Confidence in the Taoiseach: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann has no confidence in the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen.

Moving a motion of no confidence in a member of the Government in the Seanad is not a decision I, or Fine Gael, take lightly. Such confidence motions are rare in this House. However, even more rare is the publication of independent reports into a banking crisis which point the finger of blame squarely and largely at the door of the current Taoiseach during his time as Minister for Finance.

On a point of order, is it appropriate this debate should take place at this awkward time for the Fine Gael Party?

That is not a point of order. This was agreed on the Order of Business this morning.

The two banking reports published in recent weeks shatter the myths, illusions and spin which the Government has tried to force on the people. The words "I am sorry" were slow to come from the Taoiseach with him instead preferring to hide behind another two words, "Lehman Brothers".

Now the jury has returned, however, and the independent verdicts are in with a clear result. The reports stated this economic crisis was home-grown, nurtured by policies and a culture presided over by the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his predecessor, Deputy Bertie Ahern. The reports also pointed to the blind-eye turned to warnings and sound economic advice. Anybody who dared to disagree or express concern was dismissed as a naysayer and even told by the former Taoiseach to go and commit suicide.

The message that rings out clearly from the two reports published by Patrick Honohan and Klaus Regling and Max Watson is that the people have been spectacularly failed by an economic and financial system with the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, at its apex.

No one can have confidence in his stewardship of the economy. His failures were directly based on decisions he made and through the regulatory and banking systems he oversaw. These failures have caused misery for thousands and replaced hope with despair for an entire generation. Whoever thought we would return to the days of 60,000 people leaving our shores last year as they saw the country no longer able to protect their well-being or foster their ambitions? Up to 40,000 more people are due to join them this year.

For those who remain, lengthy dole queues ensue with 439,100 men and women unemployed but still no details of a jobs plan from the very Government that did not know how to manage the economy and now is overwhelmed trying to cope with the recession.

Deputy Brian Cowen, when Minister for Finance, talked about a soft landing for the economy. When the economy collapsed, he adopted the mantra of it not being his fault. He was wrong not to accept responsibility.

There had been warnings that a crisis was looming. A long list of individuals and organisations warned that all was not well, that Government policy was unsustainable and that Fianna Fáil was overheating the economy. Patrick Honohan, now Governor of the Central Bank, economist John FitzGerald, various economic commentaries, the ESRI, the IMF, the OECD and the Fine Gael Party all warned of these developments in the economy.

The ESRI repeatedly warned of problems. In 2001 it warned about the need to use fiscal policy to prevent property market bubbles. In 2003, its medium term review expressed concern about unduly expansionary fiscal policy, specifically the failure to control the housing market, surmising the economy was flying too close to the sun. In 2005 the authors went on to simulate the economic effects of a 30% fall in house prices. These warnings were, in turn, ignored, dismissed and even sneered at. Patrick Honohan warned of unmistakable signs of overheating in 2002. In 2005, he warned that the housing and property sectors could have destabilising effects because of the way they were operating at that time. The criticisms, advice and red-light warnings were there for all to see but the Department of Finance and the Government appeared blinkered. I call on the Minister to comment on the points which Michael Somers made at the weekend in respect to the lack of good advice. Yesterday morning, Senator Boyle commented on this matter as well. I refer to comments from recent days in respect of the Department of Finance and its response at the time. Yesterday inThe Irish Times, reference was made to poor advice from Department of Finance, which is extraordinary.

We offered many warnings. It is wrong to say Fine Gael did not point out what was happening. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consistently, we warned that Government economic policy was overheating the economy and undermining the Celtic tiger. Like all others, our warnings were ignored. I wish to put some of these warnings on the record of the House. In 2002 we stated: "It suits members of the Government to say it is the global economy rather than their own appalling and inept mismanagement that is the cause of this". On 3 December 2003, Fine Gael stated:

The sad reality is we are experiencing the legacy of the ‘get out and party' years. Never did a Government spend so much to achieve so little.

In 2005, we warned, "Not only did Government spend money recklessly, particularly in the run-up to the previous general election, it also allowed proper controls and performance systems to rust over". When one reads the two reports published this week, this is precisely what is spelt out about the absolute failure of the economic, fiscal and financial policies of the Government. After the 2008 budget, Fine Gael stated:

The Minister talks smugly of a timely housing correction. The Government presides over a dysfunctional housing market. Change in the way taxpayers' money is spent is already long overdue.

These words and many more are on the record of the Dáil and this House for all to see. As the reports of last week stated, the Government cannot blame Lehman Brothers, a lack of economic warning or the Opposition. The blame rests with those in charge, those who made decisions and those in control of economic banking and regulatory policies. The reports outline an examination of each of these areas and in each case there are significant and serious failings which have had an extraordinary impact on the lives of this generation of Irish women, men and children.

The two reports vindicate the charges made. The reports clearly show the Government played a central role in causing the crisis. This is denied again and again but it is clear that its role was central. The misjudgments by the current Taoiseach were at the heart of the problem. These reports demolish all his excuses and the guilt is plain to see. It is a very serious and comprehensive rebuttal of the policies of his Government and his time as Minister for Finance. On page ten of his report, Mr. Honohan notes, "More generally, a rather defensive approach was adopted to external critics or contrarians". On page 16 he notes that:

... the weaknesses of Irish banks were not caused by the interruption in the flow of cheap money from abroad. Even before the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, Irish residential property prices had been falling for more than 18 months and few observers expected their fall to end soon.

He found that the failure of Lehman's was not decisive and he outlines that:

... a soft landing was not based on any quantitative calculations or analysis. This appears to have been a triumph of hope over reality.

He goes on to outline how Government policy played a central role in contributing to the crisis and outlines the negative impact of the Taoiseach's budgetary policies as Minister for Finance. They have had the most extraordinary impact on the lives of ordinary people.

As everyone in the House is aware, people are hurting due to these inaccuracies, errors and failures. Everyone has paid a price for these failures of the Taoiseach. That is to say, everyone except the Taoiseach. Hospital beds have been closed. People's sons and daughters have been forced to emigrate. Special needs education has been cut left, right and centre and social welfare recipients have been penalised. However, the Taoiseach continues in office. He has not faced up to the serious impact that his decisions have had on the lives of Irish men, women and children. He has led us into this crisis. It is clear that far more will come out about our banking crisis. For example, it is clear the reports have not examined the NAMA decision. They have not examined the capitalisation of the banks. There is a cut-off date which does not include the guarantee scheme. At this point, we do not know the full story of the range of decisions for which this Taoiseach was responsible and which have led us into our current position. We lack confidence in him and I move the motion which Fine Gael has tabled.

I second the motion. Senator Ó Brolcháin remarked that this motion is somehow irrelevant. In one month's time the concerns of what is happening within our political party will be old news. However, the effects of what has happened to our economy are being felt severely and will continue to be felt quite dramatically. Whatever about members of the Green Party, members of Fianna Fáil understand this is having a very significant effect on their support among the public. The former Minister for Finance and current Taoiseach has been very slow to admit to his mistakes and to what went wrong with our economy. To an extent, as Minister for Finance he was like someone who set the house on fire. When he became Taoiseach, he waited for the fire to take hold before he started to put it out. Now he wants a medal for doing so.

Unfortunately, Government policy had a significant role in causing the problems we face today. The economy has been stressed beyond belief. The bailouts to the banks are the equivalent of what it costs to run two Departments, namely, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Anglo Irish Bank presented at committee today and thanked us for the €15 billion it received but proposed that it might need a further €8 billion or €9 billion. Figures such as €24 billion are tripping off bankers' tongues as if they were chicken feed, but they are not. They are unbelievable sums of money. The Government will only bring in €32 billion in taxes this year. However, one bank is already looking for €24 billion of taxpayers' money in a bailout. This is on top of the 450,000 unemployed. Many people's lives have been ruined.

Let us consider how our economy was deconstructed by Government policy. The first phase of deconstruction involved the construction sector. The party which was established and initially sold itself as a party set up to represent men of no property has somehow turned into a party representing men of substantial property. I am unsure whether it was hubris or being in awe of property developers and speculators. Ministers altered policy to suit these people. For a time, 14% of the GDP of this country was made up of construction. It was way out of kilter with the rest of Europe. We have heard so much about why this has happened but most people understand that it is not true.

What is really interesting is that during the election, these developers and speculators informed their workers that only Fianna Fáil could protect their jobs. What is also interesting is that around this time, Fianna Fáil Ministers knew the property bubble had burst and that it would have a huge effect on the jobs of people in the construction sector but for some reason they felt it was easier to lie and not accept what was going on for the sake of power. That may be a very hard statement but it is the reality.

Ministers knew the property bubble had burst. Even the Taoiseach was still suffering from the delusion that there would be a soft landing. I have not heard too much about soft landings in construction bubbles. By their very nature, construction bubbles build and deflate quite quickly and the market resets itself. The Taoiseach continued in this belief that there would be a soft landing, as did many Ministers.

What has transpired from all of this is the level of debt ordinary families have. What is really annoying those families is that they feel they were hung out to dry by this Government while it pours billions of euro into NAMA for questionable reasons. There is much concern about NAMA despite Ministers rolling out people to say it is the right thing. We are not being very honest with ourselves if we do not acknowledge there are problems with NAMA. There are problems with how the NAMA legislation is functioning, about which I am sure the Minister for Education and Skills is beginning to hear at the Cabinet table.

Another issue which is really annoying the public is the extravagant lifestyles of certain individuals. I came of age in the 1980s when there was a song by Christy Moore called Ordinary Man. When the people hear about people jetting off to places and living extravagant lifestyles, they sense they are still paying for it. I refer not only to people who have lost their jobs but to people in the Civil Service and the public service who are paying three extra taxes — a health levy, a pension levy and an income levy. Others have also seen a dramatic cut in their incomes. That is having a second impact on our economy in the form of consumer spending.

Another problem only slightly grasped by the Government, but which is the biggest problem, is the turmoil in the public finances. There is a huge gap between what we are spending and our income. I refer to the delay in dealing with this crisis. I accept much of what the Government is doing to deal with the crisis is right but it cannot take credit for dealing with a crisis it caused. It cannot laud itself on that. There is still a sense among the public that the Government is not dealing with this crisis quickly enough.

The Government must accept the people are bitter and angry that they were misled at the latter end of the Celtic tiger years, that this Government bought the last election with their money and that it has left them paying for it for a number of decades. That is why the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, should be honest and go before the people and why we have tabled a no confidence motion in him.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Seanad Éireann has confidence in the Taoiseach and this Government".

