I thank the Technical Group for tabling this important motion. Any pressure on the Government and the agencies to move on this €3 billion is welcome, but I am not optimistic about what kind of deal we will get. Last month Government Deputies had to grin and bear it as they voted through one of the most regressive budgets in recent years. More than €3 billion in cuts were voted through. Child benefit was affected and there was tax on all income through PRSI as well as cuts in allowances for carers and so on. It was a very regressive budget that can only dampen the domestic economy.
By the end of the year we will have suffered €31 billion in cuts and tax hikes over the past five years. We are now being asked to throw away €3 billion more. There are no grounds for paying the €3 billion promissory note this year. It cannot be justified especially while working people and children suffer. While I am not optimistic, I hope at least this debate will shed more light on where we stand with the ECB and the debt on the promissory note in particular. I hope there is some news on that, but it seems we are not allowed to raise questions about how it is being negotiated and if we do we are labelled as being negative and somehow against it, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Minister knows that, but is simply using it as a means of deflecting questions from us.
Last year we had a stunt of pushing the promissory note off until this year. We had a big announcement, much back slapping and then it turned out that we would pay the full amount anyway. The public have grown tired of that type of spin and want to see progress. We have had two years and very little to show for it. The refusal to engage with the Dáil on this issue shows contempt for those of us on this side of the House. We continue to pay diligently the costs of this failure of capitalism even if the payments are pushed down the road. We will pay up for whatever time period without a whimper - that is what we are supposed to do.
People who believed the Labour Party would challenge Frankfurt have been let down in a very obvious way. However, there is still time for those on the Government benches to stand up and put the people first. Our position on this has been very clear. We have been completely consistent in our policy. We do not believe Ireland should pay the promissory note. We have been completely consistent in our policy on this. It is not the people's debt and should not be turned into a sovereign debt and socialised. It should not be paid by us. We as a people have shouldered more than any other people in Europe the cost of the banking collapses. It is time that some solidarity was shown. It is time the welfare of our people was put before protecting a flawed system.
This should not mean cobbling together a deal that would not satisfy anyone. Simply extending an unfair debt over a longer period does not make the debt any fairer. This evening's leaked news that IBRC may be liquidated with the assets going to NAMA, the debts sent to a bridging bank or the Central Bank - which will mean Joe and Mary Taxpayer picking it up - and creating a bond to push it down the road by between 25 and 40 years would simply be extending it. That is like my mortgage being changed from ten years to 30 years - I will still pay. The other problem is that it is further confirmation that it is still a sovereign debt. Will we wind up paying more in the longer term when the interest is added to the capital? Pushing it down the road or sideways means we - or our children - still have to face it. The big scandal of all of this is that we are lumbering our children with the huge burdens of the excesses and craziness of the previous Government which had no regulation of the banks or financial institutions. It seemed as if Anglo Irish Bank wrote the financial policy of the previous Government - shame on the then Government for that.
We need to take a stand on this and ensure we get it right. Time is running out. People have an expectation that should be met. The debts should be reduced. People have a greater level of knowledge now than ever before of the importance of these promissory notes and what they mean in terms of cuts to public services, lack of money for investment and extra taxes. There is no mood in the public for a half-baked deal. Any progress to improve the debt sustainability and more importantly to lift some of the burden of austerity from low and middle-income earners, who have borne the bulk of it, must be genuine and must be real.
After two years the best proposal put forward by the Government presented by the Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Honohan, was roundly rejected by the ECB. The Minister has said the negotiations are where he would expect them to be. This evening they could have moved on and we need to know what that is about. If all we are going to get is a prolonging of the agony and more interest and it is still ending up on the backs of the public as a sovereign debt, the Government's ambitions are even more minimal than I thought.
We fully support the motion. The promissory note and the €30 billion bill that comes with it is the Fianna Fáil legacy to the Irish people and yet it is being kept alive to date by Fine Gael and Labour. When people voted out Fianna Fáil, the Anglo Irish Bank mess was a big issue that we all heard on the doorsteps. There was an expectation that there would be change and progress, but to date we have not seen any change. What we have seen is Frankfurt's way and Fianna Fáil's way, but we have not seen Labour's way yet. We would welcome anything that genuinely reduces the debt burden and makes it more sustainable and lifts the burden off working people.
Last week the troika indicated any deal extending the maturities would be considered as a windfall for Ireland and that we would be expected to use this to pay off the wider debts. In other words any so-called deal does not necessarily mean one cent less in cuts or new taxes. This is the yardstick by which our party will measure any deal the Government might announce. We want to be able to count how much is available to invest in new jobs through a stimulus. We want to be able to judge how many of our sons and daughters we will be able to welcome back from Australia and Canada to work here. Those are the calculations. Simply playing a game with this debt and moving it around and pushing it off into some other institution or turning it into a bond and crystallising it as a sovereign debt even further will not satisfy people. We, and our children, will still have to face it down the line in ten, 20 or 30 years' time.
I appeal to the Government to deal with this in an honest way and take this burden, which is not ours, off us. We are really concerned about it. We, on this side of the House, are accused of everything, but we really are concerned about this. Like Deputies on the Government benches we are meeting ordinary people who are absolutely tormented with their debts and tormented with financial hardship for the past four or five years because of the mess created by previous governments. We need to change this. We need to put down a marker on this and we need real and sustainable changes.