The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the national paediatric hospital, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 1.45 p.m., on which spokespersons may speak for ten minutes and all other Senators for eight minutes and Senators may share time, by agreement of the House, with the Minister to be called upon not later than 1.35 p.m. for closing comments and to take questions from leaders or spokespersons; No. 2, motion re credit institutions (eligible liabilities guarantee) (Amendment) (No. 2) scheme 2010, to be taken at 4 p.m. and conclude not later than 6.15 p.m., on which spokespersons may speak for ten minutes and all other Senators for eight minutes and Senators may share time, by agreement of the House; and No. 3, Prohibition of Depleted Uranium Weapons Bill 2009 — Committee Stage, to be taken at 6.15 p.m. and conclude not later than 8 p.m. The business of the House shall be interrrupted at the conclusion of No. 1 until 2.30 p.m. Following the resumption, it is proposed to hear tributes to the late Senator Kieran Phelan, to conclude not later than 3.45 p.m. There shall then be a sos for 15 minutes.
Order of Business
I begin by expressing my sincere condolences to those affected by the tragic deaths in both Cork and Limerick yesterday. As investigations are ongoing, I will refrain from commenting other than to say that this loss of young life is very tragic. My heart goes out to all the relatives, families and the communities affected by these tragedies. These awful family and community tragedies put our economic issues, no matter how serious, in context.
I want to return to the ongoing talks in which Ireland is engaged at a European and world level at this stage and the effect that our failure of policy is having on the eurozone. We heard the very nuanced comments of the Minister for Finance this morning and the denial of several Ministers in recent days. I must comment on this culture of denial that seems to be endemic in Ministers instead of telling people the truth.
Irish people have got the truth more from YouTube and European commentators and Ministers than they have from their own Irish Ministers. This lack of levelling with the people and coming out and calling it as it is an absolute disgrace. We have seen this denial in this House for months on end in regard to banking and the general fiscal situation. We heard figures just last week that have turned out to be completely inaccurate. It is clear from what everyone is saying that Frankfurt, Brussels and Washington representatives will arrive in next few days and there will be a bailout within the next few days. Severe conditions will be imposed on Irish citizens and taxpayers. That is the situation at which we have arrived.
I want to make a point in regard to it, and Fintan O'Toole made this point in an interesting article inThe Irish Times yesterday when he said that more money without reform will not solve the long-term problems of this country.
It is very clear that we need to step up our discussions about reform in this House, in the Oireachtas generally and in the country. We need Ministers in here talking about reform, how they will implement reform in the banking sector, in politics, in the HSE and in FÁS. We need, at the very least, to step up our discussions on reform because there is no point having more money and spending it in the same wasteful way. We heard yesterday that 1,400 hospital beds are unavailable to people who need them because of the lack of reform in the health system.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister come in and discuss the Croke Park agreement and its implementation——
——and at what stage reform is at this point in regard to that specific agreement. If we want to take that as a touchstone about reform, let us hear what is happening, why there are delays and what the up-to-date position is.
The issues we raised yesterday about the best decisions for Europe and for Ireland are finally coming into focus and the reality is that this is a European issue and a bank issue in this country. We need to understand those things and to decide on the best way forward. I do not know the answers and I do not know the positions of any of the parties. I do not know the Government position on this, the Fine Gael position or the Labour Party position. The parties have decided to argue among themselves about how information is or is not being released, but I would like to hear from the parties what their views are. My view is very simple. If it is in the best interests of this country to get money from Europe to help our banks, then that is what we should do. It is not an issue of undermining where we are going, but we should all say what the issues are and what is best for the country. I do not know enough to make that call but I would not be simply opposed to money coming from Europe if that was in the best interests of this country. That is the only benchmark I have to make my decision on it at this time and we should all approach it in that way. We can also have a go at governments and others who called it wrong as we go along. They are separate issues and one is not to be confused with the other. We need to hear that as we go along.
In terms of impact, the real issue during the past 24 hours, when money is always a serious difficulty and we will always be overwhelmed by the economic problems with which we have to cope, were the stories that emerged from Cork and Limerick yesterday. They gave us an injection of reality and were shock treatment. Surely it should put in perspective that our focus should always be on the community.
We can learn from the issues arising from those horrific, tragic and appalling events. There is the question of mental health and how we deal with it in this country. If one ties those stories together with the series on suicide running inThe Irish Times, we have to ask ourselves where we are going in terms of our mental health and what provisions we are putting in place to deal with mental health problems. I seriously ask that we get an outline of the proposals in that regard. In that context, the points raised by Senator Fitzgerald are important.
