is a denial of the prerogative not just of this House but of the public who are entitled to scrutinise the activities of any important officer of the State". The House is entitled to an explanation of the unorthodox events surrounding the payment of £208,000 to Deputy Lowry. We are entitled to know the tax implications of the payment and the reason the extension was built to the Deputy's house without planning permission. It is not good enough for the Deputy to say, "I will give the information when it suits me and I will give the amount of information I deem suitable, having regard to my biggest customer."

It is shocking.

It is not good enough to say there was an outbuilding attached to the House and the Deputy did not think there was a need to obtain planning permission. Anyone who has reached the use of reason knows very well that one needs planning permission for an extension over 23 square metres. The arrogance and disregard shown for the law by this member of a planning authority is mind-boggling. I use the term "mind-boggling" because the Deputy lectured us, and others who no longer hold the positions they once held about the high standards he demanded.

We all require people in public office to have the highest standards but there must be consistent standards across the board. I resent people in this House and elsewhere setting standards for other people which they are not prepared, or are too arrogant to follow themselves. I find it difficult to accept that kind of arrogance. Those who do not adhere to the highest standards or obey the law should be accountable to the House.

On 16 November 1994 the Taoiseach stated:

We need a new Government which will reform the institutions of the State to make every Member of the House who holds office truly accountable.

I support that statement. He went on to say:

We need reform to ensure that when the answers to questions asked in the House are not adequate the Ceann Comhairle can demand that a further answer be given.

We want answers to our reasonable questions and for people to be accountable. On 16 November 1994 the Tánaiste said:

This is the correct and appropriate place for those who hold public office and are responsible for decisions of public concern to account for their actions and omissions.

I also support that statement. It is amazing that the same Tánaiste lowered the tone of this debate and could do no better than throw insults across the floor of the House. There is some dispute about whether the insult was thrown across the floor of the House but there is no doubt that his special adviser wrote it into the script which was circulated. I resent this deeply. It is shocking that the Tánaiste would try to excuse something which is inexplicable. All we are demanding is an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the reason a Minister was asked to resign. The only explanation we have been given is that "there was not enough time". The Minister said he would not be bounced into making a decision. However, if we cannot get a reasonable explanation after a reasonable length of time then the Government has no option but to face the music.

The Deputy would be shocked.

It is not good enough for the three parties in Government to say they have breakfast together every morning and are very pleased with one another. That is not the point.

It still hurts.

The Deputy's party had its chance but it blew it.

The point is that time is running out and the Government will have to face the music. The electorate will decide whether the Government has been open, transparent and accountable.

(Interruptions.)

The Government will be lucky if the pane of glass is not broken by the time it is finished.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Crawford, Bradford and Creed.

That is provided for.

Instead of one person saying nothing, four people will say nothing.

I am happy to support the nomination of Deputy Alan Dukes as Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications. He has a distinguished record of service, having served at different times as Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Finance and Minister for Justice. He is also known throughout Europe for his ability to grasp complex European issues and to make them relevant to the public.

In January 1973 he was appointed head of the IFA Brussels office and remained there until 1977 when he joined the then Commissioner Dick Burke's Cabinet. His experience in Brussels gave him a unique insight into the workings of the Common Agricultural Policy on which he is a recognised expert. More recently, he has made a major contribution to the European ideal through his chairmanships of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and of the Irish Council of the European Movement. Only last weekend at a conference in Malahide he defended the principles of the European Union against the British Tory Euro sceptic, Bill Cash. Those present at the conference rated his performance as first class.

Few governments in Europe can call in a reserve of the calibre of Deputy Alan Dukes. The public can rest assured that under his stewardship the difficult and challenging tasks in the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications will be in safe hands. This Ministry involves detailed and complex interaction with a large number of semi-State bodies. Deputy Dukes will continue the work begun by Deputy Lowry. The House can be assured that when the 1997 general election takes place he will have made a significant contribution to his Ministry.