I am proud to affirm confidence in the Government which is willing to take the hard decisions necessary to get the economy on the road to recovery. I remember two recessions and was a Member of this House for one of them. The Government of the day in the 1980s did not take the hard decisions. The Taoiseach of the day was very honourable and honest when he said many years later on his retirement that he would have made different decisions if he had to make them again.

This Government has provided confidence and credibility for the Irish economy and the markets at a time of great turbulence. As the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance pointed out yesterday, many countries in Europe now face serious problems in their public finances. Ireland has gained an advantage by moving quickly to tackle the public finances.

This Government has attracted much criticism from political opponents. I have been involved in politics long enough and lived through enough recessions to know that in an economic crisis, governments need to do what is prudent. Taking the populist approach will not get Ireland out of this crisis. There is no doubt that the Government could have tried to defer the hard decisions but as the example of Greece shows us, the hard choices cannot be avoided for long. Other nations are now following Ireland's example.

At all stages, the Taoiseach's Government has put the national interest first and has put economic substance before political spin. Everyone in this House and in the country knows that Ireland is going through a very difficult recession. We are lucky we have men and women of courage under the stewardship of Deputy Cowen, as Taoiseach, and their talents at this crucial time.

The Taoiseach is a man of substance and of real integrity. In tough economic times, we need people with broad shoulders. We need Ministers who will not be deflected by criticism, who have the bottle to do what is necessary and who will not be rattled or thrown off course by the fleeting opinion poll.

Many people have spent the past two years deriding decisions made by the Taoiseach and his Government yet it is now becoming increasingly clear that the major policy decisions taken by the Government over that period are having the intended impact on the public finances and are restoring much need confidence in our country.

I pay tribute to the Taoiseach and welcome the Tánaiste to the House for this very serious and important motion and wish her well in her new portfolio. Our colleagues, the Minister for Finance, the other Ministers and Ministers of State and the Green Party Ministers and Ministers of State have shown great political maturity, leadership, acumen and skill.

As the Taoiseach made clear in the Dáil yesterday, the recent reports confirm the need for an extensive guarantee, that Anglo Irish Bank was a systemic bank at the time of the guarantee, that the bank's failure would have been disastrous for the economy, that the timing of the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank did not result in higher costs and that steps have been taken to correct the main issues relating to regulation.

In his report, Governor Honohan is unequivocally strong on the need for a guarantee. He made the point that if the Government had not acted on the night of 29 September 2008, the cost to our economy would have been detrimental. In this respect, the report must make difficult reading for our colleagues in the Labour Party who said there was no need for a guarantee.

The report states: "Closure of all, or a large part, of the banking system would have entailed a catastrophic immediate and sustained economy-wide disruption involving very significant, albeit extremely difficult to quantify, social costs, affecting in particular the fundamental function of the payments system in a modern economy." It further states: "Considering the experience of other countries in such circumstances, the social and economic costs, if they could be quantified, would surely have run into tens of billions of euro." These immediate costs were avoided by the guarantee. The record shows the Labour Party voted against the guarantee. The reality of that choice, had its position prevailed, is the entire banking system would have collapsed and our economy would have gone down the tube. Without a guarantee, there would have been a run on the banks and Governor Honohan says that, in all likelihood, the main banks would have run out of cash within days.

The Government is pursuing a clear and well defined strategy to generate sustainable jobs. Those who say we can save jobs while allowing financial institutions to fall are closing their eyes to the most basic necessity of economic reality. That reality is our economy is open. We depend on exports, foreign investment and international trade and those who advocate defaulting or allowing banks of systemic importance to fall clearly do not understand the reality because following such a dangerous course would suck confidence and investment out of the country and do untold damage to Ireland.

In a recent speech in Athlone the Taoiseach identified ten areas where the Government's economic renewal plan is working to generate the jobs we so badly need. They are confidence, credit, costs, infrastructure, innovation, foreign direct investment, small business, green enterprises, agrifood and tourism. I encourage Members to read his speech because it is constructive politics at its best. It sets out a national course for tackling unemployment and for the priority of getting people back to work as soon as possible.

With regard to our public finances, Ireland made a fiscal correction of 5% of GDP in 2009 and the correction will be 2.5% in 2010. Big decisions will also have to be made in the next budget and the Government and the Taoiseach must weigh up where expenditure savings can be made to restore fiscal stability in order that we can continue to attract investment and continue on the path to economic growth and job creation. The Government has learned hard lessons and taken difficult decisions. Our economy is emerging from recession and Ireland is strongly fighting back. The Government has credible plans to take us forward on the path of sustainable economic growth. The plan is to fix the banks, restore order to our public finances, restore competitiveness, support enterprise and generate employment.

It is unusual to have a debate of this sort with a motion tabled in such blatant terms in this House. This always puts Independents in a difficult situation as they have to come off the fence on a motion as crude as this but it is my view and that of a large number of people in the country that, for various reasons, Fianna Fáil has been too long in office. The numbers will be more familiar to other Members but the party has been out of office for two and a half years over the past 23 years butipso facto it is bad for the party, the individuals, democracy and the country for any government or party to be in power for so long.

If a party keeps winning elections, it keeps power.

Has the Senator joined Fianna Fáil?

Senator Ross, without interruption, please.

The evidence for that is obvious not so much in the conduct of people in these Houses or the legislation they put forward but in the way semi-State companies are governed. One will find the infiltration of these companies by Fianna Fáil over that period has been quite devastating. Anybody who looks at the boards of the quangos in this country will realise it will take many years to dismantle Fianna Fáil's influence on them. The Tánaiste will be familiar with the issues in FÁS and other semi-State companies, given her former portfolio, while the Minister for Transport will be familiar with the issue of CIE which, for some reason, has not been debated in the House, despite several requests I have made. There are other glaring examples of such companies being used purely and simply as a home for patronage by the Fianna Fáil Party. That is not good for the nation and it is bad for these companies. When this happens on a massive scale, as has been the case, vital organs and utilities become controlled politically. They are run for the benefit of a particular party, which is wrong, and not necessarily for the good of the consumer or the people.

Government Members should not be too prickly about this. I did not say this practice is exclusive to Fianna Fáil. It has happened when other parties have been in government as well but the reality is if one party gets into government for too long, it takes a generation to dismantle the control and influence it has on these organs. Blatantly obvious party political nominees are on the board of the DAA, An Post, Enterprise Ireland and so on. It is difficult to link that to the damage they may or may not do. Perhaps they are just sleepers who do absolutely nothing and do no damage, in which case they should not be there.

I do not necessarily feel this applies to the Green Party but the motion is phrased in such a way that it is difficult for those of us on the Opposition benches to support a blanket dismissal of the Government because my criticism is confined largely to Fianna Fáil. The Green Party in government, like the Progressive Democrats Party before it, has been a good and benign influence. Its Ministers have got some welcome reforms through and they have stopped some of the greater excesses of Fianna Fáil. Its members have influenced appointments and bank investigations, which is to their credit. Senator Boyle has been a great influence on that and I commend him for that but that does not in any way detract from my primary issue. A party should not be in power for so long if it is going to abuse power in the way it has done.

It fought an election.

There will be an election. I accept the democratic will of the people.

The Senator has to accept it.

I am entitled to a point of view.

Senator Ross, without interruption.

The Senator is but——

Does Senator O'Malley not understand that? When she joins Fianna Fáil, she will probably get some other form of patronage, as she has done already. She is one of the beneficiaries of this system.

I worry about the Judiciary and the system of appointing judges. If one party is in power too long, there is a danger that judges of a particular political complexion will also be appointed. There is no doubt whatsoever that judges are politically appointed and there is no point in Members looking outraged. If one talks to people in the Law Library, they will say, "That one is yours or that is theirs". They identify judges in private conservation and when they talk about Supreme Court judgments, they can say which way they will go according to the political colour of the judges. There is no point in Members denying it and looking outraged because that is the way the world works here. It may not be convenient for this to be pointed out but that is what happens. It is important, therefore, that the Fianna Fáil Party, regardless of its legislative record, should not remain in office for any longer than is necessary. It will stay in power for a certain time.

With regard to the economy, we debated the two banking reports well under different guises. There is succour for the Government in them. There is no denying it. If they are decoded properly, they state that up to the time of the crisis the economy was being badly run and they blame the Government, in coded terms, for being asleep on the job as regards the banks. They state that afterwards crisis management was good, that Ireland is regarded in Europe as an example of recovery and that we are to be commended in that regard. That tells us that, pre-crisis, the economy was extraordinarily badly run but has been very well run since. That is the message they are sending and they may be right or wrong.

The Minister for Finance certainly should have the confidence of Members of this House and the nation. He has mine and that of many independent people, but he was not Minister for Finance during that awful period when the property boom happened. It was a two-tiered decision. It is obvious that the main flaw was the dependence of the Government during the years of the boom on property taxes and revenue. It was sticking out a mile that too big a proportion came from property.

Let us not take the motion completely in the raw. It is difficult because there are good things to say about the Government. On the whole, however, the main problem is that it has abused more than 20 years in office and has had a disproportionate amount of time. The warts are now showing as a result of its tenure.

I welcome the opportunity to support the motion of confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government. Needless to say, it is disappointing that we have to dedicate Seanad time to have an unnecessary confidence debate on a day when we should, in fact, be debating the Regling-Watson and Honohan reports, the findings of the Saville inquiry or getting on with the work of placing Ireland on a path towards sustainable economic growth. That said, the motion provides the Government with an opportunity not only to set the record straight, but also to reaffirm its commitment to aid recovery. What we have in mind is not recovery in the opinion polls in the short term but real and lasting economic recovery, on which the people will pass judgment in the only poll that counts in two years' time.

The truth is that we are operating in a period that presents a grave challenge for the country, the currency, the European Union and the global economic system. This is a time in which the capacity to sustain confidence abroad is just as important as the ability to deliver the correct policies at home. The people know that Ireland is now on the right path, but they also know that we still have some distance to travel. To make the journey safely, the country needs steady, determined and calm leadership. The Government, under the leadership of the Taoiseach, will continue to provide the necessary leadership.

Rather than addressing issues, regrettably, the debate has been personalised to the point where it now a motion of confidence in the man who in the past two years has led Ireland through one of the most difficult and challenging periods in its history post-independence. The capacity of a Taoiseach to lead a team of Ministers, particularly a team formed from a coalition of political parties, and through that team a country, is best tested in periods of significant challenge when difficult choices have to be made. The capacity to provide leadership demonstrated by the Taoiseach in this regard in the past two years is without precedent. It is evident in his ability to understand the silent majority and appreciate the importance of leadership to "bring the people with you" in order to achieve enduring change and progress.