I spoke to the Minister with responsibility for the public service only an hour ago and asked him about the progress made on the Croke Park agreement. The House will be pleased to know that the proposals from the various Departments are at last available and are on the web. I have been looking through some of them and I am not completely happy with them. I ask that the Leader would today give Members an absolute date for a second discussion on the Croke Park agreement. As he will recall, last week he gave a commitment that we would have that debate in the course of this month. I want to have a date for that within the next ten days or so. It is crucial that we do that and that we examine it.
In the meantime, I would say that the most negative force in Irish society may well be mental health and it could well be that it is tied into the economic issue. Certainly, we need openness, commitment and honesty in dealing with those issues and I seek them.
As was said this morning, there are no words we can think of to describe the horrors that occurred yesterday in Limerick and Cork other than to say, for what it is worth, that we communicate and pass on our condolences to the families of those people who have been affected by these dreadful tragedies. I agree with what my colleagues suggested in what they said and I reiterate my party's view that while there are many demands in the context of the budget and there are many debates about funding for different sectors, can we ensure that, if we do nothing else, we seek to protect and, if at all possible, enhance the budgetary provisions that will be put in place for mental health in the course of the discussions in the next few weeks? That is not to make any assumptions about what happened in either of those incidents but simply to say that is one practical thing we, as politicians, could do to make some difference in that dreadful situation.
I respectfully disagree with Senator O'Toole's suggestion that criticism of what the Government has done in the past is an entirely separate matter from what we have to deal with now. The two are intimately bound up for two reasons. First, the Minister for Finance and others on the Government side have spent a number of weeks trying to persuade us that the budgetary crisis and the banking crisis are entirely separate. This effort has been made repeatedly in this debate in the past two to three weeks. We have been asked to stop talking about the banks and just talk about the budget when we know that the banking crisis and the central policy failures in regard to banking, to which Senator Fitzgerald referred and at the top of which failures I would put the blanket guarantee given more than two years ago, are inextricably and intimately bound up with where we are at the moment in regard to the crisis the country is in. We cannot see our way to analysing and debating this issue in any kind of credible way without having regard to these central policy failures, the legacy of which we are facing day in, day out.
The second reason we cannot separate the two things is the issue on which Senator Fitzgerald touched, that of trust. Can we trust the Government? We can disagree with those in government and that is fine. We all know that we disagree with them but can we trust them or believe what they say? The problem is that trust and legitimacy immediately flow out of any government, leaving aside whether one agrees or disagrees with those in government, if one cannot believe what that government says. One cannot possibly have any trust in that government. The people cannot have trust in a government, some of whose members at the weekend described as fiction that there were ongoing discussions on bailouts or related matters. Another Minister, Deputy Dempsey, who was standing beside the Minister in question shook his head and indicated he did not know anything. Either the Ministers knew what the position was and misrepresented it or they did not know what it was, in which case what are they doing in the Government? What is going on in the Government in relation to policy?
Senator Fitzgerald is correct. My brothers who live in the United States are as well informed about what appears to be taking place as are the people here who are being informed by the Government. This morning's interview by the Minister for Finance hit rock bottom in that respect. There is no frankness or honesty, without which one cannot have trust and-or legitimacy.
The visit to this country by representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund may, as Senator O'Toole indicated, provide a response which will help us to deal with the budgetary and banking crises. Given the likely nature of the proposals, they could, if accepted, have serious consequences for the country. We need to be aware that it would not be a desirable outcome if such proposals were regarded as an indicator of our inability to make decisions.
We find ourselves in a serious position. Beyond legitimate criticism of Government decisions, we need to consider the long-term consequences of the current position for the country. Policy errors were made, but regardless of what policy approaches were taken in recent years, we would still face a serious problem. At best, we could have lessened the impact of the banking crisis. The scale of the crisis was such that the taxpayer would have had to provide billions of euro, either through a bank guarantee or by reneging on the debts to senior bondholders.
That was a matter of choice for the Government.
We can argue about whether the problem could have been avoided or its scale reduced. Like most others, I believe that, at best, the latter outcome was possible.
I admit that there is a questioning of trust and that uncertainty has increased. This cannot be allowed to persist because it would call into question the ability of the Government and the basis for being in government. I raise these questions because they are being asked by every citizen and will be asked by those who will come here to assess our economic viability.
