The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on affordable housing, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and to adjourn not later than 2 p.m., if not previously concluded, spokespersons may speak for ten minutes and other Senators for eight minutes, Senators may share time by agreement of the House, and the Minister will be called upon ten minutes from the end of the debate for concluding comments and to take questions from leaders or spokespersons; No. 2, statements on elder abuse, to be taken at 3 p.m and to adjourn not later than 5 p.m., if not previously concluded, spokespersons may speak for 12 minutes and other Senators for eight minutes, Senators may share time by agreement of the House, and the Minister will be called upon ten minutes from the end of the debate for concluding comments and to take questions from leaders or spokespersons; and No. 23, Private Members' motion No. 37 regarding a review of the appointments to public bodies, to be taken at 5 p.m. and to conclude not later than 7 p.m. The business of the House will be interrupted between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Order of Business.
I wish to move an amendment to the Order of Business. Clearly there is only one topic we should be discussing, that is, the budget.
I call on the Minister for Finance to come to the House today. The budget is the worst attack on middle income earners that we have seen in the history of the country.
It is an appalling budget. No only has the Government deflated the economy, but it has deflated the hopes of the people. Taking into account the measures in this budget, the Government has taken more than €8,000 from the average family in the past six months. This is an attack on families. The Government has attacked families throughout the budget. It has bottled it on reform — there is no reform in the budget, which is extraordinary. The Government did not take the courageous decisions required to cut spending. The balance in the budget is wrong. Some 60% of it will be taxation compared with Fine Gael's recommendation of 32%. The Government has failed to give hope to those who are losing their jobs.
Job protection and creation are not addressed in the budget. The Government has only predicted increases in unemployment. In its budget, it has deflated the people's hopes. The Minister should attend the House today to begin the discussion on the budget, including the plan to take on €80 billion to €90 billion in banks' debts.
There were no cuts in VAT rates or PRSI relief for employers or a green economy stimulus programme, which was a Fine Gael proposal. The taxes on families are extraordinary. When money leaves people's pay packets at the end of the month, they will find it difficult to manage day-to-day living.
The Minister should discuss in the House the plan in respect of a preschool year. From where will the staff be found and where will the education be available, given the current shortage of child care places? What is the thinking behind this and what are the plans? We need details in this regard and on the asset management plan announced yesterday. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business so that the House can discuss the budget today.
It is some years since I said in the House that those who gloated at the demise of communism in the Soviet Union might find themselves attending the obsequies of capitalism during their lifetimes. To a certain satisfactory extent, this seems to be occurring. Socialism is beginning to happen, but it is a forced conversion.
I welcome the fact that the Government has created a new asset management agency. I suggested this four months ago but it was something more radical. We will take over toxic assets valued at more than €90 billion, but I proposed the creation of a national property management agency. The Government has done half of this, but I wanted it to sequester the assets of the property speculators. I was told of a constitutional bar in the form of the protection of private property. I do not believe this because of the Constitution's governing clause, which covers the social and public good. No property speculator could go to the Supreme Court and argue that his or her private rights were more important than the welfare of the people. We should consider whether the speculators should ever get their money, because they should not. Will the Minister explain this issue?
I am disappointed that Moody's rating agency has re-rated our banks. As a result, there was a catastrophic 30% decrease in their share prices this morning. The Moody's and Standard and Poor's agencies should be examined by the international community because, after signally failing to stop the horses bolting, they have slammed the door in the stable boy's face at a particularly inopportune time. As it was not appropriate, governments should scrutinise and rid themselves of such agencies. In their place, an international independent ratings agency should be introduced.
We must ensure the people are protected. I am glad that Ministers of State are being winnowed out, but I would like a Minister of State to be appointed to look after the welfare of people in their homes and their mortgages. Due to the removal of mortgage interest relief after the seven-year mark, people will be unable to make repayments and there will be repossessions, which will lead to a downward spiral. We must look after the people.
I started to make a point yesterday. While we may reconsider major infrastructural projects such as roads, we cannot afford to halt maintenance. I am horrified to see that road maintenance will be abandoned. Frank Gallagher lost his beautiful daughter when, while on her way to Shannon Airport, she hit an inappropriate road surface treatment. In the Kentstown massacre, five schoolchildren were deprived of their lives because of an inappropriate road treatment and a lack of proper maintenance. It cannot be allowed nor can we cut back in terms of fire brigades. These matters relate to people's lives and welfare.
I look forward to tomorrow's debate on the budget, as I will have plenty to say. This time, I hope that newspapers and "Oireachtas Report" will cover this House and the good economic ideas held by many of us on all sides of the House.
On behalf of my party, I pay tribute to the late Garda Robert McCallion, who sadly passed away yesterday after succumbing to injuries sustained in the line of duty. We would all agree that he was a brave garda and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues in this difficult time.
Yesterday's budget was one of the most serious tabled by a Minister for Finance. We all agree that difficult decisions needed to be taken. Indeed, some were taken. We hope that, as a result, the nation's finances will be put on the road to recovery. Since some issues have arisen as a consequence, however, I would like the Leader to arrange for a number of debates. The first discussion would be on the establishment of the national asset management company, which will reportedly buy assets valued at up to €100 billion. This approximates to €25,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.
