Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 23 Oct 1986

Vol. 369 No. 2

Confidence in Government: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann reaffirms its confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government.
—(The Taoiseach.)

Before the Adjournment I proved conclusively to the House that the actions I have taken over the last three of the four years of this Government in relation to the proposal I have before them for a massive job creation scheme in the city have been taken with the utmost responsibility on my part. However, until September of this year no decision was made by the Government in spite of the report by the consultants DKM to the Government in June, and the fact that we had been promised a decision by them.

Since then this project has been plagued with leaks emanating from one of the Government Departments. In The Irish Times on Tuesday Mr. Frank McDonald, environment correspondent, said that I had presented a package to the Minister for Communications on Monday, the proposal for this project, and that I had said the Minister would have to sign it if the Government were to secure my support. He also said that I presented the draft agreement at a lengthy meeting with the Minister, Deputy Mitchell, and that Mr. Halman had visited Dublin in the last week to lobby for the deal. He also said that Cooper's and Lybrand's report took what he described as a more rosy view of the Dublin property market. All of these things are untrue. I wrote a complaint to The Irish Times.

On this morning's Gay Byrne show Mr. Frank McDonald said "I got a call at 6 o'clock on Tuesday last from a source within the Civil Service who said that he would like me to know the latest position in regard to the Skelly proposal for the contract for the centre of Dublin. He said he could not give his name but he would meet me to discuss the situation. I met him a half an hour later and he gave me a copy of the agreement which I have here". Deputies can make up their own minds where that came from. I would also like to mention in passing that my commitment to the preservation of the city is at least as strong as Mr. McDonaid's, being a member of An Taisce. If a former Leader of this House can say that he loved every blade of grass in the country I can equally say that I love every stone in the city, or what is left of the old city.

Earlier this year on the Committee Stage of the Air Transport Bill I, along with Deputy O'Malley pressed for the tares on the London/Dublin route to be brought down to at least the level of the Dublin/Amsterdam fare of £59 in order to get tens of thousands of British tourists back into the country. It was I who mentioned the £59, and within two weeks of Aer Lingus advertising that fact there were 50,000 bookings and 22,000 thousand with Ryanair. This proved to me that if we turn Dublin into a shopping-entertainment-tourist mecca we could create tens of thousands of extra jobs.

It disturbs me very much to note that the consultants who examined this project, one of whom is a former adviser to the great white knight himself, the Taoiseach, were able to visit the Canadian promoters and made a statement to them in their boardroom — this was confirmed for me last week — that they knew those people were capable of carrying out the project and that they had the finance and the know-how to do it, but for other reasons it could not be done. Later, in their report, those consultants destroyed the project. We had leaks about that but, of course, we have had no leaks of the counter report which totally demolishes every word of the consultants' report.

My decision in this matter still stands. Unless the Government make a positive decision on the project, namely, they cannot rely on my support and I will vote against them. As I said earlier, sitting in Parliament is not an end in itself. I have been prepared to take the ultimate step. I believe my priorities are right, that I am right to put the people before myself and party. I am committed to that. My judgment that the project could be the anchor, the linchpin for the creation of tens of thousands of jobs, as has happened in cities elsewhere, I am prepared to stand over and if I am wrong I am prepared to take the consequences.

Today I was assured that a definite decision by the Cabinet on the granting of the exclusive option of Caneire Developers Limited will be made in three to four weeks, but not later than 20 November. This was confirmed to me today at a meeting of senior members of the Government and of my party. Accordingly, in order to take the decision out of the charged atmosphere of a vote of no confidence in the Government, I have agreed to this formula for resolving the crisis.

This vote of confidence is now a matter of academic interest. The people of the country have clearly indicated in every way, in every sphere of activity, that they have lost confidence in the Government. The Government sought a mandate from the people in 1982 based on specific pledges and commitments which were the only basis for the mandate given to the Government, but they have been specifically repudiated and dishonoured.

What individual Deputies do here today is of no consequence. The basic confidence which governments require and must have among the people will not be restored by last minute negotiations and machinations of which we have had evidence now. The confidence of the people, which has been undermined, will be forfeit to the Government, and properly so, not only because of their failure to meet their commitments but because of their total abuse of the whole democratic process. They said they would reduce the budget deficit but they have increased it by 50 per cent to £1,500 million. They would reduce unemployment, but that reduction has increased it from 180,000 to 240,000. They pledged to the people that they would reduce total taxation but it has been increased from £4,000 million to £6,400 million. Every pledge they gave to get the mandate that they sought has been dishonoured and repudiated.