The Taoiseach has mapped out a course for the country that will not just see it recover but also ensure it will achieve long-term and sustainable growth. The actions taken to stabilise the public finances, restore competitiveness, rebuild the tax base and repair the banks run in parallel with a strategic vision for the development of a smart economy. Investment in critical infrastructure, job creation, education and the productive sectors has been prioritised. In the past week crucial progress has been achieved in the reform of public services.

I make this point, not to ignore issues that have prompted the motion, but to highlight the reality of where we stand today. The Government, under the leadership of the Taoiseach for more than two years, has demonstrated a capacity to implement difficult but necessary policies at home and sustain international confidence abroad, as affirmed by fair-minded observers both inside and outside Ireland. While there are significant lessons to be learned in the path taken by the domestic banking sector in the previous decade, they are lessons for all of us. Support for the economic orthodoxy of the day was either explicit or implicit across most parties in the Oireachtas. The proof is available for all to see in election manifestos. It is there in the many statements made in both Houses of the Oireachtas calling for more homes to be constructed, further relief from stamp duty for home buyers or more to be spent in every area of Government expenditure.

The banking reports make it clear that the Government was ill-served by much of the advice it had received in the period up to the crisis. Even the surveillance provided by external institutions such as the IMF, in terms of economic policy and financial stability, failed to sound alarm bells about the impact of policy decisions made. The analysis actually provided reassurance that the general policy direction taken was the correct one. With the benefit of hindsight, I have no doubt we all would have altered our positions and approached some issues differently. Today, knowing what we now know, it is right that all should be held to account for what has been done, as well as what was left undone. Our determination in that regard is evident in our decision to appoint distinguished and independent experts to conduct a robust assessment of the reasons for the banking crisis. We are determined to continue that examination, analysis and reflection in order that full and fair assessments can be made, lessons learned and the basis established for a full political assessment of performance to be made in due course.

The Taoiseach has made it clear that he accepts responsibility for all of the decisions he took when Minister for Finance and has taken as Taoiseach. The record, informed by the expert analyses published in recent days, demonstrates that he acted to correct imbalances in the tax relief system and rebalance the focus of economic policy from an excessive dependence on property and construction revenue towards having a more balanced and sustainable economy. In that regard, we do not disagree with what Members of this House have said. That this ultimately proved insufficient to prevent our vulnerability from producing the critical situation in which we have found ourselves reflected severe failings in the banking and regulatory systems. As I have highlighted, these were compounded by the failings of external authorities which falsely gave comfort about the performance of both systems. This crystallised following the collapse of international financial markets to a degree nobody had anticipated.

Undoubtedly, this has been the most volatile and demanding period in Irish political life for over a quarter of a century. The acknowledgement by the Taoiseach of his role and responsibility for past policies and decisions is in stark contrast with the rewriting of history and denials of the Opposition as regards its record. The Government has worked long and hard in an effort to get Ireland through the crisis and its track record has been acknowledged by international commentators as the correct response to our circumstances. This has been confirmed by the Regling-Watson and Honohan banking reports. They confirmed the need for an extensive guarantee, that Anglo Irish Bank was a bank of systemic importance at the time of the guarantee, that bank failure would have been disastrous for the economy, that the timing of nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank did not result in higher costs and that steps had been taken to correct the main issues relating to regulation.

Our efforts are paying off, as international commentators, including the OECD, acknowledge the economy has reached a turning point. Other countries are facing up to their difficulties. That we are on the correct path is emphasised by the actions being taken in recent weeks in other EU member states such as the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany which are behind us in taking steps to rebalance their budgetary figures. Ireland has first-mover advantage in this regard and we must maintain a steady path to ensure we position ourselves in the best position for the future. The determination of the Government, under the Taoiseach's leadership, to move early and decisively to address problems confronting the public finances has generated approval and confidence abroad, from which we continue to benefit.

Members are aware that the Government's plan for recovery involves four key pillars, namely, repairing the banking system, restoring stability to the public finances, regaining Ireland's competitiveness and supporting enterprise and job creation. Arguably, getting the banks working again presents one of the most significant financial challenges ever faced by the State. The reality is simple however — the Government must repair the balance sheets and get credit flowing again to support economic recovery and create jobs.

The Regling-Watson and Honohan reports highlight the reasons we find ourselves in the position where we are obliged to provide so much support for the banking system. The reports conclude that the major responsibility for Ireland's banking crisis lies with the directors and senior managements of the banks. They highlight that fundamental errors within the management of individual banks led to excessive risk taking, that banks became too dependent on wholesale funding, that inadequate financial regulatory controls were implemented in Ireland and other international economies based on a mistaken view of governance within banks and that property tax incentives in place in the period from the mid-1990s should have been abolished many years before the December 2005 decision to so do. They also highlight that individuals were left in dominant positions within individual financial institutions for too long a period, with too little management turnover, and that there were significant failures in corporate governance. In addition, there was a failure to impose international stability risk assessments and protection systems that took account of the interaction of global financial systems and a failure to ensure more intensive compliance regulation of those financial institutions which were too big to fail. They further highlight that the higher capital requirements for speculative property loans in Irish banks introduced at the start of 2007 should have been imposed many years earlier before the rapid escalation in property lending took place.

The reports highlight the failures that resulted in the domestic banking system being so exposed on the eve of the international financial crisis. They are welcome confirmation of the contributing factors, the majority of which we had grown to understand since the onset of the banking crisis. It is the role of the Government to implement policies and introduce reforms to ensure such banking crises can never happen again in this country. Under the leadership of the Taoiseach, it already has done so.

The Government's response to the banking crisis has been robust and involved a series of actions, including the guarantee of Irish banking liabilities, the establishment of NAMA, the appointment of a new Governor of the Central Bank and a new Financial Regulator and the integration of a new central banking commission and the Financial Regulator. The Government's actions also include the introduction of a radically changed regulatory system, the setting of higher capital requirements for Irish banks by the regulator, restrictions on bankers' pay and supporting the independent investigation and prosecution of criminal actions in the banking sector. Ensuring the existence of a stable and strong banking system for the future is critical to Ireland's future prosperity. The availability of credit for sound business proposals is the lifeblood of any enterprise economy and the key to job creation.

The second element of the Government's plan is to restore order to the public finances. While the good news is that stability has been restored, the more difficult news is that we have further to go and that more difficult budgetary decisions lie ahead. Despite the fiscal correction of 5% of GDP achieved to date, it is important not to allow an air of unreality to develop to the effect that Ireland is out of the woods. While we certainly are on the correct path, we have much further to go. I accept fully that some of the decisions, particularly those pertaining to expenditure that the Government has been obliged to take in making this adjustment, have created anxiety and difficulty for many. However, I again assure Members that in taking these decisions the Government was guided at all times by the national interest and the need to ensure public services can be sustained into the future. For the year ahead, a further €3 billion of adjustments will be required in the budget for 2011. There will be less money available for public services and we must achieve more with less. Without the measures the Government has taken to date, the budget deficit would have ballooned to 20%. There simply is no room for complacency and we must persevere with the agreed deficit reduction programme in the coming years. As confidence in Ireland abroad rises as a result of the course the Government has charted, it would be a mistake to do otherwise.

The restoration of Ireland's competitive position as a global economy is another key element of the Government's path to recovery under the leadership of the Taoiseach. It is an element on which I undertook considerable work in the past two years as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The drive to restore Ireland's competitive position is, in certain ways, the most difficult of hurdles to overcome and on which to achieve quick results. It requires myriad actions across both the public and private sectors. Members should be in no doubt, however, that addressing Ireland's cost competitiveness is of fundamental and key importance to achieving long-term sustainable growth in the economy. Considerable positive movement has been achieved in this regard in the past year. For example, between 2009 and 2011, it is expected that Ireland's unit labour cost will have fallen by 12%. Consumer prices have already fallen by 2.5% this year, well ahead of the eurozone average. Moreover, energy costs, property prices and commercial rates have also fallen. Such competitiveness improvements bring Ireland back into contention for foreign direct investment that it previously had been too expensive to win. They also are improving the competitiveness of Ireland's exports.

Ireland remains a small open economy and a nation reliant on exports which have held up well during the most severe global downturn. The future of the economy clearly depends on its ability to export and ensuring Ireland is made more cost competitive in that regard must be and is a key element of the work the Government is undertaking. It is only though creating the right conditions for job creation and growth in the private sector that lasting economic growth will be achieved in the medium to long term.

In the past two years, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I also introduced stimulus measures to protect jobs in the short term. The employment subsidy scheme, supporting 80,000 jobs, and the enterprise stabilisation fund which directly supported 7,500 jobs last year alone were important measures in retaining employment in vulnerable enterprises through the crises. The Government is also investing €1 billion this year to help those who have lost their jobs, thereby bringing the number of training, education and work experience places for unemployed workers to 160,000.

In the last budget the Government also introduced a short-term jobs stimulus, including a national energy efficiency retrofit programme and tax incentives for energy efficiency measures, thereby creating 5,000 jobs. In addition, it introduced a car scrappage scheme and tax incentives for electric and hybrid vehicles that will support up to 2,000 jobs, reductions in excise duties on alcohol and lower VAT payments to assist the hotels, catering and retail sector, a marketing drive and investment in visitor attractions in the tourism sector and a new employer PRSI exemption for new employees which is being introduced to reduce the cost of creating new jobs. In addition, as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I put in place a new strategy for the IDA which targeted the creation of a further 62,000 new jobs in the next five years which could lead to an additional 43,400 jobs elsewhere in the economy. In addition, Enterprise Ireland continues to support indigenous companies, with the objective of creating a further 40,000 new jobs in the next five years, leading to another 28,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

I wish to take a moment to refute the comments made by Senator Ross in respect of many of those who serve on boards of organisations such as Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and FÁS, regardless of what personal political affiliation or none they may have, in the best interests of the semi-State organisations they wish to progress. I certainly take grave exception to some of the comments made by the Senator about those who give a considerable amount of their time and expertise to the country's development. While issues arose in FÁS, those who have been appointed to its new board are engaged in a difficult process, through which they are driving the reform of corporate governance and all of the pertinent issues of strategic importance to the country. Although I am unsure of the political affiliation of most of them, the single reason for their appointment was their ability to do the job. Moreover, more people must be encouraged to participate in this process. It is encouraging to note that so many are interested in bringing forward their views and expertise for the benefit of the country. I certainly would not stand for that type of comment about people, particularly those on the boards of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and FÁS, the boards with which I was heavily involved.