I very much regret the departure of Deputy Michael Lowry from Cabinet. I have known him for many years both as a member of Fine Gael and as a Government colleague and he is a man of the highest integrity and honour. As a Minister in a large Department for the first time, he displayed energy and commitment in dealing with the many complex issues in a broad range of semi-State bodies. From the first day of his appointment he pledged to reform State enterprise in a manner not seen heretofore and to make it keen and competitive. Under his stewardship, semi-State bodies like Telecom Éireann, the ESB and Aer Lingus were being harnessed and prepared for the challenges of the new Europe which will emerge when the Intergovernmental Conference concludes and we have a new treaty. When necessary he did not hesitate to challenge outmoded practices and systems of operation which were no longer suitable to the demands of a modern European State. His suggestions and ideas often hurt and he was regularly criticised by those, including members of the Opposition, who would maintain thestatus quo rather than risk innovation or modernisation.

The seeds sown by Deputy Lowry during his short time as Minister will bear fruit in the future, when his efforts will be widely appreciated. He was always open to new ideas. His experience as a successful businessman gave him a unique insight into tackling problems and to progressing what for many others seemed intractable problems and best left to one side for a future Minister to tackle.

While the weight of such a ministry would tax the energy of many people, Deputy Lowry was a diligent and hardworking Deputy for his North Tipperary constituency. His endless efforts for the people of Tipperary as a whole were the envy of many politicians. His clinics received national fame and members of the public from as far away as Cork and Kerry were frequent visitors to his home in Thurles——

That is why it had to be extended.

Deputy McDowell may laugh from his Dublin base, but he knows very little about rural Ireland. That is why he never shows his face down there and you, Sir, as an esteemed person from County Tipperary should not put up with such a sneering attitude from him.

He came to a coursing meeting once and kept his mouth shut since.

The people of Deputy Lowry's native county are shocked at his resignation and the genuine welcome afforded him in Thurles speaks of their relationship with them.

Throughout the difficult days last weekend, Deputy Lowry behaved with dignity even in the face of a hostile media. When difficult questions were put to him he demanded the right to have time to reply. We should give him that right. When he is ready he will give a complete explanation about the activities mentioned. He will answer all the questions when he has had proper time to reflect on them.

Today we had the farcical position of the Fianna Fáil leader asking members of his Front Bench — who are supposed to be the shadow Cabinet — if they had been naughty or carried out any misdeed. They replied in choral unity, "No, sir, I have been a very good boy, please can I retain my job?" I am sure the same will happen tomorrow when the intrepid political investigator will ask members of the parliamentary party to examine their hearts and souls and say whether they carried out misdeeds worthy of resignation and, again, there will be a choral unison of "nos".

We are all aware that the events of the past few days cast a shadow over the body politic and give rise to serious concern for members of the public and the House. However, they should not be allowed to divert attention from the excellent job the Government is doing. Our economy is the envy of Europe. While it is not the strongest economy in Europe, it is the fastest growing one. We are achieving yearly growth rates of 6 per cent and more while others struggle to achieve 2 per cent and 3 per cent rates. We are on target for entry to economic and monetary union, the single greatest change facing the country since we joined the EEC. We are coming towards the end of a successful Presidency of the European Union, with a draft treaty almost ready for agreement at the Dublin summit, when Ireland will again be the focus of European and world attention.

As Minister for Tourism and Trade, I am proud that the total value of our exports for the first half of this year was almost £15 billion, an increase of 13 per cent on 1995. Our trade surplus increased from £3.4 billion for the first half of 1995 to £3.9 billion this year, an increase of 14 per cent. As a result of Government initiatives, Ireland is well positioned to exploit the current global trade expansion and to capture an increased share of the growth in international demand for goods and services.

Tourism is also achieving record levels of growth, seven times the European average. In 1995, 4.25 million visitors came here, more than 15 per cent more than in 1994. Visitors from Great Britain were up by 13 per cent.

Is any of this relevant to the motion we are debating?

He is blabbering on about tourism. Surely this is not relevant.

The Minister should be allowed make his speech in his own fashion.

Surely there is an obligation on Members to make relevant contributions.

The debate has been rather wide-ranging.

Nobody has given tourism statistics.

I am referring to the motion on the appointment of Deputy Dukes as a member of the Government and this is work the Government is doing.

It was a very offensive interruption.

