Ceisteanna — Questions

Departmental Appointments

Micheál Martin


1 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the basis upon which the new Second Secretary General of his Department will report to the Tánaiste for half of his or her responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18385/11]

Micheál Martin


2 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the appointment of Secretaries General in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18392/11]

Micheál Martin


3 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he is satisfied with the manner in which the vacancies of secretaries general in his Department was announced; the reason theoriginal timescale was not adhered to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18393/11]

Micheál Martin


4 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will provide an update on the filling of the positions of Secretary General and Second Secretary General in his Department. [18841/11]

Gerry Adams


5 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the progress made towards appointing a Second Secretary General in his Department. [19716/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.

In accordance with established practice, these are posts, the filling of which is a matter for the Government. Expressions of interest were sought and have been received for these posts. All suitable officers, irrespective of whether they have submitted an expression of interest, are considered before a decision is made by the Government.

The Government this morning appointed Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, currently Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the European Union, to be Second Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.

The new Second Secretary General will support the operation of two new mechanisms at the centre of Government to enhance co-ordination and effectiveness in the critical areas of EU affairs and economic management. She will have responsibility for supporting the Government Economic Management Council, on which she will report to the Tánaiste, and will co-ordinate support for the Tánaiste in his engagement with whole-of-government issues, including Cabinet committee structures, through an Office of the Tánaiste within the Department of the Taoiseach.

The Second Secretary General in discharging responsibility for EU co-ordination will report as appropriate to me and to the Tánaiste. She will be a member of the management advisory committee of my Department, reporting to the Secretary General of the Department.

My Department has a role in supporting the Government as a collective authority, and operates mechanisms for co-ordinating business across departmental boundaries, especially through Cabinet committees and their supporting groups of officials. It is in that spirit that the Second Secretary General will provide support for me and for the Tánaiste in relevant areas, since in the EU area in particular we have distinct but closely related and complementary responsibilities. This is a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to supporting key leadership functions at the centre of Government and the precise working arrangements will develop in the normal way.

The period since the receipt of expressions of interest, which has been particularly busy as the Government progressed its urgent priorities, has provided an opportunity to clarify some of the issues that are likely to require particular time and attention over the term of this Government. It has also provided an opportunity to consider the particular qualities and experience likely to be of most value in discharging the duties of these important posts. Appointments to these posts are being made in the context of a considered view of how the machinery of government at the centre should operate. I expect the Government to appoint a new Secretary General to the Government and to my Department shortly.

I thank the Taoiseach for his response. I protest at the extraordinary number of questions transferred or disallowed. This is the culmination of a four-month effort by the Government effectively to undermine the status of questions to the Taoiseach. It is very disappointing to the Opposition. In the past number of months, unrelated questions were put together in large groups and specific points were ignored by the Taoiseach in his response. An aggressive approach has been taken to stopping questions. Four of my questions in this group on the same broad topic——

Any question disallowed is done in accordance with Standing Orders.

I have no function in that.

Yes, the Taoiseach certainly does.

The Taoiseach does not actually.

The Taoiseach has been disallowing questions——

I do not disallow them.

The Taoiseach was in touch with people telling them that certain questions are not for his Department.

The decision on whether a question is disallowed concerns whether the question is in accordance with Standing Orders and it is my decision.

There is an extraordinary desire on the part of the Taoiseach not to answer questions. Hence, they get referred to the Ceann Comhairle's office.

Deputy Martin should withdraw that remark.

I repeat that the disallowing of questions is a matter for the Ceann Comhairle. It is not a matter for any Department, including the Department of the Taoiseach. I go out of my way to make certain that no question is disallowed unless it is clearly in breach of Standing Orders.

I have four questions in this group on the same broad topic but I seek some specific points of information. I welcome the appointment of Geraldine Byrne Nason as Second Secretary General, who is a high calibre person, and I wish her well in her appointment. On 8 April, the Government briefed the media that the current Secretary General had been asked to step down a few months earlier because of what was termed, with typical understatement, a sweeping reform of the top of the Civil Service. On 22 June, it was announced that he had been asked to remain for a number of months. It was an early example of an announcement that was overspun and underdelivered. Can the Taoiseach accept that his staff were wrong in the way they briefed about the Secretary General's departure and that this cavalier approach has rebounded on them? In March, the second Secretary General post was supposed to have been filled by someone outside the system. Has the plan about appointing people from outside the system been completely abandoned?

