Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011

Vol. 739 No. 3

Eurozone Heads of State and Government Meeting: Statements

Statements are confined to the Taoiseach and to the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group. I call the Taoiseach to make his statement.

As the House is aware, I will travel to Brussels tomorrow for a meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the euro area. The meeting has been convened by the President of the European Council, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, to discuss the future financing of the Greek programme and the stability of the euro area as a whole. These are vitally important topics and the meeting will be an important one. It is important to note at the start that it will not be the be all and end all. The crisis in the euro area will not be resolved overnight. There is no one magic solution or silver bullet. At our meeting tomorrow, we will consider important proposals but there will be further meetings and further steps to be taken before this matter is finally resolved.

Since the crisis began, a vicious cycle has emerged. Pressure builds, a meeting is convened and expectations are raised unreasonably. Decisions are taken but they are never sufficient to the address build-up. Rather than gaining confidence, the markets are disappointed and pressure begins to build again. The cycle continues. This is corrosive and damaging, and the consequences are real for countries that find themselves at the centre of attention. I hope we can have a measured debate which does not raise expectations beyond what can reasonably be achieved.

That is not to say we should abandon all ambition for a strong and clear outcome which is credible, workable and durable. The markets are watching and the pressure on member states has spread and intensified in recent weeks. In our work tomorrow, we will focus on progressing the agreement reached at last week's meeting of Finance Ministers, which has been the subject of serious work by officials since then. At their meeting, Ministers reaffirmed their absolute commitment to safeguarding financial stability in the euro area. They stated that they stood ready to adopt further measures to improve the euro area's systemic capacity to resist contagion, including through increasing and enhancing the flexibility and scope of the EFSF, lengthening the maturities of the loans and lowering the interest rates and collateral arrangements, where appropriate.

Ministers also discussed the main parameters of a new multi-annual adjustment programme for Greece. As the House is aware, the Greek Government has demonstrated political determination and courage in securing parliamentary support for the serious reform programme which will be necessary if the country is to recover. It deserves great credit for this and delivery on its programme will be tough but essential. At their meeting, Ministers called on the Greek Government to sustain its efforts and to meet commitments in full and on time. They noted that responsibility for resolving the crisis in Greece lies primarily with Greece but recognised also the need for a broader and more forward-looking policy response to assist the Greek Government in its efforts to achieve debt sustainability. It was also accepted that there is a need to safeguard financial stability in the euro area as a whole. In that context, Ministers asked officials to propose measures to reinforce the current policy response to the crisis in Greece, including exploring how a new multi-annual programme for Greece would be financed, steps to reduce the cost of debt servicing and means to improve the sustainability of Greek public debt.

The results of this ongoing work, which will be progressed later today at a meeting of key senior officials in Brussels, will form the basis of tomorrow's discussions. It is, therefore, not yet possible to say what precisely will emerge from our meeting and, as we know from hard-won experience, it is unwise to speculate on these matters. As I stated in the House yesterday, we need an outcome that offers certainty and security for the future. My main priority will be to ensure an agreement that has positive implications for Ireland. While the focus will be on Greece and the parameters for a new programme for that country, what is proposed for one member state cannot be taken in isolation. The countries, like Ireland, which are already in a programme, as well as those which are coming under pressure in the markets, are alive to the real danger of contagion and negative read-across. I will be watching carefully and working to ensure that what is agreed for Greece does not make our progress and eventual return to the markets more difficult.

I will also work to ensure that any element of the new arrangements for Greece which might be of benefit to us is given wider application. The Government has long argued for greater flexibility for the EFSF. I am pleased to see this is now back on the agenda. The point we have made all along is that the purpose of a programme is to contribute to recovery and growth. This is a shared goal of the recipients of loans and those who guarantee them. It is necessary that conditions be imposed but they should not be such as to undermine this fundamental and central objective or else we are all wasting our time. The type of elements now being considered, including lower interest rates, longer term loans and greater flexibility of instruments, have the potential to make a positive contribution. On interest rates, we know the specific issues that have arisen for Ireland and we will continue to press for the reduction in interest rates agreed in March to be applied to us. However, a wider question also arises. It is worth recalling that the complex method of calculating interest rates under the EFSF was agreed when no country had sought assistance from the facility and the question was, to an extent, academic. There were some who argued that there was a need for the margin imposed to be such as to deter any member state from entering into a programme lightly. This was presented as an argument against moral hazard. In light of experience more realism has entered the debate and there is a wider appreciation that the strictures of a programme, namely, the pain of adjustment and the accelerated pace of reform, are more than sufficient deterrent. No country would seek assistance other than in a situation of last resort.

