Confidence in Government: Motion (Resumed).

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

Sular cuireadh an díospóireacht ar athló bhí mé ag trácht ar an Taoiseach agus ar a mhaíomh go bhfuil an Teach seo ar an eolas faoin méid atá ag titim amach san Eoraip. Tá dul amú air. Níl aon chomhartha tugtha ag na hAirí atá sáite sa cheist sin go dtuigeann siad an tábhacht atá ag baint leis an cainteanna. In ionad bheith ag saothrú i bhfábhar na talmhaíochta agus an tionscail bhia deallraíonn sé to bhfuil an tAire Talmhaíochta agus Bia ag útamáil le ceist na gcoiscíní.

Le do chead, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, géillfidh mé anois do mo chara, an Teachta Boylan.

I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to this debate. The debate on the scandals engulfing this country is time-consuming and is taking away from the real issues that affect this country, the fall in farm incomes, rural development, health care, jobs and housing. These are the basic needs that the ordinary everyday person in this country is concerned about and they have not yet been discussed despite the fact that we are now back in Leinster House for two days.

This scandal would never have arisen if a number of people had not been promoted by the present Government as the prima donnas of the business world, out of whose book we were told we should take a leaf, because they were the people who set a standard and who had the ability to do what others could not. There are honest decent business people in this country and 95 per cent of business people are honest and decent and nobody should have any fear of doing business with them. They were picked on and were made feel in some way inadequate because they could not make the vast wealth that this small handful were capable of making. This small handful have turned out to be nothing more than conmen. The conmen at the fair of long ago, the smart alek with his three cards, produced the joker time and again when it suited him. The people gathered around him and placed their bets, but the joker was not there. The joker can take any shape, it could be a red brick building with “JMB” stamped across it or an old college with “CC” stamped across it or maybe a large lump of sugar. Whatever form it took it was a joker. It was placed where it could not be got at but was brought to light when it suited. The conman of old could not succeed and his business could not develop if he did not have his shill, the fellow who would come from the crowd when people were beginning to see that there was nothing to be made on this, and place his bet and make a vast amount of money. People would then become interested. He worked with a conman but was not seen to be associated with him. That is where the Government come in with their shill, these conmen, so-called businessmen, who were trying to reap vast riches from the unfortunate taxpayers of this country. I hope we have seen the last of it and that they have been exposed for what they are. The Government have been found out to their shame and they are trying now to disassociate themselves from them but they will not get away with it.

However, I would prefer to spend my time talking about the real issues, the fall in farm incomes. The Minister, Deputy O'Kennedy, came into the Dáil this evening but never as much as mentioned the impossibility of selling small cattle in the marts throughout the length and breadth of the country at present. Never in the history of this country was farm income so depressed, and I want to bring that to the attention of urban Deputies as well as rural Deputies, who are very much aware of it at all times. In the past if milk prices were low then the prices paid for cattle, pigs, poultry or turkeys were high. But at this stage everything has collapsed, and we have a Government that is seen to be completely inadequate to deal with the problems. That will not be accepted by the people of this country because the agricultural industry is the bedrock of this economy. There is an old saying that when the farmers are doing well, then the country is doing well. The farmers are not doing well and the country's economy has collapsed.

The scandal in relation to the eradication of bovine TB has gone on for too long — the disease has now been with us for more than 40 years and we are no further down the line than we were on the day we started. There is the problem of BSE, for which this country was labelled, when, in fact, only a few cases of BSE occurred here and they were found to have been caused by imports of either cattle or feed. However, the Minister, his officials and the Government have done nothing to make clearly heard abroad in the marketplaces of Europe and further afield the message that our cattle have a disease-free status second to none.

Then, of course, comes the scandal of jungle juice and angel dust being used to boost the production of lean beef. Last July in the House I asked a question of the Minister in relation to this very serious problem. He assured me and the House that the problem was in hand and that there were adequate measures in the factories and abattoirs to detect the substances. However, ten days ago in a comprehensive, full page article published in the Irish Independent it was clearly stated, and has not been since denied, that the use of those prohibited substances is now as widespread as it was 12 months ago when it first surfaced. I should like the Minister to answer that challenge.

Confidence? How could one have confidence in a Minister or a Government who are so incapable of dealing with these major problems?

I should also like to know about rural development. The Taoiseach referred to the Structural Fund. I state here and now, clearly and categorically, that the Irish uptake of the Structural Fund is behind quota. Ireland is one of three member states in the European Community that have not to date taken up the quota of Structural Funds available to them. However, there is widespread demand for funding. The infrastructure of the country is in tatters; our county roads are impassable; small children cannot get to school without wearing wellingtons; school buses cannot traverse certain roads; doctors are refusing to call to homes because of the risk of damage to their cars — there is a litany of problems, and all because our county roads have been allowed to reach a deplorable state. Yet there is funding from Brussels available for the improvement and development of the roads. Why are the Structural Funds allocations being held up?

I shall tell Members why funding is being held up. I received information from Brussels that there is indecision within the Government between a Minister of State, Deputy Mary Harney, and the Minister for Transport and Tourism, Deputy Séamus Brennan, as to whether a rail system should be set up around Dublin city or from Dublin Airport to O'Connell Bridge. That is one of the most outrageous proposals I have ever heard. Dublin city is so adequately serviced in relation to transport — it has excellent roads, excellent bus services and a DART system that costs every Irish taxpayer "X" amount of pounds to be kept on the rails. However, the Government believe that a further rail system for Dublin city is a priority. As a result of that, allocations from the Structural Funds are being held up in Brussels. That is a serious challenge and I stand over it, but I also say that the Structural Funds were never intended for the development of the large urban areas. To my knowledge and to the understanding of the people of this country who turned out in their hundreds at parish meetings with ideas of developing their holdings and their private homes for further income, these funds were to be spent in rural Ireland. Lo and behold, the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats Coalition Government say that there are no votes in rural Ireland, that it is better to plant it, that it is easier to look into the woods than it is to canvass them and that the money should be spent in Dublin city, where the population and the votes are. They have forgotten about rural Ireland; they have forgotten that there is life beyond Phoenix Park. It is a sad state of affairs that the Government are creating a rural/urban divide in this country and in this House. I do not like that division, it is wrong and it should not be allowed to happen. But if that is the way the Government face up to the decision then let us, the rural Deputies, speak with one voice and demand that the rural areas get their fair share of the national cake and that all parts of this country — be they on the east coast or the west coast — are developed to the same level. What is fish for one should be fish for the another.

The Deputy will have to leave the eating of that cake for some other time.

Indeed, and I shall come back to it. I wish to mention in passing the standard of Irish health care. It is now a fact that people over 80 in this country are not wanted and have no place if their families cannot look after them. All over the country there are waiting lists for the county homes, and when old people arrive at their doors the message is: "Sorry, we cannot take you in, we cannot afford to look after you.". It is not good enough that that is the message given to people who have given their lives to this country. It is an indictment of the Government and their past record.

I have no confidence in the Government. They should do the honourable thing, move over, let us take over and we will do the job.

This motion of confidence comes at mid-term, halfway through the present Government's period of office. It comes at a time when the Government are facing serious economic and social problems. It is precisely at this time and in this sort of situation that the Government need to be given a mandate by the House to get on with the job — that is what is important.

Is the Deputy voting for them?

I am voting for them very strongly here and I am speaking in favour of a motion of confidence in the Government on that account. Nobody wants a general election at this stage. So far as any of us can gauge the pulse of public opinion, it is quite evident that what the public want is for this Government to stay and deal with the problems. The problems are there. I share with others from all parties who have spoken with concern about a series of economic and social problems facing Irish society at present. Those problems are a matter for the Government to tackle as expeditiously as possible; they are not a reason for a general election. In my view, this is precisely the time we should not have a general election. It is a period in which we must gather the forces in our community together and tackle the problems that are there and that have certainly come upon us in a substantial way, particularly in the past 12 months.

The problems are there for us all to see. There is the jobs crisis — and it should be called a crisis — and there is the related problem of stimulating investment to cope with that. There is the further problem on the agricultural front of negotiating the whole Common Agricultural Policy with a view to meeting reforms in that policy that are essential if the nations of the world are to get together into what is required, a new trading relationship under the auspices of GATT. It is quite certain the Common Agricultural Policy, as devised at present, giving rise to the surpluses that have arisen, is inadequate to deal in a rational way with agricultural policies within the European Community or with the trading policies of the Community with the rest of the world. That is a major task now facing the Government. On the three important aspects of jobs, investment and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy what we need is to have the present Government in place, directed by this House, to pursue this course vigorously.

Then, of course, there is the overriding problem of the public finances facing into a serious budgetary position, one that will have to be dealt with no matter who is in Government. A general election will not solve that. Whatever Government is put in place will have to face up to that problem, of getting the nation's finances in order and presenting a budget to this House at the end of January next, that will create the necessary climate of confidence in our capacity to handle our financial affairs. Unless that climate of confidence is there — and seen by the world at large to be there — we will not get the investment required to deal with the jobs crisis. All of these problems are interlinked and can be dealt with only by a Government in power backed by a mandate of this House. All that a general election can ensure, or all that any divisive approach to the Government of this country can ensure at present is a degeneration into further chaos, chaos in regard to all the problem areas I have just mentioned. That is something the general public do not want. We can keep the matter in perspective if we take that national approach to it: there must be a Government in place to handle these serious problems that have arisen. This Government is in mid-term and has another two to two-and-a-half years to deal with them.

Of course, part of that problem is the very important matter of confidence in Government administration. Government administration must be seen to be competent, must be seen to be clear and fair. In brief, we must have good government, there must be seen to be good government, transparently there must be good government. That is why these recent financial scandals — and they are financial scandals — have clouded the atmosphere in this respect. In order to ensure that the climate of confidence we require is maintained and enhanced the Government's paramount duty is to clear the air in regard to these financial scandals. These financial scandals are not of a political making. Politicians of all parties in this House do this democratic institution a grave disservice in throwing about political allegations — and this applies to all parties in the House — when what we are dealing with here is a number of financial scandals, particularly in regard to executives in the State-sponsored service. These financial scandals will have to be dealt with expeditiously, blame apportioned and action taken by the Government to deal with the people responsible. What we are dealing with there is a new form of greed culture not just endemic here but in many other parts of the world. We have seen similar type scandals occur in New York, Tokyo and in London, all within the past few months. There has been also a major financial banking scandal involving the BCCI.

This sort of financial or what one might describe as greed culture that has developed here and in other parts of the world is part of the new growth of speculation surrounding money markets made possible by easy computerised communications and the new technological capacity to make a fast buck. This must be controlled in the social interest. Indeed it is the duty of every Government to introduce the social controls required to deal with the vicissitudes of the marketplace and of the money market. That is a paramount social obligation lying on the shoulders of every Government in the democracies of the world, to ensure that financial matters governing the marketplace are under social control and management, to ensure that if there is to be a free market, it really is a free and fair one. I predict that it will be in that area that the new politics of the social market will prevail, involving the marketplace, in regard to the competitive exchange of goods and services while, at the same time, ensuring that the marketplace is a really fair and equitable one, supervised by ethical rules and regulations. In addition, if people disobey those ethical rules and regulations they must suffer penalties by way of fines or imprisonment, penalties of whatever kind are deemed to be proper.

The main thrust of what the Government should do at present is pursue to the utmost degree the various investigative inquiries that have been set afoot in regard to the four financial scandals there have been within our community in recent times. Such an approach has been adopted and inspectors appointed to ascertain the facts in regard to the Sugar Company-Greencore affair, in regard to the Telecom affair, in regard to the Aer Lingus Holdings involving a scandal amongst executives of their own travel subsidiary. The Director of Public Prosecutions has a file in regard to that matter. In regard to the Goodman affair a tribunal is now sitting and the courts are interacting with that tribunal.

I should like to deal with what is in my view the grossest of those scandals, that is the one involving the Sugar Company and Greencore, involving the privatisation of the Sugar Company and the transactions that took place within the Sugar Company within a few months in 1989-90 when a profit of some £7 million to £8 million was made by four or five — depending on who owned Talmino, the offshore company — executives of the Sugar Company and of its subsidiary, Irish Sugar Distributors. That profit of £7 million to £8 million involved an appreciation of 500 per cent in value over a few months in 1989-90. That 500 per cent profit of £7 million to £8 million went into the pockets of those executives of the Irish Sugar Company and its subsidiary, Irish Sugar Distributors. They were facilitated in that respect by an interest-free loan of £1 million, made available for the purpose of that transition, enabling Gladebrook Limited to acquire a 49 per cent share subsequently taken over by the Sugar Company proper.

Those are the facts of the matter. What is even more serious than that — and that is serious enough — is the fact that that appreciation of 500 per cent, involving that profit of £7 million to £8 million was approved by the chief executive of the Investment Bank of Ireland, Mr. Richard Hooper. Therefore, that particular profit made within a few months on a product that did not change in value or volume, that is sugar, in a captive market called the Republic of Ireland, was approved by the Investment Bank of Ireland as being a legitimate appreciation in value of those particular shares within that short period of a few months. That is intolerable; that is criminality, nothing more, nothing less, on the part of the people involved, on the part of all the advisers involved, financial consultants, accountants, lawyers and also the chairman and chief executive of what was then the Irish Sugar Company, now Greencore Limited. The chief executive and secretary of Greencore Limited have already parted company with Greencore. The chairman remains. In my view he should follow suit.

That is a financial scandal. It has nothing to do with politics, politicians or Government. In my view all political parties in this House do a disservice to democracy by implying that there is anything political whatever in that. Yes, it is symptomatic of a type of greed culture, a sort of behavioural phenomenon occurring so blatantly with the co-operation of so many professional people. It is outside the arena of politics but something with which politicians must deal.

It is the challenge of this Government — and I am glad to see they are facing up to it — to fully investigate this matter to ensure that these investigations are concluded as expeditiously as possible, so that when those conclusions come to hand Government action will be taken, be seen to be taken by them, in order to allay public disquiet, thereby ensuring there is not a repetition of such action in the future. There have been similar instances of malpractice of a financial kind in the Telecom affair, in the Aer Lingus Holiday's affair and in the Goodman affair. They are all being properly investigated and when conclusions are reached I hope action will be taken.