A total of 7 per cent of our GNP is derived from tourism, and I am not blabbering.

Recently I launched a new marketing strategy for Bord Fáilte which involves a radical new approach to marketing this island abroad. I am proud to serve in this Cabinet; it is a privilege, not a right. I welcome Deputy Dukes back to the Cabinet, to a position he will grace with dignity, integrity and honour.

I congratulate Deputy Dukes on his appointment to Government. This is a significant day in its life, which I expect will continue for another 12 months. The appointment of Deputy Dukes will bring great experience and knowledge to the Cabinet table. That the Taoiseach and his Ministers could agree and finalise the Estimates in the midst of today's difficulties is an indication of how the Government continues to do its work. We should recall the comments of Bill Clinton during his initial efforts to reach the White House. When asked what issues he though were important, he replied "it's the economy, stupid". Good Government means an effective economy. The opinion polls as late as last weekend show steady satisfaction with the Government and increased support for its main party. The parties in Government are getting on with the business of Government. Difficulties will continue to arise, but unlike the way they were swept under the carpet in the 1970s, 1980s and the early 1990s, they are now being dealt with openly and fairly. The consequences can sometimes be disappointing, as in the case of Deputy Lowry. The backbenchers of the three Government parties are proud of the way the Government is working and we look forward to continuing to support it in the next 12 months.

I commiserate with Deputy Lowry who brought a fresh approach to his ministry. From the first day he dealt head-on with the difficulties he faced. It is easy to forget that almost 12 months ago well known people in the media in an RTÉ studio spoke of the demise of the Minister, Deputy Lowry, and the then Government and made wild and weird allegations. Within hours those allegations were proven untrue, but those people did not apologise and say they were wrong. Everyone should examine his or her conscience when making allegations about others. When the facts of this case are made clear Deputy Lowry will again be vindicated and I look forward to him serving as a Minister under Deputy Bruton in the next coalition Government.

It is regrettable that Deputy Lowry had to end his career as a Minister for the time being. He showed tremendous effort as a Minister, and previously, by helping many organisations to get out of difficulties. I am sure the record will show his effort in dealing with problems he inherited from previous Ministers who did very little in the areas of energy and transport.

I am glad Deputy Dukes, who has been a long-term friend through my involvement in the Irish Farmers Association, will be appointed Minister later tonight. I am sure he will sit easily at the Cabinet table. I congratulate the Taoiseach on his choice in this difficult situation. It augurs well for the future of the Government that Deputy Dukes will be part of the Cabinet for another year. The record of Deputy Dukes in the portfolios of Agriculture, Finance and Justice leaves him well placed for appointment to this job.

The Opposition has not only discussed the Lowry affair, as it has become known, but has welcomed the appointment of Deputy Dukes. I am delighted there have been congratulations to him from all sides of the House. However, it is only a few weeks since the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Yates, was derided in this House. What plans have Deputy Cowen and some of the farm leaders to compensate farmers for the income they lost as a result of the débâcle in this House and media and other discussions that downgraded the efforts of the Government to maintain cattle prices in difficult circumstances? From listening to Deputy O'Donoghue, one would be forgiven for believing the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, invented crime. She has shown in recent weeks that she is the first Minister in a long time to try to get to grips with that problem. Under the Taoiseach the Government will move ahead to create jobs, control crime and to take many necessary measures in the next 12 months.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Kenny and my colleagues, Deputies Bradford and Crawford, for sharing their time with me.

I echo the congratulations and well wishes expressed by previous speakers on the Government side to Deputy Dukes on his appointment to Cabinet. He has served the country well in the past in the portfolios of Agriculture, Justice and Finance and I have no doubt he will make a sterling contribution to the workings of the Government. In offering my congratulations, I know I speak for the Fine Gael organisation in my constituency.

When offering bouquets of congratulations, there is another that should be offered to the journalist, Sam Smyth, because he got his man. He hunted, hounded and harried the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, for 12 months in a vindictive fashion and he delivered on his objective to do down a decent man. I want to unceremoniously rip the dressage of investigative journalism from him because this was nothing more than a personal vendetta. Not 12 months ago, the journalist in question and others in an RTÉ studio were gleeful on the imminent demise——

Deputy, I admonished Deputies earlier to be careful of what they say in respect of persons outside the House. We are a privileged Assembly.

