I will touch on two issues. Senator Norris and others will join me in expressing condolences to the Cloney family of Fethard-on-Sea, as Sheila Cloney has passed away. We salute physical force republicanism and physical force heroes, but we do not salute moral heroes sufficiently. The Fethard-on-Sea boycott was one of the shabbiest periods in history, but it was also one of the noblest. It saw great moral courage by Sheila Cloney who refused to give in to the infamous ne temere decree to rear a child as a Catholic and sent the child to Belfast. The child lived to take an active part in the divorce action campaigns of the 1980s. I was privileged to be involved in another project, as I suggested this story to the film makers of “A Love Divided”, which turned out to be a popular film.
Two or three other people in that difficult period deserve credit. One is Donal Barrington, the great senior counsel and later a judge who showed significant moral courage. The other is Éamon de Valera, who stood up in the Dáil and effectively ended that boycott with one short, terse reprimand of those involved. I hope the Leader will write to the family and express the sympathy and condolences of the House. The Cloneys are one of Ireland's historic families.
Without anticipating the debate on an bord snip nua's report, nothing could be ideologically clearer than our present position. We are seeking €5 billion and it must be found either by taxing the social welfare class — a voiceless class full of new recruits from the jobs market — or by tackling public sector pay. Instead of dealing with the matter in simple ideological terms, it has been obfuscated by RTE and other commentators right across the board. It has been obfuscated by talk about public sector expenditure cuts etc.
The public sector is objectively and relatively a privileged class. When I was a socialist, I would look around and ask who were the fat cats. If I were an active socialist today and looked around, I would realise the only fat-cat class, permanent and pensionable, is the public sector. While it is not the public servants' fault, the benchmarking system was not meant to give them 20% more than those in the private sector. Mr. Peter Cassells, former general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said that last week at the Seán Lemass conference. It is wrong that public servants are paid 20% more than their private sector counterparts; it must be taken back. If we want €5 billion, which is what we are looking for, the simplest way to get it is to cut public sector pay by 20%, or one fifth. That would yield the €5 billion and one would not have to target unmarried mothers, annoy anyone by means testing or torment the social welfare class. In doing so, the lead would have to be given by this and the other House. So far, the reason we are not hearing much debate on cuts of public sector pay in this or the other House is because we are up to our necks in it and our snouts are super-glued into the public purse.