One further aspect should be seriously considered by the Government and by the House in the interests of establishing permanent confidence among the public at home and abroad in our financial institutions and in our administration generally. We must ensure so far as is humanly possible that matters of the kind I have mentioned do not happen again. We will not be able to prevent fraud or malpractice but we can ensure as far as possible that there is transparency in these matters and that the Government of the day are seen to be setting up the requisite procedures.

The Government should examine as a matter of urgency the establishment of a watchdog commission on the lines of a similar commission in the United States which supervises the Stock Exchange and financial dealings by the Government and the public. We have ample precedents here of efficient and effective commissions. The Civil Service Commissioners supervise the area of Civil Service appointments. Local appointments are dealt with by the Local Appointment Commissioners. There are also the Revenue Commissioners. For over 100 years the Land Commissioners performed a fantastic task in transferring land from the landlord class to the tenantry and in the process providing for compensation right across the board.

They made a few doubtful decisions.

Indeed they did, but we remedied them from time to time. We have a tradition of commissions of this kind. We have commissioners who are independent of the Government of the day in performing their duties. We need such a commission to supervise the allocation of contracts and consultancies, be they legal or financial, on the part of Government Departments, Government Agencies and semi-State agencies. Fees for estate agents, accountants, stockbrokers and lawyers should be set on a statutory basis when they are employed by a public body. We need a panel of such people which will be scrutinised and reviewed from time to time by the commissioners. All State and semi-State contracts and consultancies over a certain level should be allocated by these commissioners on statutory criteria which are above and beyond reproach.

In view of the involvement of State-sponsored companies, a similar body should be appointed to supervise appointments to State boards. This should include the appointment of chairmen of such boards. There are plenty of able people in the professional and commercial life of this country who are fitted to take on these jobs. I do not accept that there is a scarcity of such people. A panel should be established by the Government from which selections should be made for appointments to State boards in an ordinary capacity and as chairmen. Such a system of fair allocation of contracts and consultancies would be supervised by independent commissioners, free from Government control and interference. That would establish confidence in the Administration. Such confidence is as important as confidence in financial matters. All this promotes confidence in investment, which helps to deal with the job problem.

No one Government are to blame for what has happened over the last couple of years. The chairman of Greencore was appointed in 1985 by the then Fine Gael/Labour Government. I do not want to make a point about that. Over a number of years appointments and the allocation of contracts and consultancies have been made on a rather casual basis. Certain people have got on to the inside track in regard to these appointments. The same names and the same firms tend to come up, whether it is NCB or Investment Bank of Ireland. It appears there is an incestuous ring of people who, on the nod, get these various positions and contracts.

The only defence I have heard — and I do not accept it — is that we are a small country and only a limited number of people are capable of doing these jobs. I do not accept that. There is ample talent, particularly young talent, in the business and professional world who can take on the privatisation of Telecom Éireann or of any other State body if that is decided upon by the Government. I cannot understand why, in the midst of the investigation following the Greencore matter, we had the prospect of Telecom Éireann taking on NCB and the Investment Bank of Ireland to advise them on privatisation. One wonders at the attitude of mind that dictated that decision within a few weeks of the Greencore affair. The Minister for Communications stepped into that matter quickly after the Taoiseach had rightly spoken on the radio. The two parties concerned properly withdrew from the Telecom Éireann contract — I refer to NCB and Investment Bank of Ireland.

They stepped aside.

We know what happened in regard to Mr. Desmond and other people who rightly resigned or stepped aside depending on the phraseology one uses. Justice must be seen to be done on a non-selective basis. The chairman of Greencore should follow that example, as well as any other people who were involved in practices not appropriate to their position. That is the only possible approach. Everything must be transparent and above board so that justice is seen to be done. We must establish for the future a system which is fair and open, run by a permanent commission who will deal with these matters so that malpractices are at least less likely to arise.

I will conclude on a point which has arisen out of the discussions which have taken place throughout the country and in this House during the past two days, that is, the need to strengthen the institutions of this country. Let the media examine their own conscience. We will examine our situation and whatever Government is there will do the same. We are in a working democracy and we do not want to create a mood of hysteria or start a witch hunt when problems arise. Problems arise and when they arise they should be dealt with in a rational way and a permanent arrangement established to deal with them. We should not be engaging in the sort of vindictive debate we have seen in this House in the past two days. There should not be the kind of vindictive comment we have seen in the media and have heard from various politicians and commentators. I do not want to start apportioning blame. All I am saying is that all of this does not do any of us any good. If I am in Opposition it does not do any good to start this sort of campaign against whoever is in Government at the time. It does not do the Opposition parties any good to take up the cudgels in this way. Nor does it do the media any good. It does not do any good for the morale of the public. It does nobody any good to get into this sewer of political exchanges when the sensible thing is to acknowledge that there are problems and that these problems should be tackled in as rational a way as possible.

At another level of public debate we have seen what has been happening in the US where undoubtedly politicians and political leaders have brought the whole system into total disrepute. There is a witch hunt in regard to judicial appointments. God forbid that we will ever have a system of judicial appointments here where one's past can be looked into to that extent. That is not the way to go about business. It has caused massive hysteria in the United States. It has appealed to everything that is banal, trivial, prurient. It has been a titillating exercise in which the whole of the United States has been involved trying to out-Dallas the worst in "Dallas".

We have been at a little bit of this ourselves in recent weeks. The less of it we have now the better. Let us get down to business. This House should, tomorrow, vote confidence in the Government as an indicator from us that the Government are getting on with the business of dealing with the serious economic and social problems and of restoring confidence in the financial management of our affairs through a budget that is transparently honest next January; that in regard to the overall administration of our society here this Government are taking measures to finally bring to a conclusion the current investigations, deal immediately with the conclusions of those investigations and set up some sort of structure or structures along the lines I have mentioned to ensure that there is seen to be clear and clean Government and a certain degree of confidence in the administration for the future.

An Teachta Dick Spring, as chief spokesperson for the party has 45 minutes.

I could agree with much of the analysis proffered by Deputy Lenihan even though some of it was a little lighthearted. However, I am afraid I cannot find any logic in the conclusions he arrives at both from a political point of view and his own personal experience with the Government he is going to support tomorrow.

The people of this country are not looking for leadership — at least in the sense that this Government would define it. What the people of this country want is a sense that the sacrifices they are making, and are prepared to continue to make, are recognised, reciprocated and shared. They want a clear and sober analysis of the challenges we face; they want a programme for action they can share in, and they want only one assurance, that every decision will be taken on a basis of fairness.

On 12 July 1989 I made some remarks in this House on the formation of the present Government. They may not have been picked up at that time. However, as time has gone by they have been slightly prophetic. I said that over the next months and years, two main questions would preoccupy the political system in this country, that at least the two questions ought to be among the principal issues we should deal with. I said at the time that they may be ignored and settled by default; that it may well be that the politicians we have elected to Government will simply turn a blind eye to them, and allow them to be decided by faceless, anonymous people. I said at that time that it would be disastrous if that was allowed to happen as it has been disastrous in other countries where it has happened.

The questions were, how the fruits of economic growth would be distributed and who was going to wield the power and the influence of ownership in Ireland in the future. I believe these are huge and difficult questions. At first glance they are probably not the most obvious ones to mention on the formation of a Government. However, I believed at that time that recent political experience had shown us that issues like those must be pushed to the centre of the political stage.

I said that too much of our recent experience had been tied up with defending people against the callous and unthinking consequences of an ill-con-sidered approach to policy, that too much of our recent experience had been tied up with unscrambling the consequences of secret deals and political cronyism, that we could not, as a community, allow the style and substance of this kind of Government to continue.

That warning I gave in July of 1989 — and I have repeated it in this House a number of times — has obviously fallen on deaf ears. Long before the present series of scandals this Government was run on the basis of secret deals and strokes. We had the Foxe and Fahey deals. We had a spate of secret reports commissioned by the Government in regard to State companies. We have had secret agreements with beef barons as well as a number of much publicised deals. We have had a whole series of decisions about the future of State companies, all taken and implemented with as much stealth as possible.

That is one side of the coin in this country. On the other side, we have had economic growth in the past two and a half years. We have had more efficiency in the public service and throughout the economy. Nobody can deny that. However, it has been built on the backs of 100,000 emigrants and a quarter of a million unemployed people. It has been built on the backs of one million poor living below the poverty line. It has been built at the cost of increasing inequality and disadvantage at every level of Irish society.

Side by side with the increasing efficiency of our economy we have witnessed in the past two and a half years an increasing polarisation of Irish society. It is manifest in our two-tier health system, just as it is manifest in the virtual collapse of the public housing programme, the gradual elimination of free education and the dismantling of the social welfare schemes. A more efficient economy coupled with a more unjust and less equal society is what we have begun to create in our country under the Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey.

The Taoiseach, opening this debate yesterday, spoke at great length about getting the fundamentals of the economy right. I would ask the Taoiseach, are people not part of that equation? Are they not one of the fundamentals in our economy? Do the people count at all in the Taoiseach's economy unless they have a couple of million pounds of disposable income? Are we not now in a clear position to see in the wealth and greed that many of these scandals have shown us just how polarised Irish society has become. Let us make no mistake — and this is where I differ fundamentally from Deputy Lenihan — it is no accident that there are some in Ireland who are getting rich, many more who are struggling in business and employment and thousands who are suffering the indignity and alienation of grinding poverty. This is no accident. All of these things are connected and the connection is to be found in the "me first" philosophy of which our Taoiseach is the principal champion.

Let us not forget —although he himself may wish to forget at the moment — his partners in Government, the Progressive Democrats. There may be considerable enmity between the two parties in Government at present on both a personal and personality level. There may be a deep distrust between them, but when it comes to the ideological choices that have divided Irish society, when it comes to the connection between increasing wealth and increasing poverty, Fianna Fáil are doing no more than putting on the Progressive Democrats' ideological clothes.

The late Frank Cluskey, former Leader of the Labour Party, spoke trenchantly about the Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey, in the famous debate that took place in this House on 11 December 1979. It was on the question of the agreement or otherwise of this House to the appointment of Charles J. Haughey as Taoiseach. I should like to remind the House of some of the remarks made by the late Frank Cluskey during that debate. He said:

When we cast our minds back to the mid-sixties, we recall that there appeared on the Irish scene in the political and the business world a group of young, well-educated, very clever, highly articulate young men, who also had one other quality, they were totally ruthless and they had a clear indication of what their personal ambition was,... They had another thing in common, a philosophy of life that was dominated by the principle that the end justifies the means. Those people, small in number, set out to acquire great personal wealth, influence and political power. The pinnacle of the success of their personal ambitions was during the period when Deputy Haughey occupied the position of Minister for Finance in the late sixties. The philosophy of life which those people held is also held, I believe, by Deputy Haughey. He was the political counterpart of the group of ambitious, ruthless young men of the middle and late sixties and he was only too willing to ensure that as far as he could, by virtue of the political office he had, he would facilitate them in every way in the achievement of their ambition, the acquisition of great personal wealth, influence far out of proportion to their numbers, and the sympathetic ear of the most politically powerful men in our society at that time.

Those people, with all those dubious qualifications, achieved their ambition. They did not choose to enter into the normal business and commercial life of the country.... They chose to operate in what could only be described as a grey area of Irish business and commercial life, the area of the land speculator, the office builder, the gerry house builder. They identified those areas as being lucrative which they knew, properly facilitated by the laws of the land, would enable them to reach their stated personal goals....

A major part of the responsibility for that sad, sick part of our society can be traced back to the appearance on the Irish scene of these same young hot shots of the sixties. The term "mohair suit" was not used to describe a mode of dress. It was a term that described a philosophy of life, a philosophy of life that meant that there should be unbridled opportunity for the economically strong, the clever, the sharp; a philosophy of life that totally exploited the basic needs of the majority of our people. Apart from the normal intelligence which most of us have, only one thing was needed,... a total lack of principle and a total lack of either personal or business integrity. These gentlemen had all of these things and they were guided and are still guided by that same philosophy: that the end justifies the means irrespective of what the consequences are or would be upon their fellow Irishmen and women. I say with total personal conviction that Deputy Haughey was regarded by them as their political champion and the one whose ear they had to ensure that the way was made quite clear for them to engage in that type of operation.

He concluded by saying:

The people about whom I spoke, the speculators, the dealers in land, the peddlers of human misery, who I believe form Deputy Haughey's main political constituency, will take great heart from his apparent election as Taoiseach in this House today.

That speech was made almost 12 years ago. It contained a sharp pen picture of the man who has been perhaps the leading politician in this country for the last 20 years, and of the culture he thrived on. Can anyone in this House seriously deny the relevance of that picture to the debate we are having over these three days? Can anyone in this House seriously deny that the culture of the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, of the complacent and acquiescent Governments he has led has contributed to the debasement of Irish political life in no small measure?

It has been said and repeated many times that the scandals of recent weeks have nothing to do with the Government per se, and even that they relate to events totally outside the Government's control. I do not accept, in my humble opinion, that anyone in this House seriously believes that, and it appears that the public do not believe it. I would say every Member of this House knows in his heart of hearts, that the seeds for all these scandals were planted on the day that the culture personified by the Taoiseach came to prominence in Ireland and that they have flourished under his leadership. The men who operate in the grey areas of Irish commercial life still have the sympathetic ear of Ireland's most powerful politician. That is why the scandals we have seen for the last few weeks can only be described as chickens coming home to roost.

How could it be otherwise? the Taoiseach has spent a good deal of his time in the last few weeks seeking to redefine the concept of friendship. He devoted part of his attention to that difficult task in his speech yesterday. But all these people are people in whose company the Taoiseach has gone to great lengths over the last number of years to be seen. They have dined with him, wined with him, sailed with him and certainly been seen at intimate family occasions with him — they have even featured with him in some of our more prominent gossip columns, yet when the time comes they are not friends any longer. We have seen that in relation to friends in this House.

