Ceisteanna — Questions

Programmes for Government

Gerry Adams

Question:

1 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will set out the elements of the programme for Government for which he and his Department are directly responsible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5308/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

2 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the procedures he intends to put in place to review implementation of the programme for Government and if he will publish a detailed implementation timetable [5341/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

Before taking the questions, having conducted ordinary Taoiseach's questions, as they are called, from the far side for so long, I made the point on many occasions that perhaps we should drop one of these on a Tuesday or Wednesday and insert topical issues or whatever else as part of Dáil reform. When Deputies begin to look at this, perhaps we could consider these things. As Deputy Martin knows, these questions come around on a very regular basis.

The programme for Government sets out the measures this Government intends to take to tackle the many and varied challenges facing the country. The programme's objectives are underpinned by the mandate of the people. It will be the responsibility of each Minister to progress those actions and initiatives that fall within his or her Department's area in order to achieve the implementation of the programme.

It is my responsibility as Taoiseach, working closely with the Tánaiste, to lead the process of reform which is at the heart of the programme. I will be reviewing progress on a regular basis with each Minister. Through the Government economic management council, I will be working with the Tánaiste and the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform to ensure that our economic policy agenda, in particular, is implemented with pace and consistency.

The primary role of the Department of the Taoiseach is to support me in my role as Head of Government and to support the Government through the Cabinet process. Accordingly, the Department will be supporting the implementation of the programme as a whole and it will do this with a more explicit focus on its role as a Cabinet office. The procedures to reflect the new focus are being developed and will be announced shortly. However, it is not my intention that the Department will exercise executive functions with regard to the programme for Government generally. My Department will have specific responsibility in supporting the Chief Whip in advancing the programme's proposals for Dáil reform and setting in train the necessary legislation for a referendum to abolish the Seanad.

Tá mé an-sásta an Taoiseach a fheiceáil anseo arís. Bhí cuairt mhaith againn go dtí na Stáit Aontaithe.

Labhair an Teachta go maith.

Tá a lán fadhbanna anseo; mar shampla, tuairisc Moriarty. Níl mé sásta leis an bhfreagra a thug an Taoiseach maidir le clár an Rialtais. He never mentioned jobs once, yet during the election campaign, he secured a mandate with the slogan, "Let's Get Ireland Working". He has committed to establishing a fund to resource jobs. When will that happen? Will legislation be required? How much will be invested in it? Where will the Government get the money?

Tá mé sásta gur tháinig an Teachta ar ais go sábháilte. Bhí áthas orm buaileadh leis thall i Meiriceá.

The Deputy asked me to set out the elements of the programme for Government for which my Department and I are directly responsible and I did so. The programme is essentially about reform, change, getting Ireland back to work and providing opportunities for our people. That is why the initiatives to be taken by the Ministers for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Enterprise and Innovation and others will be focused directly on areas of improvement in the unemployment situation.

The question the Deputy tabled asked about the elements for which I have responsibility. As Head of Government, it is my intention to interact on a regular basis with Ministers to see that the programme for Government, for which we were given a strong mandate by the people, is implemented. As the Deputy will be aware, we intend to set out an early report card on achievements in this regard, including a jobs budget in our first 100 days in office to stimulate initiatives and investment within the economy.

I do not want to mention the five point plan but the Taoiseach referred to what he has described as a "jobs fund" in his reply. Some of the funding for this is to be drawn down from the National Pensions Reserve Fund but some is also be drawn down by selling off State assets. The Taoiseach will be aware that opposition is growing on this issue with people particularly concerned about Coillte and Bord na Móna. As a man from the county of Davitt, he will know if the Government goes ahead with this, it will be the biggest sale of Irish land since the Land War and this time will be returned to the privateers and the absentee landlords. Will the Government proceed with this sale of State assets, land and resources?

The Deputy will be aware that when we referred to the sale of assets, we referred to the sale of non-strategic State assets and then only at an appropriate time where there would be a reasonable gain for the State. It is not proposed to sell Coillte and while the report to which the Deputy referred makes that recommendation, it is not part of the programme for Government.

I very much welcome that.