Ireland's ability to continue to attract so much foreign direct investment in spite of the global recession and to support and grow its indigenous enterprises demonstrates that one of the accusations often made about what happened in the past decade — that we blew the benefits of boom — is disingenuous, as we face into the challenges of today from a position of great strength. The strong position arises because we invested smartly during the good years. We invested with purpose in this country's economic and social infrastructure and in its long-term future, while also paying down the Government debt. We should not forget that.

It is this side of the House that has transformed the transport, water and communications infrastructure on this island. It is this and the preceding Fianna Fáil-led Governments that prioritised such significant investment for the development of sectors such as the indigenous agriculture and food industry. It was Governments led by my party that prioritised so much time, energy and capital into attracting foreign investment and jobs to this island and to the regions, while also growing the indigenous enterprise base.

In the area of my new portfolio of education and skills, Fianna Fáil in government has invested billions of euro in schools' infrastructure and in supports for children and teachers, while funding the research and innovation revolution in third level institutions. Special needs assistants are a good example in that regard. We are now funding more than 10,000 such positions in schools. When the Labour Party left the Department of Education and Science there were fewer than 300 special needs assistants.

Our record is unsurpassed in capital investment in schools. Even this summer in excess of 1,490 schools across the country are benefiting from a record €122 million capital investment through the summer works scheme. It is part of a total planned capital spend of in excess of €500 million through the school building and modernisation programme this year. At a time of significant fiscal constraint that demonstrates again the Government's commitment and the importance we attach to education on this island.

In the past two years I have been honoured to work closely with the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, in leading this country. He is a man of integrity and one who cares deeply about this country and the people. As Taoiseach, he has my every confidence and support. The path ahead for this country will not be an easy one and I am certain that the political temperature will remain high. I am confident however that when the people begin to see the results of the work we have undertaken during the past two years under the Taoiseach, they will begin to appreciate the enormity of the task and the diligence with which it has been executed. I am confident that come the next election, this Government and Fianna Fáil will have a very strong story to tell. I commend the motion of confidence to the House.

Professor Honohan stated in his report that Government policy clearly played a central role in contributing to the crisis. He said that macro-economic and budgetary policies contributed significantly to the economic overheating, relying to a clearly unsustainable extent on the construction sector and other transient sources for Government revenue and encouraging the property boom via various incentives geared at the construction sector. When Professor Honohan stated: "This helped create a climate of public opinion which was led to believe that the party could last forever", I would describe that as another way of stating something I strongly believe, which is that the then Minister and the Taoiseach did blow the boom. There is no question that they blew the boom.

It was extraordinary for the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach the other day to say that the Taoiseach accepts full responsibility. There are consequences in accepting responsibility.

This is the old language of Deputy Bertie Ahern. One says one thing but then one carries on as if one did not say it. Senator Cassidy is very good at that as well. He is an exponent of the art of delusion where one says one thing but in fact one carries on as if one had not said it.

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile.

No interruptions please.

The consequences of accepting responsibility for bringing the country to the brink of ruin is that one should leave office.

Senator Cassidy had the gall to say that the people have confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government, which they manifestly do not. If he is so clear that is the case he should put it to the test.


No interruptions please.

There is nothing terribly wrong about having an election; it is a perfectly democratic exercise. If the Government is so confident that the people——

Keep on taking the tablets.

Members, please.

Is this a debate or is it some sort of pub talk?

Members should not make interruptions. Anyone who interrupts will be asked to leave the Chamber.

That is the sort of activity that the Members opposite appear to want to engage in. We either have a debate or we do not. I never heard such nonsense as the Tánaiste saying we are personalising the debate around the Taoiseach. If one is to talk about the Taoiseach's performance, one must talk about the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach's name is Brian Cowen. To that extent the debate is being personalised. He holds an important constitutional office and we are entitled to criticise him forcefully if we wish.

We are dealing with "planet Bertie" without Bertie because Senator Cassidy said he felt the Honohan report would make difficult reading for the Labour Party. It does make difficult reading for the Labour Party. The report makes difficult reading for anyone who picks it up because it demonstrates the most gross incompetence at least, if not shocking betrayal of the trust of the people over the past ten to 15 years of this Government in office.

The Tánaiste made some crack about the Labour Party and teachers. The last time my party was in Government Deputy Ruairí Quinn was Minister for Finance. This is a matter of factual record. The new Government in 1997 inherited the first planned surplus in more than 30 years. We were the most competitive economy in Europe at the time. We were creating 1,000 jobs a week and unemployment was rapidly falling. What did we find yesterday?

There was a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach.

That is a matter of fact. The people opposite do not like facts.

No interruption please.

They are the facts. The other fact is that yesterday we were told that unemployment in this country is now 3% above the European Union average. That is the state of affairs we have reached in this country. Anyone who has any sense of reality cannot possibly invoke the banking reports in support of the Government's position. The absolute contrary is the case. One only has to read the reports. I wonder how many of my colleagues have read them. There is criticism of the guarantee. The notion that Professor Honohan gave plain sailing to the guarantee is totally wrong. That is not the case. In fact, he made the point that the guarantee was too extensive.

Listening to the Tánaiste and some members of the Government one would think the Opposition was responsible for much of what they themselves have done. The ludicrous argument was made about all the demands from the Opposition for extra spending. Since when did Fianna Fáil heed demands from the Opposition about anything?

The Opposition was making demands——

No interruption please.

We now have a little word from the "continuity PDs".

Members should speak through the Chair, not across the floor.

The people were at the heart of all of this occurring——

Members should not interrupt the speaker.

I respect that but I only have eight minutes and I will not allow any of it to be taken by interruptions. If I am interrupted I will respond in kind. We only have to look at the television programmes to show the historical fact that one of the intellectual influences on the Government in the past 15 years was from Senator O'Malley's former party, if it still exists or if she is still in it. I do not know whether the party is still going or what exactly is the state of it. Is my colleague an Independent Member, a member of the Fianna Fáil Party or is she still a member of the Progressive Democrats? Nobody knows.

The Senator should not waste his time on me.

The fact is that the Progressive Democrats were at the heart of Government and the decisions that were made by the then Minister for Finance, Mr. McCreevy——


I will ask Members to leave the House if they continue to interrupt.

——and by Deputy Cowen when he was Minister for Finance. They have us where we are. That is the reason for the present situation. There is no confidence.

Everyone knows the vote will go through in the same way as it did in the Dáil. I accept and respect that, constitutionally, the Government has a mandate from the people based on the previous election. However, it does not have a mandate for anything it is doing currently. The mandate the Government got in 2007 was an entirely different mandate in its character to what it is now implementing. The only way it can be demonstrated clearly whether there is confidence in any member of the Government is to put it to the test. The Government will not even hold by-elections. It will not face the people in any shape or form.

I heard what Senator Ross had to say about the Green Party. I like and respect a lot of people in the Green Party but the party will never be able to get away from the fact that it is propping up an absolutely disastrous Government which does not have the confidence of the people. The Government does not have credibility. The Taoiseach does not have credibility for what he is doing and he does not have the confidence of the people of this country as demonstrated not just in one opinion poll but over and over again in recent months and years.

Senator Cassidy referred to the Government being derided. The banking reports deride the policy of the Government. They are an unanswerable indictment of Government policy in recent years. I wish to focus on the guarantee. The notion exists that no other decision could have been made and that the guarantee was inevitable. Senator Cassidy suggested the Labour Party said there was no need for a guarantee. That is not in fact what we said. We opposed the guarantee ultimately because the very reasonable amendments tabled had not been accepted by the Government. We said there was a very respectable argument, supported by many economists across the board, for taking the banks into temporary public ownership. It was not just respectable at the time, it is also touched upon by Professor Honohan in the last page of his report. He refers to the emergency lending assistance approach that could have been taken. I remember the Minister for Finance saying in the House that our international reputation would be destroyed if we adopted that approach. Professor Honohan states:

It is unlikely that even extensive use of the facility [emergency lending assistance] to buy time to facilitate nationalisation the following weekend would have been viewed negatively [or as damaging] by partner central banks under the circumstances.

My party will vote in favour of the motion that the Seanad has no confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government.

This august Chamber has developed traditions, a proud history and a sense of character in determining how the nation should be defined at different times and in different circumstances in its history. Debates have taken on a particular significance. Confidence debates are meant to fall into this category. They offer an opportunity for a Government to justify its actions and continue in office if it wins the argument. They also offer an opportunity for Opposition parties to state why they should comprise an alternative Government.

This confidence motion may be the most surreal ever debated in the House. Instigated by a party leader in the other House, it does not seem to have the significant support of that party. It may not even have majority support in the party. The Senators next to contribute to this debate, in particular, do not support their party leaders. When we have a debate conducted in such circumstances, we begin to understand the degree of cynicism about politics in general in Ireland——

The Senator is such a hypocrite——

This view concerns not only how errors and mistakes may be made in government but also how the Opposition——

——given all he said about Fianna Fáil during the years.

There are to be no interruptions.

——attributes to them motives and characteristics that never applied.

Deputy Kenny is twice the man that the Taoiseach is.

The surrealism of this debate is further exemplified by its being made personal in regard to one person, although it concerns issues that merit collective responsibility, not only in a political sense——

Confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government.

There should be no interruptions.

——but also in how State agencies have been operating and the performance of our financial institutions. We must also consider international circumstances that have informed our current economic well-being. I refer to circumstances that have not emerged in the term of the Government but which the Opposition seems intent on using to inform the debate.

The Senator might have missed that Fianna Fáil is in government.

Senator Phelan should not interrupt.

There have been three obvious contradictions already: a motion of no confidence being tabled by a party which does not have confidence in its own leader; the focus on a set of circumstances that do not apply to the Government; and the tabling of a motion of no confidence in an individual, although it is a question of collective responsibility.

I was an Opposition spokesperson during the period to 2007.

That is an erroneous red herring.

I will repeat the policies in question because my party and I were most correct about how they were being pursued. The policies being pursued in 2002 to 2007 resulted in an overheated economy. They were the collective responsibility of the Government in office and the Minister for Finance had a role to play in that regard. I attribute more blame for the overheating to the Taoiseach's predecessor as Minister for Finance than the Taoiseach himself.

That is convenient.

The Senators can check the budget response speeches in the Dáil. The three budgets introduced by the Taoiseach, when Minister for Finance, were far more distributive than the six which had preceded them.

Did the Senator oppose or support them?

I spoke against them.

The Senator is invoking them now.

There are to be no interruptions. There is limited time for every Member.

The circumstances in which we found ourselves after the 2007 general election were such that all political parties bought into the rationale. I do not accept——

That is not accurate. It should be removed from the record.