Of course, some things have changed since the late Frank Cluskey made that speech 12 years ago. The land speculators who were prominent during those years no longer even take risks: the deals they do now are done in the certain knowledge that enough influence will be brought to bear to guarantee that those deals are profitable. The gerry builders that he referred to then do not build anything anymore; instead they manipulate the sale of buildings in order to maximise profit and minimise tax. The "clever and the sharp" do not invest their own money — instead they develop asset-backed, bank guaranteed, risk-free BES schemes. But in every other respect the culture that Frank Cluskey described then thrives now as much as it ever has, if not indeed a great deal more.

I want to make some remarks in relation to the current scandals. I recognise and hope to stay within the rules of this House in relation to the sub judice rule but I did notice some leeway being given to the previous speaker——

I take your point.

The sub judice rule would have applied if the previous speaker had singled out Mr. Comerford and the legal action he is taking. The Chair gives no leeway to anyone in the matter of the sub judice rule.

I accept that.

Go raibh maith agat.

However, whatever the constraints in the House I feel there are certain things which need to be said. Yesterday the Taoiseach made a disparaging reference in the House to the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Industry, and to the role public representatives have to play in relation to that tribunal. I want to make it very clear to the Taoiseach that I have no apology to make to him, his Government or anyone else in this House for my attendance at the tribunal and for my interest in ensuring that this Oireachtas is represented. In fact, given the patent nonsense which is being uttered by Minister after Minister throughout this debate, the tribunal may be a far more meaningful forum than the Dáil over the next few months.

When the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Industry begins its detailed work, if will have to examine two key questions. The first of those questions involves the issue of whether or not there has been wrongdoing within the industry itself, under a number of headings — headings like fraud and tax evasion, to name just two. The second, and equally important issue, concerns the relationship between the beef industry and politics. The questions raised by these issues must be answered because they go to the very heart of parliamentary democracy.

Some things are already becoming clearer. We seem to have a death-bed conversion on the part of those in authority in the wakening of vigilance. There has been no more pathetic sight in the last few days than the sight of the Minister for Agriculture and Food proclaiming his devotion to integrity in the beef processing sector. This Minister, who for years consistently denied even the possibility of wrongdoing in that sector for which he was ultimately responsible, has been like a whirling dervish for the last fortnight or so, even to the extent of claiming credit on the national airwaves for the establishment of the tribunal itself.

I do not know for certain why he has changed his tune in recent weeks. All I know is that this change on the Minister's part is about four years too late. As we participate in his debate, there are gardaí on the premises of at least one meat plant that I am aware of for sure conducting intensive investigations. But where have they been for the last four years, when every dog in the street knew there were things going on in meat plants which urgently required investigation?

I understand that the Revenue Commissioners have now completely reopened their files on tax evasion in that sector and that they will ultimately be demanding many millions of pounds in extra payments and penalties, in addition to settlements already made. But the question is: why was the file in that area ever closed? Where has all this extra vigilance come from in the very recent past?

Maybe after all this, the politicians who are now praising themselves for their vigilance and the need for vigilance will finally have the self-respect and decency to come in to this House and applogise to people, like former Deputy Barry Desmond, Deputy Tomás Mac Giolla, and others, that they maligned in this House when they rightly raised matters of criminal activity in the beef sector.

The Deputy is more conversant with the legal process than I.

I have learned more about it in the last fortnight than in four years in the King's Inns.

We never stop learning, Deputy. You will appreciate that a tribunal has been set up to establish the truth. It would not be right for us to establish it or presume to establish it before the tribunal has given to us its findings.

Under your guidance, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I will hang left and go out of the city to Carysfort.

The Deputy does not have to take any guidance in respect of any direction from the Chair except on the Standing Orders of this House.

I take it you are acting under Standing Orders. I wish to mention briefly the whole issue of Carysfort. I tried to raise it yesterday but, unfortunately, questions are undesirable on that topic. My colleague, Deputy O'Shea, raised the subject in this House on the day the Government were telling us how they were doing good things for UCD. At that time the Fine Gael spokesperson on Education effusively welcomed the great deal. The Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, attacked my colleague, Deputy O'Shea, and assured him and the House that it was UCD who had initiated the whole project.

It is clear now, as a result of the otherwise innocuous statement issued by the President of University College, Dublin, that the Minister seriously misled the House on that occasion. It was, as we have alleged throughout, the Government who initiated that project. The only role played by UCD was to decide whether or not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Deputy O'Shea will deal with this issue in more detail. There are some salient facts that must be re-stated. First, Carysfort could have been bought by the State for a great deal less than the State ultimately paid — perhaps for as much as £5 million less. Secondly, it was bought without any valuation and thirdly, none of the usual procedures were followed in this case. The Higher Education Authority were not consulted as they should have been, and none of the internal Cabinet procedures were followed. The observations of other Departments were not sought. In fact, I understand that an attempt was made by the expenditure division of the Department of Finance to explain to the Taoiseach — one does not tell the Taoiseach; one tries to explain occasionally, and one needs courage apparently to do that — that what was proposed was completely undesirable. That particular civil servant got short shrift, the kind of short shrift we have heard described by Deputy Seán Power when he attempted to give some of his observations to the Taoiseach at a private meeting.

Deputy Stagg would know a fair bit about that too.

We have some respect for ourselves. We are all equal as parliamentarians: nobody is more superior than anyone else at the end of the day whether you are a Taoiseach, a Minister or otherwise.

I am saying that Deputy Stagg would know more about short shrift too.

That was the problem he had and you do not realise it. Perhaps the most salient point in the Carysfort transaction was the beneficiary — the beneficiary whose identity has been established — Mr. "Pino" Harris.

Mr. "Pino" Harris had bought what is sometimes referred to in property circles as "a glugger"— a property whose value could never be realised because the zoning of that property was only for educational purposes with a limited market, a market which we had all been led to believe was starved of funds. We have no money for building houses, we have hardly money for buying educational facilities. In normal commercial circumstances Mr. Harris should have taken a bath.

Not only did he not have to take a loss, he ended up, after a few short months, with a handsome profit. Interestingly, we have discovered that the day after Mr. Harris completed his transaction on Carysfort he was able to register the title deeds on another substantial property on the Naas Road. It would be even more interesting to see how that further deal affected the capital gain liability on the profit from Carysfort.

Mr. Harris has other things to recommend him, apart from his property acumen. He too fits within most of the definitions of friendship employed by the Taoiseach. Certainly, his very considerable resources have been placed at the disposal of the Fianna Fáil party in the past and not, in case anybody else takes umbrage, for the benefit of the party nationally. Instead he has concentrated his efforts on helping out the party in Dublin North Central where Harris trucks have been a prominent feature of recent campaigns. In terms of putting money on a horse, it is not a bad investment if one can get a return of £1.5 million on one property transaction. But it does raise questions, and questions which the Taoiseach has refused to answer, in relation to his involvement in the affair. He has chosen not to answer those questions, he has passed them on to other Ministers. Certainly, until the Taoiseach answers those questions I will remain convinced that the Carysfort deal represented nothing more than a sleazy manoeuvre to help enrich even further a close Fianna Fáil friend. If there was no other reason for refusing to vote confidence in this Government tomorrow, the Carysfort deal alone would constitute adequate grounds.

We have had some mention of the Telecom scandal. The scandal itself was bad enough. I do not know what people are thinking about a country where one can make that kind of money fast, without any risk of exposure. One of the consequences of that scandal was that economic pressure was applied to the task of suppressing a substantial article in relation to this scene. That article was originally to have appeared in Phoenix magazine. I do not hold any brief for Phoenix magazine but I do take a serious view of arbitrary censorship imposed by virtue of the fact that one is economically and politically strong. I must ask what the people behind the suppression were afraid of in that article, a copy of which I have.

Were they afraid — they were — of the people of Ireland knowing the following:

Details of the complex but tax `efficient' transactions on the JMOB/Telecom site in Ballsbridge which has resulted in tax-free profits of approximately £5 million to certain secret investors. Of particular interest is the information that: 1. Michael Smurfit subscribed for £500,000 (and not £100,000 as reported) shares in UPH, the company that first acquired the site from the liquidator; 2. Larry Goodman is also a shareholder in UPH through Paribas; 3. John Finnegan, the principal in Finnegan Menton, was an advisor in the original sale to UPH (at £4.4m.) and to Telecom (at £9.4m.) only 17 months later; 4. The site had been offered to other property developers by Finnegan Menton at £2.7m. in 1988; 5. The sale to the so-called European consortium, i.e. Noel Smyth's friends, (at £6.25m.) was only fully concluded days before Telecom paid over £9.4m. for the same site; 6. The bank behind the Smyth/Doherty consortium is Ansbacher Bank. The same bank holds a 75% interest in Doherty's Irish shopping centres.

Or were they afraid that it would be revealed that UPH has two classes of shares, with Michael Smurfit subscribing for 10 per cent of both, at a total cost of £500,000 — not the £100,000 as reported elsewhere, through his Isle of Man-based Bacchantes. Other big names, it appears from the article—

were brought in as ordinary shareholders for a total of £1m. Using their presence and high net worth,

— a lovely expression —

a further £4m. of 8% convertible preference shares were sold to the institutions. ... (Michael Smurfit's) partner in other city properties — Larry Goodman — also took a stake through Smurfit Paribas, with the institution itself also joining in.

Or were they afraid that it would be revealed that:

the site was bought by UPH in November 1988 but it was never owned by it because UPH transferred its interest in the contract to buy the site to another company called Chestvale Properties. Chestvale was a subsidiary of UPH and by this simple device a tax saving of almost £300,000 was made. This is because the stamp duty on property transfers is 6% but the duty on share transfers is only 1%. When the time came to re-sell the site, UPH sold the company which owned the property (Chestvale) and not the site itself.

The article went on to state:

UPH only paid the liquidator a 15 per cent deposit (£660,000) and that the balance was not paid until August 1989, when the so-called European consortium paid over the first part (approx. £4 million) of their purchase price. We can also reveal that UPH negotiated their original purchase through John Finnegan of Finnegan Menton. The same John Finnegan — a close business associate of Michael Smurfit — also advised on the purchase of the site for Telecom.

In other words, John Finnegan advised on the value of the property for the period of 17 months during which it increased in value from £4.4 million to £9.4 million — or by £10,000 per day.

I cannot understand why we fail to get investors into this country.

The article further revealed that:

the really significant part of this transaction is the fact that the bank guarantee for the loan notes was not put in place until days before Telecom purchased the site. Goldhawk has discovered that Ansbacher would not guarantee the loan notes until the Telecom deal was certain. Obviously Ansbacher Bank was not willing to extend more than £4 million on the site (i.e. its real value) until there was evidence of the sell-on.

This highlights the interesting fact that UPH effectively owned the site until days before Telecom purchased. The semblance of UPH not owning it was created by allowing (Noel) Smyth [Solicitor] to put his nominees onto the board of Chestvale after he gave an undertaking to put the loan notes in place. The fact is, however, that ownership of Chestvale was not transferred to Delion until days before Telecom paid over £9.4 million on May 7th 1990.

In a matter of days Delion sold the site to another company — Hoddle Investments — which is owned by property developer P. J. O'Doherty. Doherty and Ansbacher own shopping centres in Galway, Limerick and Portlaoise, with the bank owning 75 per cent in each case. We do not know — yet, that is — how much Hoddle paid for the site. If these people succeed in stopping the inquiry in the High Court we may never know. It is likely that they paid a price close to what they received from Telecom. In this way the bulk of the profit — £2.65m. — could be left in Delion for the benefit of the secret shareholders.

One of the more remarkable features of the whole saga was the involvement of Mr. Smurfit — UPH investor, to the tune of £500,000, proponent of the Ballsbridge site, and chairman of Telecom. Mr. Smurfit has always admitted that he is a details man. New employees do not come into Smurfit's organisation without his say so and he personally approves all capital expenditure. The things that Mr. Smurfit did not know in relation to this transaction were quite amazing. It is also amazing that Mr. Desmond, his executives, Mr. Barry or Mr. McHugh, or his solicitor did not inform him of what the transactions were. At this time Mr. Smurfit succeeded in threatening a High Court writ on the Irish Independent because of an article they printed, and still it was not brought to his attention that he was, in fact, involved in this business.

The last question in that article remains after all this has been gone through, and the taxpayer has paid about £5 million more than the site was worth. In relation to what we know and do not know about it, somebody would say there are a lot of wonderful people in the city of Dublin — wonderful stockbrokers, bankers, solicitors estate agents, all of whom worked hard with Mr. Smurfit for 17 months just to ensure that they could hand over a profit of millions to a little fellow called Patrick Doherty in London. That is some tale.

The whole point in relation to that article was that it was suppressed. It was not allowed to be printed in a magazine. That is as worrying as the contents of the article. It was not printed because people in this country with economic power would not allow it to be printed. The media were being intimidated in their attempt to investigate and report on these crucial matters.

We are all in this House aware of the browbeating and bullying engaged in by members on the Government side whenever any of these issues are raised. The subtle threats of the Taoiseach yesterday, the bluster of the Minister for Justice last night and the sly toadying of Deputy Roche are only three examples of what we have witnessed in the last couple of days. But we in the House are relatively privileged by comparison with the media, who have been subjected to a barrage of intimidation ever since this whole saga began.

That is not the first time the media have been silenced. We saw it before and it continues. The Taoiseach has sent solicitors' letters all over the place — letters have been sent to The Irish Press, and the Irish Independent in relation to the tribunal and there is now one in The Irish Times in relation to an innocuous article on the Carysfort scandal.

We all remember how a story written by a young and professional reporter in the Irish Independent was effectively buried for nearly two years by Mr. Smurfit's and Mr. Desmond's legal efforts. We all remember too the numerous writs and threats issued by Mr. Larry Goodman at the height of his power. They all have one thing in common — gagging writs, solicitors' letters, the threat of libel, defamation, and contempt — all aimed at frightening away and silencing the media. When the political and business establishment in any society has to resort to intimidation on this scale, of a supposedly free press, one has to begin to worry about the future of that society. But that is not the only basis on which we have grounds for worry.

