Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 20 Oct 2016

Vol. 925 No. 3

Leaders' Questions

We are all aware that the Brexit result sent shockwaves across Europe. It has very serious ramifications for the future of the EU and our island. We all agree that hard borders should not be reintroduced between North and South and that the common travel area should remain. There have been positive soundings about these but there have been mixed messages about how this special relationship between Ireland and the UK will be handled. It is most unfortunate that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was excluded from a recent Cabinet committee on Brexit set up in London. What the Tory Government does is outside our control but if the way it treats Northern Ireland is an indication of how it will treat the Republic of Ireland under special treatment, it does not give much cause for hope.

I want to focus on what the Irish Government needs to do because this is having a detrimental effect on businesses. It will have a detrimental effect in the medium and long term on businesses across this island. Preparations should be started to allow companies to be shielded and to give them comfort during what will be a very uncertain two year-period while negotiations take place. Companies that are reliant on exports need to be given the necessary supports to give them the confidence to ride out the storm of this uncertainty over the next two years. Through no fault of their own, good businesses that have been built up over the past number of decades are facing hugely uncertain times. While there have been many soundings about being prepared, very little action has been taken to show that we are actually prepared.

We have already seen the impact of the dramatic drop in sterling on businesses here. Some companies have already closed while others are at the edge of the cliff working at a loss and hoping that sterling will rise again. I spoke to a business in my region in the prepared consumer food sector that is working on a net margin of between 4% to 5%. It is now suffering a loss of between 20% and 25%. That is not sustainable. We know that the small and medium-sized sector employs over 780,000 people, particularly in rural Ireland, and is the backbone of employment in the regions. IBEC has called for a currency crisis fund to be set up but it appears its request has fallen on deaf ears. A total of 42% of our tourism market comes from the UK and the impact of the fall in sterling will reduce this dramatically.

Some predict it will be reduced by as much as 10%. Last week's budget underscored the seriousness of Brexit and the threat it poses to Ireland. It was just tokenism against the greatest threat that has faced the Irish economy for many decades. I am worried about the businesses that depend on exports. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will make a fund available to help shield Irish companies from Brexit and assist them in working through the uncertainties over the next two years until we all, eventually, know what will be the real outcome of Brexit?

The Government recognises the enormous challenges that face Ireland as a consequence of Britain's decision to leave the EU, including for farmers and exporters, as a result of the currency changes the Deputy mentioned, for the tourism industry, which is so dependent on visitors from the UK, for the service industry and for individuals. As the Deputy said, what the British Government decides to do is a matter for it. However, we can control what we do and we can prepare. The Government's sub-committee on Brexit, of which I am a member, met this week. The sub-committee discussed the very important actions that have been taken. There is additional funding in the budget for the employment of extra staff by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to ensure our message is heard overseas. Notwithstanding the performance of tourism, it was decided to keep the VAT rate at 9% for tourism and hospitality, recognising the risk that there may be a fewer tourists coming from the UK. We are rolling out a new low-interest loan scheme to farmers valued at €150 million to help with cash flow. There is a new business support scheme related to risk sharing under this development. The Deputy may be aware that the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Doyle, arranged for a payment of just under €1.57 million to one of the mushroom producer organisations under an EU scheme.

We are acting to deal with the immediate consequences caused by the uncertainty and the fall in the value of sterling that have followed the vote. We are also planning ahead. The Taoiseach will visit Northern Ireland on 3 November and will meet all the party leaders and chambers of commerce. We will establish an all-Ireland civic forum to discuss the consequences of Brexit. It will be of particular relevance to Border communities which are most at risk from Brexit. The next North-South Ministerial Council summit will occur on 18 November in Armagh, which will give us an opportunity to discuss the consequences of Brexit with the Ministers from the North and work out how we can work together to meet those challenges head on.

Although we were told that the budget would be Brexit-proofed, this has not proven to be the case. During recent weeks and months, I have spoken to business owners in my region. It is not like when the Taoiseach tells the story of the man he met the night before who was having a pint. I spoke with the owners of real businesses who are creating real jobs: one had created 100 jobs, another 170, and another 500. Every one of them is dependent on exports and they have a real fear about the outcome of Brexit. Our region has already suffered job losses during recent months and we do not want any more. The Minister talked about the 50 staff recruited for IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. Most of these were recruited before Brexit happened. The Minister talked about the retention of the 9% VAT. It has been in place for many years. I acknowledge that it was the Minister's Government that put it in place and it was a welcome boost to the industry at the time. Everybody who works in the tourism industry has real concerns about Brexit here and now. I will reiterate the question I asked at the beginning and perhaps the Minister will answer it this time. Will the Government make a fund available to help Irish companies that are dependent on exports and vulnerable to currency fluctuations work through the uncertainties of the next two years so that, hopefully, they will be able to ride out these uncertainties and be in a stronger position after the two years' deliberations?