I will tell the Senators why. The Fine Gael manifesto referred to actions in respect of stamp duty that would have further overheated the economy. The Labour Party manifesto sought a reduction in taxes.

The Progressive Democrats wanted no stamp duty.

What would our budget deficit be——

That is not true.

I want no interruptions. Members will have an opportunity to speak. I want to give Senator Boyle an opportunity to speak now.

We just want the truth.

There are to be no interruptions.

During the 2007 general election campaign my party stated the rates of growth would be lower than what the outgoing Government and the Opposition parties believed. We were saying the good times would come to an end soon and that we needed additional taxation receipts. I have not heard anyone contribute in the political debate on these issues. After the first budget of the current Government, in 2007, the Opposition was calling for further measures that would have overheated the economy.

I refer to stamp duty, in particular. The Senator's party was arguing passionately that action had to be taken to keep prices in the housing market high.

The Government was protecting property developers. Somebody had to speak for first-time buyers.

That view was articulated in this Chamber.

We needed justice for first-time buyers after the overheating of the property market.

Senator Boyle to continue without interruption.

What we have heard is a reinvention of history to justify the particular circumstances in which the main Opposition party finds itself. We have enteredAlice in Wonderland politics by the moving of this confidence motion. This is where words mean what the Opposition wants them to mean.

The Green Party is like that.

The reality is that Fine Gael is the least well positioned political party to make this argument on this occasion.

The whole point of a confidence motion is not only to underline whether the Government has the competence to continue in office but also whether the Opposition has the credentials to create an alternative Government. On these grounds——

That is not the purpose of a confidence motion.

Events in recent days have shown the latter is patently not the case.


Fine Gael is as far from comprising an alternative Government as it ever was.

The Senator sold his soul when in government.

If Senator Buttimer continues to interrupt, I will ask him to leave the House.

I was not the only one interrupting. The Acting Chairman should not single me out but talk to the others.

If the Senator does not sit down, I will ask him to leave the House.

The Acting Chairman should not be lecturing me, given the way his side behaves.

I am going to ask the Cathaoirleach to have the Senator named. Senator Boyle is to continue without interruption. Other Senators will have the same opportunity as Senator Boyle and I will not allow interjections.

In 2007 my party entered government with the consent of its members. It did so on the basis of a programme for Government we considered we could implement. Economic circumstances, informed by the events of 2002 to 2007, were such that some options were not available. We had choices as a political party and still do. We could walk away or decide to make the right decisions. Ours will be a period of economic history that will not be judged on whether the most popular jobs were done. It is easy to do and say popular things. We see political parties which are benefiting from saying the others are wrong and that they would do better, without justifying any of their statements. The reality is that we will be judged on whether the right decisions were made. The real test of a Government is when the economic slowdown hits to such an extent that unpalatable decisions must be made. It is in such periods that there is a real test of character and political parties justify their existence. The Government has not got things right; there is no doubt about this.

It is a coalition Government comprising parties with different traditions, histories, cultures and ways of doing things.

Why does the Senator not name them?

However, I would prefer to be in these circumstances, having to make these decisions and face the responsibility that goes with government, than the alternative of trying to score cheap points to engender in the public a false reality of where we are and where we need to be——

The public know all about their reality.

——or to end up with a country with all the indicators we are trying to reverse. We are succeeding in many respects, in terms of retail sales, consumer confidence and stemming unemployment. The right decisions are starting to have an effect.

When one considers not only how this crisis has affected this country but how politics in all countries have been affected, I defy the Opposition to point to any popular government——

It is 75% home grown.

——in the current set of economic conditions. Last week there was a general election in the Netherlands. The leading political party in the government lost its place as the leading party, coming fifth after the election.

At least they had an election.

There is no country in the western world with the type of economy we have where the government is in any way popular. I will leave the Opposition with the following thought. It is thankful that it cannot win the vote of confidence tonight because it would be its worst nightmare. It does not want to be in government or to make these decisions. It does not want to risk the type of popularity——

That is absolute rubbish.

——it so easily gained from not having to do anything.

I remind Senators that this is a serious debate. By its nature, political points will be made, but Senators should respect each other. The public is not impressed by this type of barracking in the Chamber. It happens in the Dáil but tends not to happen here. I ask Members on both sides of the House to respect the right of others to make their points. I ask for their co-operation. I will not allow Members to interject from either side of the House. I will adjourn the debate, if necessary.

I call Senator Phelan. He has eight minutes.

I will try not to be as provocative as the previous speaker. I am glad of the opportunity to have this discussion. A few things have been said which I wish to counter. I was particularly disappointed by the start of the Tánaiste's speech and her comment that we should be discussing the banking reports tonight. Surely to God whoever wrote her speech knew we had a debate on the banking reports in the Chamber yesterday. Surely they knew that if we were discussing confidence in the Government and the Taoiseach that the banking reports would be a huge part of that discussion.

I will not be lectured by Senator Boyle or others about the purpose of a confidence motion and how if the Government wins the debate, it wins. It has nothing to do with winning debates. This Government lost the debate a year ago. It is about winning the vote tonight. We know the Government has the numbers in this House and in the Lower House to win the vote. It has nothing to do with the debate and the standard of the debate.

I will certainly not be lectured to by Senator Boyle and other Government speakers about what the Opposition's role has been in our current economic circumstances. I was the finance spokesperson for five years in the Seanad when Deputy Cowen and former Deputy McCreevy were Ministers for Finance. I remember making points, following the Budget Statements being delivered in the Dáil, about the overheating of the economy and our over-reliance on construction. l recall Deputy Brian Cowen sitting in the chair currently occupied by the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, and Members on the Government benches laughing at me. How stupid could I be? The attitude of Deputy Bertie Ahern at the time was that people who thought the economy was being overheated should go away and do something with themselves. That was the attitude of Fianna Fáil and their friends in Government at the time.

I will not be lectured to and told that we did not give the warnings. I certainly will not listen to anybody inside or outside this House say that nobody predicted what was going to happen. Several people predicted it. This was presented to the Government at budget and other times but it chose deliberately to ignore the advice it was given. That is its prerogative.

There is also the contention by Deputy Cowen and others since the publication of the banking reports that they accept responsibility for what happened. However, there are consequences for accepting responsibility. If somebody commits an offence, is brought before the court and accepts responsibility, there are consequences for their actions. The consequences for this Government must be that it leaves or is drummed out of office. Thankfully, we do not live in a society that is riven with some of the social unrest we have witnessed in other countries in Europe. However, I sometimes think Irish people do not get angry enough about what has happened in this country and the revisionism of Senator Boyle, Senator Cassidy and others about what occurred.

I can tell them about my friends — I am 31 years of age — who have mortgages they cannot pay. People ring my office every day because they cannot meet their mortgage payments due to losing their jobs or their jobs being made part-time. They have to do that work because that is all they can get, but they cannot meet the repayments on their mortgages of €400,000 or €500,000. What about the people who have left the country? The biggest disgrace, for which Deputy Brian Cowen and Fianna Fáil are responsible, is that another generation of Irish people will have to leave this country. A total of 60,000 left in the last 12 months and 60,000 more will leave this year as a result of that party's actions in Government.

When we had our Celtic tiger economy Members on all sides of the House hoped we would not have to lose another generation of Irish people to the emigration ships again. A couple of months ago, I met a father who had just brought his son to the bus in Ballyhale. His son was going to New Zealand. He has just got a job there and does not know if he will ever come back. He might never return. The man was crying to me. How can one ignore the real tragedy for those families and individuals, who have suffered because of what the Government has done?

The Government has been named in the banking reports; Professor Honohan does not put a tooth in it, nor do Mr. Regling and Mr. Watson. They put a large chunk of the responsibility at the Government's door. It is not all the Government's responsibility, as I have pointed out each time I have spoken on this issue. However, it is clearly spelt out in the reports that the fiscal and macro-economic policies pursued by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, the Green Party and whoever else propped up Fianna Fáil in Government were responsible to a large extent for the difficulties in which we currently find ourselves.

I agree with most of Senator Ross's comments about appointments to State boards. I have never held the view that people with a political affiliation should not be on a State board. If they are good enough for the job, they should get it, regardless of their politics. However, they should be interviewed by the Oireachtas committee that is responsible for the State board. There should be some examination of whether they are good enough, rather than whether they go to enough cumann meetings. With regard to the notion put forward by Senator Ross that the Green Party does not do that, it has stuffed people on boards left, right and centre. An Bord Pleanála is one example but there are others.

The Senator's party was a champion at it in Garret's time.

The Senator without interruption.

This is all a stark contrast to the scenes that greeted Deputy Cowen's election as Taoiseach. We were told by members of Fianna Fáil that he was a great intellect and would do the devil and all for Ireland.

We are lucky to have him.

Singing took place in the streets of Tullamore following his election as Taoiseach.

It lifted the spirits of the people. It was just as good as four in a row.

I ask the Leader to respect the ruling of the Chair. I should not have to ask you. Senator Phelan without interruption.

Thank you, Chairman.

That is all in stark contrast to the current situation of the economy and role he played in that. I regard him as a decent man but his crucial problem is that he believes that when he talks to Fianna Fáil he is talking to Ireland. He believes that if he talks to people at a cumann or district meeting, they reflect the people. They do not. He is out of touch with the people. Many members of the Government are out of touch with the people. They must talk to members of the general public who are suffering as a result of the policies they have implemented over the last number of years.

The level of political self-interest displayed by the Government in my eight years as a Member of this House is astounding. Everything in its economic policy has been geared towards re-election. I agree with Senator O'Malley and others who pointed out that the Government won elections. Of course it did, and we must respect the result of those elections. However, all the fruits of the Celtic tiger economy were geared towards ensuring it won those elections in a cycle of destruction which has brought us to the current juncture. For that reason, anybody who consults the general public would know that one can have absolutely no confidence in this Government and in the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen.

I wish to share time with Senator Feeney.

I begin by stating the obvious. Ireland, like most other countries in the world, has experienced a severe economic downturn. What has taken place has not just been national, but international. In the past few days we have received reports that have analysed some of the reasons, and there will be further examination in future months and years. However, this is a vote of confidence in the current Government.

The people I represent want the discussion to be about the future, not the past. They want economic stability, banks lending again and the businesses that are cash starved, but with projects on their books, enabled to carry on their business. With such actions people get employment or their employment becomes more secure. To achieve this we need a Government not scared to do the right thing, even if it is the hard thing. We need a Government not scared of the backlash of public opinion for doing the right thing. We need a Government that will not fold on the first negative poll.

That brings me to look at what the alternative to what we have is and while I do not like to be personal, this motion is personal and so we must look to the main Opposition party. Even this week we have seen how Fine Gael reacts to one bad poll.