The debate which is occupying this House for three days has been since its inception a futile and meaningless exercise because it will undermine politics and politicians in the eyes of the public. As I said on the Order of Business yesterday, we are debating confidence, or no confidence in the Government, and the question is — where are the Government? With all due respects to the Minister for the Environment, for whose presence I am grateful, it is public knowledge that the Government are engaged in negotiations behind closed doors, negotiations which up until yesterday only occupied two negotiators from each side on behalf of Fianna Fáil and The Progressive Democrats. One now certainly gets the distinct impression that every Member of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party and every Member of the Progressive Democrats Parliamentary Party, and indeed some notable outsiders from the Progressive Democrats, are engaged in these negotiations.

It is verging on the theatre of the absurd for Fianna Fáil spokespersons to troop in here one after the other and pledge confidence in the Government while, at the same time, looking over their shoulders and wondering. Some people are starkly missing in reiterating their confidence in the Government, people who had been up front some weeks ago and were up front until the last parliamentary meeting of consequence. They are beginning to fade on the margins. Every speaker must be looking over his shoulder wondering if somebody will come down the steps of the Chamber, wondering if Deputy Brady will come in with a little note saying "please stop speaking, because it is all over". Confidence is affected by what has been happening over the last number of days. There is the clear feeling that we no longer have a Government.

A Deputy

A Deputy has come in with a note.

(Interruptions.)

It is the Programme for Government 1989-93.

(Interruptions.)

I was wondering what are you doing in Opposition.

It would appear——

We are engaged in talks for the future of this country.

I will not interrupt you when you come into the Chamber to speak. It would appear that the Progressive Democrats have not the courage to come into this Chamber. It is remarkable, they claim to have so much power in this Government, yet they cannot come into the Chamber and make their views known. Have they difficulty in standing in the Chamber and pledging their confidence in this Government. There is no confidence in this Government, whether we like it or not. Less than 30 per cent of the electorate are satisfied with the Government. The Government parties have failed over a period of three months to put together a basic renegotiation of the Programme for Government. How can the public be expected to have confidence in these parties when, even after that period of three to four months, the basic premise on which their partnership should continue has not been produced?

Let us recognise the serious situation facing us as a parliamentary democracy. For God's sake, let us stop harking back to the mistakes of the past. I acknowledge that mistakes have been made on all sides. It does not do anybody credit to blame a Labour/Fine Gael Coalition, the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey's previous Government or anybody else. The people we represent are not interested in history lessons. Their history is what they have to live through every day to try to make ends meet. The people are entitled to expect hope from the politicians. The people are entitled to demand the restoration of high standards in high places. To put it bluntly, the people want some old style patriotism. They want people who are prepared to work for their country and community in a spirit of openness, generosity, equality and fairness. They have not seen that in recent months. The people are sick, angry and disturbed at what has been happening and at what has been revealed in the last number of weeks.

The fact that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor has become more evident in society. If one is in the right circle, if one has the economic power, one can do what one likes. That is what was beginning to happen and it must be stopped. It is all glamour and glitz on one side of the coin, millions of pounds can be made in deals overnight in the city. The ingredients of these deals all have the familiar thread running through them, the thread of insider information, the offshore company and high tech manipulation. That is what it has come to in the city. They all add up to vast and fast profits without tax liabilty or any contribution to the welfare of this country or to the community, other than another triumph for the deal makers. Of course, these people get careless, they got very casual, it was becoming so easy. This always happens.

I hope we are not too late to stop the rot in society. I hope we can bring back some decent standards to commercial life. Needless to say, most citizens and most business people carry on business in a reasonable manner with high standards but, unfortunately, all have been tainted because of the abuse by people who felt they were above the law, people who saw Ireland as their playground for making their vast profits out of their vast deals.

The other side of the coin is not pleasant and it is far from easy or glamorous. It is different from that described by the Taoiseach here yesterday afternoon. Things are not easy or glamorous for many people. Unemployment is at nearly 260,000 people and we are heading for 300,000 if present policies continue. There is a growing housing crisis which perhaps the Minister for the Environment can address. The health service are straining at the seams. We have high pupil/teacher ratios in our schools and high unemployment among teachers. Thousands of public service workers are living on very low wages with few promotional opportunities and they are now facing further cuts in their standard of living. Parents are struggling to meet high tax rates and high education fees and the farming community are facing their bleakest prospect for many years.

These are the realities which the Taoiseach seemed to be so far away from yesterday. I am sure that if the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, and the Minister of State, Deputy Connolly, are talking to people in County Mayo and in the midlands they will be aware that people in this society are angry at present. People have always felt that there are other people who are more privileged than themselves with access to money and power but this has to stop because people paying their taxes, and trying to educate their children and pay their mortgage do not like what they have seen in recent weeks. What they have seen in recent weeks are people, who we have been told were successful whizz kids whom the country needed more of, making vast profits out of taxpayers money without any morality or scruples.

The people are angry at present. I would like to impress upon the Government that it is not the anger of envy or begrudgery but rather a genuine disbelief at the greed which has overtaken Irish society, in particular those who claim to be on the inside lane. It is time for all of us in this House, irrespective of our political philosophy, to call a halt because Irish society and democracy and everything we would like to stand for will be under threat if this is allowed to continue. I say it is time for us as parliamentarians to restore Ireland to the people of this country, the genuine people out there who are trying to survive and make a living. Let us get it back from the hands of those whizz kids and wheeler dealers who have brought all of us in this House to shame. If this means the Government cannot do it and the Government have to go, so be it.

This motion has been put down by the Government to provide an opportunity for the Opposition to substantiate in this House, and before the community as a whole, the series of allegations and innuendoes about members of this Government that they have been orchestrating for the last few weeks. The fact is, of course, that the Opposition cannot justify the rash and reckless claims they have been making. The longer this debate goes on, the more puerile and asinine are their tactics made to appear and the more feeble and flimsy do their claims become. The contribution of the Leader of the main Opposition party was pathetic and the other Opposition contributions have involved no more than slavishly putting on the record some of the revelations and allegations already well reported on in the media over the past number of weeks.

But then on reflection, why should we expect any better from the Fine Gael and Labour parties? Are these not the same people who failed so miserably to deal with the problems of this country when they had their chance in Government? Are they not the same people who ran the finances of this State into the biggest mess of all time and then ran away themselves, leaving it to us to pick up the pieces? In short, are they not the very last people who should come in here to lecture us about conduct in Government, or responsibility in Government, or the need for effective management of the nation's affairs?

The Government's record of solid achievement in fiscal and economic management is in sharp contrast to that of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties who now have an instant solution for every problem but could find none in Government, in spite of the interminable Government meetings that their memoirs are now telling us about.

The remarkable feature of the last four and a half years is the fact that severe cutbacks and strict controls over public expenditure have been accompanied by the development of new policies and programmes in many areas. Prudent use of the available resources and effective management have seen to this. Here are some examples from my own area of responsibility.

In housing we have launched the Plan for Social Housing, the most comprehensive response to social housing needs ever presented by a Government in this country and it is working. The plan has the right mix of measures to deal effectively with the needs of those seeking social housing. Housing has always been a top priority with Fianna Fáil but we are not locked into old style and outmoded thinking that takes no notice of changes in population, family make-up, and other demographic matters. If the Opposition have nothing to offer but the same old tired and failed methods of dealing with housing, well Fianna Fáil have, it is in our plan and it will succeed. The housing plan sought by Deputy Quinn yesterday will be published in the near future.

On roads, State expenditure on maintenance and improvement has been increased from £166 million in 1986 to nearly £240 million in 1991. Discretionary grants for county and regional roads have been increased from £23 million in 1986 to £68 million in 1991 bringing the three year total to £182.4 million.

Our concern for the environment is shown in the comprehensive Environment Action Programme — the first by any Irish Government — published in January 1990 and being implemented on schedule. Under Fianna Fáil, the environment is no longer seen as a peripheral issue or even as a burden or constraint. The environment and its protection is a major part of the Government's programme. We take the balanced approach to enable economic and social development to take place while, at the same time, ensuring that such development does not have an unacceptable impact on the environment.

In sanitary services, a major programme of investment over the present decade is going ahead, with a price-tag of nearly £1 billion.

We fulfilled our commitment to enact major local government reform legislation in time for the June local elections and and we are committed to taking further steps in the years ahead.

We have actively promoted and developed the urban renewal programme and have expanded the scheme substantially into provincial centres and additional areas in the five county boroughs. Our urban renewal programme has been an outstanding success, removing dereliction from our cities and towns, creating jobs and investment opportunities. The success is there for all to see. It is permanent and has been acclaimed by all sections of the community and especially by our visitors and tourists.

My Department's legislative programme is an impressive one. The Roads Bill, the Environmental Protection Agency Bill and the Electoral Bill are already on the Order Paper, and drafting of other very important Bills on planning and housing, to mention only two, is nearing finality. This shows just how determined we are to press ahead with reforms, and the great regret is that consideration of these very important matters is held up by Opposition tactics of posturing and simple headline seeking.

All of this is just the beginning. We need time to build on our achievements and to break out into a situation in which our country can enter a new phase of self-sustaining growth. We cannot afford to be diverted by recent difficulties in the semi-State sector or elsewhere, or by the antics of the Opposition.

My colleagues who have general responsibility for the semi-State bodies in question have already explained clearly the resolute action being taken to deal with the specific matters at issue. Their statements demonstrate that the Government response has been swift and effective and the House can be confident that, when the various inquiries are completed, the Government will take whatever further action is called for.

It is important, however, to recognise the need for a measured, responsible and considered response. We must not overreact and deprive the semi-State bodies of the very freedom which has been crucial for their success. Neither do we want to create an atmosphere where people of real calibre will not wish to give their services to these bodies as directors.

Let me come now to the case of the Custom House Docks Development Authority whose mandate is to secure the redevelopment of the Custom House Docks area. It goes without saying that the chairman and ordinary members of the Authority must be persons of the highest calibre, people of experience and with particular and relevant expertise. My predecessor, John Boland, appreciated this when he appointed the first members. They included a prominent hotelier, a partner in a financial services practice, a consulting engineer and an estate agent. I am not in any way critical of these appointments but I want to draw attention to the fact that the people involved had, quite legitimately, a variety of business and other interests. My predecessor obviously found it impossible to avoid this, if people with relevant experience and expertise were to be appointed.

It is inevitable, of course, in such circumstances that conflicts of interest can arise. When this happens, it is incumbent on the person involved to take no part in the relevant decision nor to seek to influence it. This is the normal code of ethics, well understood, and not really needing to be spelt out. Nevertheless, to copperfasten matters, my Department wrote to the docks authority in March 1987 stressing that they should regulate their affairs in accordance with the principles and standards appropriate to a public body accountable for the expenditure of public funds; that they should be able to demonstrate, either generally or in any particular case, that appropriate standards and procedures are being applied; and that conflict of interest does not arise on the part of any member or employee in the discharge of the business of the Authority.

I appointed Mr. Séamus Páircéir as chairman of the Authority with effect from 1 July 1990. Mr. Páircéir had been chairman of the Revenue Commissioners from 1983 until his retirement in 1987. He had experience of administration and management at the highest levels in a complex area, and had an intimate knowledge of taxation practice and taxation law. I therefore regarded him as a person eminently suitable to chair the Authority. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Páircéir had served as consultant tax adviser to the Authority and had been appointed by the Government to a representative group who were set up to promote interest internationally in the Financial Services Centre.

Before his appointment as chairman of the Authority, Mr. Páircéir informed me, through the appropriate Assistant Secretary in my Department, of his chairmanship of UPH. In his earlier role as consultant, he had similarly informed the former chairman and relevant executives of the Authority of his position with UPH. Having regard to Mr. Páircéir's reputation, track record, experience and expertise, I took the view that his involvement in this company should not disqualify him from serving as chairman of the Authority. I am happy to say that I stand over that decision. It was made on the understanding that the usual obligations with regard to disclosure of interests would apply, where these interests were material, and that Mr. Páircéir would, in line with accepted practice, take no part in, nor seek to influence, any decision of the Authority which might have a bearing on any interest of his.

The Custom House Docks project is perhaps the single most important construction project to have been undertaken in Ireland this century. It goes without saying that a development as important as this must be run on proper lines and that no one involved in it is seen to be associated, however remotely, with unresolved controversy even in other unconnected areas. In his radio interview on 22 September, the Taoiseach suggested that Mr. Páircéir should temporarily stand aside from participation in the Authority while investigations were being carried out into the Telecom site controversy. That suggestion was made without any implication whatsoever that Mr. Páircéir was involved in anything improper — indeed, the Taoiseach was at pains to stress that Mr. Páircéir was "an impeccable man with a good, fine record in the public service." It was important, nevertheless, to ensure that the work of the Custom House Docks Development Authority was not adversely affected by controversy focused on particular individuals. That is why Mr. Páircéir was asked temporarily to stand aside; he was not asked to resign. That was his own decision and it was with regret that I accepted it.

The whole issue is now closed as far as I am concerned. Tremendous results have already been achieved at the Custom House Docks and a simple viewing of the extent and quality of the development so far will confirm that. Investment is being attracted to Dublin, jobs are being created, training schemes are being run for local people, a once derelict site is being transformed. The docks project can only be built on confidence and the Government are playing their part in generating that confidence. But the Opposition parties have equal responsibility for ensuring that nothing is done to erode confidence. Petty small minded muck-raking is the last thing we need — the same kind of muck-raking that Opposition Deputies have indulged in by reviving baseless allegations about the Feltrim/Kinsealy sewerage scheme.

Over two years ago, in response to a Dáil question from Deputy Owen, I gave a full and detailed account of all the considerations involved in my approval to this scheme — Official Report, Volume 391, Columns 282 to 284. Deputy Owen and her colleagues had many months in which to follow up on this reply, to seek clarification of it, or indeed to challenge it. I have seen no evidence that they did this in 1989; or that they did it in 1990; or that they did it during the first eight months of 1991. They only decided to challenge my explanation — over two years after it had been given — because the Fine Gael leadership cynically decided to escalate the atmosphere of controversy which had arisen over other unrelated issues.

