Tomorrow, 7 May, marks the first anniversary of the elevation of Deputy Cowen to the rank of Taoiseach. In that time it is important that we look not only at the loss of the Lisbon treaty referendum, the death of social partnership, the three failed budgets, the lack of action on public service reform and the doubling of unemployment in 12 months to 384,000, but at the contradictions in the past 12 months. On the day he was elected as Taoiseach he stated that the fundamentals of the economy were still good and that, although we were not immune to international trends, we would do better than others. The stability and growth pact, as he will be aware, is 3%. We now have the largest deficit in the EU, running up to 11% or 12% of GDP and we are experiencing a recession that is twice as bad as that of the US or the UK. On the day that he was elected as Taoiseach he stated that reform of the public service was of the greatest urgency for him. The only reform introduced in the past 12 months has been slash and burn at the front line, where nurses are now working without contract and where a pension levy, which was unfair, has been delivered to the public service. On the day he was elected as Taoiseach he stated that throwing money at problems in the health service was not the way they should be handled and that serious reforms had to be undertaken, yet waiting lists remain unacceptably long and there has been no progress on primary care or on achieving value for the people's money.
Looking back at that 12 months, the Taoiseach either believed what he was telling us, in which case it is incompetence on his part and on the part of the Government, or misled himself and the people, in which case it is a question of denial. How does he account for the state of the country that he has led for the past 12 months? How does he account for the situation in which we find ourselves which is utterly depressing and on which he has given no reassurance whatsoever that he or his Government has the capacity to lead the people out of the mess he created?