In my question I asked for a detailed timetable for the implementation of the Government programme. What goes to the core of the programme is a commitment to transparency, openness and so forth. When did the Taoiseach and the Government become aware that the Moriarty tribunal report was to be published this morning? It is a matter of grave importance. The findings have grave implications for the State and the taxpayer and represent a damning indictment on the collective decision taken by the then Government in the awarding of the mobile telephone licence and in the process that led to its award. In the spirit of the programme for Government, will the Taoiseach and the Ministers who were members of that Government be prepared to come before the House to answer specific questions regarding their role in that collective decision to award the licence to the particular telephone company and to account for the process that led to that?

I thank the Deputy for his comments on openness. I assure him that I was informed of the pending publication of the Moriarty tribunal report as I walked to the Cabinet meeting this morning. The Secretary to the Government was informed by the tribunal that it was in the process of publishing it online with the relevant information. This report has been 14 years in the making. It has cost a considerable amount of money. I welcome the fact that, at long last, it is published. It is a report, however, that deserves the most serious analysis. It deserves to be read seriously, which I intend to do. There are lessons to be drawn from it and they will be drawn from it. I have not seen the report yet and have not had time to even glance through any of its 2,500 pages. I have heard some comment in the media but this is a report that deserves serious analysis, and it will get that from this Government.

It is a very serious report and the findings are grave. I want to ask, in the context of the programme for Government——

Sorry, Deputy, it has nothing to do with the programme for Government.

It has, a Cheann Comhairle.

No. We are dealing with that matter later.

I am not dealing with the report itself. I am dealing with——

It is nothing to do with the programme for Government.

A Cheann Comhairle, the programme for Government is on the agenda here in terms of the question.

That is to be dealt with by way of private notice question after the——

If the Ceann Comhairle would allow me to make my point. In the spirit of the programme for Government, which is very strong on transparency, honesty and accountability for actions taken, the Taoiseach did not answer my basic question: Is he prepared, along with the other Ministers who were a party to that collective decision taken in 1995, to come before the House to answer any questions Members may have on the role they played in that? Yes or no.

The Taoiseach mentioned a number of mechanisms for a review of the programme for Government. It would have been helpful if his answer was circulated at the time so that we could get the detail of that and ask him more precise questions. Regarding the implementation of the programme for Government, what benchmarks has the Taoiseach set with regard to critical areas of that programme? Regarding the massive crisis of 440,000 of our people wasting in unemployment, has the Taoiseach a benchmark as to how much reduced that unemployment rate should be within six or 12 months of his Government taking office? It is critical that we have such answers because his programme on job creation is extremely vague.

With regard to other issues, what confidence can we have in the Government living up to its claims in the programme for Government to having a modern, fair, socially inclusive and equal society by the end of the Taoiseach's term if his Minister for Finance, within a week of the formation of Government, has jettisoned a critical aspect of the programme called burden sharing requiring the losing gambling bond holders not to get their money back from the Irish people? Since that has already been jettisoned, what confidence can we have in other aspects of the Taoiseach's programme?

Finally, the critical issue of the debt foisted on the Irish people as a result of the reckless speculation by bankers raises the question, according to the Taoiseach's Minister for Finance, of the sustainability of this country meeting the debt requirements. What benchmark does the Taoiseach have on that as a Government? For example, what payment of interest would he consider beyond which the State cannot go? What is the total amount, etc.? The Taoiseach must be very precise on these issues.

It is very difficult to be precise about the numbers who will be working in six months, 18 months or two years time. The Deputy cannot be precise, nor can I, but I can say that the entire focus of this Government is to rectify the position in so far as public finances are concerned, restore those finances to a state of good health and, where we can, provide a stimulus and initiatives to ensure that people, young people in particular, can have career opportunities to pursue in this country if that if their wish.

The Deputy asked me about benchmarks. As I have made known, I have asked each Minister, in respect of his or her responsibilities under the programme for Government, to produce an itemised list of projects and proposals which he or she expects to have implemented within the first 100 days. We have also made it clear that we intend to introduce a jobs budget and set out the conditions for it, whereby confidence can be restored and initiatives taken to create employment and training opportunities.