Apart from being blatantly opportunistic, the allegations by Deputy Owen and others are quite without foundation. The history of the Baskin cottages and the Feltrim/Kinsealy sewerage schemes will bear this out.

Dublin County Council originally conceived a proposal to provide sewerage facilities for Baskin cottages in late 1973. This scheme was actually completed in the late seventies and was financed from the council's own resources. Sewage treatment was provided by a mechanical so-called "package" plant, and the effluent was discharged directly into the nearby Sluice river. In view of allegations now being made, it is important to note that the main pipes leading in to this treatment plant were of 225 mm diameter.

Small treatment plants of this kind are recognised as a low cost and reasonably serviceable method of providing sanitary facilities in rural situations. They do not, however, represent an optimum solution and it makes good engineering sense, where possible, to integrate them with larger and more serviceable treatment facilities, which also offer operational savings.

Why did the Department not do that in 1987?

From 1979, Dublin Council began the planning of a much wider sewerage scheme generally covering an area to the north and east of Baskin cottages. Originally, this scheme was known as the Feltrim/Kinsealy cottage scheme, and it was designed to serve some 50 houses. The scope of the scheme was revised by Dublin County Council in 1981 to cover some 78 houses. It was revised again in 1985 to cover 90 houses, local farm requirements, Kinsealy national school and the nearby Agricultural Institute. At this stage, the scheme had an estimated cost of over £1 million and it was also intended by the county council to cater for infill development estimated at 250 houses. I mention these details to underline that the scheme was added to over time and that it covered rural settlements scattered over a fairly wide area.

The Feltrim/Kinsealy sewerage scheme, as it had then become known, was still awaiting approval in 1987. In that year, the basis of capital financing for sanitary services schemes was changed from loans, partially subsidised, to full State grants. While financial and technical supervision by my Department of sanitary services schemes has always been a feature, the Department have had to develop a more active and hands-on management of the programme following these changes.

As I have fully explained in my 1989 statement to the Dáil, my Department wrote to Dublin County Council in July 1987 as part of their assessment of the Feltrim/Kinsealy proposals. The county council were asked to have the proposals re-examined with a view to having the scheme extended to provide for the disposal of sewage from the Baskin Cottages and, possibly, other existing houses in the area. This request was based on a number of objective considerations: capacity was then available in the Malahide treatment works to which the Feltrim/Kinsealy scheme was to be connected; the proposed new sewer would pass very close to the outfall from the Baskin Cottages scheme; the Sluice river, the stream to which the Baskin Cottages effluent was discharged, was reported, as far back as 1974, to have very small dilutions; the discharge to the Sluice river, at times of minimum flows, would be just tolerable; and it was the general practice of the county council, where possible, to connect to a main sewer and thereby eliminate small treatment works, communal septic tanks, etc., when the opportunity arises.

Why did they recommend that the council——

We have had a very good, orderly debate up to now, devoid of interruptions, and I intend to keep it so.

It was not the first interruption, with respect.

Deputy Owen will have an opportunity to speak later.

It took Deputy Owen two years to bring up this matter.

In relation to this last point, it is relevant to note the formal statement of drainage objectives set out in Dublin County Council's 1983 Development Plan. These objectives were as follows:

to provide or improve main drainage facilities for existing settlements where such is absent or deficient; to complete the programme of drainage for isolated clusters of council cottages...

The suggestion is now being put that the 1989 request on my Department's part represented a direction to Dublin County Council to include the Baskin Cottages in the scheme, but it was nothing of the sort. Dublin County Council were free to consider the request at technical, administrative level and political level and to react as they thought fit. Having considered the question of extending the scheme at both levels, the county council decided to include in their scheme an extension to the Baskin Cottages at a cost of an additional £78,000.

Fianna Fáil councillors only. Tell the truth.

The scheme, as extended, was finally completed within the county council's estimate.

Fianna Fáil councillors only.

The Deputy must restrain herself. She may not attribute to the Minister that he is a guilty of any untruths.

I am just asking him to tell the truth.

He is telling the truth.

I am not saying——

Please, Deputy, desist from any insinuations of that kind.

It is very hard to desist when I hear this rubbish.

If the Deputy finds it difficult to listen to what the Minister has to say she has a remedy. There are many ways out of this Chamber.

Then I would have to listen to it upstairs.

The allegations now being made fall into two parts: that it is unprecedented for the Department to take an initiative regarding the design of a sanitary services scheme and that in this case the initiative was designed improperly to secure major benefit in terms of development capacity to the lands over which the new sewer pipe passed. Both allegations are absurd and wholly at odds with the facts.

It has never been unusual for the Department to suggest improvements, whether by way of addition, modification or deletion, to local authority proposals for water and sewerage schemes. One could cite numerous examples of interventions of this kind — the request to most major coastal local authorities to prepare proposals for secondary treatment and the request to Cavan County Council to develop tertiary treatment to help clear up Lough Sheelin are well known examples. At the level of smaller schemes, one can instance the Department's initiative further north in County Dublin to review the separate Blackhills-Barnageeragh and Darcystown schemes with a view to amalgamation and economies of scale. This practice applies also to water supply schemes: smaller community based schemes are frequently encouraged to connect to large regional schemes where supplies are guaranteed in terms of quantity and quality.

The second element of the allegations is that the extension to Baskin Cottages could somehow confer major development potential on certain lands. This allegation is totally unsustainable. First, the overall Feltrim-Kinsealy sewerage scheme was never designed by Dublin County Council to provide major development capacity. The council's sanitary services department stated from the outset that the pumps in this scheme have been designed to cater for the existing houses, plus a small amount of infill. There is no way, therefore, in which the small extension to take in the effluent from Baskin Cottages can confer a major development capacity which the overall scheme was never designed to embody.

It has recently been argued that the 225 mm pipes used in the extension of themselves confer major development capacity, but this is not so. Apart from the fact that these pipe sizes merely match those already installed during the seventies to serve the Baskin scheme, one cannot gauge capacity from pipe sizes alone. Pump and rising main capacities, gradient and, above all, the limited capacity of Malahide treatment works, all fundamentally limit the capacity of the overall Feltrim-Kinsealy scheme.

Finally, there are legal reasons deriving largely from the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1990, which I initiated, why land cannot be assumed to have development potential merely because of the physical proximity of sewerage services. The 1990 Act deliberately removed the right of connection to a nearby public sewer, and it provided that non-development zoning should normally be in itself a non-compensatable reason for refusal of planning permission. The lands crossed by the Baskin sewer are zoned for agriculture and there is no proposal to change that.

Deputy Nora Owen has continued her snooping around the Kinsealy area, ignoring the fact that everything has been done above board and in accordance with proper technical and administrative standards. She was a persistent advocate of the Feltrim-Kinsealy scheme since 1980.

Without the Baskin pipe. Tell the truth.

On no fewer than 16 occasions since 1980 this matter was raised by way of motion or question by members of Dublin County Council.

Without the Baskin Cottages.

On five of those occasions Deputy Owen initiated the matter.

About the original Feltrim-Kinsealy scheme.

You cannot have your cake and eat it.

Deputy Owen was always a persistent advocate of the scheme, pressing to have it approved, even badgering her Fine Gael former Minister friend, John Boland, to help out, but he could not do so for financial reasons. Now she wants to deny the benefits of the scheme to the community she claims to represent.

I did not even know they got it.

Deputy Owen's attitude shows scant regard for environmental protection or pollution control. Contrast that to the attitude of the Taoiseach who, through personal generosity and concern for the needs of his neighbours, and at no cost to the public, allowed his property to be used for the provision of sanitary services to the Baskin Cottages. Deputy Owen should desist. Her attitude is unworthy and not in keeping with the fine traditions of public representation in the north Dublin area. The conspiracy theory which has been concocted around this case is simply absurd. In no way does it square with the detailed facts which I disclosed to the Dáil in 1989 and have again set out here today.

The Minister keeps forgetting to tell us what really happened—

This Government have demonstrated their ability——

——why engineers were called to Kinsealy, and various other matters.

——to do the job and to provide good government. They have demonstrated their willingness, more so their demand, that our State-sponsored bodies operate with greater transparency and appropriate controls. The Government have demonstrated that they have nothing, and nobody, to hide. They simply want to get on with the job they were elected to do, and that we are determined to do.

I had the good fortune by chance this morning to hear Nell McCafferty speaking about this debate on radio. In the course of her remarks, which, as ever, were both entertaining and astringent, she asked whether, if I intended to speak in the debate, I would spend my time defending the record of my Governments against attacks from the other side of the House or address the subject of morality and politics. I will not spend much time on the first issue. A procession of Fianna Fáil Ministers and backbenchers have sought to detract attention from the real issue before us in this debate by trotting out their favourite myths about the Governments I led, myths that are half truths at best, some of them, however, departing so far from any semblance of the truth as to deserve an epithet that I am not permitted to employ by you, Sir, in this House.

The simple and incontrovertible facts are that when I came into Government in June 1981 I found that the volume of public spending had been increased by almost half in the previous four years, the public pay bill had arisen by 35 per cent in the single year 1980, inflation was in excess of 20 per cent, the external trade deficit was at the horrifying level of 16.5 per cent of GNP and the Exchequer borrowing level facing us for the year ahead, had we not tackled it instantly and vigorously, would have amounted to 21.5 per cent of GNP.

When I left office less than six years later, and despite the appalling damage done in the interval by the extravagant and dishonest MacSharry budget of March 1982, the growth in the volume of public spending had been reduced to 0.5 per cent, the public pay increase was down to 5.5 per cent, inflation was down to 3.9 per cent, there was a surplus of 4.5 per cent in our external trade and the Exchequer borrowing level that Fine Gael presented to the country in the 1987 election had been halved from 21.5 per cent in 1981 to 10.75 per cent. That was the budget which Fianna Fáil adopted almost unchanged.

Moreover the conditions for an expansion of our economy had been so well established that before Fianna Fáil were able to take any action of their own which, in fairness, they did effectively by cutting spending in the 1988 budget, the economy was growing at a rate that yielded an increase of 4.8 per cent in 1987. That is quite enough economics.

I will turn now to the question of morality and politics. The key issue we have to face is the kind of relationship that should exist between politics and business and whether the relationship that has actually prevailed in the last couple of years has conformed to the needs of a healthy, democratic society in Ireland.

Because centralised planning does not work, because the market system is essential for economic success and therefore for social progress, and because only a certain range of activities can appropriately or successfully be undertaken by the State itself — and in saying that I do not for one moment diminish the importance and value of the public enterprise activities in question — the modern world has to face the issue of the role of politics in what is necessarily a largely capitalist economic system. Some might like matters to be otherwise, but the reality, which I, like many others who would prefer a more egalitarian society, have had to face, is that in this matter we have no choice.

Moreover, given the fact that we are an intergral part of an intensely competitive world, we in Ireland have no choice but to accept and fall broadly in line with neighbouring countries in certain key respects, for example, in relation to tax rates. While I regard as totally unsatisfactory our current marginal tax rate of 56 per cent for a worker at or under the aveage industrial wage — and I deplore the priority given by both parties in the present Government to lowering tax rates for the benefit of their better off supporters instead of raising tax bands to relieve PAYE workers of this excessive tax rate — I see nothing whatever wrong with a top tax rate of 65 per cent for really wealthy people. But when the top rate in neighbouring Britain falls to 40 per cent, we in Ireland have no choice, if we are to retain entrepreneurs and enterprise in this country, but to go a long way towards the British figure, however much we may wish it could be otherwise. That is why the Labour Party have now realistically accepted a top tax rate of 50 per cent in Ireland.

We cannot afford to ignore this question of incentives. While it is true that in an emergency a whole nation can be got to work together in a common cause without seeking individual reward, and while it is also true that there are still many people — though fewer, I fear, than in the past — who are happy to work for their country in the Civil Service or in running State enterprises without seeking any personal gain beyond their salaries, the fact is that a very large number of people who have entrepreneurial capacity want to see a relationship of some kind between the fruits of their efforts and the financial reward they receive — whether by way of bonuses, shares or otherwise.

They seek this not just for themselves but because they have the ambition to leave to their children by way of inheritance a claim on current resources in future years. It is very difficult to provide a moral justification for transmuting a current claim on 1991 resources by X arising from his work in this year into a claim by X's son or daughter on resources produced in, say, 2010. Indeed, so far in my life I have yet to find anyone who has been able to explain the moral basis of such a postponed claim on resources. We may, however, also doubt the real benefit to members of a future generation of being provided with a substantial claim on current resources in their lifetime because of a parent's past achievement, for such inheritance, as we call it, can, if substantial, sometimes be a disincentive to effort and even a source of moral deterioration among those who acquire it.

But the fact remains that the capitalist system, including most specifically this power to transfer a claim on resources to a future generation by way of inheritance, works by providing what is clearly a strong incentive to entrepreneurs to achieve a continual growth in total resources, and such a growth in resources provides the only solid and secure means of improving, through transfers effected by politicians, improved social conditions for the population as a whole. Those who will not face that fact are living in cloud cuckoo land.

Those who accept and support for practical reasons this economic system have an absolute duty to ensure that the accumulation of resources in fewer and fewer hands, to which it tends to lead, is brought and kept under control. That means that those in charge of political affairs must be willing and able to distance themselves from the system sufficiently to carry out their duty of securing a redistribution of resources and a structuring of society that will secure equality of opportunity to the maximum extent possible within what is an inherently morally problematic, capitalist structure.

If politicians get too close to the enterprise sector and become too emotionally or financially involved with it, they will not be able to perform this, their morally compelling duty to society. Let us never forget that the achievement of social justice is the only true objective of politics. The advancement of economic growth is and can only be a means towards that end and not an end in itself, as it has been elevated not merely here but in other countries like Britain in the past decade.

The relationship between politics and business is thus bound to be an uneasy one. On the one hand, if politicians are too unfamiliar with business and its legitimate needs they may perhaps unintentionally undermine the climate necessary for genuine enterprise. They may, indeed, have to pay some attention to balancing a certain inherent insensitivity to the world of enterprise on the part of the civil servants who advise them — who themselves are and should remain very properly distanced from this world of enterprise — but the opposite danger is the commoner one, the danger that politicians may not keep themselves sufficiently distanced from business. Where that happens great damage can be done both to politics and to business.