It is vital that the establishment and operation of the organisation be well understood and conceived. In appointing people to it, there can be no room for manoeuvre or cronyism. We must be clear on it being a transparent agency because it will serve just one master, namely, the people, and not any political party. As we must get it right, I want a debate on the agency's operation.
The Minister got two areas wrong and must reconsider them. First, the Christmas welfare payment is seen by many poor and elderly people as an essential part of Christmas. It pays for essentials like the Christmas ham, a small present for a grandchild or heating an extra room for someone who is returning from abroad to spend Christmas at home. Since the proposed saving of more than €100 million would not be tremendous, we must reconsider the matter. Will the Leader arrange for this debate?
Second, the issue of international aid must be revisited. In the past four months, we have cut nearly €200 million, more than 20%, from the aid budget. This morning, John O'Shea of GOAL stated that yesterday was a bad day for the poor and this country's reputation. We must reconsider this matter, as the saving would not be considerable. We have made commitments to the outside world. Other European countries are going through difficult times but they are not cutting back. The only other countries doing so are Latvia and Italy. I am looking across the floor at Senators on the Government side who are good people and who firmly believe in development aid. I ask them to make the case to revisit this area. We must stand with the developing world and ensure we fulfil our commitments. Will the Leader arrange for a debate on the matter?
Since we are due to make statements on the budget tomorrow, it will be an opportunity to lay out our stalls and to examine in detail the context of the Budget Statement made by the Minister for Finance in the other House yesterday. I hope that Senators, before they engage in the debate, will learn to be numerate. In recent days, I have heard much about middle income earners. The average industrial wage is €36,000. The average wage in the public sector is €47,000. The tax burden was spread across all categories, but it was most heavily spread among high income earners.
Why does the Senator not go canvassing on that point?
I will tell the House the extent to which it was.
It was not spread among high income earners.
Senator Boyle without interruption.
He should get his facts right.
Every Member of this House was least affected by the tax burden through the 1% increase in the income levy. All of the other increases — the 4% and 6% bands, the lowering of the thresholds from €250,000 to €175,000 and from €100,000 to €75,000 and the raising of the PRSI ceiling and the health levy — affect people who earn incomes greater than ours. When Senators discuss a middle income, they should put things in perspective and learn the reality with which people are living every day.
Why do Senators not listen? He is perfectly right.
Will Senator Boyle say that when he is out canvassing?
Well done, Senator Boyle.
He should not lecture us with his pious platitudes.
When he knocks on doors, he will get his message.
You sacrificed the people of Ireland to stay in power.
What about people with families?
I call Senator Coghlan.
The Government has sacrificed the future of this island. Shame on it.
Senator Coghlan, without interruption, please.
I second Senator Fitzgerald's proposed amendment to the Order of Business today. While all Members expected a fair measure, sadly the Government got the balance completely wrong yesterday between increased taxation and spending controls.
Senator Boyle should remain in the House and listen.
That is the basic point I wish to make.
The Senator should take her own advice.
The Senator is not in the classroom now.
I ask Members not to interrupt. If this continues, I simply will adjourn the House and will persist in so doing until Senators desist from interrupting. Senator Coghlan, without interruption.
There is no jobs plan in the budget.
Although Members were lectured repeatedly on jobs, the measure proposed yesterday contained nothing to sustain or create jobs. Nothing was done on PRSI relief for employers to create new jobs or to improve the position on VAT and there was no green economy stimulus. This budget is lacking on essentials. Measures that Members proposed and thought the Government agreed constituted essential ingredients are absent, which is extraordinary. For those reasons and others, I second the proposed amendment to the Order of Business.
I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Norris regarding the rating agency Moody's. I do not understand how such organisations rate banks either because the bottom line is — this is another reason the Minister should come before the House — we have not received the details on the proposed State asset management agency under the aegis of the National Treasury Management Agency. A press conference on this issue is to be held some time today and I suggest the Minister should come before the House immediately afterwards. Unless banking stability is achieved, there will be no economic recovery and Members need to hear greater detail on this subject, as well as the other matters, from the Minister today.
I share in the expressions of sympathy to the family of Garda Robert McCallion, who was 29 years of age, was from Swinford, County Mayo, and served in Letterkenny Garda station.
The point is made.
I extend deepest sympathy to his brother and family on his tragic death. He was a serving garda and I extend sympathy to the Commissioner, Superintendent Vincent O'Brien, his colleagues, the Garda Representative Association and all involved. He was upholding the rights of the citizen and defending the law. He was an exemplary member of the Garda Síochána. His uncle and father served in the force and his brother John is a serving member. I extend the sympathy of this House to his family on his tragic death.
I support the call from Senator Fitzgerald and others that Members should debate the budget today. It seems extraordinary that, when everyone else in the country is debating the financial statement that was issued by the Minister for Finance yesterday and the small print contained therein, Members are not so doing. Given there still are 20 Ministers of State, albeit for a relatively short time, surely one of them could come into the House, even if the Minister is not available, to deal with the comments and views that all Members would like to express today on the budget.