Confidence within the party falls apart and there is a public spat that has captivated the attention of all forms of media and much of the public. However, is this positive attention? Would it be the same reaction if they were in Government? What a distraction it is even when they are merely in Opposition. What would it be like if they were in Government in charge of difficult decisions, and yet where are the media today? Indeed, where is the Opposition that was clamouring for a vote of no confidence today?

We are here, hello.

As I say, the place is absolutely full.

We look to potential partners for Government and we take one example of leadership, the Croke Park deal. It is only in recent days that Deputy Gilmore has come out on the issue at all. He was afraid to influence people. Surely that is not the sign of a national or international leader, but the choice the Irish people has is what we have at present or the alternative.

Returning to the current Government, I do not state what I think; I quote international observers. It links to Senator Alex White's concept of the mandate of what is going on. The European Commissioner Oli Rehn, according toThe Irish Times of 15 June 2010, stated: “The Irish authorities have implemented a significant consolidation package for 2010 of 2.5 per cent of GDP”, and he went on to give a positive analysis. The Wall Street Journal of 1 June 2010, reported:

So what makes Ireland special? Its political leaders are doing it — and have been since October 2008 ... and politicians around Europe could do worse than to look at Ireland's cuts as a model.

According to Bloomberg, on 1 June last, "The economy may be expanding again after shrinking". The Central Bank's Professor Patrick Honohan, on 28 May last, stated:

We're close to the bottom ... Here at the central bank, we are projecting an upturn in the second half of 2010.

The OECD, on banking policy, stated:

The injection of public funds into the banking system is an important step in restoring the financial sector to health and getting credit flowing again.

On the positive side, however, the notable improvement in Ireland's price and cost competitiveness could allow growth to pick up more quickly than expected in the context of the ongoing global economic recovery.

The French Finance Minister, Mme Christine Lagarde, on RTE's "This Week" on 19 February last, stated: "Ireland has set the high standard and the rest of us must follow".

There are other quotations, for example, theFinancial Times of 23 May 2010, reported that:

It is not often that the Irish get a chance to tell the British how to do it. But in the past few days, senior UK Treasury officials have been on the phone to Dublin picking the brains of their Irish finance ministry counterparts.

It is important in the context of the current climate that we take time to look at what professionals at an international level are saying. We should look to recent words of, for example, Mr. Philip O'Doherty of E&I Engineering, currently expanding its employment base in Inishowen with a company with international recognition, who states that there is a future for Irish business and is proving it by his actions in my region.

Take time to study the discrepancies within Fine Gael and Labour policies. Where are the policies? I will not even begin to quote the two stances on the abolition of this House. Can anyone truly look at these two sides and not vote confidence in the current being the better option, the more confident, if tougher, deliverer of recovery? The lack of interest in this debate is a key signal of just how wrong the timing of this debate has been.

I thank Senator Keaveney for sharing time. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, and thank him for being with us. It is a little boisterous and lively but he is used to that kind of debate.

I am delighted to speak to the amendment expressing confidence in the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen. I hail from the same neck of the woods. Unlike Senator Phelan, I know the Taoiseach well. For my part, I find he is an honest man, a man of great integrity, not a man to mince his words. He stands behind no man or woman. He does not need to be prompted. He is certainly a man who loves his country and does everything in the interest of his country.

I feel sorry for Fine Gael and where it is this evening. I heard Senator Phelan state that Deputy Kenny is twice the man somebody over here was and I hope the party will remember that for Deputy Kenny tomorrow night——

——and we will wish Deputy Kenny well in his vote of no confidence.

It is something of an own goal on behalf of the Opposition when it tables a motion like this. It is a damp squib tabling a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach when its own party is in such disarray. An election in the morning — they all are shouting for it — would be the last thing Fine Gael Members would need because they do not even have a leader and they do not know where they are going.

To get down to the real matter, Fine Gael is supported by Labour, from whom there is a no show here tonight with the exception of Senator Alex White, who does not even think it worth his while to stay and listen to Fine Gael's contribution. One wonders what kind of a coalition Government they would make if they were in power.

As has been outlined here today, we had manifestos, scripts and speeches of Fine Gael and Labour together on the record of both Houses from 2007. If they had had their way, we could not have spent enough, built enough — it was spend, spend, spend. When we tightened the reins and pulled back on section 48, section 23 and section 21 in the budget of 2006, under the Taoiseach, then Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, we had a surplus of €5 billion. He put away €3 billion to bring down the national debt and he was called a miser by the party on the opposite side. They cannot have it every way. Their memories are short, but go back to their manifestos of 2007 and see what they were looking for.

We are the Government. We have the leader. One can see by the numbers on this side of the House tonight. They are not single figures like they are on the other side. We have the man who will lead the country and put it above an opinion poll, and when an opinion poll comes out and is bad for his party, he will come into the parliamentary party and say to us that he will make no apology for putting country before party. I applaud him, as I have done in the parliamentary party, for doing that. Fine Gael gets one bad opinion poll and it falls to pieces and is looking to get rid of its leader. I wish it well tomorrow.

With the permission of the House, I want to share the last two minutes of my time with Senator Doherty.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is an appalling debate and I have learned nothing from it. It is disgraceful. This kind of thing gets us nowhere — constant heckling, no points being made, just landing blows and nothing to be learned from it. If anybody wants to read this debate next week and learn something from it, show it to me. I listened to it all and it gets me nowhere. I refer to both sides of the House.

I could take issues, but I will give one example as I do not have time to deal with much of it. Professor Honohan's report, for instance, takes four pages to deal with one item, that is, the directors' compliance statement. As far as I recall, the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, was here when the Bill that dealt with directors' compliance statements, which became section 45 of the Companies (Auditing and Accounting) Act 2003, came to the House. I have a vested interest in this because I chaired the audit review group which required, requested and demanded that a directors' compliance statement be put in place. I will tell the House what happened.

I reported to the Progressive Democrats Minister, Deputy Harney, whose policies I disagree with fundamentally. I made the case to her as to the importance of this directors' compliance statement and why it needed to be done. She accepted it fully and she put it fully into the legislation. That legislation was published and every party that has spoken here tonight so far, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael — I take Labour out of it as that party did raise issues in the other House on it — operated against it and put pressure on Deputy Harney to change it. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael supported all the main accountancy bodies which opposed this, and then the Minister changed it. I tried to get it changed back here in the House where the Bill was introduced and I could not get the support needed for it. Eighteen months ago when a companies Bill was being brought through by the Tánaiste, Deputy Coughlan, I tabled an amendment, in line with the Company Law Reform Group report and in line with what was reported by the OECD, in order to get that implemented then. Even the weak section finally inserted in the Bill has never been implemented by the Government, which must take responsibility because not implementing the section was wrong. This is a major issue.

Professor Honohan was clear in his report. According to him, there were problems with regulation, banking practices and Government policy. There is no question in this regard, as that was the reality. I am being asked to vote my confidence or lack thereof in the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, but this debate is occurring in a vacuum and is disconnected from what we are doing. We could change the Government in the morning, but the difficult decisions taken to date have been necessary. It is my understanding of Fine Gael policy that, even though it opposes NAMA, it would implement NAMA were it in government tomorrow morning. Someone riddle me that and explain how it would bring us forward because I do not understand.

Regarding the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank, a matter the House spent long nights discussing, Professor Honohan stated in his report that, while the issue could be argued this way or that way, doing it six months earlier or later would not have made a whit of a difference.

Certainly Government policy was at fault to a significant extent. I fought, argued and negotiated with the current Taoiseach on issues of, for example, taxation policy because I fundamentally disagreed with the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government in that regard. He argued from a principled point of view. The idea that he betrayed the country is nonsense. He did what he believed was right for the country while I believed he was wrong. One must consider these issues in all sorts of ways.

I know none of the people who forecast the recession. I have never met them. Behind me on my office wall, I have every forecast from every economist made in the past X years, including and up to 2008 when they were still making contrary statements. The new economist in the Department of Finance who was supposedly the only person who identified the recession did so in April 2008, four months beforehand. He concluded his statement by saying that, even though a recession was on the way, it was going to be worse because interest rates were going to climb. There was no question.

Where does this leave the two parties? Everyone could see the books before the last election because the parties were invited to examine them. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael made their proposals for Government. Both sets of policies were dependent on 4% growth in the economy. If people in the Opposition claim they saw the recession coming, yet they still made a series of proposals to the public based on 4% growth, I do not buy it.

They are not listening to the Senator.

We must consider all sorts of issue. Certainly there were flaws in Government policy and there is no question in my mind but that the Government played into the hands of and made it easy for big builders and developers. That was criminal. The Government also introduced and lived with soft touch regulation.

Something else is coming down the road. I have tried to introduce legislation on credit unions three times. They are in trouble. Every time I introduced the legislation, both sides of the House had difficulty in supporting my position. We will rue that day.

I appreciate the time being spared by Senator O'Toole. This is a bit of a farcical debate. While I will support the motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach, the real motion of no confidence everyone is discussing relates to the leader of Fine Gael. I have no confidence in either because Senator O'Toole is correct. The policies articulated by Fine Gael in the run up to the last election and those being implemented by Fianna Fáil are exactly the same. The two parties are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of politics. For the first time in opinion polls, we see the majority of people rejecting both. A need for real change is necessary and other parties, including mine, must step up to the plate and show that we have the policies and vision to take the country forward in a fairer, more equal and inclusive society.

Individuals on the street are seething at the way in which the Taoiseach and his Cabinet have treated the ordinary, decent people. They see that not a single banker, developer or speculator has served one night behind bars. A few have been removed from their positions, but most had a soft landing. We need only look at the names. Patrick Neary, John Hurley, Eugene Sheehy and Brian Goggin were paid in the millions of euro and have annual pension cushions of €450,000 or, in the case of Mr. Goggin, €650,000. It is ridiculous. Compare this situation with that of an unemployed person over 25 years of age in receipt of €196 per week or a younger person who is in receipt of €150.

The country did not need to be here. Before elections and in the Dáil, we in Sinn Féin argued for stronger policies and regulation, caps on the remuneration of bankers, an end to property inflation, a fair tax system based on stable, direct taxation, the improvement of corporate law, a tax on speculative trading and counter-cyclical budget policies.

I must ask the Senator to conclude.

The Tánaiste accused my party and me of being economic illiterates. She and the Taoiseach are completely illiterate when it comes to this country's economy. They need to go now.

With the permission of the House, I would like to share two minutes of time with Senator Carty and two minutes with Senator McDonald.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach might let me know when I have one minute left. I welcome——

If I may, that other people cannot speak on this debate tonight is an outrage.