Members of the House are fair game for comment by everybody else, but it is rather difficult to express one's opinion on the activities of other people. Two journalists in particular were gleeful about the imminent demise of the former Minister, Deputy Lowry, and he proved them wrong in regard to the infamous Tuffy affair. If this issue was pursued under the guise of investigative journalism, why were not all the details of the Price Waterhouse report published by the said journalist? The House is humming with allegations of impropriety by others and the public interest would be well served if those people were named. There is no doubt this was a vindictive, political assassination and it cannot be dressed up in any other fashion. It was gombeen journalism.

I see the Chamber puppet of the Independent Group nodding his head. I am surprised Deputy McDowell, an eminent member of the legal profession, would expect Deputy Lowry to come in here into a Star Chamber to plead his innocence. Deputy McDowell should be familiar with the concept of due process. I have no doubt when Deputy Lowry gets an opportunity to present his case to the relevant authorities, which in these circumstances are the Revenue Commissioners, he will be vindicated. What Deputy McDowell and the Independent Group of journalists are peddling is innuendo and half truths. They have destroyed a decent man and a good Minister. The behaviour of Deputy McDowell and others acting as puppets for the Independent Group is nothing short of appalling.

Deputy Lowry certainly owes an explanation and, given due time to present his case, I have no doubt he will and will be vindicated. What we are seeing dressed up as investigative journalism and presented to their mouthpieces in this Chamber through Deputy McDowell and others is nothing short of gombeen journalism. It is an appalling vista that this should happen to somebody of Deputy Lowry's capacity who executed his functions as a Minister in an impeccable fashion, despite the half truths and innuendo peddled by the Opposition in this House. I have no doubt Deputy Lowry will return to grace the Front Bench of this side of the House in the very near future. When the truth of this affair comes out there will be egg on the chins of Members on the Opposition Benches as there was in respect of other issues including agricultural to which Deputy Crawford referred, justice, health and every other issue on which the Opposition takes issue with the Government.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Lawlor and Michael McDowell.

That is in order.

I congratulate Deputy Dukes on his nomination as a member of the Government. In the short ministerial career available to him — a few months at the most — I am sure he will enjoy himself thoroughly as he displays his undoubted talent. However, I am equally sure that some of his colleagues at the Cabinet table will not be quite so happy. I refer especially to the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring. The reason I isolate him in my short contribution to the debate is that I take great umbrage at that part of his speech where he referred to the Fianna Fáil Party as the chancers in Fianna Fáil.

He did not use that word.

I am glad he refrained from using that part of his script but it goes to show the mindset of the mandarins behind the politician. His speech was circulated to the media and I thought it unbecoming that a Member who holds the penultimate position of honour in this House should label fellow Members in such a manner and it should be withdrawn.

When the names of Deputy Dukes, and the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, are mentioned in the same breath, I am reminded of a few events during the latter half of 1982. During the summer of that year the then Fianna Fáil Minister, Ray MacSharry, set about the task of administering a course of harsh treatment with a view to improving the financial health of this nation. Unfortunately, because of the untimely death of one Deputy and the hospitalisation of another the Government lost its majority in the House and fell in a confidence motion. The Fine Gael-Labour Coalition headed by Dr. Garret FitzGerald came to power and Deputy Dukes was appointed Minister for Finance. Almost immediately that intelligent man decided to continue where Ray MacSharry left off. He gave notice of his intentions by announcing a reduced borrowing requirement. Just as quickly there came a shot across his bows from the sick bed of the new Tánaiste, none other than Deputy Spring. The message was simple, Deputy Dukes would cut borrowing over his dead body. The then Taoiseach abandoned his Finance Minister and the rest is history.