A debate also is required on various aspects of it. As Senator Fitzgerald noted, the announcement of the free child care places was one of the very few — probably the only one — welcome pieces of news in the budget. However, it is difficult to imagine how that measure possibly could be implemented, as outlined by the Minister, by January. Furthermore, it seems like a real sop or small concession to working parents, who have seen their incomes so badly hit by the budget. I make no excuses for saying it will hit low and middle income families. Senator Boyle is not present to hear the response of those Members who took exception to his comments about numeracy. It is fair to say that low to middle income families will be badly affected by this budget. In particular, I refer to those who face the abolition of the child care supplement and the taxing of child benefit in future years, and who have seen the doubling of the health and income levies and the PRSI ceiling increased. People have talked about death by a thousand cuts but this budget constitutes death by a thousand petty levies, all of which will add up to a significant reduction of income for families.
The budget can be debated tomorrow. I seek questions to the Leader from Members.
I ask the Leader for a debate on the budget today and in particular the impact it will have on low to middle income families and on parents who will see their income cut in all these ways although their child care costs will remain high.
I add my voice to those who have expressed their sympathy to the McCallion family in County Mayo and Inishowen where the family home was located. While Members often spend their time bemoaning what the Garda does or does not do, it is very sad that not only did we lose Robert McCallion but, within hours, the death of a second serving garda in the Donegal district occurred yesterday. It was a very sad day for them and I send my commiserations and sympathies primarily to the family, as well as to the wider family that is the Garda Síochána.
While I was treading on uncertain ground the last time I raised this matter, I wish to raise again the sentencing of prisoners. Although Members are meant to maintain the separation between legislation and the Judiciary, when obvious situations arise in which the process seems to need updating in respect of sentence length, I again call on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to come before the House to deal with sentence lengths in respect of crime, such as the sexual crimes of paedophilia and rape, murder and all the associated serious crimes, as well as less serious crimes. He also should deal with those who are on parole at present or who are on release for various reasons and with the issue of preventing people from reoffending. In the event that people reoffend, their offences must be recorded by the judges when sentencing takes place for a second or third time for a similar offence. I seek a debate specifically pertaining to justice in respect of sentencing, prevention of reoffending, monitoring of those who are out of prison and ensuring that those who reoffend receive the proper response to their crimes.
On a separate issue——
As the Senator's time is up, she may come back in the morning.
——I welcome the additional 25 cent duty on cigarettes and ask for a debate on the illegal activity——
The Senator's point is made. My hands are tied.
——and sentencing in that regard.
All Members understand the dire state of the public finances and that a budget was required. However, Members expected a more fair and balanced budget. Although there was an opportunity to address seriously the huge hole that has emerged in the public finances, it has transpired that this was an opportunity lost. Heretofore, the Government had no plan but now that it has one, unfortunately it seems to be a plan to fail. It appears to be a bookkeeping budget with no understanding of human costs and that will emerge in the coming months.
Members heard this morning about families because this budget constitutes an attack on families. It is an attack across the board, whether on those on lower or middle incomes, on mortgages, income tax, levies, child care and health care. Families who helped to build up this country and who are stretched seriously already are affected. When their pay packets are opened at the end of this month, people will find themselves to be not only in negative equity but in huge debt. That is the way in which things are going. The budget has been a blunt instrument and while a debate on it has been scheduled for tomorrow, it is important to debate it today, and I support the calls for such a debate.
There was no mention of jobs in the budget and I ask the Leader that, in addition to having a debate on the budget itself, there should be a debate on jobs and job creation.
If one considers exactly what the budget will do to families, it will remove any discretionary spending they had and will take away any disposable income they had. The net effect will be that shops, restaurants, public houses and taxi services will close. The day-to-day businesses on which people depend to run their small business and for services will be seriously affected. I call on the Leader for a debate on jobs and the retail sector. We are asking the present generation and generations to come to take over a potential debt of €90 billion in toxic loans and land banks. That is a very dangerous area in which to become involved. There has been no categorisation, assessment or anything like this from the Government and yet we are expected to take it over. We will lumber future generations. That is the reality and the Leader can shake his head all he likes.
On a point of order——
Young people and young families are suffering. Those on this side of the House will defend them to the best of our ability.
On a point of order——
I ask Senator Coffey to resume his seat.
The Government is bailing out developers with apartments in Bulgaria, duplexes in Dubai and luxury apartments in New York while it expects the young people to take over that.
I ask Senator Coffey to resume his seat. I respect him as a good Member of this House.
People are angry, I am angry and the Leader must listen. He is shaking his head and I do not like that. It is patronising.
The Leader has called a point of order and I want to listen to what he has to say.
I support the Cathaoirleach, as all the leaders of the House have, on the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
That is not a point of order.
On a point of order, I refer to the time that was brought in for speakers to assist the Chair. Speakers are asked to assist the Chair.
That is up to the Cathaoirleach.
That is a point of order.
