The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is leaving with his letter.
If ever there was an example of blatant arrogant refusal to be accountable and do the opposite it is the refusal by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers to answer my question. They denied me the right to have my question answered, and this from a Government which has no public mandate and was formed as a result of a modern day Irish style coup d'état.
I did not ask for something special, unreasonable, unnecessary or inessential. I asked the Government to be accountable to taxpayers for the manner in which it spent moneys on special projects between Christmas 1996 and 4 March last and to give an aggregate comparison in amount terms between Christmas 1996-97, Christmas 1995-end February 1996 and the corresponding period for the previous year. Everyone knows that the Government spends money like it is going out of fashion; it throws it around like snuff at a wake. All one has to do is to give a pet project to a Labour or Democratic Left TD or, latterly, a Fine Gael TD and it will be funded on the spot. This puts the stroke politics of yester-year in the shade. All we are short of witnessing in this spending spree is grants for pooper scoopers.
My question sought information on each and every one of these projects in the interests of taxpayers who want the Government to be open, transparent and accountable and to justify the rampant overspending which seems to have consumed Ministers. I ask the Taoiseach to state honestly what the Government is doing. The decision to deny my question represents blatant dishonesty by the Government and is a deliberate concealment of how, where and why taxpayers' money is being spent. I ask the Taoiseach at this late stage to ensure my question is resubmitted to all Departments so that taxpayers have an opportunity to study the details on how, where and on what basis their money is spent. If these details are provided we will have a much clearer view of the criteria, if any, used by the Government and the Minister for Finance for the spending of taxpayers' money. I am firmly convinced that there are no criteria.
The Government does not have vision, and while the Minister for Finance had one it has been diverted to other interests. The ultimate objective and motive of the Government is to buy votes during the next general election. The Culliton and FORFÁS reports on how the economy should be managed have been ignored, cast aside and consigned to dust filled shelves in Departments. We all know that taxes are folowing into Government coffers. However, I ask the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers to stop spending them in the current manner. They are spending money as if it is going out of fashion. They cannot believe their luck in getting their hands on the loot and they are throwing it about like snuff at a wake. It is not their money, it has been entrusted to them by the people for the specific purpose of forging their destiny, but the Government seems to want to forge its own destiny by buying votes. It is funding every pet project in every community. The Government is indulging in the worst form of self-delusion but the people are not fools. They will take the money but they will not deliver the vote. They will give the Government its answer at the earliest opportunity because they know they are not getting value for the billions of pounds the Government is spending. They know the Government is mortgaging away their children's destiny.
I have a professed regard for the Minister for Finance but he has been slaughtered by his leader, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Welfare. The manner in which this Government is being mismanaged was best illustrated recently in a cartoon in The Irish Times which showed the Tánaiste on a bicycle firmly holding the handlebars and pedalling with fury. Minister De Rossa was pedalling desperately to keep up with him while the poor Taoiseach, armless and with no handlebars, was floundering behind. The cartoon clearly illustrates a Taoiseach who is directionless and out of control having totally capitulated to his junior partners. Not alone has he lost the handlebars of State but he has lost the hands with which to attempt to control them.