Four years of gross mismanagement more than doubled the national debt and when Fianna Fáil returned to Government in 1987 the bailiffs were about to move in. Ray MacSharry was back in Merrion Street, this time adopting his famous role of "Mac the Knife". The new leader of Fine Gael was Deputy Alan Dukes. Ironically, he was in a position to exert a more beneficial influence in Opposition than had been allowed to him by Dr. FitzGerald. The then Minister, Ray MacSharry, had the full support of all Cabinet colleagues and Deputy Dukes ensured that the Government majority of minus two would not endanger its economic programme by adopting the celebrated Tallaght strategy. Some cynics suggested he was making a virtue out of necessity. I do not subscribe to that. Deputy Dukes supported the action he believed in but was prevented from carrying out by Deputy Spring in winter 1982.

Let us hope the restraining influence of the new Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications will be brought to bear with great success. I wish the Deputy a brief but fruitful spell in Cabinet. He deserves no less.

There are universal good wishes for Deputy Dukes in his new appointment. He enters a Department with three important arms that reach into every corner of the State. It is a complex and difficult task and everyone wishes him every success in his position. On a personal level, it is a tragedy for Deputy Lowry, his family, friends and those who have actively supported him and who now feel disappointed at what has happened. Unfortunately, in reality this was of his own making. The words of wisdom spoken by the Chair at the commencement of this debate were ignored by Deputy Lowry when he became Minister. I cannot judge the merits of the case but people's names were bandied about without being given the courtesy the Chair requested Deputies to show in today's debate. During his time in office, decisions have been made about Telecom Éireann, GSM and other matters of national importance in such a way as to leave a trail of concern, doubt and unanswered queries. I hope Minister Dukes, when reflecting on the work he is about to undertake, will address the unfinished business.

While Minister, Deputy Lowry stated that he would put a report in the Library of the House. It is not the Price Waterhouse report but the Craig Gardner report on the semi-State bodies. It was never put in the Dáil Library to clarify the issues examined at the time. It is unfortunate that in Deputy Lowry's short spell as Minister this trail of destruction should have been left. I have received representations from constituents of mine who are staff members of CIÉ. The demoralisation of that State company is horrific. Those put in responsible positions by Deputy Lowry have failed to comply with the Government's agreements on wages. The workers have had to go to the courts to have a mandate given to the company to honour its commitments to its staff.

The Taoiseach when replying should address the kernel of the issue. There appears to be a time lapse to allow retrospective accountancy procedures to enable Deputy Lowry to give full answers. Surely a company should already have tabled its accounts, all the records, liabilities and taxation matters for 1993 in the Companies Office. The delay being allowed seems unusual. It is disingenuous of the Taoiseach to expect that it should be acceptable to this House and the people. There are questions to be answered and, in principle, those answers should already be available.

This is a sad night for the House because the Government has failed in its primary duty to be accountable to the people. It is unacceptable that someone should relinquish office under a cloud and not tender to the people an explanation as to how that came about. It is unacceptable that someone should say: "You have my head. You will not have my explanation". It is unacceptable for the Taoiseach to say he hopes Deputies will refrain from demanding answers Deputy Lowry has already said he is not in a position to give.

Some of us live in the real world where the Revenue auditor can knock on our door. That auditor cannot be brushed aside and told to come back in a week or fortnight for an explanation. One must be able to say where a transaction is accounted for. If one cannot answer, one is in trouble. Any Minister, especially one with business experience, should know that if he or she is conducting a business and keeping proper books of account then those books of account can be presented to their Taoiseach should they be asked for and the Minister can be acquitted.

I reject with sadness the attitude of the Government in this debate. They have said Deputy Lowry should have been given time in which to put a defence together. If there were a defence, Deputy Lowry has been aware of the existence of this report for years. If he had a defence he could have put it together within the 48 hours he was given between the time he was asked questions and when the Taoiseach called him to book last Saturday in Dublin. If there was a plausible defence it could have been made. In sincerity, if there was a defence the Taoiseach should not have asked Deputy Lowry to resign. If the Taoiseach really thought he could have put a defence together, he should have given Deputy Lowry the honour and decency of holding on to his job. The Taoiseach cannot have it both ways. Nobody in Opposition demanded a resignation. Explanations were demanded. There is no reason anyone conducting a business in this country cannot account for himself and show he has complied with the law if that is the case.