I am exhilarated and excited this morning. My colleagues in this House and those in the previous Seanad know I produced two documents on early child care and education. I am an action woman and I look for delivery of my projects. I am delighted——
And a presidential candidate.
Excuse me, Senator.
Senator White is speaking.
From next January, we will have universal free education for every three and four year old who wishes to participate.
I hope Senator White is right.
Many cannot afford to pay the cost of child care, whether in a crèche or a nursery. From next January we will be doing what the 1916 Proclamation said, to cherish all our children equally. Every child who is three years and three months will be able to attend a community crèche, a private crèche or a Montessori school. The Government will pay the fee for three hours per day for five days per week.
We need detail.
To the colleagues who are saying there is nothing in the budget, I point out that 70,000 children will be eligible for free preschool education.
Where are the places? Where are the staff?
Members should respect the Member speaking.
They do not like good news.
Senator Regan, without interruption.
No child care places are available at the moment.
I support the amendment proposed by Senator Fitzgerald to the Order of Business because the Minister for Finance has some explaining to do. It is very clear from this budget that he is no economist.
The Senator and the Minister are equals in that respect.
I ask the Leader not to interrupt. It was an accounting exercise and there is no economic thinking underpinning this budget. There is a total emphasis on taxation and no emphasis on value for money, expenditure cuts, cuts in waste or savings made. That is where the Minister has copped out.
Senator Mary White essentially invited us to congratulate the Government on the cutbacks. We have had a series of giveaway budgets on which Fianna Fáil Governments have been elected over the past 12 years. We are now being asked to congratulate the Government on taking all that back. Apart from the taxation and pain of this budget, let us look at the economic performance. Going back to the last Fine Gael-Labour Government, where there were average growth rates of 8%——
That is not correct.
——there will be average growth rates of 2% in 2009. That is the performance and it is still declining. Using the benchmark of those years one can look at every economic indicator, such as export performance, total tax take as a percentage of gross national product and national debt. The Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, promised before the previous election to eliminate the national debt. With the latest move in respect of the national asset management agency and the bailing out of the banks, the doubling of the national debt in sight. This is the legacy of Fianna Fáil and what we must face in 2009.
With all budgets, one can judge the reaction and what people think in the first 24 hours. There is a sense of realism in the reaction of the media and economists. It is particularly balanced. The reason for this is that we are now dealing with specifics. We have a budget to debate. Prior to this we had anà la carte debate that was a distraction that created confusion.
This morning, I listened very closely and a number of speakers reflected closely what this budget is. It is one step in a five-year recovery plan. Senator Coghlan is correct that we need stability in the banks. That must be at the top of the priority list and this could be extended slightly to include stability in the financial structure. I was also very much encouraged by Senator Hannigan. He dealt with specific issues and was not trying to undermine what the budget——
It does not sound like there is an economic crisis.
Senator Ó Murchú is speaking and I do not want interruption or I will ask people to leave the room.
He was not trying to undermine the budgetper se but pointed to specifics. That is the debate we will have tomorrow. With the views of Senators Coghlan and Hannigan, and I hope the same view on this side of the House, we can go one step further from this budget on our five year-plan.
We must provide leadership for those who are suffering. There is not a person who did not sit down to calculate what he or she would lose. There is pain across the board. The pain has been extended more upwards than downwards and that is as it should be. There will be no continuation of jobs or creation of new jobs if we do not create the stability put forward by Senators Coghlan and Hannigan.
It is extraordinary that this Government has the cheek to tax Christmas and the elderly. Senators on the Government side can forget about Ernest Blythe because what they are supporting is an attack on whatever definition Senator Boyle wants to give to middle income or low income earners. The Government has savaged the ordinary, plain decent person in Ireland. Shame on it.
Questions to the Leader.
Where is the plan in the budget for job creation, job retention and job protection? Where is it? The Leader should tell us. I want to see it.
Senator Buttimer should read it.
I have read it. I have it here. I cannot see it anywhere. There is nothing in it.
That is not it.
You have abandoned the people who ran to you in the last week of the last election campaign. You have sacrificed political capital in that election and you have got it now.
The Senator should not make remarks across the floor to other Senators. He should ask a question of the Leader.
You come in here every day and you pontificate, rant and rave. You have abandoned fairness.
The pot is calling the kettle black.
Unfortunately, Senator Boyle has left the Chamber.
The Senator should ask a question of the Leader.
What is the Leader's definition of fairness? Where is his definition of equity? I welcome the fact that the political class has been cut — there is no problem there — but the Leader should come out with me on the streets of Cork and ask the ordinary person how he or she is feeling. He or she will tell him. Senator Ó Murchú can plámás us on this side of the House. He should come out and meet the ordinary people. They were humiliated and savaged yesterday. There is no hope from this Government. It has neither inspiration nor leadership. It is devoid of ideas.
Questions to the Leader, please.
Senator Buttimer is so upset it must be a good budget.
It is time we had an election and it is time we told the people to get this Government out, keep it out and never put its members back into government. The Government should be ashamed because it has the country in a mess.