Because the Government themselves have repudiated their mandate they have no right to remain on here on the spurious basis that they will fulfil their mandate in the full term of their office. They pledged themselves to reduce the foreign debt and our total indebtedness but they have increased the foreign debt from £5.3 billion to £9.5 billion and our total indebtedness from £12 billion to £23 billion. The Government by their actions and their failures have clearly repudiated the mandate they got four years ago. Therefore, they have clearly forfeited the confidence of the people.

When the Taoiseach came to address the nation in this time of crisis he attempted yesterday to convey the impression to the people that all that they know themselves is unreal, that the disasters, the crises, the frustration and the tension are unreal. He attempted to present as achievement after four years the contrast with Fianna Fáil. Let the people judge up to this day whether the Government have failed to honour their pledges. What the people would be interested in would be one word or signal of faint hope from the Taoiseach and his Ministers. Not one item of direction, hope or planning came from the Taoiseach in the course of his diatribe yesterday which was totally confined to attacking the Opposition, not just today but four years and eight years ago.

Is it any wonder there is a deep malaise throughout the country, because the man at the helm does not even have a sense of direction? We are a nation with great strength and great resources. In the first instance our resources are our people, particularly our young people, who have repudiated this Government by leaving their own place where they had been condemned to failure and going abroad to achieve some sense of dignity or achievement. Unfortunately, we have had the news that those young people are to be repatriated back home from a country where the are regarded as illegal aliens. If that happens we will face even more appalling consequences of the failures of this spiritless, lifeless Government. Those young people will come home with a sense of determination in the face of such hopelessness and despair and idleness.

The Tánaiste is sitting opposite. In a great state of fervour some months ago he said it would be his special privilege to lead the Labour Party for the first time in history in opposition to coalition. Yet he has the gall before those whom the Labour Party claim to represent to cling on to this lifeless, hopeless Coalition, to maintain in office a Government that have given up all hope and shown no purpose. Why do they hold on to office? It is to maintain the perks or somehow to save themselves from the inevitable sentence the people will impose on them.

Is there any justification for that kind of cynicism in politics? They ask us where Fianna Fáil stand. We have answered the nation many times in our history. Sixty years ago in 1926-27 when we were first launched we responded to a need and provided a dynamism for the establishment of self-confidence and economic and political independence. That is the base of our party and it is still at the root of the achievements of this nation. Thirty years later, after the disastrous, miserable Coalition of the fifties, under the leadership of Seán Lemass Fianna Fáil provided a dynamism that gave back dignity and confidence to our young people.

Today we have the chance again, and we ask only one thing: that the Government, and above all the Taoiseach, who claim to be true democrats, like a true democrat would go back to the people, who are the ultimate rulers of the nation, and ask them to judge. The people are entitled to be lifted from their depression into a new era of hope and prosperity.

I got the impression that Deputy O'Kennedy was verging on shouting, and I was wondering if that was because of a lack of content. We can all hear him perfectly well. I get the impression that if Fianna Fáil were that good we would be living in Utopia. Somebody has to come along at regular intervals to try to grapple with the mess they leave this country in, and sadly, I suspect they will do so again in the future.

This debate is taking place at a time when the people face a number of diverse challenges. We face to an even greater extent than we ever have the challenge of creating jobs for our people. We face the challenge as a people of dealing with the ever growing mountain of debt. We face the challenge of reform in many difficult and sensitive areas and we face the challenge of more fairness in our taxation system. In the middle of all these challenges this debate is, I believe, a distraction.

It is typical of the sterile approach of Fianna Fáil that they are content to indulge in this exercise. They know they cannot win the vote which will be held in less than one hour's time. They know this debate will not change the direction the Government are taking. I believe they see it as a bread and circus exercise, an opportunity to vent their spleen at the Government and at the parties on this side of the House. This could be funny if the problems facing the country were not so serious.

Fianna Fáil's spleen derives from one source only: they see us as being grossly impertinent just because we are still here. The Leader of the Opposition recently offered the Irish people a novel definition of democracy. Democracy, in his view, means a general recognition that the only party fit to hold office is his and the only person fit to be Taoiseach is himself. The Government who see fit to remain in office in defiance of Deputy Haughey's divine right to govern is, by that definition, undemocratic. Of course the logic of the same definition is that anything that stands in Deputy Haughey's way is undemocratic. We should not be too surprised, I suppose, as Deputy Haughey has demonstrated his belief in his own divinity more than once. Happily, however, there is a more commonly accepted definition of democracy.