Debate in the House should be structured on the basis that Ireland is in a sufficiently strong position to overcome the crisis. We are still in a better economic position that we were in the 1980s when we also overcame our problems. One can take any statistical basis one wishes to compare the problems of the 1980s with those of today, but we need a common acceptance that we can and should get out of the current crisis.
I express my condolences to those affected by yesterday's appalling tragedies in Newcastle West and Midleton which were brought about by lives of desperation. I also support calls made by other speakers to give mental health issues priority and protect expenditure in mental health services in the years ahead, regardless of what other budgetary decisions are made in the coming week.
As I stated yesterday, when we learned of the meetings that were to take place yesterday and today, whatever is on offer should be accepted because there is a crisis of confidence and the matter is being drawn out unnecessarily. It is this that is causing uncertainty and a continuing lack of investor confidence in and speculation against Ireland and other countries. It is also giving rise to increasing debt tensions in the eurozone. As we know, the problem is essentially a banking one, as the European Central Bank is no longer prepared to act in the manner it has been doing. Representatives of the ECB, the IMF and the European Commission will be in town tomorrow. The Minister should accept whatever facility is on offer because such a facility is required — even if it is not necessary to draw down the money — to create certainty and restore confidence, both of which are absent. Without certainty, one will not have confidence.
I support calls for a debate on the Croke Park agreement. The Leader promised to hold such a debate early this month.
I offer my condolences to those affected by the shocking tragedies yesterday in Ballycotton and Newcastle West.
I share the view that we must continue to focus on mental health. Mechanisms must be found to encourage people to speak about their difficulties and have them addressed. One of the key requirements is to persuade them to come forward in order that intervention can take place to avoid single and multiple tragedies such as those which occurred in recent days. Such tragedies have touched all parts of the country in recent years. While debating the issue of mental health is easy, it will be necessary to find a mechanism to get people to talk and seek help, irrespective of what assistance is available thereafter.
A couple of weeks ago, when I raised on the Adjournment the issue of the enlarged partial agreement on sport, EPAS, I was informed that the Government had decided not to prioritise the funding required to allow Ireland to sign the agreement. I have discovered the sum required is €17,800. EPAS, an agreement reached by Council of Europe members, addresses international issues such as health and education through sport. As a member of the Council of Europe, I have been asked to examine the role of international organised crime in sport. A sum of €17,800 is not a large amount to spend to help maintain the integrity of sport, not only in health and education but by combating the global threat posed by organised crime in sport. Large amounts of money are involved in sport and there have been many allegations of match fixing. While I welcome the announcement that Paddy Power will create 500 new jobs, a debate is needed on the threat exchange betting poses to the integrity of sport.
I very much doubt if either the establishment of a casino in County Tipperary which is projected, or an increase in the number of jobs in the area of gambling will have a major impact on the economy of Ireland or Europe, although I wish the proposed solutions will work.
Three years ago I gave a lecture in Cork in honour of Mr. Philip Monahan, the former city and county manager of Cork and a remarkable man, in which I stated that, as with developments in addressing climate change, financial events of the type we are experiencing would be more catastrophic and would occur at an increasingly rapid rate and closer together. That is what has transpired and we are tinkering with the problem by applying an Elastoplast to it. We do not have a profound analysis of what is wrong with the entire system which is being manipulated in the interests of a tiny group of speculators, domestically and on international money markets, to the enormous disadvantage of the vast swathe of the population outside this small group. What I call the Leona Helmsley effect has come into play. Leona Helmsley was a woman with an enormous property portfolio who was dragged into court in New York on tax charges ten or 15 years ago. Her statement that she assumed only the little people paid tax was correct. No one is examining the matter in a thorough manner. Let us consider the whole capitalist project. How can it continue to work when it is based on an infinitely expanding market? How intelligent must one be to realise we are living on a planet, the limits of which are being reached in certain fundamental commodities such as water and fossil fuels? It is about time we stood up collectively to the big players in the market. It is time we, as a nation, stood up to some of the big companies such as Shell. One cannot blame them as they are akin to Tyrannosaurus rex but we should stand up.
I thank the Senator.
There is more money there than would pay ten times Ireland's entire exposure to the banks.
I call Senator Ó Murchú.
We have allowed the international combines get away with it for nothing and are only allowed to buy our own products.