Senator, please. I am looking for a question and there is none.
Senator Buttimer is over his two minutes.
When will the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment be in the House? She is afraid to come to the House.
The Senator's time is up. I call Senator Callely.
When we have the debate tomorrow, I ask that the Minister for Finance would have the decency to come to this House. He has not been in it for recent debates on finance.
First and foremost, I salute members of our emergency services——
The champion of Christmas cards himself.
——who face difficult challenges in the line of duty on a daily basis. I congratulate in particular Detective Sergeant Mick Moran, who yesterday received an award for excellence in his work in human trafficking investigations with Interpol. Equally, I pay tribute to the family and friends of Garda McCallion on his tragic and untimely death in the course of duty.
In listening to my colleagues calling on the Leader today regarding various issues relating to the Budget Statement by the Minister for Finance, I look forward to the debate in the Chamber tomorrow. The Government's role is to provide leadership and decisive political action.
It has not provided that anyway.
On occasion, these may be very difficult and daunting tasks and there could be easier options. I am satisfied the Minister for Finance took the correct decisions yesterday and I look forward to tomorrow's debate.
Will the Leader clarify one issue which is very important? I welcome the national treasury management model being used with regard to bank debts but will the Leader clarify the position regarding the multi-year fiscal consolidation strategy and the time involved in the strategy?
I agree with the amendment to the Order of Business. We need this debate today. I listened to Senator Boyle, who infuriated me when he spoke about Senators. As a member of Sinn Féin in this House, I only accept the average industrial wage and the rest of the salary does not go into my pockets. It is instead invested in the constituency. I have two children under the age of five and my wife is going through third-level college, so I know exactly what people are suffering in this budget. It has an impact on the low and middle income earners.
The decision to cut the early child care supplement is an absolute disaster which will seriously impinge on the choice of parents to send children to crèches.
This is a Second Stage speech.
The change to mortgage interest relief will bring about a massive burden on the lowest income earners. The Government has indicated this budget is fair because the CEO of the ESB or Bord Gáis on their €500,000 per year will suffer the same consequences but €1,000 to such people is nothing compared to the cuts felt by somebody on the minimum wage.
Does the Senator have a question for the Leader?
The Government has continuously talked about protecting jobs and getting people back into employment but has done nothing about it. Why did we cut €30 million out of the school building programme and €300 million from building roads? Why did we cut €200 million from building social housing and water and sewerage infrastructure? Why did we cut millions from research and development into green energy? These are the key areas which would put people back to work, which is what the country needs.
I listened to the Minister stating yesterday that he could not make a decision on Minister's pay because he needed to compare it with other ministers throughout the world to find out if leaders in other states have people who do their laundry or clean their house.
The Senator's time is up.
He did not have to wait the same length of time when he came to the 18 and 19-year-old lads and girls out there——
The Senator's time is up. I call Senator Hanafin.
——who have lost their jobs. They were earning €200 per week and he decided to cut their income by 50%.
I call Senator Hanafin.
He has decided to cut that €200.
I ask the Senator to resume his seat. The Senator's time was up and he understands two minutes are allowed for a contribution. He was well over his time. The Senator has refused completely to resume his seat.
I ask the Leader to reply on the fairness——
I will ask the Senator to leave the House if he does not resume his seat.
Will the Leader inquire to the Department of Finance about the possibility of a minimum pricing order being introduced in connection with alcohol and petrol, particularly in light of the disparity between tax rates in the North and the Republic of Ireland? There could be very useful co-operation across the Border but the principal reason we cannot proceed with the necessary implementation is because of the divergence in taxation between the two areas.
I ask the Leader again to consider the minimum pricing order introduced in Scotland, which was very effective with alcohol in particular. There is something very wrong when one can get six cans of beer in an off-licence or supermarket cheaper than six cans of Coca-Cola. For health reasons as well as for the Exchequer, it is important this issue is rectified. It could be rectified.
In the ongoing debate, there has been a mistake in understanding what was clearly stated in the budget. The Government is not purchasing assets for €80 billion to €100 billion from the banks but rather purchasing the assets at the write-down value at today's date.
What is that?
A similar scheme in Sweden ensured that the Government eventually saw a very healthy profit.
I would like to be associated with the vote of sympathy to the family of the late Robert McCallion, who was killed tragically in Donegal. I extend sympathy to his family and the Garda Síochána.
How are loans to be assessed for young people or anybody looking to buy a property from now? With all the levies and restrictions put in place, along with removal of interest relief, there will be a dramatic effect on property. Such action will drive property prices even lower than what they are currently. It augurs poorly for people in the property market and builders because no property will be sold and they will not be able to get loans unless the property market bottoms out completely.
This leads to the issue raised by Senator Hanafin regarding the national asset management agency. The Senator indicated €100 billion of assets would be bought at the right price. There is only one way to know the right price, which is through the open market. We will never know the sum in question unless it is on the open market. Some of these assets should be put on the open market and people should be allowed buy them if they can. Otherwise we will never know the right price.