This Government, by any of the standards normally accepted in parliamentary democracy, have a democratic mandate. That mandate does not expire until the end of 1987. It was given to us by the people who were sick and tired of a Government and a Taoiseach who governed without a shred of integrity. It will, therefore, come as a relief to everyone in this House and to hard-pressed workers and taxpayers when this debate draws to its inevitable conclusion and the Government are free to get on with governing the country. Fianna Fáil will then be free as well to carry on the only work they seem to be capable of doing. They will be free to make speeches decrying the instability of government while papering over the cracks in their own party and looking nervously behind their backs at the large numbers who have left Fianna Fáil to set up a new party.

What about the large numbers leaving the country?

They will be free to bleat about the need to restore business confidence while offering to increase public spending. They will be free to promise more fairness to PAYE workers and no tax at all to farmers. In short, they will be free to carry on the same brand of hypocritical politics with which they are indelibly associated — higher spending if you are talking to one group, lower spending if you are talking to another; more tax or less tax — the audience can take their pick. Responsible, careful government or "we will fix it for you"— whatever you want, Fianna Fáil have it on offer. I believe they are beginning to call it "a better way". It may be a better way to run a supermarket, but I doubt very much that the country needs it. This is what I call lost leader politics. You put all the goodies on display at the front of the shop, at reduced prices of course, but you hide the really necessary items in a dim corner at the back, taking care to conceal the true price that has to be paid.

I notice the Progressive Democrats have taken a leaf out of the same shopkeeper's manual. They have now produced a policy document so bogus and dishonest that one can only conclude they are hiding their real agenda from us. By and large, the cuts they propose are unachievable in the short term. Those that can be made will eat into the effort to create and protect jobs and to find the path back to work for those who are unemployed. There are some additional charges — notably the proposal to make the lowest income groups in our society pay for necessary medicines — and this from the party whose leader attacked the Minister for Health this morning.

On the back of these cheese-paring, phony and invidious cuts in public spending, the Progressive Democrats, or "Dessie O'Malley's Party" as the private opinion polls describe them, offer a radical reduction in taxation, not just for the PAYE sector where it is most needed but right across the board. The net effect of the whole package is that those who can afford to pay more will be asked to pay less, and those who can afford to pay nothing will be asked to pay for services which have been free for many years. If that is being progressive I ask to be counted out.

This debate takes place at the end of a period which has seen great activity on a number of fronts, both economic and political. It is appropriate to refer to some of them and I would like to begin with the referendum on divorce. Last June when the issue of divorce was put to them, 37 people out of every 100 voted in favour of change. Those 37 voted also for tolerance, for respect for the rights of minorities and for a greater measure of freedom. I am convinced that many more would have voted for these things too but were afraid. It would be a mistake, in my view, to assume too readily that those who voted "no" were voting for intolerance.

Questions were asked by commentators and others about such issues as judgment in putting it before the people and the timing of the campaign. Of course, some of those commentators. who have been most critical are the same people who would accuse us of shirking the issue if it had not been put. I am proud of the fact that it was a Government in which the Labour Party were participating which put this issue before the people. I believe that in the fullness of time the debate we had will be seen to have opened many doors. It will be seen that we have exposed aspects of ourselves and our lives to public view and that we have awakened a sensitivity to the suffering of others, a sensitivity that will grow rather than diminish. We in the Labour Party played a full role in that debate and we have nothing to apologise for.

A number of attempts have been made in the past to amend our Constitution. By and large, two things have emerged from the history of those efforts. First, in only one case — the EC referendum — was it possible to succeed without all-party support. Fianna Fáil neutrality does not count. Secondly, political parties which suffered reverses in referenda —1 am thinking principally of the referenda to do away with PR — found that those reverses did not prevent them from winning substantial support in subsequent elections.

The issue of marital breakdown will not go away. I know a great deal of work has been done in the last few months preparing legislation aimed at easing the pain and the problems of those in troubled and broken marriages. As this Government fulfil what is left of our term, one of our priorities will be to secure the passage of such necessary legislation. We in the Labour Party, at least, will not lose sight of the fact that the issue cannot be finally resolved without putting this question again to the people at some time in the not-too-distant future.

There are a number of issues facing this Government and the people about which there is little disagreement in this House. There is no disagreement about the need to maintain control of public expenditure. There is no disagreement that the level of personal taxation for PAYE workers is too high. There is no disagreement about the need to tackle unemployment as the greatest priority. There is no disagreement about the need to ensure that the maximum returns are achieved from the resources of the State. However, there is a great deal of disagreement about the way in which these objectives should be met. Of late, as I have already said, one simple formula seems to be emerging which has a great deal of superficial attraction because it has been presented as a solution to all these problems. When it is stripped down to its essentials the formula is to sell the State's assets to pay the debts, slash any expenditure which is arbitrarily declared to be unnecessary and to cut personal taxation, especially for the better off on the theory that this will generate a climate for job creation. Although it is superficially attractive it is highly dangerous and potentially terribly divisive. In this connection I note that Deputy Haughey repeated in this debate his criticisms of the Government's bond washing measures in 1984 and of the deposit interest retention tax.