I thank Senator Norris and call Senator Ó Murchú.
Anyone listening to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, on the radio this morning could not but be impressed by the obvious sincerity and sheer tenacity he is displaying when batting for Ireland at present. It is just possible that one reason certain information is not being made publicly available immediately pertains to the type of negotiations that are under way. I believe that Ireland simply does not wish to show its hand until it learns what is on offer. Yesterday morning, I made the point in this House that I genuinely believe it is we ourselves who must solve the problem in the long term. This morning, Senator Fitzgerald put her finger on it 100% when she said that it was not a matter of more money but will be a matter of reform. Senator Norris also made the same point to some extent and I believe this is what must be done. I accept that one milestone will be the budget and another will be the budgetary four-year plan. Members can perceive, since they began to debate the recession, that although initially they found sectional interests coming to the fore, now it is realised that one cannot approach it in that fashion any more. Ireland has a serious problem and all are agreed that this is the case.
One measure that I believe could have been done is that, just as all the parties entered the Department of Finance to look at the books and ascertain Ireland's position, it was possible for all the parties to meet the Government and find out quietly and without huge publicity what exactly is the strategy where Europe is concerned. All accept that if money is available, wherever it comes from, if it is the Government's view, we will have no choice but to accept it.
The Senator's position is changing from ourselves alone.
In accepting it, however, there also is a chance that Ireland will again be lulled into a false sense of contentment. Instead, we should continue to consider the bigger picture and should ascertain the basic analyses that are required at present to go forward and get a long-term resolution.
People have a real issue with the denial, obfuscation and distortion of the facts over a number of months. I do not refer to the highly dramatic denial that took place on "The Week in Politics" television programme the other night but to the denial, lack of information and lack of clarity that preceded it. People needed to know where they stood and need the truth at least but are most angry about its absence. Despite the nuances and statements that are being made in this Chamber this morning, Members should not kid themselves. This does involve a loss of sovereignty. Ireland will not be getting bailout money without serious strings attached. This is a very sad day for Ireland that compromises the entire governmental process and independent decision making here. Members should neither deny nor dress that up but must confront it straight up. Moreover, I believe we should fight it to the end. I consider a bailout to be a last resort and while I have great respect for my colleague, Senator O'Toole, I do not agree with this acquiescence in the loss of sovereignty. It should be like Custer's last stand and we should not accept the money until there is no alternative.
While I will not labour the point, it is clear that Ireland got its banking strategy wrong from the outset.
Moreover, it is clear that we got it dramatically wrong in the case of Anglo Irish Bank and that the people are angry about this. In the midst of all this, the issue that impinges on me from my work every day is that we must have a jobs strategy. Ireland must come out of the next few days with a job strategy based on green energy, food processing, a sectoral approach and on tourism. Food processing, agriculture and the value-added factors therefrom, as well as tourism and green energy, are the vehicles that can bring about jobs and that must be dealt with.
One should not be happy to lose sovereignty.
It adds a sad tenor to this debate. With the Cathaoirleach's indulgence, I join with those Members who raised the mental health issues because I am a founding chairperson of a mental health association and consider it to be vital.
The point is made.
Aontaím le morán atá ráite ar Riar na hOibre. When people refer to concealment, I watched Bloomberg television two months or so ago when that channel was discussing Ireland's position. Interestingly, its commentators made the point that Ireland was not as bad as some of the other European Union countries but that one mistake it may have made was to have been too transparent. It is interesting to see a different perspective on what has been done. The position undoubtedly is serious but we will come through this and an element of confidence must be restored both in ourselves and in the country. Although people refer to the bailout, in fact it is borrowing from the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. While it is not palatable, neither is it viable to borrow at interest rates of 7% to 9%, which is what the market was indicating we would be obliged to do. Consequently, it is the lesser of two evils.
A number of things need to be done. While I acknowledge there have been reasonably good debates in these Houses, they have been sporadic and a little too short. The party leaders should come together and allow sufficient time for Members to make their contributions in a structured fashion, but that has not been happening. I agree with the call for a debate on the Croke Park agreement, which is essential. I consider that agreement to be the main component in the necessary correction of our fiscal position. I recently spoke to an economist from outside this State who had been involved in South American countries that were experiencing banking crises. He thought that what Ireland was doing in respect of banking was absolutely essential. He himself had been involved in establishing similar good-bad banks in other countries. We need to hit the bottom and to restore confidence as soon as possible. I hope this will happen from our present position.