Is this a point of order?

The Leas-Chathaoirleach is a disgrace if he does not facilitate us.

I am bound by the Order of the House.

The times are specified.

Would Senator Mary White like to share my time?

I could share a minute with Senator Mary White.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran. Like all Members and every member of Fianna Fáil, including the Taoiseach, I am profoundly distressed when I hear of the extremely disturbing circumstances in which the people find themselves. As the Taoiseach, he feels the responsibility even more. This sense of responsibility drives his determination to lead the economy and our country to recovery, and recover it will. Our focus must be on economic recovery, jobs for our people, services for those in need and support for people to remain in their homes. Deputy Cowen's focus has been on all of these aspects since becoming Taoiseach. I have every confidence that he will lead us to economic recovery, and confidence is the subject of this debate.

I will give the House one evidence-based reason for my belief and conviction. I will not repeat other Senators' comments. When the Taoiseach became Minister for Health and Children and Fianna Fáil entered into Government in 1997, disability and mental health services were in disarray.

They are still in disarray.

He immediately gave a commitment to the effect that no longer would the area of disability and mental health be the Cinderella of the health services.

After incredible lobbying.

Senator Corrigan without interruption. We are tight on time.

Look at today's report. They are still in disarray.

Services immediately felt the impact of his commitment. There was extensive development, A Vision for Change was drawn and, for the first time ever, multi-annual funding was introduced. As the Minister for Health and Children and Finance and now as Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen has honoured this commitment to people who have been frequently forgotten. Therefore, I have every confidence he will honour the commitment he gave to our people and country to lead us to economic recovery.

I thank Senator Corrigan for giving me two minutes of her time and I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran. I am pleased to support the motion of confidence in the Taoiseach and his Government. The Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, is a person of the highest integrity who has given strong leadership to our country at this time. When he was Minister for Finance I worked closely with him and through his support Ireland West Airport Knock got €27.5 million for infrastructure that was essential for its development. That was a huge boost for development in the west.

Agriculture gained significantly when the Taoiseach was Minister for Finance and Deputy Mary Coughlan was Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Since he became Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen has given the current Minister, Deputy Brendan Smith, every support in ensuring Irish farming will go forward.

The Government has invested €1.1 billion from the Exchequer through farm waste management schemes which ensured we did not suffer fines or cutbacks to European Union funding for rural development and the single payment schemes, which are worth €1.6 billion to the farming community in Ireland. Every week we hear it said that it is through the different organs of farming that we will bring our country to the fore again with exports, food processing and so on. That money is vital in that regard. The Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, has given the farming community in Ireland, through his Ministers, the highest support that possibly can be given.

I thank Senator Corrigan for sharing time. She clearly had much more to say and it is very generous of her.

This is an ill-timed motion and the debate has been disjointed. People are talking about historical issues but what we are debating is confidence in the Taoiseach and whether he is the right man to do the job now.

I have friends like those about whom Senator Phelan spoke and people coming into my constituency office who are hurting. People are hurting, and it is easy to be cynical. I visited a school last week where I spoke to 14 year olds and, to be honest, I nearly cried leaving it because of the cynicism and the lack of hope in those students' eyes. That is partly because of a media fuelled, Opposition fuelled constant berating of a good man who is doing the most difficult job that has had to be done in this country heretofore. He has been doing it while ignoring a lot of what his party is saying. He has to do that because he is putting his party second to the country. That is a very hard sell, and it is not a job any public relations agent, no matter how good they think they are, can sell properly because people will not easily take cuts. It is a very difficult thing to have to live with, and they are living with the consequences of the position in which we find ourselves.

What we are talking about is going forward and coming out of this recession. I told the children in that school that we will come out of this recession and that they have to have hope because it is they who will bring us out of this recession, and the best person to do the job is a man who is able to say "No, I am taking this course of action because this is what the country needs". We have engaged in economic restraint. We have taken the decisions that need to be taken and we will come out of this recession.

On what Senator Shane Ross said about the Judiciary, the GAA etc., I accept there are issues in regard to our corporate governance and soft touch regulation. Political appointment of the Judiciary is probably the best way forward and as a practitioner I have never felt that I have gotten any good favour from the Judiciary——

The Senator must conclude.

——but it is a bit cheeky of Fine Gael to come in here and talk about appointments to boards, etc. when every VEC board in the country has been filled with its members since it took control of the local councils, and education has suffered as a result.

The Senator must conclude.

I am here to express my confidence in the Taoiseach, a very patriotic man who deserves our support.

I have been listening to my colleagues and I wish to express empathy for the 400,000 people who are unemployed. The Taoiseach must carry on his shoulders the responsibility of creating employment but the media is creating a sense of hopelessness. The Taoiseach now has an opportunity to spell out his vision and his dream for the country.

Listening to Senator McDonald one got the sense of hopelessness in the children to whom she referred. We must have the dream and the vision. The ethos of Fianna Fáil is to create a country that drives equality.

I ask the Senator to conclude.

Everyone has the right to develop their own potential, have a job and reach for the stars in terms of their ambitions.

The jewel in the crown of the Taoiseach's work is the delivery of the agreement with the public service unions. The transformation of the public service is a mega achievement. We saw it at the parliamentary party, which the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, attended also.

I must ask the Senator to conclude.

The Taoiseach knew he could do it and he stuck with it.

I would like to share four minutes with Senator O'Reilly and four minutes——

There are five minutes in total remaining. Does the Senator wish to have two and a half minutes each? Is that agreed? Agreed.

A Leas-Chathaoirligh, I am concerned that quite a number of young Members wish to make a contribution and if it would help the House I propose that we extend the debate for 15 minutes to allow colleagues on the Opposition side have their full time and eight minutes for Members on our own side of the House.

I have a problem with that.

Senator White, we have a proposal from the Leader of the House.

It is agreed on the basis that I can get my full time.

On a point of order, with all due respect, I would have preferred to have spoken for six or seven minutes. We should have agreed this earlier, Leader.

That is an issue you will have to take up with the Leader.

This is the last time this will happen.

Is it four minutes each?

I have no confidence in the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen.

The Senator has no confidence in Deputy Enda Kenny.


If I lose my time this way it is unfair.

Senator Healy Eames, without interruption.

The Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, is a decent man but I see a man who is uninspired and weighed down because he never expected this to happen. He is a man who ran the economy into the ground as Minister for Finance and made bad decisions, and he is weighed down psychologically by those decisions.

I like the framework produced by the NESF. A Leas-Chathaoirligh, there is too much noise in the Chamber.

Senator Healy Eames without interruption. I ask for silence in the House.

To get us out of this crisis we must examine the solutions on a number of fronts.

I ask Senators for silence in the House.

We are not interrupting the Senator.

I ask for silence in the House.

I feel I am being interrupted.

The Minister of State is listening to her.

I am not so sure about that.

Can we have silence in the House?

I ask the Leader——

The Minister of State is listening to the Senator.

What we need is a vision and a solution and I do not see either. I see just one prong of a solution, that is, the banking solution. If we look at what has been advised, we will see that we need solutions on the banking front, the fiscal and budget deficit front, the economic front in terms of jobs and competitiveness, on a reputational front and with regard to the social crisis. On the jobs front, the main people the Taoiseach and the Cabinet are letting down are the 435,000 out of work in terms of the social impact.

I mentioned on the Order of Business that I had met three young graduates in one house alone last week who were looking for passport application forms. Where does their future lie? The Government is giving everything to the banks, but the Taoiseach now has an opportunity to show what he can do. He can never be any higher in his leadership role, yet he is not addressing this problem. Everything has gone one way in this country, that is, towards the banks. When we asked the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to intervene on behalf of the home owner, he said his only role was to regulate. That is some indictment of the Taoiseach because we now know from the Honohan report and the other banking report that the Taoiseach, when Minister for Finance, did not regulate. He has shown no capacity in this area. There have been no deals or write-downs for home owners in negative equity. NAMA will provide for a 43% write-down on properties, while the taxpayer picks up the tab for uncollected developers' debts, for which the Taoiseach has not unequivocally apologised. Neither has he faced the people in a state of the nation address to seek their support. He must apologise unequivocally for the role he played in this problem when Minister for Finance.

The Taoiseach is to be condemned on several grounds for decisions made when he was Minister for Finance. He relied completely on unstable tax returns from stamp duty and capital gains tax during the property boom, a fact well documented in both banking reports. He let us down on the issue of wage competitiveness. During the boom years employees negotiated supplementary wage increases which meant a deterioration in wage competitiveness. The Taoiseach also negotiated benchmarking increases without securing increases in productivity in return.

There were also failures in banking regulation. What the Government has done with Anglo Irish Bank has proved this was a unique home-grown crisis. Under his watch when Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach let the Financial Regulator, Mr. Neary, allow Anglo Irish Bank to become the model for all other banks.

I ask Senator Healy Eames to conclude.

Policy was based on the one-horse economy of construction which led inevitably to a collapse in tax revenues.

The Senator is eating into Senator O'Reilly's time.

The Taoiseach, when Minister for Finance, should have been adequately experienced to identify the signs of economic collapses that have been presented in the reports. However, he failed spectacularly as Minister for Finance and was negligent in his duty. Unfortunately, he still fails to inspire. I wish him well and hope he can make changes for the best.

Will the Senator say the same tomorrow?

I support the motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach in response to the findings of Regling and Watson in their banking crisis report.

No, the Senator does not.

This report, with that of Mr. Honohan, states: "Fiscal policy, bank governance and financial supervision left the economy vulnerable to a deep crisis, with costly and extended social fallout". The findings reiterate Mr. Honohan's conclusion that Government's policy, under the direction of the Taoiseach, left the "public finances highly vulnerable to a downturn".

The reports do not reveal new information. However, they refute any argument hitherto brought forward by the Taoiseach. The Lehman Brothers defence has been thoroughly discredited by this latest report. Claims by the Taoiseach and the Government that the current crisis emerged overnight are nonsense. It was building before 2007 and since. Any pleadings by the Taoiseach that the crisis in this country is as a result of global forces have been exposed as incorrect.

The Regling and Watson report has found that the greater part of the crisis in Ireland has been homemade. The conduct of the banks was a response to economic circumstances which were profoundly influenced by political decisions. The report also highlights not just the fact that Fianna Fáil-led Governments have been fiscally reckless in shrinking the tax base, while simultaneously extending public spending, but also idiotic in their extraordinary decisions to increase tax incentive schemes. The report stresses, in vindication of Mr. Honohan's findings, the serious and dangerous faults "in macro-economic and budgetary policies which contributed significantly to the economic relying to a clearly unsustainable extent for Government revenue".