A number of other possible adjustments to the operation of the EFSF are also under consideration. Until these are thrashed out more fully and tabled as proposals, there is little to be gained from speculating on what they might mean for Ireland and others. However, as I have already pointed out, the Government has supported the principle of increased flexibility and I hope a positive outcome on this can be secured when we meet tomorrow.

I will seek an outcome that is good for Europe and for the eurozone, settles nerves in the markets and sends a clear and positive signal that we are going about our work in a committed and productive way. We have all lost count of the number of times we have discussed in this House crunch meetings for Europe. The crisis has been long and sustained and criticism of the decisiveness and leadership of key figures has become widespread and commonplace. However, in the interest of balance it is important to remember that we are engaged in a process of learning in which new territory is being charted day by day. This week's meeting will be important. The danger facing the euro area and the very currency itself is real and present. This week's meeting will not resolve all these matters but I hope it will demonstrate our capacity to act in a way that begins to restore confidence and momentum and arms us well for what lies ahead.

While the specific agenda for tomorrow's summit is still uncertain there is no doubt about how serious the issues are. The leaders have what may well be their final chance to show they are capable of addressing the crisis engulfing the eurozone. There is no longer any doubt that only dramatic, fast and comprehensive action can stop the situation becoming much worse. The key principles for action were agreed in February but the repeated delays and unforgivable inaction since then has spread the uncertainty which was supposed to be tackled.

This summit is happening because the chairman of the euro group, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, looked with clearly escalating panic at what is happening to Greece, Spain and Italy and understood there is no more time. If Europe's leaders departed for their August breaks without taking action they might return to find a greater emergency and the end of the common currency. The Prime Minister, Mr. Juncker, is an experienced and knowledgeable leader. He does not exaggerate and he was right to request that the summit be convened. It may well be that full and final agreement is not possible but the constant uncertainty which comes with acknowledging problems and failing to deal with them has to end and be seen to end.

When Greece was given funding last year every country acknowledged that a more formal and comprehensive system for providing financial aid was now required. This was done only in part. Markets did not believe that the measures agreed were strong enough to deal with all possible eventualities. Instead of properly appreciating how widespread the contagion could be, there was a belief held by many that the only issue was that of a few errant countries on the periphery. This formed part of what lay behind the regular and deeply damaging briefings in October and November as a prelude to Ireland's financial programme. At that stage it was again agreed that the programme was too inflexible and needed to be made less onerous. No negotiation was possible on the interest rate because the policies agreed earlier in the year did not allow for it. The parties in the new Government have consistently refused to acknowledge this until today in the Taoiseach's speech and they know that their posturing on the issue before the general election was part of just another short-term political game on their part.

In the first two months of the year there was a strong sense that the European Union needed new policies to provide enough funding to be able to support even a large country; change the duration and cost of debt repayments to make them more sustainable; and introduce fiscal rules which would provide confidence in the medium and long term. Each of these was agreed to in principle in February and included in the 11 March communiqué. Unfortunately, only the fiscal rules element was implemented quickly. The delay, uncertainty and anonymous briefings turned a confidence-building initiative into one which has had the opposite effect.

The threat to the euro is not some abstract theory or the fantasy of doomsayers. The common currency can only survive if member states continue to see that the alternative would be much worse and if investors have faith in it. Ireland, with others, has always accepted very serious constraints on its ability to act because of its commitment to collective action by states, but the status quo is no longer credible and something must give. For the sake of the European Union, I hope there is unbending resistance to debt restructuring rather than the currency.