Like other colleagues, I will begin by expressing my condolences to the families and communities in counties Limerick and Cork for the terrible tragedies that have happened there. I echo the words of other Members who have spoken of the need to ensure the maintenance of funding for mental health services. This is without making any specific connection but all Members are conscious that this is an important priority.
On the economy, it is extraordinary to hear Members on the Government side speak of "bailout" in so many ways. They have called it borrowing or a response to help us with the situation——
That is right.
——but they will not use the word "bailout". While listening to the Minister for Finance this morning, I noted that he danced around the issue. Unfortunately, it is time to embrace the reality that all Members deeply regret, which is that we have sold out our economic sovereignty for the sake of a few zombie banks. One should be clear that this does date back to the bank guarantee scheme of September 2008 and to the mistake made at that point to guarantee everything——
What does the Senator think would have happened had we not done so?
No interruptions, please. Questions to the Leader.
——and to shore up banks that are in effect zombie banks. We still are shoring them up and are paying this incredible price. This huffing and puffing and culture of denial from the Government must stop because it is clear to all in Ireland and internationally that we are about to be bailed out. This has been more or less implicitly accepted by Members on the Government side.
In addition, I seek clarification from the Leader with regard to the climate change Bill, the heads of which were to have been published yesterday. I am unsure, in the midst of all the other grim news, whether this was the case. I seek clarity on this point because they have been promised for so long.
While I welcome the release of Aung Sang Suu Kyi at the weekend in Burma, no Members believe this will mark any sort of real return to democracy for that country, especially as more than 2,000 political prisoners remain in custody there. A debate on this issue is needed and Members must think about the real suffering and sacrifices being made by the citizens of Burma.
I also join other Members in expressing my sympathies and condolences to all concerned with the tragic events in counties Cork and Limerick. I am very concerned about these events because two obviously similar events happened in close proximity to each other. I recognise there is great stress and strain on families at present and Members must take heed of what has happened. While I hope that similar events do not occur in the future, Members must consider support for such situations. There is a difficulty, given the level of hysteria with which some of the current events are being debated and reported. The general mood in the country is not good. Let us all recognise that the country is in a very difficult situation. Having read the sections of the Constitution which deal with the reportage of events, there is a huge responsibility on those who report on the difficult situation in which we find ourselves. People have a sense of appalling hopelessness. I listened carefully to Senator Alex White who was on the ball in raising the issue of trust. He related his comments to trust in the Government, but trust has broken down in whole areas of society, including the Opposition, politics in general and the leadership of the country. Many no longer believe what they read or hear on television. So many do not know whom they should trust. It is our job, as politicians, to find a way to restore the trust of the people.
I second the amendment to the Order of Business.
I join other speakers in extending sympathy to the bereaved families in Cork and Limerick. Two families and communities are numb. The events of yesterday illustrate that community and people matter more than ever. That is why it is important the mental health budget and every issue surrounding mental health is left untouched in the budget. People matter, not bureaucrats and numbers.
I ask the Leader to arrange a frank debate on what happened yesterday in Brussels. I am appalled by the Members on the Government side of the House this morning. They have some cheek to come into the Chamber and lecture us. It is the Government——
Senator Buttimer, you must put a question to the Leader.
I have a question for him. Members opposite have some cheek. How can they come in here and talk about a bailout and dig-outs because that is what we are talking about? It is their policies and votes in support of the Government that have brought us to where we are today. They drove the bus, doled out the money and lost sight of accountability and responsibility which they have never accepted.
That is a Second Stage speech.
Why have they not accepted responsibility and accountability? Why have they not been honest with the people? Why has the Government not been honest with them?
Senator, you must put a question to the Leader.
Those are questions.
The question is very simple. I will ask it again on behalf of the people. Why have members of the Government who are the elected representatives of the people not been honest? The Minister for Social Protection, speaking on an RTE news programme last Sunday, the Minister for Justice and Law Reform and the Minister for Finance, speaking on radio this morning, all told lies to the people. As Deputy Kenny said, they have betrayed them. Why? If they want to have collective responsibility, the people will step up to the mark. Members on the Government side of the House have some cheek to lecture Opposition Members. How dare they?