I do not accept that the staff were wrong, nor do I accept their attitude was cavalier. A new Secretary General was appointed to the new Department of public expenditure and reform. A new Secretary General has been appointed to the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs and a Second Secretary General has been appointed to the Department of the Taoiseach, with specific responsibility for economic management control and matters relevant to the Tánaiste and me in dealing with European matters. I am glad that Deputy Martin sees the merit in the appointee announced today, who he referred to as high quality and high calibre. The Government will make an appointment shortly in respect of the current Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach and Secretary General to the Government.

As the Deputy is well aware, a good deal of activity has been going on in the past few months. The Government agreed that the current Secretary General should continue until the end of July. The Deputy can take it, therefore, that between this and then the Government will make a new appointment to the Office of the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.

These appointments are critical in the sense of understanding the mechanisms and the working of Government. The position in so far as persons from outside the existing public service being eligible to be appointed as Secretaries General does and can apply, depending on those who submit an expression of interest or who are deemed to be appropriate and suitably qualified.

In terms of both the new Secretary General to the Department of the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and this appointment it is clear the Taoiseach did not facilitate outside appointments to those positions. What is his position on the broader range of the highest level of Government in terms of opening it up genuinely to outside competition and to people from outside of the system to apply for these positions?

The Deputy is aware, as I outlined previously, that the TLAC is now chaired by an outside person and has a majority of outside personnel on it. In the context of capability and suitability, therefore, this process is very much more open than it used to be in previous years.

It is not open to the people outside the system. That is the problem. Will it be open to people outside the public service?

It has not been to date, despite all the Taoiseach's commitments and promises.

Yes, it has been to date but in these cases, Deputy——

I do not want to cut in on the other speakers.

First, some questions I have also put to the Taoiseach have been transferred to other Ministers which robs me of the opportunity of putting those questions directly to an fear féin. Ba mhaith liom "Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat" a rá leis an bhean a ghlacfaidh an post nua seo. There is a question, in terms of trying to open up all of this, about whether any of these positions or any future senior positions in Government will be publicly advertised. Also, will this new Second Secretary General have responsibility for or in respect of the Economic Management Council and, in particular, how will the Dáil be kept informed of the work of the Economic Management Council?

Déarfaidh mé leis an Rúnaí Ginearálta nua go ndúirt an Teachta é sin sa Dáil agus gur chuir sé fáilte roimpi chuig an post nua atá bainte amach aici. The answer is that she will have responsibility for the Economic Management Council. As the Deputy is aware, that is a council which I chair and which is attended by the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The agenda for that council meeting will be determined by the Tánaiste's office, together with the new Secretary General.

The Economic Management Council meets every week and decisions that are taken in the council go back to Government for final endorsement following which they become public knowledge. From that perspective, the new Second Secretary General in the Department of the Taoiseach will have direct responsibility for the administration and the running of the council.

What I am trying to ascertain is not when they will become public knowledge because I find that I read more about what the Government is doing in the newspapers than I learn here in this Chamber. It is particularly difficult to get answers to questions around the work of Cabinet committees. On his first day in here the Taoiseach made a big play about opening the place up and making the Government more accountable to the Oireachtas. Has he had any thoughts on how an important committee such as this committee can be more open, particularly to people on the Opposition benches?

Cabinet committees such as this one are subject to the normal confidentiality that applies to Cabinet. They do not discuss the contents of the agenda or what is discussed at them. When decisions are made by the council, they are submitted to the Cabinet for formal adoption or are subject to changes that the Cabinet considers appropriate. The answer to the Deputy's question is that one does not discuss the content of items on the agenda of the council or any other Cabinet committee. They are subject to the normal rules of confidentiality. When decisions are finalised, they become public knowledge in the normal way. I would not regard everything one reads in the newspapers as being accurate in respect of what arises from discussions at Cabinet meetings or Cabinet committee meetings.

Some newspapers are more accurate than others from the Taoiseach's recollection.

This is the nub of the matter because I want to believe what the Taoiseach says, or what he is reported as saying. The Taoiseach stated reporting will only occur when decisions have been taken. A committee returns to the Cabinet and it makes a decision, and then the public is told about that decision. What role does the Opposition have in keeping the Executive accountable in this new Dáil that the Taoiseach proclaims to be more open and transparent and more of a people's parliament?

The Deputy is fulfilling that role now by asking questions in the House, to which Members are properly elected. Part of the Members' responsibility is to ask the questions they feel appropriate. It is the responsibility of the Government to be accountable to the House in respect of those questions.