There are two points I wish to make in this respect. Deputy Haughey's criticisms of these measures are entirely devoid of factual content and, more importantly, these are measures aimed at getting taxes from the rich. They have been successful in that regard. Deputy Haughey's attack on these measures boils down to little more than a defence of the rich. That should not surprise us, nor should we be surprised by his attitude when he was asked why he was invited to open the Money Ireland Exhibition last week and replied "because I'm very rich".

On a more serious level we must face the need to contain public expenditure as a Government and as a community and I fully accept that. We must do so while at the same time having regard to the need for fairness and justice. The notion that sharp cuts can be made in essential social services at a time when so many are dependent on them must be regarded as unacceptable. It becomes particularly unacceptable when it is accompanied by attacks on those who are dependent as is increasingly the case nowadays. If there is abuse in our social services, it must be discovered and rooted out but it will never be acceptable to eliminate or diminish essential systems of State support because a small minority are abusing them.

Suggestions such as Deputy O'Malley repeated this morning that a significant portion of the assets of the State can be sold are totally misleading. Many of the assets of the State are in the form of productive enterprises, some profitable, others with a potential for profit. Our aim must be to ensure, through more effective management and a high degree of motivation and co-operation, that all the State's enterprises are making a contribution, not only to the shareholders who are the people of this country but also to general economic growth. We have shown that this can be done in small companies like the Great Southern Hotels and in great companies like Aer Lingus. We have also shown that it can be done in a public sector context. Other companies run by the State provide essential services, many of them of a strategic nature such as transport. There is no doubt that elements of these companies would be attractive to the private sector but selling them would have the inevitable consequence that the social element of the service provided would quickly be lost sight of.

Companies in which the State has a significant shareholding are involved in the development of natural resources. As a matter of fundamental principle, I believe that the development of our natural resources, gas, turf, wood or food, must be carried out in the interests of the people as a whole. This can only be done by maintaining a very high level of public sector involvement. Selling any of these enterprises, in return for a "quick fix" of cash is selling out the longer term interests of the people. It might well generate short term popularity for whoever proposes it but it is not what I came into politics to do. How then do we deal with the crying need to reduce taxation? A number of ingredients are necessary. The first is to recognise where the problem lies. It lies first and foremost with the PAYE sector and it exists in large measure because other sectors are not paying their fair share.

I have said on other occasions that if it is necessary to put people in jail to ensure equity in our taxation system we will have to do so. How much better it would be if it was possible to appeal to a spirit of fairness throughout the community in bringing about equity. We must build on the success we have achieved in developing a more competitive economy to ensure that a higher level of growth enables us to cope better with the conflicting demand of a necessary high level of public expenditure and for reduction in taxes for the PAYE workers.

I want to turn to some aspects of the areas covered by my Department and I must query the attitude of the Opposition to natural resource development generally. When in Government Fianna Fáil tend to give away the people's right to share in the benefits which will arise from the proper exploitation of these resources. We have seen that from Fianna Fáil tax holidays in the mining industry, with no State participation and the giving away of offshore exploration rights for £500 in the sixties.

The Minister is going back a bit.


For them the word "development" means easy pickings for those bestowed with the benefit of Fianna Fáil's pleasure rather than a balanced regime of royalties, taxes and State participation that would allow genuine development to be for the benefit of the people as a whole. We have some live examples of historical mementoes in this House.

In Opposition, on the other hand, Fianna Fáil speak with divers tongues on these issues. Balanced adjustments that are necessary, for example in oil exploration terms are stated to be "too little and too late" by the spokesman on energy while on the other hand Deputy Haughey warns me, as he did last July, against doing anything at all lest my actions might benefit anyone whom he thinks is not in his favour.

I want to refer now to recent developments in oil markets generally, and to the situation relating to offshore exploration. The most significant feature of course has been the dramatic slump in the price of oil. The effects of this on our economy have been complex. It has contributed to the rapid falling off in inflation, and has lowered the prices of many goods in the shops. Motorists have seen significant reductions at the petrol pumps, despite some fluctuations, and industrial and commercial users of energy, including electricity, have derived substantial benefit. Overall, the benefits to our economy, particularly our balance of payments, have been very substantial. However, there has been another side to the fall in oil prices. It has led to enormous cutbacks in exploration expenditure worldwide and created difficulties for Ireland's exploration programme. However Ireland's good exploration record has been maintained, and so far this year seven exploration wells have been completed. On present indications it is likely that at least one further well will be spudded before the year end. While this year's wells did not result in new discoveries, the results continued to give encouragement, added to our knowledge of our offshore basins and most important of all, ensured that the impetus of our exploration programme was not diminished in this, a most difficult year. I am hopeful that this impetus can be maintained in 1987 and later years. We should remember that to date 95 wells have been drilled offshore, involving oil company expenditure of more than £1 billion with the resultant spin off benefits to the Irish offshore services industry.