In respect of social inclusiveness, one of the great tragedies of the last decade was the chasm that opened between government and the people. The arm of democracy never reached thousands of people throughout the country. They felt isolated, alone and bereft and that they had been left behind with respect to the actions of the Government. That bridge must be rebuilt and the reconnection made again in a strong way. A good Government which listens to people and works with them in a spirit of co-operation can rebuild it and our reputation at home and abroad can be restored.

The Deputy is wrong to say the Minister for Finance jettisoned burden sharing, a matter that will be discussed later today in the Dáil when the Deputy will have an opportunity to make his points. There are serious issues to be discussed at the Council meeting on Thursday and Friday, including the unfolding situation in Libya and the provision of further support from the European Union for the stricken people of Japan following the tsunami, earthquake and the problems with the nuclear reactor. The economic situation will be the focus of the Heads of Government on Thursday and Friday. I cannot say what the outcome will be because I would like to be clear on the extent of exposure in the banks to indebtedness and, as the Deputy is aware, the stress tests are being completed.

EU Summits

Gerry Adams

Question:

3 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his participation in the EU summit on 11 March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5309/11]

Gerry Adams

Question:

4 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach his priorities for the next European Council meeting [5310/11]

Micheál Martin

Question:

5 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach his views on proposals for a greater role for eurozone summits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5335/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, together.

I attended an extraordinary meeting of the European Council and an informal meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the euro area in Brussels on 11 March. There will be a further meeting of the European Council on 24 and 25 March. As I will be making a statement to the House later, I will confine myself to some brief remarks about these meetings.

The extraordinary meeting of the European Council was convened by President Van Rompuy to discuss developments in Libya and the southern Mediterranean region and set the political direction and priorities for future EU policy and action. We agreed on the importance for Europe of developing a new enhanced long-term partnership with the countries of the southern Mediterranean area as they move toward democracy.

The informal meeting of Heads of State and Government of the euro area was convened to discuss how to develop stronger economic policy co-ordination in the euro area. This was an important stepping stone towards the meeting of the European Council that will take place later this week.

Leaders agreed on a "pact for the euro" aimed at fostering competitiveness and employment and contributing to sustainability of public finances and restoring financial stability. There was also important agreement on three features of the temporary European Financial Stability Facility, EFSF, and the permanent European Stability Mechanism, ESM. Effective lending capacity was increased to €440 billion for the EFSF and €500 billion for the ESM. Both will have the capacity to intervene in the primary debt market. Interest rates will be lowered to take greater account of debt sustainability, while still complying with IMF pricing principles. Finance Ministers were asked to complete work on the design of the new ESM, which will enter into force in 2013, in time for this week's European Council.

It was agreed that there should be a reduction of 1% in the rate that applied to loans to Greece which do not take place under the EFSF, as Greece is not in that package. The maturity of Greek loans was also extended to 7.5years. In return, Greece committed to speedily completing its €50 billion privatisation and real estate development programme.

I briefed colleagues on the severe economic challenges that Ireland faced and the pain this had meant for the Irish people. I restated our commitment to the EU-IMF programme and reaching the 3% deficit target by end-2015 and recalled the extensive adjustment measures already undertaken. I stressed the importance of getting Ireland back onto a path of sustainability. I briefed European colleagues on the situation in our banks and the challenge this represented for us. I noted the stress tests that were under way. These are being carried out independently and due to be finished by the end of the month.

While Ireland would welcome a lowering of the interest rate it has to pay, it was not possible to reach agreement on this issue at the meeting on 11 March. Discussions on the issue are continuing. These will be difficult, but I am convinced that we can find a way forward. I can reassure the House that, while I will be as constructive as possible in seeking to reach agreement, Ireland's 12.5% corporation tax rate is not up for negotiation. It is central to our ability to attract inward investment and secure our economic recovery. I know that I have the overwhelming support of the House on this issue.

The issues before the European Council this week are important. It is expected that the Council will adopt a wide range of measures forming a full and comprehensive package designed to lay the ground for sustainable and job creating growth. I expect that the Council will also take stock of international developments, including in Libya and Japan.