The Greek Government has taken many brave steps in addressing a fiscal crisis which has been developing for 20 years. It has shown that it is different from its predecessors and deserves extra time and greater flexibility. Greece does not have Ireland's export base or a number of our other long-term strengths and it started this crisis with a dramatically higher debt than ours. There is no evidence that it can sustain its debt and repayment burdens and a failure to acknowledge this with each new plan continues to be a root cause of the escalating crisis. Whether it is through buy-backs in the steeply discounted market or any other range of moves, Greece's sovereign debt needs to be restructured now rather than waiting for a more uncontrollable default in the future. The availability of the European Stability Mechanism, ESM, for a second round of financing needs to be fully nailed down by leaders. A combination of a restructured debt, secure medium-term funding and the economic plans of the Greek Government can see the country through. We should support it in this.

The role of the European Central Bank in this matter has been, at best, controversial and, at worst, extremely negative. At a time of such crisis the bank should not be falling back on technical rules to stand in the way of an essential policy. Its threat to withdraw all funding for Greece if there is even a technical credit event confirms once again that its rigid orthodoxies serve the European Union badly.

It has been this country's policy since last year to seek to impose significant losses on bank bondholders. Our proposals were vetoed by the ECB because of its fear of a contagion, which has happened. Unilateral action was not and is not an option because of other funding realities for the banking system and public spending. However, the reality of the deep discounts which the markets have imposed on bond values shows that the risks arising from imposing significant losses on bondholders are lower than ever. The late Brian Lenihan provided for this in legislation and imposed the first haircuts. The Fine Gael and Labour Party Government likes to ignore this when using the legislation. Where once the valid argument was that imposing bondholder losses would provide a fatal blow to Ireland's ability to return to the market, the evidence today is that the failure to impose losses is undermining our ability to return to the market. Both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, have repeatedly said they do not intend to raise the issue of bank bondholders until the autumn. They have done this, even though they have worked to hype minor announcements as being deeply significant. If the Greek debt issue is being addressed, so too should the Irish bank bondholder issue. We took on large parts of the debt because of a Europe-wide policy of avoiding imposing investor losses. If this policy is to be relaxed on the much more serious issue of sovereign debt, we must inform our colleagues that there will be significant losses imposed on bank bondholders.

One of the most ridiculous developments in recent months has been the lengths to which the Government has gone to claim credit for developments in which it played no serious role. The ESM announcement of a few weeks ago was a classic example of the genre. On the Monday morning the Minister for Finance said it did not relate to Ireland but was welcome nonetheless. By the Tuesday the Taoiseach was hailing a great strategic victory. He appears to be the only person left in Europe who believes it was a wise decision to leave the debt and interest issue in the hands of the finance Ministers. The hands-off approach failed miserably and the momentum towards action evident in January and February disappeared.

Having spent months spinning the idea that Ireland had undertaken a diplomatic offensive, the facts show that there has been no initiative whatsoever. During the general election the Taoiseach went to Berlin to show how he would lead from the front, directly engaging with European leaders. In the four months since he has failed incredibly to hold a single bilateral meeting with a eurozone leader and yesterday he stated he had had no personal contact with a eurozone leader in the run-up to the emergency summit. Just like his personal commitment to Roscommon County Hospital has now been denied, so too has his pledge in Berlin of personal diplomatic leadership been dismissed. Given the amount of time the Taoiseach and his Ministers have invested in attacking predecessors for supposedly failing to meet people, the complete absence of personal action is incredible. Perhaps if they had been less concerned with partisan attacks, they would have been able to arrange a diplomatic initiative. There will be a reduction in Ireland's interest rate and there should be a move on the issue of bank debt. The Taoiseach will no doubt be unstinting in his praise of himself, but any progress will happen because of an overall decision which he and his Ministers have played no serious role in influencing. His approach has been to sit on the substitutes bench and claim credit for the goals scored.

Only three hours have been provided for the summit, including lunch. Some are already trying to talk down the likely outcome, but the issues involved go beyond anything which can be spun for the sake of media headlines. This is one of the most important summits in the history of the European Union. It falls on the leaders to show that they can rise above the crisis and that they will take measures to help member states and restore confidence. The can must not be kicked down the road again.

