Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 15 Jul 1982

Vol. 337 No. 11

Adjournment of Dáil: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann, at its rising on Friday the 16th July, 1982, do adjourn for the Summer Recess.
—(Minister for Foreign Affairs).

In order to overcome objections based on property rights enshrined in the Constitution, we have allowed for the commutation of ground rents to ordinary contracts debts. This is not an ideal solution from our point of view but it is a step in the right direction which has been welcomed by the Association of Combined Residents Associations who have spearheaded the campaign to abolish ground rents.

The ground rents issue has also helped to highlight one of the major defects in the Constitution, the excessive rights accorded to private property.

Another major defect in the Constitution is the bar on divorce. Therefore The Workers' Party have also tabled a motion seeking to amend Article 41 of the the Constitution in this regard.

For far too long Irish politicians have failed to grasp this nettle and, in consequence, some 60,000 families are suffering from marital breakdowns for which no adequate legal remedy can be found.

The time has passed for politicians to ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Two years ago Deputy Noel Browne proposed a Divorce Bill which other Deputies failed to support on a wide variety of grounds. Some said they wanted an interparty committee of the Oireachtas to examine the problem. Others said they would prefer to examine the issue within their own party, while another group said they would be bringing in their own, more comprehensive measure subsequently.

The Bill then before the Dáil was consequently defeated and nothing has happened since.

The issue is a simple one. Either we need a referendum on this issue to determine the people's will or we do not. I believe, and my party believe, that this is a matter of private conscience. Surely the time has come for Deputies to face up to the issue and say where they stand.

I take this opportunity to appeal to Deputies on all sides of the House to join with us in supporting this motion.

As Workers' Party Deputies we were elected to this Dáil to represent our working class constituents, to improve the quality of their lives, defend their democratic rights and help them win their long-denied fair share of the national cake.

We hope that the Government, and other Dáil parties, take heed of our warning. As I have pointed out already, the huge unemployment problem currently confronting us is the most serious social crisis we have faced as a nation since the Famine. If we do not meet the challenge then Irish democracy itself is threatened.

If the parties of power and privilege in this House are not prepared to face basic, and perhaps unpalatable, facts now, tomorrow may be too late.

(Dublin North-Central): An Adjournment Debate provides the opportunity to reflect on the closing session. During this session pressures on all Members were extremely intense but the session also provided the opportunity for the Government to show their mettle and expertise, both politically and otherwise, in dealing with the various problems with which they had to contend. We all accept that there were many problems.

Only last week we concluded the debate on the Finance Bill. That Bill, more than anything else, indicated to all the inconsistency and double standards of the main Opposition party. Many of the financial measures included in the Bill were identical to those in the ill-fated budget of January. The same measures were proposed to bring about the necessary improvements in the economy but unfortunately, for obvious political reasons, Fine Gael opposed those same measures when it suited them to do so, probably in an effort to plunge the country into a third general election within 13 months.

That irresponsible attitude was evident in many other aspects of Dáil business during the session. For example, we had the display of political opportunism in the seeking of very large sums of money to aid ailing factories and industries. It was on such an occasion, following a Private Members' motion, that the Opposition partners got carried away in their enthusiasm and put down a motion of no confidence in the Government. We all know the outcome, which strengthened the hand of the Government and clearly exposed the weaknesses and hypocrisy which have been evident in every action of the Opposition since then.

It has been stated recently that the electorate have become dangerously cynical in their attitude to politicians and political parties and that this cynicism could lead to a revolt by the public against politicians generally. I do not accept that any considerable percentage of our people are thinking in such dramatic terms. Much cynical comment has been made by the public on the blatant dishonesty of some politicians and the double standards maintained by Opposition parties in their about-turn on the needs of the economy, in the interests of their own selfish ambitions of regaining power at any price. At the same time public images of honesty and sincerity have been badly tarnished by some of these happenings. It is agreed that we are at the crossroads regarding the recovery of the economy. It is vital that we are guided by a stable Government along that road.