Deputy Martin raised the question of the TLAC. It comprises——

I raised it in the context of the Deputy's question. The committee comprises a majority of external personnel. At each specific interview, the committee will comprise three external members and two senior public servants. With regard to all appointments, or recommendations for appointment, personnel outside the public sector will comprise a majority.

To be fair to the Taoiseach, he has a very good habit of answering questions he was not asked and not answering questions he was asked.

What is the Deputy's question?

My question was not about the composition of TLAC, which has always had external members when assessing applicants. The fundamental question I had concerns the very specific commitments made in advance of the election to the effect that all the posts in question would be opened up to people outside the public service who would be enabled to compete therefor. They have not been allowed to compete for the specific positions that are the subject matter of these questions.

Given that the Economic Management Council now covers such a broad area and is subject to Cabinet confidentiality, does the Taoiseach agree that he has, diaidh ar ndiaidh, extended the cover for his own Department and restricted the grounds upon which it can be questioned in Dáil Éireann? By virtue of the establishment of Cabinet sub-committees, particularly the Economic Management Council, is it not becoming far more challenging and difficult to ask specific questions about economic activity? Does the Taoiseach agree that, far from opening up government, he has extended the cloak of confidentiality over many more Government affairs, particularly in respect of his accountability as Taoiseach and the accountability of his office to the Dáil in regard to a wide range of issues? This goes to the heart of the debate on fundamental reform, the dichotomy between the Executive and the Parliament and the need to create a stronger Parliament, as articulated across the board before the election. If anything, the Parliament is becoming less strong and the Executive is tightening its grip on setting the agenda and dictating the pace of policy formulation, etc.

The positions of Secretary General and Second Secretary General to the Department of the Taoiseach were traditionally filled by the Government without reference to TLAC. The new TLAC is just taking up office and all competitions are now open to external expressions of interest.

My responsibility as Head of Government is to oversee, encourage, motivate and participate in respect of Ministers' responsibilities to ensure the Government's programme is actually implemented. The political challenge ahead is to get to a point when we are in charge again of our own economic affairs. This means overseeing the Government in a way that deals with the fundamental problems of the country. Many people still do not appreciate the scale of just how far our country has slipped in terms of its economic management. We have to get back there.

Through the Economic Management Council comprising the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, the Tánaiste and myself and with access to every Ministry if it is necessary, and the other Cabinet committees, issues that might not normally be dealt with at Government level because of the number of issues that must be decided there can be dealt with through the Cabinet committee structure and then be brought to Government for final endorsement.

From the point of view of being open, I do not restrict questions from the Deputy to the Department of the Taoiseach. The Ceann Comhairle's office has a function in respect of Standing Orders so perhaps it is the way in which the questions were phrased.

Cabinet confidentiality.

Scientific Research

Micheál Martin


6 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the nature and extent of the involvement of his Department on the interdepartmental group on science, technology and innovation; the instructions he has given to his representative on this group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18386/11]

Promoting and supporting research and development, science, technology and innovation, are core aspects of the Government's strategy for supporting enterprise and growing sustainable employment.

As is the long-established practice for many strategic policy areas, an official from my Department participates in the relevant interdepartmental group, in this case the interdepartmental group on science, technology and innovation. This group reports to the Cabinet committee on economic recovery and jobs which I chair.

I receive reports and briefings on progress in this policy area through my role as chair of Government meetings, through relevant Cabinet committee meetings and on other occasions as appropriate, for example when I meet representatives from the corporate sector.

However, science, technology and innovation policy is primarily the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The Minister deals with questions on these issues, including parliamentary questions, on a regular basis.

This is a very important issue. Throughout the years, the office of the Taoiseach and previous taoisigh took a central and vital leadership role in science, technology and innovation. I was involved in devising the strategy for science, technology and innovation, SSTI, which was hailed across the board as a significant strategic step forward in investment in research and development and science and technology. The Taoiseach and representatives of the Taoiseach's office had a very important role in a whole of government approach and bringing other Departments into line with the commitment to this area. There is concern that no Cabinet member has expressed support for giving priority to research funding as part of our economic recovery.

Does the Deputy have a question?

Will the Taoiseach agree there appears to be a marginalisation of basic research without which there can be no applied research? Has the Taoiseach met his officials on this matter and will he seek opportunities to address these concerns of the research community?

The Government remains committed to strategic research and development investment and recently agreed its goal for the duration of the national recovery plan to 2014 is at a minimum to sustain investment in productive research and development at the existing level as something that is fundamental to underpin the reconstruction of the Irish economy.