It is welcome that there will be a special summit on the European debt crisis, but its handling by the Government since taking office has been appalling. We heard much guff during the election campaign about not putting another penny into the banks and about Fine Gael acting differently. Within the next ten days the Government will inject over €19 billion of taxpayers' money into the banks. During the election campaign the Tánaiste was presented by the Labour Party as a Taoiseach in waiting and he declared that it would be "Labour's way, not Frankfurt's way". The Government has set aside all of these commitments, shredded the manifesto and proceeded to implement Fianna Fáil policy. It has also blamed Fianna Fáil for every decision it has had to take and Fianna Fáil stands condemned for the mess it created. Fianna Fáil is no longer in government and its members are not going to the summit. The Taoiseach will attend instead and will have choices to make.

Sinn Féin wishes the Taoiseach well and wants him to stand up for the citizens of the State and Irish interests. Our parties represent different interests and the reality is that our so-called partners in the European Union are set to benefit to the tune of nearly €10 billion owing to the penal rate of lending, which is scandalous. The Taoiseach must renegotiate on this issue this week. The leaders of France, Germany and other EU states have made decisions not in the interests of the European Union as a whole but in their own national interests and the Taoiseach should follow their example. He should not see himself as a observer at the summit, rather he should make it clear that the EU plan for Greece, Ireland and Portugal has failed and that the medicine is killing the patient.

Ireland is unlikely to be in a position to return to the international bond markets in 2013 and Irish debt has been rated as junk by one of the leading ratings agencies. The EU-IMF plan is junk and must be dumped. The Taoiseach should say this clearly and directly. From our perspective, the Government's priority at this summit needs to be to ensure Irish debt is brought to a sustainable level. We cannot tackle this debt crisis by taking on more debt. Payments to unguaranteed senior bondholders should be stopped. If they are not, all bondholders will receive €4.3 billion before the end of September. The closure of accident and emergency units is one of the social consequences of this policy. Almost 500,000 people are unemployed. Our elderly citizens are being forced to decide between paying bills and buying food.

We could argue about the efficacy of the Government's negotiating strategy and tactics. It has spent five months negotiating an interest rate reduction, but it has failed to achieve such a reduction so far. When the reduction is agreed, it will save the Exchequer €150 million per annum. It will not apply retrospectively to money that has already been drawn down. In 2001, the Government has pumped €3.1 billion of taxpayers' money into zombie banks like Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide. As I have said, our EU partners will benefit to the tune of almost €10 billion from the exorbitant interest they are charging on these loans. While the interest rate reduction will be welcome — Sinn Féin predicted some time ago that it will come — it will amount to very little when considered in the context of the profits our partners are making, the tens of billions being pumped into the banks to pay for their mistakes and the hardship being endured by our citizens.

The ECB policy of protecting bank bondholders, whatever the monetary or social cost, makes no economic sense. It is economic madness. It is reckless. The Government needs to call time on it. The policy being implemented is leading to dangerous social consequences for our citizens. We are seeing it everywhere. I am sure the Taoiseach has first-hand experience of it. The Government has chosen to retain the universal social charge and to introduce new taxes on property and water. We are familiar with the forthcoming household charge. Schools are losing special needs assistants. I have referred to the plight of patients in our hospitals. Young people are having to emigrate and almost 500,000 citizens are on the dole.

The Taoiseach needs to impress on the other eurozone leaders that the Irish people are no longer prepared to carry the can for the gamblers and speculators in the finance and banking sectors. To date, he has refused to listen to Sinn Féin's advice on these matters. That is his entitlement. Sin é. That is his choice. All of us have had to learn to listen to opposing voices. The Taoiseach represents us all at this summit. As he has testified on many occasions, Ireland is a good place. Our people are good people. They do not deserve to be walked over. The Taoiseach needs to make a stand.

When I spoke a number of weeks ago, before the previous European summit, I gave the Taoiseach two messages. First, I told him that we are in the middle of a hostile negotiation. From day one, the people we are negotiating with have acted explicitly against the interests of this country and its people. Second, I said the Taoiseach should remind those he meets in Europe that they are not bailing us out. We are bailing them out. There is a net transfer from the Irish people to European financial institutions. If that message can get through, it changes the conversation. The Minister of State with responsibility for Europe responded to me by saying I did not understand the situation. She started to defend Angela Merkel by saying her actions needed to be seen in the context of her political needs. In response to a parliamentary question I tabled recently, the Minister for Finance as good as denied any knowledge of any threats by the ECB to Ireland, despite the fact that Professor Honohan went on the record and spoke about those threats on television. It is worrying that the response of the Taoiseach's team to my last message was based on a combination of deference and denial. Therefore, I will transmit a different message today.