I join colleagues in extending deepest sympathy to the bereaved families and communities in Cork and Limerick following the tragedies yesterday. Senator O'Toole also made reference to the recent article inThe Irish Times and the challenge we faced in meeting mental health needs. In a debate in the Chamber last week we looked at the impact of the recession on people’s mental health and psychological well-being. There was cross-party support for the efforts of the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, to protect as far as possible the budgets for mental health and disability services in the forthcoming budget. A people plan and support for people’s psychological well-being in the current crisis should be essential components of the recovery plan. None of us knows for sure what goes on in anyone’s life. However, the recession will take a toll, in human as well as political and economic terms. I urge anyone who is struggling to talk to someone, to pick up the telephone and talk to his or her family, friends, GP or someone a help line. This is not something that has to be borne alone.
I am sorry Senator Buttimer has left the Chamber.
Senator, please do not comment on anyone inside or outside the Chamber.
I ask that the word "lies" be withdrawn.
It is hard to take the level of denial in this Chamber and from Ministers in the past few days. I understand why, as the meltdown has happened on their watch. However, I ask them to face up to it, as they are heaping worry on the people. Senator Corrigan spoke about the human price. People matter. I was not able to sleep for quite a proportion of the night, thinking about our great country. As stated inThe Observer, “Ireland’s young flee abroad to escape hardship”.
Does the Senator have a question?
I am coming to it. Even in my own life, I ask myself how I will manage to pay my bills. Last night I had to rely on a former IMF board member to tell me on "Prime Time" what might happen when the IMF came in. Why do we have to rely on commentators such as an NUIG economist? Why can we not rely on the Government, the members of which have been given consent to govern? They should not continue to abuse it, rather they should provide leadership.
This is another Second Stage speech.
That is my question to the Leader. Will he speak to the Cabinet on behalf of Members of this House and ask for leadership and a way forward for the people? When the heavies come here from the European Union, the IMF and the ECB tomorrow, will the Leader ask them, in their macro-economic structure for Ireland, to ensure a fair structure for Irish citizens in meeting their bills? We are decent people who believe we should meet our bills.
Worry has been heaped on families affected by flooding. This morning waters have burst banks in Cornwall. Last week in Galway water rose to people's doors. The money has been approved by the Government but the work cannot advance because of the time taken to complete archaeological and SAC studies.
The Senator's time is up.
Will the Leader ask the Minister of State with responsibility for this matter, Deputy Mansergh, to expedite emergency legislation to prevent a future disaster and protect families affected by flooding?
I agree with my colleagues who called for a debate on the need for reform of our institutions, particularly in the context of the Croke Park agreement.
I am struck by the tone of this morning's discussion and how grim it is. However, as I came to Leinster House this morning, people were having their breakfast before going to work, while children were going to school. The vast majority must continue their lives as normal and find a way to get through this period. Our duty to them is clear. In discharging that duty one thing is hugely important. There is a need for more honesty and clarity. The mist from the political debate regarding lies and evasion will clear and when it does, we will find that the challenges facing the State are different in nature and greater in scale.
I have three questions for the Leader. First, will he ensure honesty by saying that what we are talking about is not a bailout but a loan that will have to be repaid? It will be the job of the next Government to ensure this is done and done quickly. Second, we need to be honest with the people. What is happening or what could happen is not or would not be the worst outcome for the State. The worst outcome would be to enter a period during which we would receive support from other bodies and fail to make it work, where the support given to us did not lead to the reform that, as Senator Fitzgerald said, was essential for the security of the State. Third, when a deal is done, let us not say it is a bailout for the banks. The tragedy is that the Government has fused the sovereign and the speculator together. They are now one and the same. The European Commission and the International Monetary Fund do not give support to banks but to countries. Let us recognise that in what we do and in the decisions we take in the coming days.
Yesterday I spoke about telling the truth and honesty. I have the greatest of respect for Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú. He referred this morning to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, speaking with sincerity. The Minister's heart is in the right place and he is a very good communicator. However, there have been so many mistakes and so many things that have gone wrong that it seems a completely incompetent Government has led us to this terrible point. Today the Minister has totally changed his tune. He is implying we have been told what we have to do and that we are in a European situation and share a single currency. Does he actually know what he is doing at all?
What happened in Cork and Limerick yesterday is just the tip of the iceberg of very severe pressure and stress that people are under. A sign should be given to the former CEO of Anglo Irish Bank, whose name I will not mention and who is getting away scot free in Cape Cod. His borrowings are now regarded as non-recourse borrowings, which means he will get away with not paying a debt of €8.5 million. I have said before in the House that white collar crime of this extent must be tackled. That the Garda could not obtain codes to gain access to files in Anglo Irish Bank is quite outrageous. A sign should be given to the people, by way of following up on these dreadful criminals, that would give them some faith and hope.