It was with a view to maintaining the thrust of our exploration effort that I recently introduced significant new incentives for oil exploration and development off our shores.

Our offshore licensing terms must be sufficiently attractive to invite exploration and development but sufficiently firm to protect fully the interests of the Irish people, who after all are the owners of our national resources. The terms also have to be competitive with those of other nations, especially in these days of shrinking exploration budgets. Essentially they must reflect the realities of the day. In 1975, when our licensing terms were published, and in subsequent years, there was an expectation of rising prices in nominal and even in real terms. The provisions laid down then require adaptation to meet today's market conditions.

In 1985, I introduced a clarification of the terms to meet a particular concern of the oil companies at that time. This defined a marginal field and set the limits for carried State participation in such a field. Since then the price of crude oil has fallen by about 50 per cent and exploration work in the main Irish area of interest, the Celtic Sea, has provided evidence that the area is geologically complex and that accumulations will be small rather than large. In this new situation, it was reasonable to expect that the State's position regarding royalties and participation would be made known before the oil companies entered new drilling commitments, as they were incurring all the costs and undertaking all the risks.

The new arrangements for royalty relief and State participation which I announced on 19 September last are geared to take account of the price of oil and the amounts and rates of profit which are actually earned in a development project. They were formed so as to afford future relief, in accordance with exploration effort, from scheduled royalty payments; to specify the levels and rates of profit which must be secured before liability would arise for participation payments; but at the same time to ensure always some revenues to the State by way of a minimum 3 per cent royalty in all development projects. This will remove uncertainty that companies might have about their treatment by the State in the event of a future development.

I believe that the 1986 adjustments to the terms have struck the right balance between the concerns of the oil companies and the interests of the State. The steps taken have been positive and as I had anticipated, the general reaction of the oil industry has also been positive. Again these initiatives show quite clearly that this Government have the confidence to guide the country through very difficult times and will not shrink from taking innovative and radical decisions in order to secure the long term future of important sectors of the economy.

I wish now to refer to issues related to the use of nuclear power. The Government are totally opposed to the discharge of radioactive waste into the Irish Sea. This position is well known and every opportunity has been taken to express this view at international level. The Government have called for discharges of radioactive waste from Sellafield to be minimised and to be eliminated as soon as possible through the use of the best available technology. The Government are also concerned at incidents at Sellafield which, although of negligible radiological significance, have caused a loss of confidence in the safety of the operation of the plant. This concern was conveyed to the British authorities on many occasions.

The question of closing Sellafield is more complex than it may appear. There are a number of problems relating to the decommissioning of nuclear installations which have yet to be resolved. For example, there is a large amount of radioactive fuel already stored at the plant which would continue to require attention and management even if reprocessing activity were to cease. The Government give priority to ensuring the safe operation of all nuclear plants, not just Sellafield.

In this respect, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency the Government recently signed conventions on early notification and on mutual assistance in the event of a nuclear accident.

The Irish people are being exposed to a potential nuclear hazard from operations outside Irish jurisdiction. This makes the problem an international one. The view of the Government is that this issue must be resolved by the European Commission under the provision of Euratom. This is why the Government are pressing for the establishment of a European inspection force. This would determine independently whether, in addition to other nuclear installations, Sellafield can operate safely or whether its operation should be suspended or cease until it could be rendered safe.

The recent accident at the Chernobyl plant in the USSR brought to the entire world the consequences which can result from an accident at a nuclear establishment. The accident resulted in widespread radioactive fallout and subsequent contamination in almost all European countries. We in Ireland fortunately escaped the worst effects of the accident, and levels of radioactivity here are not significant. However, the accident emphasised that national boundaries are not a protection against nuclear risks. It reinforced the Government's conviction that a European inspection force is an essential element of nuclear safety and must be established so as to ensure that the nuclear industry adheres to the most rigorous safety standards. The Government will continue to press at Community level for the introduction of such a force.