It is clear to almost everyone that this precisely has happened in this country in the past few years. The MRBI poll published a few days ago demonstrates in the most emphatic way public sentiment on this point. Curiously this aspect of the poll has attracted little attention. It shows that 74 per cent of those asked if there had been a drop in standards in Irish politics replied in the affirmative and when those who gave this answer were further asked to what extent they thought the leadership of the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, and his Government had been responsible for a drop in standards, no fewer than 89 per cent replied that in varying degrees they were so responsible; and the replies to a similar question about a drop in business standards yielded an almost identical answer about the responsibility of this Government and their leader.

A Taoiseach and a Government who are thus judged by two-thirds of our people to have been responsible, either wholly or in some measure, for a decline in standards in both politics and business should be replaced to give Members an opportunity to purge themselves of whatever has led them to this position.

These events have raised other issues. Given the appalling damage done to the public view of politicians' relationships with business, it is clear to me that the system under which political parties at present finance general elections in particular by means of contributions raised from private individuals and from business is no longer appropriate. In the past this arrangement has stood the country in good stead. Certainly so far as my party are concerned, under my predecessor — who warned me always to be on the qui vive for and to return instantly any contribution that might seem to have any kind of strings attached — and under myself and my two successors, the public interest has been protected against any influence being exercised over our decisions on issues that might affect such contributors. But the issue is no longer whether justice is being done to the public interest but whether is it being seen to be done.

It is now clear that to restore public confidence in politicians and politics, Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas must in future, like members of local authorities, declare their interest and that members of Governments — and, in the light of recent events, unhappily, perhaps, also their spouses and children — be required to furnish details of their assets, liabilities and income when in office and for some years thereafter to, I would suggest and our party suggested last November, an ethics commission comprising such figures as the Ombudsman, the Comptroller and Auditor General and a High Court Judge. There should be a provision that this commission would have a duty to investigate any allegations of non-disclosure or incomplete disclosure and when a Minister is found to have failed in his or her duty of disclosure, to publicise the result of such inquiry with a penalty of loss of office for any intentional or conscious breach of this obligation.

As someone who has served in the office of Taoiseach, I want formally to ask the Minister for Finance, who will be concluding this debate, whether this Government are prepared forthwith to implement such a structure and to provide finance from public sources for political parties in order to eliminate the need for them to seek and to accept support from private sources. I expect him to respond unequivocally to these questions.

I now call Deputy Brian Hillery.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I will be sharing my time with Deputy Brian Cowen.

I did not at the outset say that I was sharing time with my colleague Deputy Ahearn. It was my mistake.

I am sorry, I had not known.

It was entirely my mistake. That is why I was so unusually short.

In fairness to the Chair I do not think Deputy FitzGerald mentioned he was sharing his time.

That is all right, we can cope with that. Deputy Ahearn has until 8.03 p.m.

For almost two days now a motion of confidence in this Government has been debated in the House. As yet, I have not heard anyone actually define this motion. If we look up the definition of confidence we see that it is defined as having trust, reliance and a lack of fear. Therefore this motion of confidence in the Government is asking me if I trust this Government, if I would rely on them or would I have a lack of fear where they are concerned.

I have been a Member of this House for just two years. I have been trying, as have all Members of the House, to do my bit for my constituents, my party and my country. However, in reviewing and assessing the performance of this Government for the past two years, and in particular the past ten months, I simply have to say that I do not have confidence in the Government. I can no longer trust the Government. In fact, I have no reliance at all on this Government.

I ask myself: "But how could I trust this Government?" In many ways, it is indeed a Teflon Government — dirt and sludge may be all around it, but every effort is made at all times to ensure that none of it sticks. We note the Taoiseach in close association with various people in the business community, apparently happy and contented with them, but when they prove to have feet of clay he steps aside from them and leaves them twisting in the wind.

Big business is one thing; semi-State bodies are something else again. It is a fact of life that Governments down through the years have staffed the semi-State bodies with people with whom they can be comfortable. While there may be undue cronvism in that arrangement, we must all admit that it also makes sense. However, if it does make sense, the Government cannot then have it both ways. Either the semi-State bodies are outside their control and influence — in which case they have been failing to do their duty — or they have been party to some of the goings-on that are now causing so much disquiet. It is simply one way or the other.

I believe there is at best a moral carelessness about this Government. Morality, the question of whether something is right or wrong, does not seem to have a very high priority with them, sadly. They stagger on from one moral crisis to another, apparently completely unaware that the cumulative effect of all of these allegations on our status as politicians is dire. With the Rugby World Cup approaching its climax, it may be worth remembering the story of the referee who told the very small scrum-half that if he saw anyone else hit him then he would be sent off. What had he been up to on the blind side that everybody was at him?

A Tipperary man, I believe.

What have this Government been up to on the blind side — that is the real question — that everybody seems to have their story of corruption in high places? Are we to believe that the Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, is the most unfortunate, the most maligned man to have ever graced this House, or is there something sinister in his make-up which attracts people of dubious moral standing to his side?

I said at the beginning that I am proud to be a politician. What is more important is that I want to continue to be proud to be a politician. However, the result of recent scandals is that there is now an implication that all politicians are wheelers and dealers, and crooked ones at that. I resent that implication. I do not claim to be a saint, but I do claim to have moral standards, as do the vast majority of the Members of this House. I claim that there are things which are right or wrong in themselves. However, the result of the various scandals and the behaviour of this Government is that the public will be led to believe that all politicians have no standards.

I claim it is wrong for big business to have offshore companies that can have no purpose other than to defraud. A money trail that leads off to Cyprus, Jersey or to a numbered Swiss bank account; surely that is a crooked road? I believe there should be a special group in the Department of Finance that do nothing other than follow up any business or person who is discovered using offshore companies. Let this group have the resources to find out what is going on, to take action and to discover what wrongdoing is being manipulated. We should have a Government for which words such as "integrity" and "honesty" are actually part of policy rather than simply clichés in policy documents.

Deputy Bruton said yesterday that this Government were rotten to the core and should go. I agree with him because this Government, by their recent actions, have undermined the confidence in our political system and, worse still, they are undermining the confidence and reliance in our institutions. The result of all of that is that they have undermined the name of all Irish people at home and abroad. That is surely a grievous misconduct of which to be guilty. The Government have proved to be very bad managers — very bad housekeepers, in fact — and not fit to be in charge of our national finances. All Members would agree that no household could continue to survive with a reckless, misdirected and, above all, a careless housekeeper.

The Government cannot survive because they have produced a fraudulent budget. By doing that, they have laid the basis for wrecking our national finances. Worse still, they have made commitments to the social partners that they knew they could not afford. Surely we cannot have confidence in a Government that perform in that way. Thankfully, recent polls show that the public will no longer tolerate such behaviour. The people are angry; they are embarrassed; they are appalled by the behaviour of the Government. What must be realised is that what we say here as public representatives is what the people outside are saying. The Government's response to the recent scandals has been to provide investigation after investigation. Yes, they have been putting off the day of reckoning for as long as possible.

It is true and we must accept that the budget strategy has collapsed and that no steps have been taken and no efforts have been made to put anything else in its place. There is no accountability. The Government show little concern about what is happening today. Their only reaction is to ensure that all the mud will stick to other people, but we are not prepared to put up with that.

The sale of Carysfort College is an example of the way in which the Government work. It is now obviously good Government policy not to buy when property is cheap but to wait until it is really expensive. Can we expect the people of Ireland to allow a Government that behave in that way to continue? How can I go home to South Tipperary and expect the people of Cashel, who have been waiting for ten years for their community school because no finances were available, to accept that response when millions of pounds were available to buy Carysfort College when it suited the Taoiseach and the Government? How can I expect the teachers in our small rural schools who are waiting for extensions, trying to teach in conditions completely non-conducive to teaching, to believe that the Government have their interests at heart when they have failed to provide just a few thousand pounds to effect much-needed repairs? Those are the questions the people in my constituency are asking. They are questions for which I cannot provide an answer.

The Coalition Government have lost the ability to run our nation. They have lost the confidence of the farmers, they have lost the confidence of the unemployed, they have lost the confidence of the public sector, they have lost the confidence of the entire business community and they have also lost the support of many of their own members. In fact, the Government have lost the confidence of the Irish people.

I repeat I cannot support this motion of confidence. The behaviour of the Government is, I sadly say, in danger of making me ashamed of being a politician.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I will be sharing my time with Deputy Cowen.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

First, I should like to make a few general observations about the current controversies, then focus specifically and, of necessity, briefly on aspects of the semi-State bodies.

In every democracy the electorate must have confidence in the organs of the State, in their elected representatives, in the courts and in the administration of justice. If that confidence is eroded people lose faith in democracy and can quickly become apathetic or cynical, which we must always be vigilant to prevent.

There is no doubt that recent events have occurred in both the public and private sectors which give us reason to worry about standards in Irish business. In relation to the semi-State bodies it is the specific responsibility of Government, and the relevant Ministers, to act swiftly and decisively to allay such worries. They have done so in establishing the various investigations and inquiries. The inquiries now under way must ensure that any illegalities or malpractices will be uncovered, disclosed and dealt with decisively and fairly. Where wrong-doing occurs it has to be uprooted and tackled on the spot. That is the only way trust and confidence in the financial and business field can be restored. It does seem that sufficient things have happened in the recent past to increase our concern and determination to put things right. However, we must not get caught up, wittingly or unwittingly, in the process of character assassination. It is particularly incumbent on public representatives to back up whatever they say and not say things merely for political gain.

Turning to the semi-State bodies, I want to comment on the composition of boards and on the issue of control and regulation. I commend the Minister for Finance on setting up the study under the Secretary of his Department on the principles governing the relationship between the Departments of State and State bodies. That is especially timely at present. Likewise, I commend the promptness with which the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications responded to the troubling disclosures in bodies under his control.

While acknowledging and indeed condemning the recent scandals it must be said that the great majority of State-sponsored bodies have done a very good job in recent years in very difficult trading conditions nationally and internationally. It should be remembered that these bodies are among the most significant employers in the country, employing almost 100,000 people. Most of them are employed in commercial State-sponsored bodies and have made a vital contribution to the life of our economy over the years. From my contact with these boards, as a member of the Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies for several years, I have the greatest confidence in the great majority of the management and workers in those enterprises. I emphasise that we should not tarnish either the State bodies or their employees because of the improprieties committed by a few people in them.

The scandals are harmful; there is no getting away from that. They damage the very fabric of our society and, in particular, affect our commercial credibility in the international marketplace. However, for the time being, in all fairness, we must await the outcome of the various investigations that are under way. The normal practice, based on many years experience of successive Governments as regards the relations between commercial State-sponsored bodies and the relevant Ministers, is that the Government appoint boards of directors who are given a considerable measure of freedom in the management of the relevant companies. The level of independence enjoyed by these companies, of course, has to be consistent with legislation and considered appropriate to the task to be undertaken. In practice this means that commercial semi-State bodies would not normally need to consult with or obtain the approval of Government Departments for individual commercial decisions unless there were major strategic implications or specific Exchequer requirements. Therefore, Government Departments should not, except in very exceptional circumstances, be involved in any day-to-day decisions of semi-State companies.

Turning to the directors of these semi-State boards, there is a clear obligation on any relevant Minister, and the Government, to ensure that qualified and experienced boards of directors are appointed. The boards of commercial State-sponsored bodies operate in varying degrees in the open market. Obviously, to compete effectively, the boards of such companies must be allowed freedom, within policy guidelines, to manage their companies. However, the crucial issue is to have people appointed to boards with the appropriate qualifications and experience. Normally, executive directors have these characteristics and fulfil those requirements.

I specifically want to address the question of the non-executive director, whom I suggest must have the same qualifications and experience if such people are to make the necessary and relevant contribution to board deliberations. Therefore, there is a real need to review the quality of appointments in relation to non-executive directors of State enterprises. Properly qualified non-executive directors can greatly assist a company. They can also provide an element of control on behalf of the shareholder, in this case, the Irish public and taxpayer, over a company's management. If we are to have effective boards of directors these appointments should be based on the qualifications and experience of the individuals concerned.

Membership of a State board is, and should be, for many a form of practical patriotism. However, the directors' fees for such board membership generally are derisory, ridiculously low. Indeed, I suggest there is an urgent need to review these fees to bring them even slightly closer to directors' fees obtaining in the private sector. This remuneration argument applies to full-time executives as well as non-executive directors. There are many examples of senior, full-time executives in the semi-State sector whose remuneration — where it follows the recommendations of the Gleeson Commission — does not realistically compare wih the going rate in the private sector. Furthermore, we cannot reasonably expect senior and experienced businessmen to take on the onerous duties, if they are to play a full role, of the non-executive director especially since the enactment of the Companies Act, 1990, places considerable controls on their behaviour and performance. We cannot realistically expect people of this stature to give sufficient time to the State body concerned if they continue to receive the nominal payments made to non-executive directors at present.

We must not be naive. By and large these are very substantial commercial enterprises, big businesses. We must have men and women appointed to boards with wide experience of the tough and practical side of business. We must trust these people to do the right thing. In a country as small as ours there is an absolute need to be frank, forthcoming and open as conflicts of interest must be resolved almost on a daily basis. However, if any wilful wrong-doing occurs in a State company then action must be taken after calm and realistic examination. There should be no preemptive public hangings. However strongly we may feel about a matter we must examine it fairly and equitably.

There have been calls for a code of ethics for board members and guidelines on proper conduct. As somebody involved in business education for many years, I fully support the inclusion of courses on ethics — they are there already — in the course of business education. As experience has shown many of those who go through the educational system will progress to board membership. Such codes of ethics, desirable as they are, do not entirely tackle the issue of morality. The bottom line in relation to morality will stand or fall on individual honesty. Therefore, we can have codes and guidelines but, at the end of the day, we are back to the integrity of individuals on such boards and elsewhere. The crucial thing is to have people serving on boards, to put is simply, who can distinguish between right and wrong and be of high probity and wide experience.