Who will take the hit? Will the banks take the hit if assets were previously valued at €100 billion but are written down to €60 billion? Who will pay the other €40 billion? We have given the banks €7 billion as it is and we will probably have to give them more to make up for this action.
Senator Coffey is absolutely correct in that there is no hope for retail, restaurants or bars. This Government has given no hope to the people either. It is bad enough with the budget we had yesterday but they are telling us there will be much more pain next year, with even more the following year. To add to that, €2 billion has been taken next year from the capital budget, with even more being taken from the capital budget for the following year. The pain will be even worse down the line so instead of giving hope to people, the Government is doing the opposite, which is very sad.
I offer my sympathy to the McCallion family, who I know quite well, including Nancy and Bob. The father, Bob, was a garda in my village of Knock when I was a young man. It is a very fine family and Nancy has many relatives in our parish. This was a tremendous tragedy and a death that should not have taken place. It happened because of nothing short of thuggery. I know the family is going through a very traumatic time at present because my family went through this some 30 years ago when a member of my family — a member of the Garda Síochána — was shot. I pass on my sympathy to the Garda Commissioner, the McCallion family, the superintendent in Donegal and the Garda force.
I agree with Senator Hannigan in respect of the reduction in the overseas aid budget. I spoke to a number of representatives from Dóchas recently and, like many people, they accepted that the budget would cause pain and were realistic that certain cuts would have to be made. Like many others in the aid sector, however, they will be horrified with regard to the extent of the cuts that have been made on this occasion. I recently inquired of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, as to whether Ireland would remain focused on reaching its target of contributing 0.7% of GDP to overseas aid. I was unable to obtain clarity from the Minister in respect of that and it is clear we are moving in the opposite direction.
Like many other Senators, I have taken the approach that things which might seem extremely unfair will have to happen in short term if we are to deal properly with the economic crisis. However, this move to reduce overseas aid cannot escape censure because a disproportionate cut has been made on this occasion. We must ask an obvious question, namely, whether people will lose their lives as a result of this development. Everything is relative and a high priority must be attached to the suffering of people in other parts of the world who depend on our solidarity and support. This is a deeply regrettable move and I hope we will discuss it in more detail in due course.
I join those who expressed sympathy to the family of Garda McCallion and the Garda authorities on his untimely death. What happened to Garda McCallion is a timely reminder of the selfless service gardaí give in defence of society.
Time should be set aside for a debate on banking. The Minister for Finance has proven to be particularly adept in dealing with a difficult and complicated issue that has challenged many governments across the globe. He has been cautious and prudent in the manner in which he has dealt with this matter. His approach in respect of establishing the new national asset management agency is the correct one to take because it will free up the banks and allow them to service industry and business, which is essential.
The budget was harsh. We were told this would be the case and also that it would be fair. Most people would — if they prescribe to the particular notion — concur that the harshness was spread in a fair way. There are two issues in respect of which we should engage in debates. It is imperative we show we can run public services in an efficient and cost-effective way and that there will not be any waste. We should debate that matter because any further attempts to extract anything from the productive sector will cause difficulties and will be met with a great deal of hostility, particularly if we are not seen to be ensuring the public services are as efficient as possible. Public servants need not fear what I am suggesting because it is good to be part of an efficient and effective organisation.
We should also debate the matter of enterprise promotion initiatives, which are essential in the context of trying to sustain existing employment and create new jobs.
That should have been done in the budget.
It would be important for the House to debate these matters.
The difficulty with the budget is that it does not provide solutions in respect of the major problems that will have a critical effect on the future of this country. The position with regard to waste has not been reformed and a job stimulus package has not been provided. A paltry 1,400 places will be provided on enterprise allowance schemes. What effect will this have on an economy that is losing 1,000 jobs per day? The budget does not offer a solution to difficulties in the third level sector. Instead, a reduction of €24 million is proposed. In addition, there will be a reduction of €30 million in the money allocated to the schools building programme. Furthermore, there will be a 17% reduction in REPS payments, which are central to farmers' incomes. It is a case of the Government relying on the "same old, same old" and taking the soft option of obliging middle income families to pay the State's debts.
I wish to counter what Senator Boyle stated. An average family with earnings amounting to €60,000 per annum will lost €4,600 as a consequence of the budget. That is a decline of 8%. I am concerned because there is little hope for home owners. At a human level, how can taxpayers be expected to pay their personal debts if they will also be obliged, as a result of Fianna Fáil's mistakes, to pay the State's debts?
Sucking up to the bankers.
Taxpayers are bailing out the banks. In that context, I am extremely concerned with regard to the proposal to establish a national asset management agency. Why should we be forced to pay for speculators' debts and take on assets that no one wants to buy on the open market? We need school buildings and we need land.
The Senator's time is exhausted.
However, the chances are that the land——
The Senator's time is up. I call Senator Cummins.
——that no one wants to buy on the open market is not situated in the right place. I also call for——
Senator Healy Eames should conclude.
——a debate on the banks.
I wish to express the deepest sympathies of those in Fine Gael to the family of Garda McCallion and to his colleagues in the Garda Síochána. His death brings home to people the fact that gardaí put their lives on the line on each occasion on which they take to the streets. They deserve the full support of everyone in this house and of members of the public in respect of their efforts.