Deputy Cowen's position as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil's mandate to lead the country have been compromised even further by the findings of these reports which highlight that domestic mismanagement is at the heart of our economic problems. Considering the Taoiseach was Minister for Finance at the time of this mismanagement, it leaves one with no alternative but to support the motion.

I wish to share time with Senators O'Malley, Mooney, Harris, Walsh, Daly, Ellis and Leyden.

Is that agreed? Agreed. I remind Senators that if they go over the time allocated to them, they will eat into the other speakers' time.

Gabhaim buíochas leat, a Chathaoirligh, as ucht deis a thabhairt dom labhairt ar an rún muiníne sa Taoiseach agus sa Rialtas. Tá áthas an domhain orm seans a bheith agam ráiteas a dhéanamh ag an am seo.

To table a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach is truly extraordinary. The Opposition has now done so in less than three years in the case of two taoisigh which has been unheard of in our democracy. The world's media watch when any such motion is moved. My humble advice to Opposition Members is to tread carefully because their time will come when they will be members of a Government. As Senator O'Toole highlighted half an hour ago, tabling such motions is unheralded and unnecessary.

I accept mistakes were made by the Government. Yesterday the Taoiseach acknowledged property incentives should have been removed long before he abolished them in December 2005. The international aspect to this crisis, to which Senator O'Reilly referred, is not acknowledged enough by the Opposition or the media. There is also the discrepancy in the Opposition's stance on economic issues before and after 2007. It is extraordinary to recall what was stated in its manifestos from 2002 to 2007 and see its stance on this motion.

I am glad to express my confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government. The current problems facing them are the hardest any Government has had to face. The Taoiseach has shown great leadership, calm judgment and the ability to say, "No". These are the qualities we need now. In the long term he will be remembered for doing the right thing. Mistakes were made but the Taoiseach is concerned about how we can solve them for the next generation. He is taking difficult decisions which hurt people and mean the Government is taking a hit in its popularity ratings in the polls. The Government's term is for five years, for which period it is entitled to govern and then ask for the people's judgment on its work. At least, the Government will have stood for something and not governed with hindsight which is what the Labour party would do.

I agree with Senator O'Toole that there is a certain element of farce, theatre and pantomime about this motion at this time. Confidence is what the political discourse must be about. The Houses of the Oireachtas must convey it to all who are out of work and their families. I am one of them because my eldest daughter and many of her contemporaries, having received a third level education, are hoping to get work. I understand the pain and distress suffered by people across the country. The Taoiseach and the Government fully understand them, too. They are conveying confidence, which has been reciprocated by every international economic commentator from theFinancial Times to The Wall Street Journal and every finance Minister across Europe. The path chosen by the Government, led by the Taoiseach, is the right one to follow. If only one thing comes out of this debate, I hope it is the confidence needed to convey to the people that they can have hope in the future.

I thank Senator Carroll for sharing time. For 15 of the past 18 years the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, has been in ministerial office. During that period we have seen unprecedented economic growth in our country. We have achieved heights that people never dreamt could be achieved. As the report has shown, mistakes were made in banking, in our regulatory authorities and in our macro-economic policies. This has been acknowledged by the Taoiseach and others. It is no consolation that the same mistakes were made on an even larger scale in other economies such as the USA, Britain, Germany, Japan and elsewhere in more developed economies than ours.

There have been many leaks from time to time from our parliamentary party. However, one leak that was not made was in October 2008 when the extent of this crisis emerged. At one of our meetings, when politicians within our party were concerned about the political fallout, the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, said to us clearly that this was a time to put the country first, not a time to consider the interests of the party or to deprive the country of any benefit. Such is the leadership that the country needs and it is exemplified by the Taoiseach.

I thank Senator Carroll for sharing time. Lemass was a great example to all of us. The Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, often refers to him. He stated that Lemass instinctively grasped that in difficult economic times, confidence was the gold standard. In today's circumstances it is worth noting that he sought confidence as a necessary precondition for growth and for pioneering a flourishing economy. There is irony in this motion because the Opposition is in flux in respect of confidence in its own leader which is obvious and there for all to see. The Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, as well as the former Taoiseach, Mr. Lemass, saw the ingenuity and capacity of the people as the way to shape a better future for all of us. There is almost nothing on Earth the Irish people cannot do as well as, if not better than, any other people once they put their minds to it. Confidence in our Government to bring us through these difficult times is visible from the numbers who have spoken here tonight, in the Dáil and throughout the country. Such is the confidence in our Government and our Taoiseach.

I thank Senator Carroll for sharing time. Some 33 years ago on this day I entered the Lower House. I served with the former Deputy, Ber Cowen, father of the Taoiseach. I shared an office with him. He was a Minister of State and a fine colleague. His son is the Taoiseach. I am delighted to have the opportunity — I thank the Opposition for it — to vote confidence in the Taoiseach. He is an outstanding Taoiseach. He has courtesy, courage and conviction. He alone is working with the Government in providing leadership for the country. The pension fund which he supported as Minister for Finance was to be rifled by Fine Gael, especially Deputy Enda Kenny, at that time and that would have deprived us of an opportunity to solve the problems of the country at this stage. I have full confidence in the Taoiseach.

The question is whether we have confidence in the Taoiseach to carry us through this recession. There are many answers. My answer is "Yes, I do". He is a humble man. One could say he has much to be humble about. He has questions to answer and he has made mistakes. However, based on the homoeopathic principle that those who make mistakes are probably the best to clear them up, he has shown diligence and attention to duty. He has shown courage. He has taken the hardest decision of all; he took on the public sector. Courage is what we need. Words are not what we need. He could have waffled. He could have come in and given us public relations bromides or he could have done what the spin doctors wanted. However, he simply did his duty. It has damaged Fianna Fáil. It has probably put Fianna Fáil on the ropes, but he did it. That amounts to acting with good authority and that is what a good Taoiseach does. He will go down in history as a brave man.

I am pleased to have the chance to endorse my confidence in the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen. The timing for this motion is appalling. I want the Taoiseach to give us hope. He is trying his best and putting the country before the party. He has given us courage. It is awful when such unrest is going on at this time. I wish the Taoiseach well. He has been subjected to such criticism by the media for the past two years. Everyone should stand back and give him a chance to do the job. He is doing the best that anyone could do; let there be no doubt about that. I am here to endorse my confidence in him.

I call Senator Norris. The Senator has 30 seconds.

If I could just have one minute to say——

A Senator

Senator Norris is standing on the Government side, the wrong side of the House.

No. I am an Independent and I can float. I do not have much confidence in this Government.

It is Bloomsday not doomsday.

The Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, will do the best he can in the time that is left to him in the knowledge that this Government will be gone at the next election. It has behaved with a certain amount of responsibility. In particular, I pay tribute to the courage and integrity of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, who has been outstanding both in his personal life and in the way he has directed the economic affairs of the country.

However, I am not convinced that he is right and it is appalling to hear confirmation tonight from one of our committees that €20 billion of Irish taxpayers' money is being poured down the drain. I am afraid, with respect to the decency of many of the people in the current Government, that I will be voting in favour of the motion of no confidence in the Government.

James Joyce would be very disappointed. He would disown Senator Norris.

I thank all Senators who have contributed. It comes at a most appropriate time, with the publication of two reports that strip away any possible defence the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, could proffer for the actions he took as Minister for Finance. They strip away the defences and expose the damage that has been done to this economy by his actions, the consequences of which every family in the county is feeling today. Everyone is feeling the effects and experiencing the distress, including those who face losing their homes, the 440,000 unemployed and the 6,600 who became unemployed last month. Each of these people are bearing the ill-effects of the decisions he has taken and the reports expose this completely. The damage done by his decisions are being felt in every hospital ward, every classroom, on every road, in every home and even among those abroad who rely on Irish development aid. This is the legacy that the Government Senators are defending. It is indefensible.

The NESC report referred to the damage done. It is a report worth reading. It refers to the damage done by the decisions of Fianna Fáil and the taoisigh referred to tonight, including the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, and the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern. The report refers to the damage done to a wide range of aspects of Irish life. It refers to the damage to banking, fiscal damage, economic damage, reputational damage and the damage to the social fabric of this country by the decisions taken by these men in the name of the people. That is some legacy that the Government Senators are attempting to defend.

Senator Boyle came here and attempted to defend the indefensible. There is no doubt his lines were directly out of the Fianna Fáil handbook of spin.

What about the Fine Gael manifesto?

However, we must remember he was appointed by the former Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, a man who hand in hand with the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, is culpable for the mess we are in. These are not only my sentiments, but those of the international experts who wrote the two recent reports. It is there in black and white. Senator Boyle is deluding himself if he believes people need lectures on the economic reality from him or any member of the current Government. People are experiencing difficulties day in, dayout.

There is no question of lecturing.

The ordinary people of this country are paying the price for the series of mistakes made by him and his Government with the help of a Progressive Democrats ideology and Progressive Democrats Government Members. This is why we have tabled the motion and this is why I call on Senators to support it. The facts are clear. He is guilty of these crimes on the Irish people. I ask for support in this——


On a point of order——

There is no point of order.

For a Member to accuse somebody of a crime, crime is totally different——

Senator Ellis is long enough in this House to know that is not a point of order.

It is a political crime.

Senator Fitzgerald went too far.

On a point of order, Senator Fitzgerald should be asked to withdraw the word "crime". It is too serious.

It is a political charge.

Serious political crimes have been committed on the Irish people and the Irish economy.


It is not a political charge. The Senator said "crime".

It is a political charge. It happens all the time.

It is a political charge.

Is the amendment being pressed?

It is confirmed in the reports.

It was not a political charge.

I know it is uncomfortable but it was a political charge.

The Senator can substitute the words "political charge" for the word "crime".

Is the amendment being pressed?

They are political crimes. It is a political charge.

The Senator said "crime". It is a point of order.

What is the point of order?

I ask that Senator Fitzgerald withdraw the word "crime". If she wishes to substitute it with the words "political charge", I will accept that. She should not use the word "crime".

It was a political charge. It is not a point of order.


On a point of order——

The Senator is sensitive about the amount of damage done to the Irish people.

Senator Fitzgerald said the Taoiseach is guilty of these crimes.

The Senator is sensitive about the damage done to the Irish people.

It is a political charge.

Fine Gael is falling apart. That is all that is wrong with it.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 30; Níl, 24.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Bradford and Maurice Cummins.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 25.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Harris, Eoghan.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.


  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Cannon, Ciaran.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Regan, Eugene.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Paul Bradford and Maurice Cummins.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.