The Taoiseach said in his opening address that "we need an outcome that offers certainty and security". I do not think that can be achieved by treating debt with more debt. Europe's failed approach has put the survival of the euro at risk. That was inconceivable a small number of months ago. I suggest that the Taoiseach might raise the possibility of Europe printing money, which is what the UK and the US have done. UK exporters to Ireland have a 30% price advantage over our domestic business community as a result of this approach. The ECB is not allowed to take such action, however, because it is required to keep inflation in Europe below 2%. If the rules can be relaxed and we can agree to higher inflation of 5%, 6% or 7% for a few years, we will have a huge advantage. If we print money — it is known as "quantitative easing" — we will erase debt in real terms at the sovereign level, the banking level and the personal level. It would make Europe far more competitive as an exporting zone. I ask the Taoiseach to bring that to the table at the summit.

I would like to echo what my colleagues have said in wishing the Taoiseach well at tomorrow's vital summit. I am a little concerned about the message he sent in his speech. There seemed to be a complacency about this meeting that did not exist two days ago, before Mrs. Merkel said yesterday that Germany does not expect a sudden solution to be found on Thursday. We need a sudden solution and we need it now. The Taoiseach said "the crisis in the euro area will not be resolved overnight". The Taoiseach and I know that Ireland is very close to midnight. That is not what Mrs. Merkel is saying. We should not doff the cap to her so often. The markets are saying clearly that Greece is bankrupt and is going to default, that Portugal is going to default and that Ireland is going to default. There should be no shame in defaulting if that is necessary. No shame on our part is attached to the fact that our rogue bankers borrowed money from European banks.

The Irish taxpayer must not be held to ransom in Europe tomorrow by the Taoiseach. No concessions should be made. We do not need what the Taoiseach carefully called "a measured debate" in here today. We need a passionate debate which says we are going to Europe with the message that Ireland comes first. I am distressed by the pattern that was evident again when we listened to what Mrs. Merkel had to say yesterday. The emphasis in the Irish voice moved from a sudden and immediate emergency to a direct reflection of what Mrs. Merkel had to say. We do not need to do that. We are almost whistling past the graveyard at this stage. It will not be good enough to hear the mantra or message of "we will do a little better on the interest rates" once more.

We should bear in mind that the Minister for Finance said a few weeks ago that the interest rate does not matter very much at this stage. He said that as an excuse at a time when he was not being very successful, but he was right. The importance of the interest rate issue is diminishing by the day. We should not hear about how the fund will get bigger, or how the maturities will be extended. The problem is far greater than that. This summit should produce results for Ireland and for Europe. We cannot postpone it any further because the markets will not tolerate it. The message from the markets after each of the recent big summits and each announcement has been to give the thumbs-down to Ireland, Greece and Portugal. The bond yields have headed up after each solution because it was a fudge. I ask the Taoiseach to take to Brussels the message that Ireland is not ashamed to advocate default in the context of a structured and agreed default within the European context. He should emphasise that we need surgery, rather than a band aid.

I repeat my earlier call for the Dáil to sit on Friday or Monday so Members have an opportunity to hear from the Taoiseach and question him about what happened at this summit, which might be the most important conference ever held in the EU.

I do not believe in the normal cry from members of the Opposition for us to come in during the holidays, but this is the most important event that has happened in the Taoiseach's term in office and it would not be too much to ask that he comes back here and that we have an opportunity to find out what happened at that conference.

Will the Taoiseach go to the EU tomorrow with a clear statement that this madness must end? Since 2008 there have been €20 billion in cuts. These have come in charges, levies, taxes and increased interest rates on mortgage debt all across the line, and taxes on low and moderate incomes. This policy has enormously deepened the recession. Demand has been cut by 25%, and yet still we have an €18 billion budget deficit. We are not one step further on. Austerity has not worked and it will not work, and that message must go to the leaders of the European Union.