With regard to a greater role for eurozone summits, it is the Government's position that no new formal structures are needed. However, it should continue to be possible for Heads of State and Government of the eurozone to meet as required.

I wish the Taoiseach well at the next European Council meeting, but I note with disappointment that at the last session he restated his commitment to the EU-IMF deal and to the austerity package. In an earlier answer the Taoiseach spoke of the gap between the Government and the people. That gap is being deepened by the universal social charge. It is the price citizens are paying for this deal.

The Minister for Finance has said that the lumping of banking debt and sovereign debt is not sustainable. The head of the European Central Bank has made clear his insistence that it is sustainable, saying that Ireland can do it and will do it. This is clearly Frankfurt's way. Will the Taoiseach make clear to the Irish people and to our partners at the European summit, contrary to what he said a moment ago, that we will not proceed with this deal because, as the Minister said, it is not sustainable? We cannot afford it and it will sink us if we keep going as the Government is going, following in the footprints of Fianna Fáil.

I am sure the Deputy was not disappointed at my stance in respect of how important the corporation tax rate of 12.5% is to this country.

That is a given.

What the Minister for Finance indicated was that in certain circumstances the debt might become unsustainable. We made it perfectly clear——

That is not what he said.

If the Deputy checks the Minister's words he will see that is what he said. We made it perfectly clear when this deal went through that we considered it a bad deal for Ireland and a bad deal for Europe and that it required adjustment so that Ireland could live up to its responsibilities in being central to the European process and in paying our way. The deal was structured at the time on the basis of Ireland being able to do that while at the same time allowing us to grow our economy and trade our way to a position where we are able to pay back what was given to us as a loan under the package. The extra flexibility and the extra tools that are required were the points of discussion at the meeting of the Ministers for Finance and will be again at the upcoming European Council meeting and as things become clearer when the stress tests are completed.

The Taoiseach said we need to live up to our responsibilities in terms of our European partners, and I do not detract from that. However, our first responsibilities are to our own citizens. The Taoiseach went on to say that we need to repay what was given to us. Nothing was given to us; this was not an act of divine mercy. These were very hard-nosed people coming in and saddling Irish taxpayers with private banking debt.

Does the Deputy have a question?

The Taoiseach must make it clear to them, to quote the Minister for Finance, that this is not sustainable. Why would the Taoiseach follow through on what he already says is a bad deal for Europe and for Ireland?

I agree it was not an act of divine mercy that this was given to us, it was part of a loan package and Ireland has a responsibility to repay loans and we will do that if we are given sufficient flexibility and some extra tools. The universal social charge has been looked at by Government and we have already said in the programme for Government that we will review it before the budget for 2012.

At the conclusion of the eurozone meeting there was an agreement that there should be interest rate reductions for those within the EFSF package. Ireland is the only country in the package at the moment; the Greek Government is not part of it, so a 1% reduction was extended to it and the time extended to seven and a half years for its loans. From that point of view, the principle has been accepted that there can be a reduction of interest rates, which is part of what needs to happen in respect of Ireland's position. It was not possible to reach agreement at the last meeting of eurozone Heads of Government and the matter is still being discussed.

We must look at this issue with a degree of frankness, transparency and honesty. Work has been underway for some time, even before the general election, to revamp the mechanisms deployed by Europe, particularly in terms of the EFSF and ESM, focusing on the enlargement of the fund and a reduction of interest rates to enshrine the principles of sustainability and recoverability and to send a strong signal to the markets that Europe as an entity was determined to stand squarely behind the euro as a currency. That work has been underway for some time, the reduction in the interest rate has been on the table and there is a growing consensus among EU member states that the mechanisms must be revamped, mechanisms that were established before Ireland had to avail of any programme. It is important to acknowledge that.

Equally, in response, Ireland has indicated its acceptance of the idea of new fiscal rules for deficits and debt burdens. That was desirable and welcome, not just from an Irish perspective but from a European and eurozone perspective.