There is the further vexed question of whether additional legislation and/or regulation is desirable in the case of semi-State bodies. In posing this question we must be mindful that controls are already in place. Commercial State-sponsored bodies are subject to the provisions of the Companies Act, 1963, and the recently enacted Companies, Act, 1990, with some exceptions. These Acts, in particular the Companies Act, 1990, have very stringent provisions for controlling and regulating the activities of companies and, in particular, their directors. Specifically, there are stringent requirements on directors to declare their interests in transactions, including property transactions. It should be said that the transactions which are currently the subject of investigations occurred prior to the enactment of the 1990 Act.

The balance which has to be struck between protecting the interests of the State shareholders, the public, while at the same time providing legislative changes and/or intervention that will allow a strong commercial State sector to develop is a key question and it requires careful focus and attention to get the balance right. There is and must be — and this is practical patriotism — a very close working relationship between business and politics in the common interest of the development of economic activity which will benefit people in terms of jobs, etc. It is a fact that in Ireland Government and Government bodies are commercially and socially involved in an enormous range of activities that touch on all our lives. One of the more recent examples of this contact, this joint approach between Government and business, was the leading by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of a trade delegation to the Baltic countries to develop trade with this country, which in turn should lead to jobs we so badly need.

In terms of the review of legislation, I am aware that the Minister for Finance's group is already deliberating. I want to make a few suggestions in this regard. There could be a requirement on boards of directors to demand and to ascertain, in so far as possible, the beneficial ownership of the vendor or purchaser of an asset to or from the company. The second point is that the requirement on directors to provide details of any beneficial interest in contracts, including in particular the acquisition or sale of property or shares in another company, could be extended to the requirement that the directors make a declaration, whether it be positive or negative.

I welcome the current review of guidelines on public procurement, which will identify whether any improvements need to be put in place so that any further guidelines established do not inhibit the efficiency and cost effectiveness of commercial operations. We must certainly improve the guidelines in relation to public procurement but not in a way that would stultify commercial operations.

Against the background of policy guidelines laid down by relevant Government Departments, the boards of these companies must be allowed to manage their businesses without undue interference. The directors of semi-State companies must be properly qualified and realistically remunerated. The Companies Act, 1990, significantly enhances the regulatory environment and in particular the controls over directors. This applies to many of our commercial semi-State companies. Further consideration could be given, however, to providing legislation and/or guidelines, particularly in relation to disclosure of directors' interests, of parties in sales or acquisitions, and penalties for non-disclosure. Any malpractices which are uncovered or disclosed following investigations must be followed by appropriate and decisive Government action. We in the Oireachtas must do all we can to support in a positive way the development and management of the commercial State sector so that it is in a position to compete in the open market and create the jobs we so badly need.

Any objective comparison based on the performance of this Government and previous Administrations of which Opposition parties were members, with the exception of The Workers' Party, will show quite clearly on any of the economic criteria that the performance of Fianna Fáil led Administrations has been far superior to the performance of those Administrations in which Opposition parties have participated. For that reason alone it is quite clear that the best available Government is on this side of the House.

I should like to direct a few points to my junior partners in Government, the Progressive Democrats. This Government are proceeding on the basis of the Programme for Government, 1989-1993, called In the National Interest. Deputy Spring this morning and yesterday sought to give an impression that there is no programme available to this Government on which to do the nation's business. This is the programme. The programme provides for a review mechanism after two years and thereafter annually. Under all the headings there has been substantial progress. There has been progress in terms of competition law, commercial State enterprises, tax reform, public finances, the needs of the lower paid, indirect tax harmonisation, the health services and great improvements under the social welfare heading which are in excess of inflation, special measures for the unemployed in urban disadvantaged areas, and in education.

There has been the setting up of the Environment Protection Agency, and we have started on local government reform. We have brought in legislation on planning compensation. Environmental impact assessments are essential before permission is given for mining. The sum of £3 billion is being distributed from the European Structural Funds under various headings. In agriculture there is a review of the disadvantaged areas scheme. We have increased headage grants and there are new appeals systems. Off-farm income limits in disadvantaged areas are no longer taken into account. There are major developments in the forestry programme and in fisheries. Tourist numbers have doubled since 1987. We have brought in air transport liberalisation, and regional airports have been developed. There are new rural tourism schemes. We have seen energy proposals and new transport legislation has been promised. Substantial progress has been made in relation to the agreed Programme for Government. It is within that overall framework that the review mechanism operates. It is also in line with the Programme for Economic and Social Progress which has to be reviewed now in view of the fact that the growth rates which were assumed have to be reviewed due to the international trading position.

This is the way politics are carried on in this country. Agreed programmes are drawn up, in this instance by two individual parties who form the Government and implement policy. It is expecting a little too much of me as a member of the major Government party to expect that we are going to change the framework in any way. We are interested in doing business on the basis of this programme. If they are not interested, frankly we are not interested. There is no way in which a junior partner in Government will dictate fundamental fiscal policy. They can contribute and make an input but anyone who thinks that this party, the biggest party in the State, is to be dictated to——

Why not kick them out?

I want to make it clear that the Fianna Fáil programme, most of which is contained in the Programme for Government, will be implemented, if they are interested in doing so. If they are not interested, we can have a general election.

I am very disappointed that not one of the Progressive Democrats in the backbenchers has come in to say what contribution they have made to the implementation of this programme. I understand the Ministers are coming in tomorrow. That is a major disappointment to us on the Government side. For the past two years I have listened with interest to Progressive Democrat Ministers and backbenchers stating how much they have been contributing to the successful implementation of this programme. When it comes to confidence motions there seems to be a very strange reticence on the part of our junior partners. I do not find that acceptable. We are here in good faith to provide a Government for this country. We are not in a game playing exercise. We are not going up to the wire for the sake of the media circus that has been going on for the past ten weeks. We are here to do business and we are entitled to expect our junior partners in Government to come in and express confidence in this Government in terms of the implementation of the programme thus far. If they wish no longer to remain in Government, that is totally a matter for them. We are not here to be dictated to inside or outside this House. We are here in good faith. We respect our partners in Government once that respect is reciprocated.

This party will not be kicked about by anyone. Those who bluster and make unfounded allegations, who seek to politicise financial scandals, will find it will not work in terms of how we approach our programme as long as this Government continue. As the programme states, it is in the national interest that we have a continuation of the present Government. We are anxious to continue and to re-establish the good terms necessary for any Government to function effectively. We are willing to do so. We are not in the business of playing economic poker with the interests of the Irish people. Let us make some decisions and let us proceed. I look forward to some Progressive Democrat backbenchers coming into this House and standing up for the Government they supported. We supported them in Government and we are entitled to some reciprocal support. Their reticence here is, frankly, disappointing.

We have to listen to right wing economic Rasputins outside the Four Courts and elsewhere dictating to us about dishonour in the implementation of our programme. We are discharging our collective responsibility.

In regard to the scandals that have taken place in the last few weeks, I want to put it on the record of this House that every decision that was taken in relation to those matters was a Government decision. The Government are committed to full disclosure, full investigation and full follow through in regard to those who have committed any wrongdoing. There is a constitutional obligation of collective responsibility and we must meet that responsibility when a charge is made. All the decisions that were made were Government decisions. We are anxious and willing to bring transparency into this aspect of our Government dealings so that the wrong-doing, if any, in relation to these matters will not happen again. We need no lectures from anybody in this House about our morality, our uprightness, our steadfastness or our integrity. We need no lectures from anybody about what is right. Our performance in Government over the years shows where this party stand and why we have the support we commanded through successive elections. We will re-establish and reaffirm the fundamental basis upon which this party was built. We need no lectures from anybody inside or outside this House on that matter. It is very difficult to take from some quarters and I am looking at a particular party in that respect.

Give them the head of your leader. That is all they want, your leader's head.

We heard Deputy Spring say that the question was how the fruits of economic growth would be distributed. He did not have that option when he was in Government because growth was stagnant over that five year period. He spoke about building success on the backs of the unemployed. The unemployed of this country——

——are in Britain and the US.

——are doing far better under this Administration in terms of improvement to their standard of pay over and above inflation than was ever available under Deputy Barry Desmond or any of his acolytes.

In regard to emigration, we have emigration. Deputy Garret FitzGerald on "Questions and Answers" last Monday, at least had the honesty to put it up to every politician not to be dishonest on this issue. It is a symptom of a problem that arose under their Administration as well as ours. The bottom line in regard to the success or otherwise of a Government in terms of job creation is how many more people are at work in this country under this Administration than was the case before. The one indicator that Deputy FitzGerald did not mention here this evening was that under his Administration there were 66,000 fewer working in 1987 than in 1982. That is a fact. More people are working under this Administration than worked in 1987, and that is a fact.

FÁS schemes.

It is an incontrovertible fact. We have had to put up with assertions here for the past two days about the integrity of the Government and the personnel who support the Government. I need no lectures from anyone in the media, in this House or outside about my integrity or the integrity of my party. We have had enough of it. I would like to see collective responsibility in the physical presence of the junior partners in this Government, particularly their backbenchers, supporting this programme. They have much to be proud of in implementing this programme. We are entitled to expect reciprocal respect. This party will no longer be shoved around by anybody.

Give them the head of your leader. Give them what they are looking for, Charlie's head.

If the Deputy who just spoke was seriously interested in collective responsibility he would be directing his remarks in a different forum. What he said may be good entertainment but I suggest that it has not exactly contributed to anybody's sense of security or confidence.

This is my forum. I am indicating to my electorate——

It has just added to the whole sad melée that is still going on throughout this House and whose outcome is still uncertain.

I do not intend to muck rake. Indeed, I had a rare experience today to do with two people in my constituency to whom I spoke about an article that is being done about the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and I think I surprised them by describing him as an honest, co-operative, old-fashioned, honourable gentleman. I would say the same of my other constituency colleague, Deputy De Rossa, whose party has come in for extraordinary attack in this debate. It is only by the way I say that, but I have shared a constituency with Deputy De Rossa for the 12 years I have been in politics and I must say, in the context of the accusations, there is no doubt about his origins, there is no doubt about his period in prison, there is no doubt about where he started from as there is no doubt about where Fianna Fáil and our party started from. Certainly in my experience Deputy De Rossa has been consistent and honourable in his opposition to provisional violence on the ground.

At public meetings where we have seen the Provisionals, Sinn Féin and other groups trying to get a hold on our community, he has fought it on every level. As far as I am concerned, if ever asked, I take this opportunity to say that because the allegations being made seem to be part of the smokescreen from the other side throwing as much dirt around as they can. It is seen for what it is, a smokescreen. They have tried to cast dirt in every direction.

This is a two sided debate. The issues are confidence in the Government, in their performance, and the question of the scandals. I intend to concentrate most of my contribution on the scandals, what they have meant to this country and what we need to do in relation to them. The issue of confidence has been dealt with substantially by our party leader and the substance of his contribution I would endorse 100 per cent.

Deputy Cowen said that the performance of all Fianna Fáil Governments was far superior to any other. The performance of Fianna Fáil Governments, the ones I have watched, have left a number of questions and can be criticised on many fronts. Remember the GUBU period? I would also point out the problem we inherited in 1983 when inflation was over 20 per cent and I was briefly in the Department of Social Welfare. In that year we had to increase social welfare payments by 25 per cent so that people could have a 2 to 3 per cent increase in real terms because inflation was rampant. Interest rates were at an all time high. At the end of our period in Government they were both down to the levels they are currently at. The huge juggernaut of increasing debt and increasing expenditure had been halted and the stage was set for further improvements with the continuation of the policies we had established. A great deal of work was done. More would have been done, too, had we had a more obliging Coalition partner, and Fianna Fáil know the problem with that. There was difficulty there but a great deal was achieved.

The Taoiseach's speech yesterday was an extraordinary analysis of the situation.

It was honest.

I am sure it was honest. It may have been honest. I really cannot analyse the Taoiseach's mind. I never could, I cannot now. The Taoiseach's speech yesterday was extraordinary in the extent to which it was out of touch. He effectively said there was no problem and that this was all due to Deputy John Bruton, in particular, stirring up things. We all know that that simply is not the case. Anyone who moves outside the four walls of this House and circulates in society knows there is a remarkable level of shock and disillusionment among the public in reports to our semi-State sector and our politicians. The public have been steadily losing confidence in politicians over the past two decades but this disillusionment has spread much wider and people have now lost faith in public institutions. These issues have still not been resolved. I should say at this point that I would like to share my time with my colleague. Deputy Durkan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Taoiseach's response to restoring public confidence is to simply say that this lack of confidence is not warranted, there is no crisis and the Opposition are simply playing games. The Taoiseach is seriously out of touch with reality and someone should have a chat with him. He is out of touch on his island, his palace and country estate with what people are saying.

Fine Gael, the Labour Party and The Workers' Party did not invent the events of the past few weeks. I remember when these issues first arose. They started on 1 September when the Sunday newspapers reported that Chris Comerford was taking a legal action to recover millions of pounds which he believed were his arising out of various deals in which he was involved during the period he was chief of a semi-State company. In one fell swoop that revelation said 100 things to me and the average Irish person, for example, that semi-State companies were not what we thought they were, semi-State company employees——

In respect of the sub judice rule the Ceann Comhairle said that we could deal with almost everything excluding the case which exists with Mr. Comerford in respect of his holding in that company. I understand a legal case is threatened. I know the Deputy will temper her comments——

That is the extent of my reference to it. That revelation simply indicated to me that semi-State companies and semi-State company employees were not what we had generally thought and expected them to be.

It also made me wonder if I was something of a fool trying to live on a Dáil salary of £27,000 which, in Irish terms, is quite generous but which, when compared to the figures which were mentioned and not contested — I accept that certain legal elements have to be decided — seems like peanuts. Within a week of that revelation we had the revelation in relation to Telecom Éireann. To somebody of my background — a politician for 12 years and before that a school teacher who had a modest north side upbringing——

And Catholic mother of three.