As the Taoiseach will be aware, this country needs growth and jobs. It needs to reduce welfare costs and increase the tax base. Another €4 billion of austerity next year would be a disaster. It would be a slow economic strangulation of the economy, and we cannot tolerate it. The words, "Can't pay, won't pay," are on everybody's lips. The Irish people cannot take anymore. On top of this, the burden of the bank bailout is not sustainable. Apart from being immoral and unjust, the idea that a solution will come — on which I agree with the Taoiseach — with the problems surrounding the EU on Thursday is wishful thinking.

The EU project has run up against a simple fact. It is still a Europe based on nation states with national interests. French banks are most exposed to the Greek write down and state that they are in opposition to debt sharing between the banks and bondholders. On the other hand, the German taxpayers will not swallow bailing out peripheral countries. At the same time, we are told that we must be good boys and girls and take the cuts.

We need a new approach. We need to reject the rotten IMF-ECB deal that has wrecked the economy and the health, education and social services and that is destroying lives and livelihood, and we must default. We must call for a cancellation of the debt, along with Portugal and Greece and the other countries now being affected by the euro crisis. It is not a crisis; we are nearly facing into an abyss at this stage.

I put it to the Taoiseach that we must also raise with the European Union that Ireland should leave the euro if it does not accept cancellation of the debt to re-finance the State and re-inflate the economy. On the banks, we must abandon the bailout. These are failed entities and we must start anew, take control and ownership of our banking system and use that then to release money into the economy which is not being released now. We must set up a new bank to deal with mortgage debt, write down the debt of mortgages and release the debt burden on people.

As the Taoiseach heads off to this meeting, has it dawned on him even a little that the EU, IMF and ECB simply do not have a clue what they are doing, and that the policy of bailing out the bankers and the bondholders and imposing brutal austerity on ordinary people is not only unjust but is making the crisis worse and is spreading the contagion? Has it occurred to him — flashed on his radar screen at all — that the EU-IMF medicine is a poison that, rather than curing, threatens to kill the patient? Has it crossed his mind that the EU, IMF and ECB do not care what happens to ordinary citizens here, working people and those with special needs, but are simply acting as the agents of the financial markets and big corporate interests which want to asset strip this country, Greece and Portugal just as they have done elsewhere?

Does the Taoiseach know, for example, anything at all about the history of the IMF and the trail of destruction, poverty and war that it has left in its wake as it has gone in to assist countries? Does he know, for example, that two champions of IMF austerity and privatisation programmes are General Pinochet in Chile and the not lamented former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and that the IMF policies they imposed on their countries in so-called structural adjustment devastated those countries and their people? Does the Taoiseach want to go down in history in the company of tyrants such as Pinochet and Mubarak who imposed such brutal policies on the people of their countries? Does it jar with the Taoiseach that as he and others in this House, and the bankers, developers and politicians who helped create and preside over this crisis, head off on their holidays, hundreds of thousands of working people here will not have any holidays and will not even know whether they can meet the bills over the summer months? Is it not time to say the bankers and financiers who caused the crisis should pay for it and that our natural resources and the wealth in our society should be used to create jobs and protect public services and the vulnerable in our society instead of bailing out the insatiable monster that has wrecked the European economy?

I agreed to this debate yesterday because of the request made by Members that we should have a pre-Council discussion here, and on the basis that this is a meeting of the euro zone and it is important. I thank all of the Members who contributed to it.

Deputy Martin made two comments relevant to what is on the agenda for tomorrow: that something should be done about bank debt and that there will be an interest rate reduction. Those were the two essential points of relevance for tomorrow's meeting that came from the leader of Fianna Fáil, and he talked about all the other extraneous issues that are irrelevant to what is on the agenda for tomorrow.

Deputy Adams, in fairness, has not deviated from what he articulated previously. I disagree with it, but he put it on the record. Deputy Donnelly made a, from his point of view, valid suggestion, that we should have security and certainty, for which I thank him.

Deputy Ross left after delivering his message about complacency. We recognise the challenges that the country faces. We are financed up until the end of 2013. There are options being discussed now, for instance, in regard to Spain, as to what other facilities might be made available. I want to see, if anything is being given of benefit in respect of the difficulty arising from Greece, that the same applies to this country. In the absence of Deputy Ross, I can tell him that the Dáil will not sit here on Monday but he will have an opportunity to go to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and give his views.