It is unacceptable however — this is the real issue — that from the outset of the crisis, the fundamental flaw has been that the major powers in Europe have not dealt comprehensively with the issue. The approach has been faltering and halting. From the onset of the Greek crisis, it has been too slow, with too little, too late. That is what we are now witnessing in the build up to this summit and in the outcome of the last, namely, new attempts to arrive at a comprehensive resolution of the issues.

The danger is that the major powers are again collectively stopping short of reaching the comprehensive resolution required from a Europe-wide perspective. This is not just about Ireland on its own, and there has been a lot of talk about bad deals but that is just politicking. The reality is that these were pan-European mechanisms that were established before Ireland ever had to avail of any deal and before any interest rates particular to Ireland were decided upon. The rates were decided in advance of Ireland availing of such programmes.

The net point is the domestic political situation in some EU member states has informed the situation, such as the electoral concerns of the German Government and the French President and, to a lesser extent, the Finnish Government. Does the Taoiseach agree that we are dealing with different perspectives of different electorates on the core issue? We are giving a lot and are contributing to the resolution of the fundamental issues pertaining to the euro itself.

We showed good faith by introducing a detailed and sustained austerity programme in recent years. I do not believe the French President or the German Chancellor are entitled to the kind of responses they are seeking in respect of corporation tax etc. Does the Taoiseach agree the fundamental issue is that the leaders of Europe must put aside their domestic electoral concerns and focus instead on the wider concerns relating to the European Union and the sustainability and viability of that entity in the coming years?

I agree that the European process relates to consolidation and to allowing each of the 27 member states to develop to their best potential, to create employment opportunities and to maintain both a healthy balance of payments and secure financial positions. Ireland and a small number of other countries obviously occupy a particular position in this regard at present. For whatever reason, I detect a certain level of suspicion in respect of Ireland. The degree of trust I would like to see is not evident at present. This is despite the fact that Ireland has always measured up in the context of its European requirements.

The ECB-IMF package is very particular in nature. Representatives from the IMF met Government officials recently and, as a result of the former's analysis, the fiscal targets set out in the programme for Government have been endorsed. The Deputy and I are aware this is a matter of great concern and anxiety to many people. This weekend, the European Council is likely to deal with a number of issues relating to this matter. That will at least lead towards some co-ordination in the context to which the Deputy refers.

The first of the issues to which I refer relates to the reinforcement of the European semester, including the targets and strategies member states will be presenting in their national reform programmes and programmes for stability and convergence that are due to be published in April. The second issue relates to the presentation of the pact for the euro, which aims to improve competitiveness, employment, public finances and financial stability and which will involve member states identifying commitments they are prepared to make at national level and that will, in turn, be reflected in national reform programmes and stability and convergence programmes. Non-eurozone member states will be invited to participate in this process.

The third issue involves a recommitment to the early adoption, by June of this year, of the so-called "six pack" of legislative proposals to strengthen economic governance in the Stability and Growth Pact. The fourth issue relates to the decision to amend the treaty to allow for the establishment of the permanent fund, namely, the European stability mechanism, ESM. There will also be confirmation of the detailed adjustments of the European financial stability facility, EFSF, and the ESM. As already stated, broad agreement was achieved at eurozone level on 11 March in respect of the latter. The Council meeting will also note the ongoing work in respect of the stress tests relating to the banks and will contemplate the measures that are likely to be required to respond to the outcome of those tests.

I would like there to be a much stronger reflection of the problems that exist across Europe at the meeting. I accept that Ireland is the subject of a particular level of focus and our discussions must be based on that reality until we discover the extra flexibility and tools that will permit us to restore our status and reputation and once again place us in a position to pay our way.

The speculation is that the work done last week and that which will be done next week will come up short in the context of dealing with the fundamentals involved. There is also a suspicion that the issues of burden sharing, restructuring and debt will be kicked down the road until post-2013. Again, the latter is possibly as a result of domestic electoral considerations in the countries to which I referred earlier. There is a reluctance among the electorates in France, Germany and other countries to face up to the reality that obtains in the context of their banking systems and the ongoing vulnerability thereof. There appears to be a hope that this weekend European leaders will be in a position to put together a plan that will keep the show on the road and that will satisfy the markets — particularly in the context of their focus on Portugal — in the medium term. However, we must continue to ask whether what is on the table is sufficiently comprehensive to achieve what is envisaged in the short to medium term.