Increased resources have been made available to the Nuclear Energy Board. Following the Chernobyl accident demands on the board's monitoring facilities increased dramatically. In May 1986, £383,000 was approved for office and laboratory facilities. In addition, the Government approved a sum of £60,000 for equipment, and provision was also made for five extra staff. The board carried out their monitoring programme in the interests of public health and safety, and certification of exports by the board was of particular help to the agricultural industry. As monitoring demands continued to increase in the wake of Chernobyl, the Nuclear Energy Board sought and were granted an additional £167,000 for further monitoring equipment and four extra staff. The resource requirements will be kept under continuous review.

I set up an interdepartmental committee to deal with emergency planning issues. A sub-committee consisting of the Departments of Energy, Health, Defence, including Civil Defence, the Meteorological Service and the Nuclear Energy Board will soon complete consideration of an emergency plan which will then be submitted to me.

I want now to refer to the significant progress that has been made in extending the natural gas grid throughout the country. In October 1985 I gave approval to BGE to proceed with the construction of a natural gas pipeline to Limerick. Construction is now almost complete and is on time and within budget so far. It is intended to have natural gas flowing in Limerick city by spring 1987 with the system to be operated by a new company jointly owned by BGE and Limerick Corporation. En route the dairy co-operatives at Mitchelstown, the Golden Vale Co-operative in Rath Luirc and the Ballyclough Co-operative in Mallow are being supplied.

The approved estimated cost for the entire Limerick project is £15.5 million. Up to 500 people have been employed during the construction phase.

In July 1986, approval was given to provide a supply of natural gas to Clonmel. Construction is due to commence in January 1987 and is expected to be completed in April 1987. The system will be owned 80 per cent by BGE and 20 per cent by Clonmel Corporation.

In June 1986, the Government gave approval for construction of a pipeline to supply Kilkenny with natural gas. The contract was allocated on 15 October 1986 and construction work has now commenced. BGE will control the distribution of gas in the city.

I also gave approval to Bord Gáis in October 1985 to proceed with the construction of a natural gas pipeline to serve Waterford. BGE commenced construction of the new 48 km spurline in June 1986 and work on the mainline to Waterford city is expected to be completed by the end of October. Contracts for the supply of gas have been agreed by BGE with a number of major industrial companies in the county. Overall, some 300 workers on average have been employed on the project during the construction period. The total cost of the project is estimated at £8.8 million, over 70 per cent of which will be spent on Irish goods and services.

Overall, sales of gas to local utilities and industries have increased and now represent 21 per cent in value of total sales.

Considerable progress has been made in laying the basis for an efficient and viable natural gas distribution operation in Dublin. The receiver has assessed the overall situation in the Dublin Gas Company since his appointment last April, and a major rationalisation of the company is in the course of completion. With the finishing of the conversion programme during the summer, Dublin city now has a modern gas distribution network. I am considering the future funding requirements of the operation and my intention is to ensure a well run and publicly owned gas utility for the people of Dublin.

In the course of his contribution Deputy Reynolds asked a number of questions which deserve a reply. He asked, in relation to the information supplied in the last number of days, why it took so much time to collect. I should like to tell him, and the House, that information had to be assembled from files, from the receiver and the Dublin Gas Company to answer the general questions raised.

The Deputy also asked questions about Mr. X's pension arrangements and I should like to tell him that the pension arrangements were between that individual and the company. They were initiated contractually in 1977 when Deputy Reynolds, and the Fianna Fáil Party, were in power.

There or thereabouts.

Less of that; we want the truth.

Deputy Reynolds put the question in such a way that he believed that other arrangements may exist in relation to previous employment and in that event he should ask the individual involved.

The Minister is imitating the Taoiseach.

Deputy Reynolds, a businessman in the private sector, will be aware that private companies by and large do not tend to make known the pension settlements or arrangements for employees, particularly for managers and I am sure that applies to companies that receive grants from the public purse as it does to those that do not.

I made it clear to the Deputy yesterday that the costs of receivership have not been fully assessed. The receiver has concluded negotiations with the trade unions at a cost of about £10 million but this will save about £8 million, or more, each year in the future compared with the position in the company earlier. Everything in the company is being streamlined and the receiver will earn every penny he receives.

Receivers are doing well.

There is hope for the Deputy yet; we could put him into receivership at this stage.

We could liquidate the Minister. That might be preferable.

Deputy Reynolds referred to the past history of Dublin Gas and, as he is a former Minister for Energy, it might be useful to look at what he did in 1982 when he was Minister. On 21 May 1982 the Government reached a decision, on the basis of an aide memoire, that a contract should be concluded between BGE and the Dublin Gas Company. I believe it was a give-away scheme at that time with no protection for the State's interest. Further documentation was signed at the time of the 1982 General Election and, by some strange operations, there was a further copper-fastening of the lax arrangements and give-away policies of Fianna Fáil on 9 December 1982, five days before the end of that last infamous Fianna Fáil Government.