Earlier this year, when the Taoiseach stated, at a function held by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, that his priority would be "jobs, jobs, jobs", I came to the conclusion that the Government was at last beginning to wake up. However, the budget will do nothing to create jobs or to stimulate the economy. Fine Gael suggested that the lower rate of VAT should be reduced by 3% in order that labour-intensive areas of the economy might be stimulated, but nothing of this sort has been done to create jobs or assist businesses that are in dire straits.
Senator Boyle has underestimated what the budget will mean to families, be they on the average industrial wage in the private or public sectors. People realise that they are going to be obliged to pay for the mistakes of Fianna Fáil. In that context, 5 June will be payback time for the people.
A serious issue has been raised at the AGSI's conference in Athlone, namely, that there is little support available to gardaí when they take children into care and that there is a lack of social work services on which they may call. The president of the AGSI stated this morning that the Garda should not hand over children in its care to an organisation other than one sponsored by the State, namely, the Health Service Executive. There are serious concerns that contract companies will be brought in to care for children who are needy and vulnerable. I ask that the Leader raise this matter with the HSE and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform because the children in question do not have a voice.
I support Senator Healy Eames's comments regarding the proposed national asset management agency. How was the €30 billion, €50 billion or €90 billion in question spent? Who was responsible for running up these debts and why have they not been brought before the courts? Why are taxpayers being obliged to pay for the completely irresponsible behaviour of these individuals?
In view of the fact that co-location has effectively been abolished as Government policy, will the Leader inquire of the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, the policy regarding capital developments in the health service? For the past four years, the Minister has continually stated that the only way to create additional beds in the public health system would be through the process of co-location.
Will the Leader request that the Minister for Finance come before the House to engage in a debate on the benchmarking process? It is unbelievable that we are allowing civil servants to retire at the age of 50 when two years ago we were told we had to increase massively the salaries of those same people to bring them up to parity with the private sector. There is something seriously wrong with Government policy in that regard. It is another gross failure that will cost the taxpayers millions of euro every year.
Regarding the new national asset management agency, NAMA, that is being set up by the Government to handle €90 billion of toxic assets, the Government must explain where are those toxic assets and give us a breakdown on them.
Toxic assets totalling €90 billion, half of which are bad, is another increase of €50 billion on the national debt. The Government said yesterday in the budget that it will cut the social welfare payment at the end of the year, take away the child care allowance, tax the people to the hilt but double the national debt to bail out bankers. If I was to give some advice to the Government I would suggest it should make Larry Goodman chairman of that new organisation——
The Senator should not mention the names of anyone outside the House.
——because he is the only person who was bailed out by the Government 20 years ago and who came back and made himself one of the richest men in this country. It is doing the same again today. It is a ridiculous proposal that must be debated seriously in this House.
I join Senators Hannigan, Leyden, Keaveney, Callely, Burke, Carty and Cummins in their remarks on the death of Garda Robert McCallion. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party and as Leader of the House, I join my colleagues in sending our condolences to the McCallion family. It is an appalling tragedy that should not have happened. As has been said by colleagues in the House this morning, every day that members of the Garda Síochána go to work, they are putting their lives at risk. To the Garda Representative Association and to the family of Garda McCallion, which gave sterling service for generations to the Garda Síochána and to the forces, we extend our support and our sincere condolences.
Senators Fitzgerald, Norris, Hannigan, Boyle, Coghlan, Coffey, Regan, Mary White, Ó Murchú, Buttimer, Callely, Doherty, Hanafin, Burke, Mullen, Walsh, Healy Eames, Cummins, McFadden and Twomey expressed their views on the budget. The supplementary budget was brought forward to correct the imbalances on the financial side. The point the Government made yesterday was that the public finances had to be stabilised and until we put our own house in order it is reasonable and fair to say that we cannot expect those who might invest in our country to have confidence in us as a nation. Colleagues on all sides of the House will agree that we must restore our damaged banking system. Credit is the lifeblood of an economy and unless we take radical and bold action to resolve the crisis and resume the flow of credit, which colleagues on all sides of the House highlighted here on numerous occasions on the Order of Business, the economy will not recover.
With that challenge facing the Government, it is now proposing corrective measures for our consideration. As has been said, we must restore our reputation abroad. This is one of the most——
It is the Government that must restore its reputation.
——important issues in regard to the financial system. As colleagues who have far more experience of these matters than I have will say, the standing of our country abroad must be maintained. We have been very badly damaged, as we all know, by the actions of some of our financial sectors, and our rejection of the Lisbon treaty probably did not help us.
And the Government.
We must show our European Union partners that we want to remain at its centre and we must show the world that our financial system is soundly based and governed by the highest standards of regulation.