The former Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, worked hard on this issue. Contrary to what is being spun by spokespeople on the Government side, relations between EU member states and Ireland are strong and have been for quite some time. I have been a member of the General Affairs and External Relations Council and was on first rate terms with many of my colleagues. That is the factual position. I was delighted to hear the Minister of State, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, acknowledge that there is much goodwill towards Ireland. It is dishonourable to overspin about bridges being burned left, right and centre.

That is a good one, coming from Deputy Martin.

It does not stack up.

Will the Galway tent be opening again?

It is more transparent than the K Club.

Deputy Buttimer should read today's report.

I cannot speak for leaders of other countries. Electoral considerations are being taken into account in France, Germany, Finland and a number of other countries, where elections are due to take place.

They do not appreciate what they perceive as a bailout.

There has also been a lack of trust in respect of the way Ireland has had to conduct its business, which was epitomised by the French Minister for Finance walking out of a meeting at a crucial time and her non-acceptance of what was being said. Comments made on behalf of Government which were neither achieved nor capable of being achieved led to a sense of confusion.

There is no point in turning away from a crisis. It must be faced. There is a serious challenge ahead for Ireland. We will all be in a much stronger position to deal with the crisis when we are aware of its full extent, and we do not know what its full extent might be. Until the bank stress tests are completed, the adequacy of the preparation of a response to the crisis will not be clear.

The Government is considering a number of measures. The Minister for Finance has been speaking to his European counterparts and to the Central Bank about those measures and about the financial position in which we find the country. This is a legacy that must be dealt with. I would like to be absolutely clear about the scale of the problem. I will not know this, nor will Deputy Martin, until the bank stress test results are published.

I will allow two short supplementary questions. Later this afternoon the House will debate upcoming European Council meetings. I want to be fair to Deputies who have tabled parliamentary questions. I will allow a very short supplementary question from Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Joe Higgins. Deputy Mick Wallace may also ask a very short supplementary question.

As a new Deputy, I am just getting used to procedures. I was not aware I would have a chance to come in. I feel I have to comment on the——

You do not have to comment, Deputy.

I feel I do, a Cheann Comhairle.

I remind Deputies that this is Question Time.

The Deputy will comment in a rhetorical manner.

I am confused by some of the things the Taoiseach has said. The tone and attitude of the Government in its discussions with the European Union——

Have you a question, Deputy?

Am I right in saying there is a sharp difference in the attitude we are now taking in the discussions on the IMF-EU package? We are hoping and pleading for small changes in the interest rates, possibly some time further down the road, and this contrasts sharply with the Fine Gael economic manifesto, launched in February of this year, which stated——

Deputy, I said I would allow a short supplementary question.

The manifesto promised that Fine Gael would unilaterally restructure unguaranteed senior debt if Europe did not play ball and grant a fairer package. Is the attitude we are now taking towards our European partners and their attempt to ram this unsustainable deal down our throats not a massive backing away from what Fine Gael said before the election?

Does the Taoiseach agree it is rather disingenuous to blame the electorates of Germany and France for the line taken by the leadership of those countries when in fact what they want to do is save the skins of their major banks and salvage them from their reckless gambling in Irish property? With regard to so-called burden sharing, or what more of us would call "burn the bondholders", although it is really the bonds we want burned and we do not care what happens the bondholders, the Taoiseach must clarify the issue. The Minister for Finance was quoted inThe Irish Times——

Regardless of what was said inThe Irish Times, will the Deputy ask a question?

It is a simple point of clarification, a Cheann Comhairle. The Minister for Finance said we are no longer pursuing that option, namely, burden sharing. In reply to me earlier, the Taoiseach contradicted the Minister. Which is the Government policy?