Parliamentary criticism is fully justified. It is necessary if our democratic system is to continue in good health. However, that criticism should be constructive. If it is made in an effort to improve whatever measures are proposed by the Government that is as it should be. At a time when the economy is struggling, with our balance of payments situation, with rising unemployment and when we have the highest inflation rate in the EEC, it is necessary that we should not have the irresponsible, destructive type of politics the House has experienced in the recent past. It does not matter where the dishonesty comes from. The country and the democratic system will suffer greviously and at the end of the debate the Dáil will go into summer recess. I sincerely hope we will not have any more personal vilifications against our Government and leader which we have had to listen to for quite some time. Perhaps that is too much to hope for. Such appeals were made in the past and went unheeded since that infamous speech by the Leader of Fine Gael in 1979.

All Members will agree that it is high time consideration was given to the country's problems. The choice of the people, which was confirmed last February, should be accepted in a proper parliamentary fashion. It seems to be conveniently forgotten that this Government are in office for only four months. The previous Government were in office for seven months and during that time nothing was done in a practical sense to relieve our balance of payments situation and ignite our economy despite the pious platitudes of the then Taoiseach and Minister for Finance.

That is not true.

(Dublin North-Central): It is very true and the Deputy knows it. The opposite took place, and as a result of the gloom and doom which has already been mentioned and which will continue to be mentioned when one reflects on the activities of the former Government, we lost the confidence of many industrialists and financial institutions. That is a fact, and I know it from personal experience. We will never know how many jobs were lost because of that. Many foreigners were frightened off, and that was understandable in view of the fact that the Government were so pessimistic about the future. Many foreign companies decided not to extend credit and goods to existing companies and representatives. There was a general feeling that our whole money system was about to collapse. That type of policy was disastrous and did nothing to assist our economy. Many jobs were lost. Employment was affected. Unemployment rose and has continued to do so ever since.

I remember hearing the former Tánaiste being interviewed on radio. He was asked about the rise in unemployment figures. He said — and the former Taoiseach repeated the same thing a few days later — that he could not see any improvement for the next four or five years. He said the world was going through a serious recession and he forecast that unemployment could eventually reach a figure of 250,000. That type of statement coming from a Taoiseach and Tánaiste indicated that that Government did not have the plans or political will to get people back to work. They are the people who are criticising this Government and who recently put down a motion of no confidence at a time when the unemployment figure reached 150,000. That is the kind of dishonest politics and cheap political opportunism which is depressing and upsetting to all.

We are as concerned as anyone else about the rise in unemployment. We are concerned at the number of jobs lost and the fact that there are little prospects for young people leaving school who are seeking employment for the first time. We have a number of companies which are suffering badly because of the depression and we must accept that there are many more jobs at risk. It is difficult to understand the large number of people who are still prepared to go on strike. Recently I was horrified to hear that a well known bakery in Dublin was forced to close with a loss of 250 jobs. The union involved could not come to an agreement with the management on proposals to introduce night working. Negotiations had gone on for a considerable time and, according to newspaper reports, the offers made by management were substantial. Unfortunately agreement could not be reached and 250 jobs were lost in a bakery which was well established in the city for many years. That type of situation is mad, especially at a time when unemployment is so high and jobs so difficult to obtain.

The recession is still biting deeply. It is more important than ever that in situations of industrial unrest commonsense should prevail. I know industrial relations have improved during the past year, but until we reach a stage where firmness is exercised on both sides we will always have this problem. There was a time when workers were blatantly and disgracefully discriminated against, but in many cases the wheel has turned to an extent where many employers and companies are in the position the worker was in during the time of Larkin. We must be realistic and accept that if workers do not give a good day's work in return for their pay there is little possibility of industrial peace which is badly needed.

We also have a situation where future industry will be affected. Industrialists will shy away, and that is an area which can cause great difficulty as far as the promotion of new jobs and industries are concerned. An area which causes anger to many workers is one where the unemployed have greater take home pay than they have. Deputy Sherlock referred to this aspect. It is understandable that any worker should feel very sore to meet his neighbour or unemployed friend——

The Deputy must move the adjournment.

Debate adjourned.