——these revelations disclosed unheard of possibilities in the creation of companies, avoidance of tax, shelf companies and foreign bank accounts. The week those revelations were made housekeeping work was being carried out in this House — workmen were laying carpets after cleaning them and painting the walls. I felt ashamed to walk by these people who probably earn £120 to £200 per week. The people who are being asked to live on these amounts and who have to support families need to have these issues aired and resolved. I accept that these issues can never be resolved totally, we will never live in a perfect society. I am not saying all the good is on this side and all the wrong is on the other side.

It is about time the Deputy said it.

However, we must all acknowledge that there is a very serious problem. By pretending that there is not a serious problem, the Government are doing a disservice to themselves, a serious disservice to society and failing to act as proper public representatives. The public are appalled and shocked at these revelations. They still do not fully understand them and they cannot see them being taken on hand and resolved.

Following those revelations there were further allegations in relation to Bord Gáis Éireann, Irish Helicopters and Carysfort College. Very little has been done to put these issues right. There is an interesting definition in The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought of the word“elite”. I think some of our problems stem from something associated with this concept. It states that the word “elite” is a “collective noun for those who occupy a position (or positions) of superiority within a society or group by virtue of qualities——

Fianna Fáil.

——(actual, claimed or presumed) of excellence or distinction".

(Interruptions.)

It refers to the elite as distinguished from the non-elite groups within a social order and the divisions within the elite as between a governing elite and non-governing elite. It also states that one of the interesting things about an elite is their relationship to the ruling classes. I believe an elite group have grown up in our society. One of the good things to have come from this is an elitism based only on the capacity to make money. We tolerated its growing arrogance and exclusiveness because we thought (1) that there were no questions about its legality and (2) it would be of benefit to all our society. Indeed, we recruited — I say "we" because we accept some of the responsibility — some of these captains of industry because we thought, as we all did in relation to the Taoiseach, that a man who could make money for himself could make money for the country. One of the lessons we have learned from these revelations is that the ethics of private business and the ethics of public life are very different and that it is at great risk to many things that we merge the two. I should like to welcome the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Harney, to the House. Is this a sign of agreement, white smoke?

Does this indicate they have made up?

These issues will be of great importance for whatever Government are in power in the weeks ahead. If we get the changes we are looking for, hopefully these issues will be addressed more urgently. We must seriously consider returning to our traditional view of the public service. We must also consider the appropriateness of the personnel appointed and the ethics, standards and attitudes to which we are giving lip service.

As I said there has been a growth of arrogant, ostentatious wealth and exclusivity. The Taoiseach spoke of guilt by association. I do not wish to be personal, but the Taoiseach's lifestyle — his palace, island, helicopter——

And yacht.

There is yachting in Ringsend so I will allow him reasonable liberty. Serious questions need to be answered. Because there is no requirement for a register of interests for public servants or the source of the wealth of somebody who has been in public life for a number of decades many questions now need to be answered. Even the dogs in the street are saying that these scandals go to the top. This is the public perception and people need to be reassured if we want to restore their confidence in public life.

I want to refer to another point which niggles me — the development of the K Club, whose affiliation fees are kept as high as is possible so that the club can be more exclusive. This is something new in Irish society. We always had wealth, but we had people who knew how to carry it and did not parade it, and who did not have to find new ways of making themselves more distinguished, different and separate. I think some good could come out of this if we called a halt to all these excesses and said that as public representatives we have different standards which must be maintained. Much of what Deputy G. FitzGerald said was extremely important, that business and politics can get too close, resulting in serious damage to both.

The ethos of private business carried into public life does not mix easily and it is an experiment we should seriously question on all sides of this House. All of us — left, right and centre — were involved in developing too close a relationship with the best of motives in mind. That is nothing new in the world. A very serious credibility gap exists. I gather that that term was first used in the United States in the period of President Johnson where both during his campaign and later on there was growing doubt and cynicism. An aide said the credibility gap was getting so wide that they could not believe their own leaks. The most serious problem, they said, was that there was widespread doubt in the public mind about their major leaders and institutions. Regrettably, without pointing the finger, that is where we are now and what is required is that confidence should be restored. It is important that we as politicians state some idealism because what is being hit most in Irish society is any confidence in ideals or in idealistic aspirations in public life.

In 1807 Thomas Jefferson said that when a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself as a public property. It is clear that those who took on public trust recently have not operated in that fashion. A man who has the confidence of the public, has a public trust not to abuse that confidence for any ends, let alone his own.

It is important that if we are to restore public confidence there should be action. The action should include rigorous pursuit of the matters under investigation, reform of the Companies Act, which is already seen to be inadequate; establishment of a code of conduct for all members of Government, Members of this House and for workers in semi-State bodies who are senior employees and board members; committee structures of the House should be established to supervise and monitor adequately every area — we are a wasted resource in that way — and the issue of funding political parties should be considered. I try to avoid demagoguery here or the hitting at soft targets. The final approval of the people is given not to demagogues and, as was said by another American leader, slavishly pandering to their selfishness, merchanising for the clamour of the hour but to statesmen administering to their welfare, representing their deep silent abiding convictions. What the Irish people wish is some restoration of confidence because none of us is happy living in a society that we believe to be crooked and corrupt. Action is needed; I believe a change in Government is needed to achieve that.

On this motion of confidence put down by the Government, which arose directly as a result of Fine Gael putting down a motion of no confidence in the Government, one would have to have regard to the manner in which the Government addressed the issue. Over the last few days one could not but be surprised at the manner in which some Government spokespersons addressed the issue in hand and, far from enhancing any public confidence in Government, they went the other way. Speaker after speaker seemed to have decided to dig down deep in the hope of eventually striking something which was akin to oil but not of the same texture and have repeatedly attempted to throw mud across the House in the hope that the whole purpose of the exercise on the motion of confidence in the Government would be lost.

This was capped entirely this morning by Deputy Roche who probably saw himself as a latter day Sherlock Holmes, having spent a considerable amount of time, laboriously digging into the archives to find something which he could hurl across the floor in the hope that somebody somewhere might decide that it was in some way unethical. He probably landed himself with the tag, not of Sherlock Holmes but of Inspector Closeau, who used to be portrayed by the late Peter Sellers and who did not necessarily always come up with the result he desired. I think he also resembled the boy at school whom the teacher had ignored for some time and who hoped if, perhaps, he was able to bring in sufficient apples or goodies he would be noticed when the next round of promotions came up. I am sorry to say he failed miserably and only exposed himself as a very small minded, bitter and disappointed person.

The motion we are now discussing stems from more than the issues that have been debated publicly over the last number of weeks. It stems also from public confidence, the confidence of the people in Government and the confidence of business in Government. The question has already been referred to by my colleague Deputy Garret FitzGerald, that in a recent poll public confidence in Government is waning, and is waning fast for a number of reasons. It would appear that Government are told what to do on a regular basis by some people who are actually outside of this House. That is not something that would enhance public confidence. The other thing that has occurred again and again over the last couple of years in the life of this Government is that at every sign of a crisis there has been a meeting within the two camps of Government and there has been a crisis within a crisis where one has said they will, they will not, maybe, perhaps. That is the story of this Administration over the last couple of years. There is no indication that they will continue in any different fashion from that which has prevailed for the last couple of years. The suggestion of no confidence is well founded, as there has been an abysmal failure from that side of the House to engender any kind of confidence into the debate or to encourage public following of their particular parties.

In the short time available to me I would like to refer to one issue which is of major importance in ensuring that State and semi-State companies and business generally are accountable so far as they can be to this House but with particular reference to the State and semi-State companies. How often have we put down parliamentary questions in this House to be told, on the one hand, that they are to be transferred from one Minister or another or, on the other, that the Minister has no official responsibily to the House? This is not a reference to the Ceann Comhairle's office, it is an accepted practice and a wrong practice in my view. How else can public representatives be answerable to our constituents unless we have the right to put down parliamentary questions asking about any issue under the sun which is pertinent to a particular Minister's responsibility? A Minister may consider himself — or herself, as the case may be — glib and smart, though I wish to state emphatically that this does not apply to all Ministers. There are some Ministers who are particularly good and forthright in answering questions. There are others, unfortunately, who will use that escape clause again and again to get away from answering directly. The one thing that always happens to such people is that they get caught themselves. If they do not seek the information in order to accommodate the Opposition, the particular individuals in the Departments concerned fully recognise that they will never be questioned anywhere.

In my opinion the fault is with the inability or the unwillingness of some Ministers to give clear answers to specific questions in this House. If they could mend their ways in that direction it would be a great help to this House and would be of greater assistance to themselves and of far greater assistance in encouraging public confidence in Government.

I would like to share my time with Deputy O'Donoghue, if that is agreeable.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Any fairminded person would have to agree that certain members of the Opposition have grossly abused their position of privilege in this House in the manner in which they have hurled accusations against people outside the House without any evidence. That is reprehensible and calls into question the limits to which this privilege can be allowed. As Deputy Dermot Ahern said earlier, the matter must be addressed. It is outrageous and it flies in the face of common justice that accusations of criminal behaviour can be made against people who are not in a position to defend themselves. Too often these Deputies when asked to repeat their allegations outside of the House have refused to do so because they know they are without foundation and would not stand up in a court of law.

The main culprits in this area have been The Workers' Party. It is unfortunate that The Workers' Party, who apparently stem from the criminal activities of the Official IRA and who have had certain links with the disgraced communists of eastern Europe——

I object most strongly to that allegation. I want to record my disgust at his statement and I request that the statement be withdrawn.

Deputy Byrne, please.

(Interruptions.)

These people have actually been aided and abetted by the Labour Party and Fine Gael.

Deputy Byrne, very many allegations have been made in this House in recent times. The Deputy will have to contain himself and he will be afforded an opportunity to reply, if that is what he desires.

It is unfortunate that The Workers' Party with this background have been backed up by the Labour Party and Fine Gael. The Workers' Party have thrown numerous accusations against this side of the House, against innocent people as well.

We did not write the letters.

Accountability was one of the major planks of The Workers' Party. Seeing that the Deputy is in here, I want to have a go at him first. The Workers' Party said that our Ministers should be accountable for certain things that went on in semi-State bodies, things over which Ministers had no control. The Workers' Party call themselves accountable. Can they account for the fact that tens of thousands of pounds of counterfeit money was being printed on their own premises? Account for that, when you talk about accountability.

I object to that allegation being made.

If the Deputy has any information he should give it to the Garda Síochána. The Deputy has made an outrageous statment.

Deputy Byrne will have to restrain himself.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Byrne may not ignore the Chair.

I wish the Chair would castigate——

Deputy Byrne——

A Cheann Comhairle——

You will contain yourself in quietude. If you wish to reply or if one of your colleagues wishes to reply, they will have an opportunity to do so tomorrow.

I know the Chair will appreciate that scandalous allegations would not be in order in the House.

Deputy Byrne, this is not a court of law.

We did not write the letters from Mr. Desmond. They were written by Mr. Desmond himself — amongst other correspondence, I might add.

Mentioning names again.

It is unfortunate that the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party have aided and abetted The Workers' Party. It is even more unfortunate that sections of the media have leapt in to exploit the situation and to again launch an unjustified attack on the greatest of all political parties in the country, giving the impression that every business in this country is rotten. That is the impression that is being created outside of this House.

We did not write the letters.

Deputy Bruton came in here and asked today what this party were doing about the hundreds of millions of pounds that were going out of the country on a daily basis. Who is responsible for that? The Opposition Deputies are, for creating this unfair impression. It is true that the Opposition parties have done untold damage to our international reputation and to our international image.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Bruton, Deputy Spring and The Workers' Party have done this damage.

Is Deputy McDaid serious?

Deputy Bruton has done this, Deputy Spring has done this and certainly Deputy De Rossa has done this.

We did not write the letters.

You are all responsible.

Jimmy O'Dea would have made a fortune out of a pantomime like that.

(Interruptions.)

Please, Deputy Harte, Deputy Byrne. May I remind the House that there is a time limit to this debate and interruptions are particularly unwelcome, if not disorderly.

The Opposition leaders must be proud of recent opinion polls. Some leaders have gained a few points and some parties have gained a few points. The Opposition must be proud of that and of the fact that they continue to gain points at the expense of the country. The Opposition parties are gaining popular percentage points at the expense of the country. They must be proud of themselves.

It is unfortunate that the media have again leapt in to exploit the situation. Last week some of our national newspapers were filled with this type of claptrap. The financial pages stated that damage had been done to investment from abroad by the news from Ireland. Who informed them? Was it the Sunday Tribune, which printed a photograph of the head of Government in the front page and audaciously used words from a Shakespearian play —“Something Rotten”. If one looked down the rest of the page there was noting in the article to back up the headline. This is what is going on in this country at the moment. Fianna Fáil have had to endure a violently hostile press from the day they were founded but invariably the public have had the good sense to overcome gutter journalism before making their decision.

Within the past number of weeks I have severely criticised several commentators and newspaper editors for the manner in which they behaved during these events. One radio interviewer asked me if I was not being paranoid about the media. That could not be further from the truth. I have been very careful to distinguish between good investigative political journalists and those so-called commentators whom I have described as muckrakers. To call them journalists would be a smear on that noble profession. The high priest of these commentators is a man who failed miserably in his political life, after one term failing to get re-elected. This individual has been afforded massive space on the leader page of the Irish Independent for years now to spew out his obvious hatred for Fianna Fáil, and for one person in particular, Deputy Charles Haughey. I quote from his recent piece. It reads as follows:

I shall not believe Mr. Haughey to be politically dead until I see his body buried at midnight at a crossroads, with a stake driven through his heart.

This is one example of impartial, objective journalism. The Irish Independent actually describes that journalist as one of our top commentators. The other top commentator usually takes up the space immediately below him and he is rapidly learning from his master. Added to this type of venomous article is the use of outrageous headlines. Take, for example, the report on the beef tribunal. The eminent chairman of the tribunal used stronger words than those I used. He said they were an absolute disgrace. At least I am not alone in my opinion of that section of the media.

Everybody is out of step except Fianna Fáil.

The greatest party of all time.

Debate adjourned.