When I have occasion to meet corporate firms or firms involved in research and development of one sort or another, this is central to the Government's thinking on the redevelopment of the economy. Last week, I met Microsoft and its analysis of the cloud computing potential is of an industry that will be valued at approximately €40 billion by 2014 and that Ireland has significant opportunities to gain substantial elements of this. The workforce in the company whom I met were entirely committed and enthusiastic about achieving this type of goal.

The Deputy can take it that the Government is interested in continuing the priority for research and development investment. It is a central part of what the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is always focused on.

The interdepartmental group plays a central role in monitoring the implementation of Government policy and research activity, and the role of the Taoiseach's Department is essential in terms of cross-governmental statistics. Does the Taoiseach agree that the evidence shows that Ireland's research reputation is at its highest in its history? From his discussions with his representatives on the interdepartmental group, will he confirm that recently released statistics show substantial improvements in our world rankings on research and that these rankings should be accepted, acknowledged, protected and prioritised, rather than dismissed for political advantage?

This is about our country and its potential for the future. It is true that enterprise research and development expenditure increased by 31% from €1.32 billion in 2005 to €1.87 billion in 2009. The share of exports from research and development exporting firms increased from 50% in 2003 to 76% in 2007. Among Enterprise Ireland and IDA assisted firms, the number of companies applying for research and development tax credits tripled from under 200 in 2004 to approximately 600 in 2008. We have all made these cases in the House. The Deputy's party was in government during the years I have mentioned. Research and development has always been accepted as being an important part of Ireland's progress and will continue to be so.

Official Engagements

Gerry Adams


7 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent visit to the ICTU national conference. [19529/11]

Gerry Adams


8 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he held meetings with members of the trade union leadership at his recent visit to the ICTU conference [19530/11]

Gerry Adams


9 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will continue his dialogue with the trade union leadership following his recent visit to the ICTU national conference. [19531/11]

Joe Higgins


10 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Conference in Killarney, County Kerry. [19970/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, together.

I addressed the biennial conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on Monday, 4 July in Killarney. In my speech to delegates I outlined the economic challenges facing our country and reiterated the Government's determination to tackle our difficulties head on. I stressed the importance of building confidence in our country to enable us to re-enter the financial markets, which means making the necessary adjustments to bring our spending and revenue onto a sustainable path. I emphasised the necessity of implementing structural changes to restore competitiveness and make Ireland an even more successful location for investment, enterprise and jobs.

I made it clear that the decisions we will have to take will be neither easy nor popular. However, I reassured those present that they will be fair and balanced and will support our strategy of getting the country back to work. I commended the public service unions and their members on the scale of the adjustments which have already taken place under the Croke Park agreement, while also seeking an acceleration of the process with the co-operation and good will of the trade unions concerned.

I also referred in my speech to the ongoing discussion about the regulation of pay and conditions in certain sectors. The Government is committed to the protection of vulnerable workers and the reversal of the cut in the national minimum wage is a clear demonstration of that commitment.

When it comes to the wage setting machinery of joint labour committees, employment regulation orders and registered employment agreements, the fact is that everyone has long accepted the need for change. This has been the common view of employers and congress for some time. The High Court judgment delivered on 7 July underlines the need to press ahead with a balanced legislative reform agenda in this area.

I confirmed my intention to follow up my recent meeting with ICTU with further meetings to review the broad areas of mutual interest and concern as part of a wider process of ongoing social dialogue. I propose to engage with the other social partners in a similar spirit.

Táim buíoch don Taoiseach as freagra soiléir a thabhairt dom. Tá sé soiléir fosta go mbeidh daoine bochta, daoine atá ceangailte leis na JLCs, i dtrioblóid mhór roimh sos an tsamhraidh. An bhfuil aon phlean ag an Rialtas chun reachtaíocht a ghlacadh go gasta chun seo a chur ina cheart?

The Taoiseach referred to difficulties facing lower paid workers, particularly in light of the recent High Court finding on joint labour committees. Lower paid workers have been left particularly vulnerable and it is Sinn Féin's view that immediate action is needed by the Government to rectify this matter before the summer recess to protect such workers in the short term. In the longer term, we argue for proper and adequate legislation to sustain the joint labour committees and address the issues raised by the High Court judgment. What action does the Taoiseach have in mind to resolve this urgent issue?

The Government made the decision to reverse the cut in the minimum wage and that has taken effect. The situation arising from the court decision of last week was considered by the Government this morning. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will now proceed with all haste to bring about a restructured response to the outcome of the court case. The vulnerability of some workers is of concern. From that perspective, the Minister will move as quickly as possible.