If there was a good reason to allow the Deputy time, there was every good reason to allow him to keep his job. The excuse given for what the Taoiseach has done to the Deputy — that he needed time to devote himself exclusively to building up his defence — does not wash. The Taoiseach may think it a clever debating tactic in the House but the people have drawn their own conclusions and made their judgments. They know they have been given a large dollop of whitewash.

This occasion has brought Deputy Dukes back into Cabinet, which is a good thing. This Government badly needs a competent, intelligent person to pursue this portfolio with vigour. For all his endearing and less endearing qualities, Deputy Dukes is a man of competence and vigour. That is what this ramshackle coalition needs to see it out. They need one member of the Cabinet to be remotely competent.

Is the Deputy available?

I welcome Deputy Dukes's re-emergence in Cabinet. It will suit him much better than the position he has adopted in the House since his exclusion.

It is only the Deputy who would say so.

(Interruptions.)

In seriousness and humour, if there was a reason to give Deputy Lowry time to defend himself he should have been given that time. Nobody on this side of the House denied him that, but if there was no possible defence he should have been willing to come to the House to say so. The Taoiseach has said we should not ask questions which cannot be answered at this point. The Revenue Commissioners will never answer those questions because every inspector and commissioner is sworn to secrecy in relation to this matter. If given the Price Waterhouse report, they will be required to keep it confidential and the Taoiseach knows this. I reiterate, therefore, my party's request to him to send inspectors to the two companies concerned so that all the records relevant to this controversy can be made public and the public can have an explanation, if not from the Government which owes it to them, from the inspectors who could deliver it to them.

I express my appreciation of the words spoken about Deputy Dukes. Not only has he had a distinguished ministerial career, he showed, as Deputy McDaid stated, exceptional statesmanship when Leader of the Opposition between 1987-9 when he enabled the then Government to put through an extremely rigorous programme in the national interest. This was constructive and helpful. It is good that this has been appreciated by the other side of the House.

Will the Taoiseach allow me to intervene?

No, I have only ten minutes in which to complete my contribution.

The Tánaiste——

I am sorry but I will not allow an intervention.

I must ask the Deputy not to erode the time available to the Taoiseach. He may not put a question.

If, a Cheann Comhairle, you were referred to as a chancer, as Fianna Fáil Deputies were, you, too, would look for an apology. I am entitled to one.

The Deputy should resume his seat.

We were treated with contempt by the Tánaiste.

If the Deputy does not resume his seat——

I will not.

—— I must ask him to leave the House.

I will not leave the House. We were referred to as chancers. We were elected by the people.

If the Deputy does not leave the House, I must name him.

You can name me, if you like.

I ask the Deputy to allow the matter to be dealt with in another way. He will have other opportunities to raise his concerns. I do not take from the sincerity of his feelings but it is important that I am allowed to complete my contribution. I will be criticised if I do not answer the questions I have been asked by all sides. This would not be in the best interests of the House.

We have had a good debate. Let us maintain good order.

I acknowledge the contributions made by a number of Deputies. Deputy Bertie Ahern raised the issue of whether Mr. Ben Dunne has an interest in Esat Digifone. I understand the company has issued a statement. There is no information available to us which would suggest that Mr. Ben Dunne has any involvement in the company. I hope I can reassure the Deputy that the concerns he expressed are without foundation.

Deputy Ahern also raised the question of personal loans being given on favourable terms and suggested that it should possibly be looked at in the context of ethics legislation. We will look at the matter to see if there is a loophole in the legislation.

I agree with the Deputy that there is a need to reform the system of party political fundraising. Political parties and candidates obtain funds from private sources. The Deputy drew a distinction, with which I agree, between contributions raised in a legitimate way to meet legitimate electoral expenses and any suggestion that people are being given money to do things in office for the benefit of those giving the money. To my knowledge, it is a rare occurrence. I do not know of any instance where it happened in Irish political life but if it does or did happen, it is corrupt and distinct from normal legitimate party fundraising. That is not to say there is not a case for reforming the system. This is a matter which has been engaging the attention of the Government.