I want to know what the Taoiseach might say in Europe this week in regard to Libya. Recent history has taught us that dropping bombs on people is not necessarily the best way to introduce democracy. Does the Taoiseach agree that some of the major powers that have formed a coalition have been a bit selective as to where they might introduce no-fly zones, not to mention drop bombs. There does not seem to be much interest in introducing a no-fly zone in Bahrain or Yemen, and the same powers were certainly not interested in introducing a no-fly zone over Palestine two years ago. Does the Taoiseach agree that Mr. Sarkozy, who has also not behaved well with regard to our corporation tax, has been very trigger happy about dropping bombs on Libya? He did not even approve of the democratic protest in Egypt and Tunisia but he just could not wait to have his Thatcher-Falklands moment in order to drop bombs on Libya. Would the Taoiseach like to challenge Mr. Sarkozy on that issue?

In reply to Deputy Boyd Barrett's question, there is no change in attitude. The Government made it perfectly clear what we wanted to see was an adjustment in the terms and conditions of the package and there is neither a change in tone nor attitude. It is a question of focusing on the problem the country faces and the options we consider are important in being able to deal with that. I do not want to blame the electorate in Germany, France or any other country for their attitude as that is their business and none of mine. Our concern is not only in respect of our own country, people and financial position but also as part of the European Union of 500 million people and the potential this allows.

Deputy Higgins's comment in respect of the Minister for Finance is again incorrect and he needs to check the context in which he quotes that comment.

There was quite a deal of discussion at the eurozone meeting on the introduction of a no-fly zone in respect of the unfolding events in Libya. People were very concerned at the slaughter and threatened slaughter of innocent civilians. When I was in America last week and this became a reality, President Obama made it perfectly clear that US troops would not be deployed in Libya and that the no-fly zone was based on the sanction of the United Nations Security Council by vote. On that basis, measures have been taken to prevent the wilful slaughter of innocent people in Libya.

We move on to Question No. 6.

For clarification, I would like to ask the Taoiseach a short question on that final point.

We have given this question some time and there is a debate coming up. To be fair, Deputy Adams has a question.

It is just a one-line question. Has any official statement emanated from the Government on the Libyan situation?

Will the Deputy please respect the Chair? This is Question Time. I call the Taoiseach on Question No. 6.

Programmes for Government

Gerry Adams

Question:

6 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the constitutional referenda he plans to hold in the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5311/11]

Under the Programme for National Recovery, the Government is committed to holding constitutional referenda on the following matters, on a priority basis: the abolition of Seanad Éireann; the granting of full investigative powers for Oireachtas committees; protecting the confidentiality of citizens' communications with their public representatives; reducing the salaries of judges in restricted circumstances; and children's rights. The preparation of the necessary Bills to enable referenda to be held on these proposals will be progressed by the relevant members of the Government as speedily as possible. The likely timing of referenda on the proposals will be considered when a clearer picture emerges and the Bills are ready for presentation to the Oireachtas.

In addition, the programme commits the Government to establishing a constitutional convention to consider comprehensive constitutional reform and to report within 12 months on the following matters: the review of the Dáil electoral system; reducing the term of office of the President from seven to five years; provision for same-sex marriage; broadening the reference in the Constitution to the role of women in the home to one which recognises the role of the parent in the home; removing reference to blasphemy from the Constitution; the possible reduction of the voting age; and other relevant constitutional amendments that may be recommended by the constitutional convention. Work has commenced on the preparation of detailed proposals for the establishment of the convention which will be considered by the Government when they are ready. They will address matters such as the structure, composition and terms of reference of the convention, including the basis on which it will be established. The House will have an opportunity to debate these when they are presented.

We are almost finished. I will allow Deputy Adams one quick remark.

Go raibh maith agat. Has the Taoiseach made provision for citizens from the Six Counties to be involved in the constitutional convention? If not, I ask him to do so and to consult with parties in the North and with the First Minister.

I note the Taoiseach has again refused to have a referendum on the EU-IMF deal although that would strengthen his hand. The Taoiseach will give me the pat answer, namely, there was one such in the recent election but this is about strengthening Ireland's hand, giving citizens a say and standing up to what we must in our own interests.

As Deputy Adams knows, there was a legal insertion to the Lisbon referendum which was endorsed by the people in respect of——

Which referendum? The first or the second?

——the corporation tax rate. I have not contemplated the addition of people from Northern Ireland in the terms of reference for the constitutional convention but will give consideration to that proposal.