We are all familiar with the legend of the boy who cried wolf. The problem with him was that he cried wolf when the wolf was not coming. When the wolf did come, people did not believe him. The frustration in this House this morning is because we are encountering the case of the boy who cried wolf in reverse. The Government, perhaps in good faith, has been playing the confidence game and has been reassuring us that we have turned the corner, that we are funded up to next June and that certain developments will not occur. Each time there is news, it is worse than we have been led to believe. As a result, it is no longer possible to play the confidence game because people are frustrated. Each time they have been reassured, the reassurance has proven to be without grounds.
In playing the confidence game, the Government may well have been acting in good faith because it is beyond dispute that it was lied to by the banks. When it gave the guarantee late September 2008, it was certainly lied to by them. There is now much more light being shed on the real problems. NAMA has acquired some loans from the affected institutions at 40% of their face value.
The Government is the victim.
We must ask, therefore, why the guarantee is being extended and why bondholders have been compensated for credit risk. Should we not at least be considering withdrawing the guarantee, from Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide at a minimum? While we need to protect our two major institutions, we can argue that the peripheral ones are of less consequence to Ireland. If we do not reassess this matter, future generations of taxpayers will be guaranteeing the recklessness of developers and banks.
Accepting the inevitable bailout without looking at cutting the guarantee may do nothing to relieve the burden on the Irish taxpayer. It is simply that we are kicking the problem further down the road. Our circumstances today are no worse than those that would have obtained had we not guaranteed the banks in the first instance. That is a debate we need to have. It is inevitable that there will be certain developments, and the bailout looks like it will be among them. We should at least be considering this issue. People do not feel they have had a satisfactory answer to the question of why we continue to support the past irresponsibility of banks and bondholders who took certain risks. They seem to be the ones who are not paying the price.
I want to be associated with all the Senators in sending our condolences to the families and communities in Cork and Limerick in the wake of the terrible tragedies that occurred yesterday. With regard to the views of my colleagues on supporting A Vision for Change, funding the area of mental health, particularly through the budget, is very timely. The circumstances of the two tragedies are appalling. May the souls of those who lost their lives rest in peace.
Senators Fitzgerald, O'Toole, Alex White, Boyle, Coghlan, Keaveney, Norris, Ó Murchú, O'Reilly, Walsh, Bacik, Ó Brolcháin, Buttimer, Corrigan, Healy Eames, Donohoe, McFadden and Mullen all expressed strong views on the reform of the banking sector and other matters pertaining to banking. Much was said on the visit tomorrow of officials from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Today between 4 p.m. and 6.15 p.m., during the motion on the credit institutions (eligible liabilities guarantee) scheme 2010, we will have an opportunity to let the Minister know our latest views. Following the meeting with the leaders yesterday afternoon, I said we will review this matter daily. There is no difficulty in our discussing the up-to-date position daily as it changes and as events unfold. We can review the matter again on the Order of Business tomorrow morning.
Is the Leader choreographing matters?
Today we will have two and a quarter hours to discuss the scheme. If more time is needed tomorrow, I will allocate more. I will discuss this with the leaders of the groups and Whips after the Order of Business today.
Senator Keaveney referred to crime in sport. I certainly have no difficulty in passing on her strong views to the Minister.
Senator Bacik referred to the climate change Bill. I will revert to her on this when I receive a timeframe in the coming days.
It was supposed to have been introduced yesterday.
Senator Healy Eames requested a debate on flooding. I fully support her call and will allow time for it to take place.
No. 2 is to be taken from 4 p.m. until 6.15 p.m. Did the Leader indicate a time at which the Minister is to be called to reply?
The Minister is to be called ten minutes before the end.
Senator Fitzgerald has proposed an amendment to the Order of Business: "That a debate on the Croke Park agreement be taken today." Is the amendment being pressed?
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- Burke, Paddy.
- Buttimer, Jerry.
- Cannon, Ciaran.
- Coffey, Paudie.
- Coghlan, Paul.
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- Donohoe, Paschal.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Hannigan, Dominic.
- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
- Mullen, Rónán.
- Norris, David.
- O’Reilly, Joe.
- O’Toole, Joe.
- Phelan, John Paul.
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- Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
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