There are now limited protections for workers, because of contracts entered into. This is a matter the Government feels should be responded to as quickly as possible. It will not, however, be possible for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to have the matter rectified before the summer recess.

Is this not another scandal? In the Taoiseach's own words, "There are now limited protections for workers". These are people who are already at the lowest end of the chain. The Government is saying there are limited protections and the Minister will not be able to introduce emergency legislation to provide what should be, in any republic or indeed in any society, minimum guarantees for them and their families. Would the Taoiseach not reconsider his response and give a clear commitment that emergency legislation will be brought in? Sinn Féin would facilitate this and would work, before the summer recess, to ensure these people are not left over the summer break open to being exploited. Not all employers are exploiters but some are exploiting these poorly paid workers.

The Deputy is aware that the court decision deemed the structure in place to be unconstitutional. That applied from the moment of the announcement in the court. There have been references to this matter in court cases over a number of years but nothing was done about it. It would not be possible for the Minister to rectify an issue that has been struck down constitutionally with legislation as complex and as robust as would be required between now and the start of the summer recess. The Minister is aware of the necessity to conclude this matter comprehensively and he will do that when he brings his report to Government as quickly as possible.

I note the comments from employers that no serious action should be taken arising from the decision of the court. This time of year is a very busy period for workers involved in these sectors, although that is not an excuse for saying nothing may happen. However, elements of legislation that have been there for quite some time have been struck down as unconstitutional. There were indications, many years ago, that something should be done about those elements but nothing was done.

I do not accept that this is not possible. Everything is possible. Given the will of the Government and of the Opposition to protect these workers, if we decide to do it we can do it. What happened to "Is féidir linn"? Where are all the big speeches? This is a test of a Government. It is not simply the full flow of rhetoric. It is a test of a Government that as we approach the summer break we are telling these people and their families we cannot do anything. I do not accept that.

There are not sufficient grounds for appeal in this case. The court determined that the legislation in place was unconstitutional. Is féidir linn rud a dhéanamh, ach taobh istigh de am faoi leith. Ní féidir linn é a dhéanamh amárach nó an tseachtain seo chugainn.

Is féidir leis an Rialtas.

To draft a response to something that has been deemed unconstitutional by the court takes more than rhetoric. It takes a great deal of analysis about the complexity of the legislation. The judgment is 42 pages long, covering a broad range of issues and the response has to be comprehensive and all encompassing. That is a matter on which the Minister will focus his priority over the coming period. We would like to think he could have that done by next week but that would not be possible. Ní féidir linn é sin a dhéanamh taobh istigh de sheachtain amháin.

I am sure the Taoiseach will agree this is an important issue in terms of the protection of hundreds of thousands of low paid workers. In his discussions with the trade union movement, it is clear the movement, in the first instance, sought that this decision would be appealed. Has the Government received advices from the Attorney General in this regard? Why has an appeal not been lodged to the High Court decision or an application for a stay on the execution of the judgment pending the outcome of such an appeal? If the Government has considered such advices, will the Taoiseach outline the reasons, it will not appeal the decision? We all know of the divisions within the Government on this. For the past two months, Ministers have publicly articulated in the media different perspectives on the JLCs and how they should operate and their positions on them. The suspicion lurks that the ball is in the court of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and that he has his opponents within the Cabinet where he wants them. Why has the Government not taken the decision to appeal the High Court judgment?

There are no opponents in the Cabinet. This is a Government focused on rectifying many of the problems that Deputy Martin left behind him. We examined all the possible legal avenues to try to find a way to do this. The Attorney General has advised the Government that there are insufficient grounds for an appeal and, as a consequence, the Government is focused on the priority of dealing with the outcome of a complex court decision in respect of the unconstitutionality of the legislation. The Minister will proceed with all haste to provide a comprehensive response to the complex, wide-ranging decision announced by the court.

With regard to the timing of the Bill relating to the JLCs-REOs, why can legislation dictated by the EU-IMF be rushed through but not legislation to protect low paid workers? Can the Taoiseach assure us, whatever about the timing of the legislation, that it is the Government's intention to ensure low paid workers covered by JLCs-REOs will not be financially worse off than they are now? That is the assurance the unions and low paid workers in the retail, catering and hotel sectors, hairdressers and so on, who are the working poor, want. They want an assurance that they will not be made poorer as a result of the legislation brought forward to deal with the issue. That is what the people and the unions representing low paid workers want to know.