Deputy Joan Collins spoke about austerity not working and increasing the tax base. She stated that what we need is more work and I agree with that. We need a new approach. She rejects the IMF deal and stated that the county must default and that we should leave the euro. Does she have any idea——

——of the consequences of what she is talking about?

Does Deputy Joan Collins have any idea of the consequences of what she just put on the record of the House?

I have an idea of what is happening in the country.

Deputy Boyd Barrett spoke about Pinochet and Mubarak. I have no intention of being equated with those individuals——

——nor have I any intention of leaving aside my duties when the House is in recess.

The discussions currently going on in terms of the agenda to be determined for tomorrow are important. Obviously, the issues that have been put out here need decision by the eurozone leaders and as I have stated to the Dáil, I hope the process of making decisions, separate from any private sector involvement here, will demonstrate that the eurozone countries are prepared to back themselves up, particularly in regard to a country like Ireland which has met all the conditions of the austere and challenging circumstance in which we find ourselves. From that point of view, I am keen to see a situation where decisions are made that bring to an end the concern and anxiety about a contagion spreading from Greece to other countries. That is why the meeting is taking place now. There is a range of issues on which, I hope, the meeting will focus in order to make decisions.

We have gone through the process of imposing significant burdens on subordinated bondholders. As I said, we do not regard that book as being closed in regard to Anglo Irish Bank. However, people should be clear on what they are arguing about. A failure on the part of a private enterprise, even one that must be taken into public ownership as a result of chronic mismanagement, is one thing — that is part of the commercial reality in which people operate — but the situation of a country is very different. The failure of a country to pay back what it has borrowed causes real and lasting damage to its reputation and future ability to borrow. It causes great pain and suffering for its people who must bear the brunt of any such action. This is something countries only do only as an absolute last resort.

I realise several countries have been pushing hard to have the private sector share the load of the public purse in any new arrangement for Greece. This reflects the fact that in several countries it has become increasingly difficult for the government to secure the agreement of the Parliament on what is needed by way of support from others. I cannot inform the House what will be agreed tomorrow — nor can anyone else who intends to attend the meeting of the eurozone Heads of State — whether the private sector will play a part and, if so, to what extent. However, I will continue to do everything possible to impress upon the leaders and partners the need to ensure what takes place does not damage this country's interests. We are implementing our programme, working hard and delivering. This is not the assessment of the Government but that of the IMF. It would be a great injustice if our prospects for recovery were to suffer a setback through no fault of our own.

Deputy Martin called for this debate yesterday. Although I do not agree with them, there were other suggestions from Deputies not elected for any party. Deputy Martin has stated his position clearly, as he has always done. All I got from the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party were comments on issues related to Roscommon County Hospital, to this, that and the other.

That is not true. The Taoiseach should not be outrageous.

The Deputy made two comments which were fundamental to the agenda.

Obviously, what I said hurt.

First, he said something should be done on the issue of bank debt——

I said a good deal more than that.

——and, second, that there would be an interest rate reduction.

The Taoiseach did not deal with the issue.

This was without evidence or an idea or offering a proposal about what we should do in the context of the agenda to be discussed tomorrow.

I gave the Taoiseach proposals. Obviously, what I said hurt. My speech did not sit well with the Taoiseach who told us nothing.

It will be my duty and responsibility tomorrow to defend Ireland's interests, to participate in the European discussion on decisions that must be made to prevent the spread of a contagion, to prevent that risk from materialising, to provide for some certainty and decisiveness for the future. That is what I intend to do.

To defend what? What is the Taoiseach putting on the table?

Deputy, please.

I will think about granting requests for these debates in the future when we will allow Deputies to bring forward serious propositions.

Is the Taoiseach a dictator or something? He is going to think about it.

I have heard some suggestions, but, regrettably, all I have heard from the Deputy is that there will be an interest rate reduction. He did not even have the temerity to state how that would happen. I look forward to participating in the meeting tomorrow and will be pleased to report progress in a variety of fora when it is over.