Legitimate concern has been expressed by all sides about a suggestion that there is a pall of suspicion hanging over all Deputies and parties. The main Opposition party feels, because of an allegation about an unnamed former Minister of that party, that it has been unfairly put in a position where it is considered suspect. This is not satisfactory or fair, either to the party concerned or to the individual or individuals whose names are being bandied about. It is not right. It is important that the matter is brought into the open and that those to whom no guilt can be attached are allowed to clear their names. If guilt can be attached, the people concerned should be punished in the appropriate way. A legitimate distinction should be made between normal party political fundraising which is conducted by all parties to one degree or another and anything which has the colour of corruption.

There have been references to what has become known, probably by constant repetition, as "the Price Waterhouse report". I am not aware if there is such a report. I have no information about it. I have received no indication as to its contents or that it is of the dangerous character suggested in some of the contributions. I agree with Deputies on all sides who feel, when there is a suggestion that such a report or document exists and that it contains information damaging to people in politics, that the non-availability of that information is damaging to politics, democracy and the political system.

There is, however, the problem of what one can legally do to obtain a report about transactions which, allegedly, took place in the past in a private company. We are talking about legislation that has retrospective effect. If there is a report, it is the property of the people who commissioned it. One has to have specific legal powers to obtain it and one can only obtain it for specified purposes. We cannot introduce legislation tomorrow or next week which will have retrospective effect. That would be contrary to constitutional norms. We have to work in this matter with existing legislation.

I appeal to those in possession of the report to make it available publicly. That should be agreed by all sides. I hope a private company would feel, where all parties make such an appeal, that it should be heeded. That would be a much easier way of dealing with the matter for all concerned than having recourse to legislation which has not been designed for this purpose.

A number of Deputies made suggestions as to which powers might be used if there is not voluntary disclosure of the relevant information, perhaps to a third party who would maintain confidentiality but investigate the matter. I am not in a position to make specific suggestions; it is a matter for negotiation, if there is voluntary disclosure, as to what the terms should be. If there is not voluntary disclosure, Deputy Harney raised the possibility of using section 8 of the Companies Act, 1990. One could also consider using section 19 (1).

I have taken advice on the matter which I have discussed with the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and the Minister of State at that Department who has specific responsibility for company law. The advice I have received is that an application to use either of those powers would have to be grounded on specific allegations contained in an affidavit which would have to be substantiated before the court would make a decision. Before deciding to take such a course of action, we need to do a lot more study than the time available has allowed. I am not in a position to say if we will ever be able to use these powers for this purpose. I do not wish the House to be under a misapprehension that we are about to make a decision to do this — we are not, because I do not know if it is legally possible. There is no point engaging public funds in a legal wild-goose chase which leads nowhere in court because the legal basis for taking the action is insufficient. Any Deputy who is concerned about the standards of this House and the reputation of politicians of all parties, the overwhelming majority of whom are honourable people, should be concerned that such a matter should hang in the public record. I hope the best way forward will be found by voluntary disclosure. If that is not possible, we will have to look at other ways to deal with the matter.

A number of serious allegations were made in the House with which I would like to deal. I do not want things which have been said, particularly by Deputy Woods, to remain on the record unchallenged.

The Chair is constrained because, in accordance with an order of the House, it is required to put the question. May I take it the House wishes to hear the Taoiseach out? Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Woods suggested the Attorney General had engaged in what would be considered serious professional misconduct. He alleged the Attorney General was involved in the selective leaking of documents or information contained in documents which he had obtained when acting in a private capacity for Mr. Ben Dunne in a court case prior to becoming Attorney General. I wish to make it clear to Deputy Woods that his allegations and suggestions are completely without foundation and I invite him now, or when he has reflected on the matter, to withdraw them.

That is not right.

The allegations Deputy Woods made are of great gravity.

I asked the Taoiseach to answer questions.

The Deputy made a suggestion under privilege which was grossly improper and libellous of a member of the public, the Attorney General, who is not a Member of the House and not in a position to reply.

Attack is the best form of defence.

Deputy Woods should, on reflection, withdraw the allegation.

We have had a good debate, let us not spoil it by acrimony.