All day tomorrow will be devoted to statements on the budget. It has always been the case that we do not take budgetary matters in this House until they are completed in the Dáil. The Dáil sat very late last night and will probably sit very late tonight also, but I have agreed with the leaders in the House the ordering of business for tomorrow, which will commence, with the agreement of the House, at 10 o'clock. With the Minister present we will proceed to allow statements all day, all evening and all night if necessary. Every Member will be given the opportunity to express his or her views on the proposals before us for consideration. That is the way we have always proceeded in the House——
It is wrong.
——and I look forward to the contributions of colleagues tomorrow.
We should change that.
Senator Hanafin raised the cost of alcohol compared to soft drinks. This is a serious issue and I will have time left aside for it to be debated in the House.
Senator Burke, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, made a valid point on mortgage repayments. I checked that out this morning and a loan repayment of €1,400 seven months ago is now €1,050, which is a saving of €350 per month.
Not if one is on a fixed mortgage.
For anyone who——
They were told to fix their mortgages.
The Leader to reply to the Order of Business.
——fixes a rate, which I understand is a very low percentage, it is a commercial independent decision made by that individual.
Let the Minister for Finance intervene with the banks. We are bailing them out.
Senator Healy Eames, please.
I am sick of it.
She should address her remarks through the Chair. The Leader is replying to the Order of Business.
They fixed rates at 5% to 6%.
They were told to fix them.
I am responding to a valid point made by the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
Please, Senator Twomey.
I am informing the House that there is a saving of €350 per month——
That was not his point.
The point Senator Healy Eames made was about the average family with earnings of €60,000, the husband and wife with two children, whom we all represent in this House. That saving——
The Government has no sympathy for the people.
The Leader has never been interrupted. Senators might not like what he is saying, but they do not interrupt the Leader. That has always been the precedent in this House——
——and I want it to continue.
The country is falling apart.
Members must not interrupt. There is room outside and the door is not locked for people who want to interrupt.
They are the facts as of this morning. The last time Fine Gael and Labour were in power was from 1983 to 1987.
That is wrong.
It was 1994 to 1997.
It was not pointed out to me by Senator Regan on the Order of Business, but the Workers' Party was with his party for a short period in the 1990s. From 1983 to 1987——
On a point of order, the Leader is factually incorrect. The Workers' Party was never in government. He is wrong.
That is not a point of order. The Leader to reply to the Order of Business.
In response to Senator Regan, at that time people paid personal income tax rates of 60%.
That was the last time that party got a mandate, 1983 to 1987.
It was 1994 to 1997.
On a point of order——
I hope it is related to procedure.
It relates to the proceedings.
Procedure, not proceedings.
The Leader cannot say I spoke about the Government of the 1980s when I specifically talked about the period from 1994 to 1997.
That is not a point of order. I ask the Leader——
Please do not misquote me by distorting the facts.
That is not a point of order. The Leader to reply to the Order of Business.
When we left office there was 8% growth.
Senator Burke made a valid point when he pointed out the interest——
On a point of order, is the Leader entitled to say whatever he likes in his response or is he supposed to respond to the questions asked without aggravating the other Members of the House by giving a history lesson on politics?
On a point of order——
Given the disruption, I ask the Leader to conclude.
——who controls the Leader?
Deal with the facts.
Please, I ask the Leader to conclude.
Senator Burke, the Leas-Chathaoirleach, who is a very experienced member of the Opposition, for whom we have great respect, pointed out correctly the difficulties he had on loan repayments. I was clarifying the facts. There is a saving of €350 per month, which is more than €4,000 per annum.
What about new loans?
I certainly agree with Senator McFadden, my colleague in County Westmeath, on the matters highlighted at the Garda conference on children in care. We should have a lengthy debate when all Senators can express their views. Senator Keaveney also called for a debate on the length of prison sentences and stopping reoffending, and I have no difficulty in including that in a debate on justice issues.
Senators Coffey, Burke and Jim Walsh called for a debate on job creation with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I will set aside time for such a debate.
Senator Mary White correctly pointed out the great work she has been doing and congratulated the Minister for Finance on his initiative on the forthcoming proposals from 1 January, where 70,000 young boys and girls will be able to avail of child care for three hours per day five days a week.
Where are the places?
The Minister is to be complimented and I congratulate Senator Mary White on her great work.
What has that to do with pre-school education?
I thought there was going to be a year of pre-school education. What is this new idea?
I will ask Senator Healy Eames to leave this House if she continues to interrupt. She continually interrupted the Leader during his reply.
I want the truth. I stand for the truth and the facts.
I will suspend the House if the Senator does not sit back down in her seat and allow the Leader to reply to the Order of Business.
We have read in the newspapers about the difficulties the leader of Fine Gael has with the parliamentary party.
That is not relevant.
We do not want to see that coming into the House.
On a point of order, what is the Leader entitled to say?
That is not a point of order, as Senator Twomey well knows.
Senator Twomey called for a debate on capital development and related projects. Perhaps the Senator will avail of the opportunity, when the Minister is present for statements on the budget, to get an up-to-date reply on this important issue.
Senator Fitzgerald proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate on the budget proposals be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?
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- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
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- Regan, Eugene.
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- Twomey, Liam.
- White, Alex.
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- Hanafin, John.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Leyden, Terry.
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- Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
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