In the meantime Minister Reynolds had presided, apparently helpless, in the autumn of 1982 over a row involving rival groups seeking the control of the company which at that time I believe should have been a public utility. I often wonder what the source of Deputy Reynolds's worry is, is it in relation to who won and lost the boardroom battle in Dublin Gas?

I have been conscious for some time of the need to alleviate the problem of high electricity costs in industry. In fact the Government and the ESB have been moving gradually to improve the price to industry and this has obvious importance for job creation and the competitiveness of the economy. The first stage of this improvement was in 1985 when I announced an average reduction of from 2 per cent to 6 per cent in the industrial tariff. This year trends in oil prices and in interest and exchange rates changed substantially the ESB's cost projections for the financial year 1986-87. In these circumstances, and following consultation with the ESB, I announced early this year the reductions in electricity prices of over 6 per cent on average for industrial consumers, and almost 4 per cent for commercial consumers. These reductions were applicable from the April-May billing period. In addition, a reduction of 5 per cent for all consumers applied from September.

As I stated when I announced these price reductions both I and the ESB will keep electricity prices under review, and any opportunity which arises for further reductions will be availed of.

I want to refer to Bord na Móna and the peat situation generally.

Because of the bad weather in 1985 and in the early part of 1986 Bord na Móna were facing a shortfall of £50 million in revenue. At the beginning of September 1986 they had only achieved 33 per cent of their target of milled peat which is the company's main peat fuel. In an effort to alleviate the board's financial position the Government decided on 28 August that a loan of £25 million under the Euro-currency loan scheme should be provided to Bord na Móna and that the exchange risk would be carried by the Exchequer.

I am glad to say that the good weather which prevailed during September and October helped to ameliorate the board's problems and the board have now achieved 77.3 per cent of their target. The board's financial situation will be reviewed when production ceases on the bogs in order to see what measures might then be necessary.

The Government, in recognition of the fact that private peat producers had also suffered substantial losses as a result of two consecutive bad summers, decided to extend the Exchange rate guarantee scheme to provide £5 million in Euro-currency loans for that sector. The scheme is being operated by the Associated Banks and ACC. This scheme will be beneficial to this sector by the provision of loans for working capital and the restructuring of existing loans. Exchange losses will also be met by the Exchequer. Also under the private bog scheme, administered by Bord na Móna for my Department, grants totalling over £650,000 have been approved since April last.

I have continued to promote exploration of the country's mineral resources. At present encouraging results are being obtained from drilling operations at Galmoy, County Kilkenny, but the exploration work in question is at a preliminary stage and one cannot say what the final outcome will be.

Regarding offshore coal there have been preliminary studies by the Geological Survey with a view to determining the potential viability of coal mining in the Kish Basin. It is our intention to advertise the availability of these studies to interested parties who would be invited to come forward with exploration proposals with a view to establishing whether there are coal seams of adequate thickness and acceptable quality in this area.

Regarding the Leinster coalfield, recent action by my Department to transfer mining facilities from a company which had become insolvent to another company of Canadian origin saved the jobs of over 50 workers at Rossmore Colliery.

I want to speak briefly now about energy conservation. It is easy to forget at times when energy prices are falling how important it still is for all sectors of the economy and domestic users to be conscious of the savings that can be made. An amount of £317,000 has been allocated to the energy conservation programme in 1986. Energy conservation improves the energy supply position by reducing the quantity of energy required to do a particular task and also, energy saved is a reduction in costs for the user. On a national basis, energy savings reduce dependence on imported fuels and benefit the balance of payments.

My Department's energy conservation programme includes activities carried out by the IIRS for the Department such as the electrical energy audit service which was introduced in 1985. Its objective is to promote the efficient use of electricity in the industrial sector. A free audit is carried out, after which the company receive a detailed computerised report of their electrical usage. The savings on energy use amount on average to £1,000 per company and each audit costs my Department approximately £300.

Four regional energy officers also operate on a regional basis to provide on-the-spot advice and guidelines on energy related matters to industry and local authorities. They also carry out audits of energy usage in these sectors.

There is a free telephone advisory service in IIRS which offers advice to the public on energy matters and issues information packages and leaflets where appropriate. The IIRS have also completed a survey of the energy usage in seven public buildings this year.

Under the fuel efficiency survey grant scheme grants of up to one-third of the cost of engaging energy consultants for hotels, manufacturing industries and third level institutions are available from my Department. Similar grants are also available for feasibility studies for fuel conversion.