The decision of the court was unequivocal in respect of the flaws in the legislation. The Government will respond to that and this will be a reform of the structure that was deemed to be unconstitutional and the elements thereof. That reform will seek to protect workers while, at the same time, allowing for greater flexibility than applied heretofore.

That is not an answer. It was a straight question.

European Council Meetings

Micheál Martin


11 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will elaborate on the clarification given to him by EU leaders at the European Council in June that if anything untoward were to happen in Greece that Ireland would be protected. [20075/11]

I reported to the House on 28 and 29 June on the meeting of the European Council that took place in Brussels on 23 and 24 June. While there was no detailed discussion of the economic situation in Ireland, in its conclusions the European Council welcomed the progress we have made in implementing our programme and agreed that it is on track.

In discussions with partners, I stressed not only the need to ensure that all elements of a programme, including pricing, contribute to a positive outcome, but also the need to ensure that measures taken to address the situation in one member state do not have negative consequences for another. That is especially necessary in the case of countries in a programme.

The point was well-taken by colleagues, and is reflected in last night's statement by eurogroup Ministers which states that "Ministers stand ready to adopt further measures that will improve the euro area's systematic capacity to resist contagion risk", pointing to a number of possible measures in that regard. These include enhancing the flexibility and the scope of the EFSF, lengthening the maturities of the loans, and lowering the interest rates, including through a collateral arrangement where appropriate. Proposals to that effect will be presented to Ministers shortly.

Ministers have also tasked the eurogroup working group with proposing measures to reinforce the current policy response to the crisis in Greece. This includes the modalities for financing a new multi-annual adjustment programme, steps to reduce the cost of debt servicing and means to improve the sustainability of Greek public debt. The reinforced strategy should provide the basis for an agreement in the eurogroup on the main elements and financing of a second adjustment programme for Greece shortly.

Does the Taoiseach agree that, in essence, the Council has signally failed to contain the Greek crisis because it has delayed everything it does, and it continues to delay? Since early March many statements have been made but no action has been taken. It is now more than four months since the interest rate on this country's loan was held to be unsustainable by the Council. That was part of an agreement also to change Greece's terms. What happened last evening is a European-wide decision. We were bystanders more or less because of the fear of contagion in terms of Italy and Spain and the alarm that has sent around the euro system.

I asked the Taoiseach about the matter last week. I put it to him that it is important for him to publish the text of the Van Rompuy offer to him at the meeting of 11 March on reducing this country's interest rate in return for a vague statement on co-ordination on tax matters. To date, the Taoiseach has refused to publish the text. It is now being reported generally that this country was not asked to concede its corporation tax in the Van Rompuy compromise offer and neither were we asked to concede on CCCTB. That begs the question of whether we failed to take the opportunity to get an interest rate reduction as far back as March when we could have got it for very little in return and that we have lost four months as a result. Could the Taoiseach confirm that this was the essence of the Van Rompuy formula that was put to him on the evening of that meeting?

I can confirm that is not the case. Deputy Martin's question relates to clarification given by EU leaders at the European Council in June. In making the case in respect of reporting the progress being made by this country, European leaders were cognisant of the fact that countries in a programme which are measuring up to the conditions of that programme should be protected. The Council was not going to make decisions about that because decisions were being taken in respect of the response to the Greek crisis.

The situation Deputy Martin described as being "reported generally" is not accurate.

Could the Taoiseach——

I will be clear about it. This country was asked to increase its corporate tax rate. I refused to do that. I assume Deputy Martin supports me in that. The outcome of the decision is still being negotiated.

The Deputy is also aware that the provision of a wording that might be deemed to be an acceptable compromise does not mean that any such attempt would be acceptable to everyone at such a meeting. What Deputy Martin reports is not accurate.

Why is the Taoiseach ducking and diving on the question of the Van Rompuy formula? Why will he not simply publish it because then we could make a judgment on it?

Will Deputy Martin put a question please? The Deputy's time is up.

For some strange reason the Taoiseach gets very touchy about this. He will not publish the formula itself and he keeps ducking and diving to avoid the question.

I am not ducking and diving in any way. The Deputy is telling me that texts were circulated at the meeting of 11 March which would have allowed Ireland to obtain an interest rate reduction. I am saying to him that I sat at the table representing this country and I refused to accept an interest rate reduction that was contingent upon Ireland increasing its corporate tax rate.

No. The Taoiseach confirmed the Van Rompuy text himself.

Sorry. We are over time and I cannot allow any more questions.

He confirmed here in the House that it had happened but he would not release the text, and he still will not release it.