Allegations were also made by Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn who asked when Mr. Ben Dunne had been in touch with the Attorney General. Mr. Ben Dunne has not been in touch with the Attorney General to discuss any matter since his appointment to that office.

He was his client.

He was his client prior to becoming Attorney General and that is well known and acknowledged. Arrangements have been made to deal with any conflicts which arise from that.

Deputy Harney raised questions about the appointment of Mr. Stewart Harrington to the board of CIÉ on the grounds that he was unworthy because he was alleged to have been a friend of Mr. Dunne's.

She did not use the word "unworthy".

I withdraw "unworthy". The Deputy referred to a person who was identifiable as Mr. Stewart Harrington — I am naming him now. Mr. Harrington, to whom Deputy Harney referred, was appointed to the board of CIÉ by Deputy Jim Mitchell and, subsequently, to the board of Bus Átha Cliath by the former Deputy John Wilson. He had a track record of being a board member and was particularly well qualified for the board to which he was appointed by Deputy Lowry. I hope that allays Deputy Harney's concerns about that matter.

On a point of order, I referred to a parliamentary question I had asked on 17 October 1995. When the Taoiseach said he got a declaration from everybody on assuming office and that there was a record of the declarations, I asked him if he would publish the record in relation to Deputy Lowry. I did not refer to the person in question on 17 October 1995 or today.

The Deputy referred to the appointment of a friend of Mr. Ben Dunne by Deputy Lowry as Minister. The person in question is well qualified for his appointment and was previously appointed.

Will the Taoiseach publish the material?

Deputy Ahern made a strange reference to a member of Government who is involved in a court case relating to serious allegations. I am not sure to which Deputy or member of Government Deputy Ahern referred. As far as I know, there is only one case of a Minister being in court. That Minister is a plaintiff in an action he is taking and the reference made to him by Deputy Ahern was not justified or deserved.

Deputy Lowry is entitled to the time necessary to assemble the information he needs to deal with any tax or other liability it might be suggested he has and, subsequently, to make a disclosure of the nature he needs to make to allay any public concerns. Some Deputies indicated that when a suggestion of this nature is made one can, in all cases, give a complete answer the following day to any questions raised. That is not always the way business works.

Does the Taoiseach have a timeframe?

It is in Deputy Lowry's interest, as a public representative, to make the fullest possible statement on this matter at the earliest opportunity. It is important to understand he needs the time to ensure that any statement he makes meets the criteria to which he referred in relation to fairness to others involved in business with him and his company previously and which represents no prejudicing of his rights in any other respect.

How long does the Taoiseach suggest?

It is important that we, as public representatives, go as far as we can to answer legitimate questions, although we are not legally obliged to do so. I have no doubt Deputy Lowry will do so having taken the time necessary to ensure the information he gives is satisfactory in every respect.

This debate has been sad for all those participating in it. Although partisan references were made on both sides, it is fair to say there was a strong sense that we need to take whatever action necessary to ensure democratic politics is seen to function in a way in which the public can have complete confidence. I, and I am sure other Members, will work to ensure that is achieved. The tone of the debate, broadly speaking, was helpful in that regard.

Except for the Tánaiste.

I acknowledged some of the points made by Deputy Ahern prior to his arrival in the House.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Níl, 56.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis-Offaly).
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Éamon.
  • Yates, Ivan.

Níl

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hilliard, Colm M.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael J.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jim Higgins and Brian Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies Dermot Ahern and Liz O'Donnell.
Question declared carried.

A Cheann Comhairle, you have been kind enough to grant me a moment or two to make a brief personal statement. I thank the Deputies on all sides of the House who have spoken of me in such warm terms this evening. I am quite sure that level of warmth will continue, certainly with my colleagues on this side of the House. It would be a little sanguine of me to expect the same level of cordiality to continue with Deputies on the other side. Having heard some of the qualifications — and it is only Deputy McDowell who can detect my less attractive side but that is his perspicaciousness——

Want to bet?

——I think I will go to heaven. Under extreme temptation I carry on and say with the poet,timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. I thank the Members of the House. I am deeply grateful for what they have said and appreciate their sympathy.

The Minister should not detain me in the duty I have to perform later. Shall we proceed to the Adjournment Debate?