The aim of the EC demonstration grant scheme is to promote and stimulate the commercialisation of energy technologies which have been researched and developed successfully. Grants of up to 40 per cent of the total cost of demonstration are available to successful applicants. Thirty-six Irish projects were submitted under the 1986 scheme and the Department are awaiting the results of the project assessments. Last year, the EC awarded £2.5 million towards Irish energy demonstration projects. We are hopeful that we will have similar success this year also.

This Government are now approaching the end of their fourth year of a five year term of office. They will have been in office almost as long as the Fianna Fáil Government of 1977-81, which, as Deputies will recall, had for much of that time a 20-seat majority. That was before having splinter parties became fashionable. I reflect, every time I hear Fianna Fáil talking about stable Government, that the last four years have been a great deal more stable than that long period of Government between 1977 and 1981.

Although we have had our disagreements, they have, as I have said, been about worthwhile issues, and they have never, unlike Fianna Fáil, been clouded by issues of personality as well. In our four years of office, although we have made mistakes, we have never tried to buy votes in by-elections, or bugged each others conversations, or tapped journalists' phones, or fiddled the Estimates.

Nasty man.

We have, over that period of time, sought to undo the damage that Fianna Fáil did. We have tried to face up to the task of ensuring that our children are not saddled with the hopelessness generated by Fianna Fáil cynicism and recklessness. We have initiated and carried through many worthwhile and useful reforms, ranging from the Ombudsman to family planning. We have streamlined many of the State's troubled enterprises, and have addressed the problems of others — always in a public sector context, except in the one case where that was impossible to do.

Tell us about the pre-sixties.


I can detect by the sniggering that there is a Fianna Fáil presence in the House.

This is a speech from the bunker.

We have ensured, alone among European Governments, in the last four years that people who are dependent on social welfare are more than protected from inflation.

Leave the adolescents alone.

Some 2,500 people have emigrated.

Mr. Cowen

This is a Kerry joke.

We have secured real increases in benefits for a wide range of people.

Did the Minister ever hear about unemployment or emigration? Come out and meet some of the people.

We have turned around the housing situation. In my home county for instance we have increased the entire housing stock of the county by more than 10 per cent in the last three years.

A Deputy

They are all gone. That is where all the footballers have gone.

We held on to a good football team. These are the facts. Listen to them.


Listen to the facts. Even when books are written about your Leader you try to say it is fiction. You do not accept facts.

Go back and mind the greyhounds.

Order, please.

We have made more progress in restoring relations between our island and Britain than at any time in our recent history. The efforts made by the New Ireland Forum, translated into concrete achievement in the Anglo-Irish Agreement, remain the best hope for peace and reconciliation between the communities and for progress in rebuilding the shattered structure of Northern Ireland.

Throughout that time Fianna Fáil have played the same sterile role that we have witnessed in the last two days. Always carping; incapable of any generosity they have lacked both insight and dignity.


There is only one Chair.

It is political scurrility.

The spectacle of Fianna Fáil always hoping to turn any national difficulty into cheap opportunity, always willing to attack anything that the Government support, in a knee jerk and utterly predictable way has disgraced Fianna Fáil and disappointed many who remember their proud history as a radical and reforming party.

A long time ago.

Before my time.

An echo from the bunker.

We intend to continue in office and fulfil the mandate we have. In the time remaining to us we have a number of difficult problems to address and a number of important legislative priorities. I have no doubt that the Government will reaffirm their strength in this House this afternoon.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 83; Níl, 81.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Myra.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bermingham, Joe.
  • Birmingham, George Martin.
  • Boland, John.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Conlon, John F.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Fennell, Nuala.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Glenn, Alice.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Paddy.
  • Hussey, Gemma.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • L'Estrange, Gerry.
  • McCartin, Joe.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Frank.
  • Manning, Maurice.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Molony, David.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Cooney, Patrick Mark.
  • Cosgrave, Liam T.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Coveney, Hugh.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Martin Austin.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dowling, Dick.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael
  • (Limerick East).
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Brien, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • O'Toole, Paddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Prendergast, Frank.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
  • Skelly, Liam.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.


  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Andrews, Niall.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Blaney, Neil Terence.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Byrne, Seán.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Fahey, Francis.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzgerald, Gene.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzsimons, Jim.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Gregory-Independent, Tony.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Keating, Michael.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Lemass, Eileen.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leonard, Tom.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J.
  • (Limerick West).
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, William.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Edmond.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • Ormonde, Donal.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Paddy.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Treacy, Seán.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies F. O'Brien and Taylor; Níl, Deputies V. Brady, and Browne.
Question declared carried.



I asked if I could raise on the Adjournment the question of the B and I.

The Deputy is out of order.

I do not wish to be out of order. If this House is voting £48 million then this House should be concerned with the company.