I cannot give the Deputy a specific commitment today. I am not in a position to make policy decisions on the hoof. Some funds are already available. For example, a payment has been made to a producer in the mushroom industry and, as part of the budget, a low-interest loan scheme to the value of €150 million is being put in place for farmers.

Falls in the value of sterling have happened before. They can happen independently of any concern or decision around Brexit. They work both ways. For some companies, they can be devastating, moving them from a position of profit to one of loss. For others, they can be a benefit. If companies import from the UK, for example, their costs will be reduced. Although it is not possible for every industry, the solution for most is to diversify and not be dependent on one market.

I will leave the Deputy with a final thought. Four times in its history, Ireland has gone down a different road from the UK. In 1921, we became independent, which came with challenges. In 1948, we left the Commonwealth and became a republic. There were challenges associated with that. In 1979, we broke the link with sterling, which came with challenges. In 2002, we decided to join the euro without Britain and, of course, there were challenges with that. On every occasion, we rose to those challenges and Ireland emerged stronger and more prosperous as a result. We will ensure that the latter will also be the case on this occasion.

The Minister's colleagues in government have consistently refused to tackle and put a stop to the outrageous proposed increases in politicians' pay. He will agree with me that we are all well paid. Deputies earn a basic salary of €87,258. It is a wage that many workers would envy. Indeed, it is a wage that the majority of workers will never earn. Of course, the Minister and his ministerial colleagues take home much more - in excess of €150,000 - but let us stick with Deputies.

The proposed increases of more than €5,000 would bring a Deputy's salary to over €92,000. That is unacceptable, in particular at a time when Deputy Varadkar, as the Minister for Social Protection, is telling pensioners that they are worth an extra fiver per week and young people who are out of work are worth even less than that, a mere €2.70 per week. He still has not told social welfare recipients when they will get their increases. He might enlighten us in that regard.

The issue is one of fairness. That is what is driving pay disputes among gardaí, nurses and teachers. Today, Sinn Féin is publishing a motion that will stop these unfair payments to Deputies, Senators, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister. This is not because we do not believe that people should be fairly paid but as a result of the fact that it is unfair that someone who is on €30,000 or €40,000 per year, an average wage in the public sector, gets pay restoration of €1,000 while Deputies expect to be paid €92,000.

Where is the Northern Bank money?

At a time when €5 is the best that the Minister can do for pensioners and many private sector workers, politicians cannot and must not get special treatment. We need to put a stop to this. That is what citizens wish to see. That is the fair thing to do. Will the Minister give a commitment that the Government will act properly and legislate to stop unjust pay increases for political representatives?

I thank the Deputy. The situation is as follows: there are no pay rises and no pay increases proposed for politicians. There have been no pay rises and no pay increases for politicians since 2008.

What is happening in respect of Deputies is a restoration of some of the pay that was cut from their salaries as a consequence of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act. With respect to Ministers, pay was cut by 35%. We will not be accepting any restoration. The Taoiseach's pay was cut by 40% and he will not be accepting any restoration. The pay of Ministers of State was cut by 25% and they will not be accepting any restoration. Therefore, the Deputy does not need to include any provisions in this regard in her Bill. We will not be accepting any restoration because we earn more than €100,000 and have special responsibilities as officeholders to hold the line when it comes to public sector pay across the board.

For Deputies, the situation is slightly different. The pay of Deputies is, as it should be, linked to that of other people in the civil and public service, specifically to the rank of principal officer. Deputies should not decide their own pay. A link was established between the pay of Deputies and that of principal officers some years ago and it should remain. We do not want to go back to what Deputy McDonald wants, namely, a situation where politicians decide what they are paid. The link between the pay of Deputies and principal officers will remain and if pay is restored for other public and civil servants in line with the Lansdowne Road agreement or any agreement that may replace it, it will apply accordingly.

It is interesting to hear Deputy McDonald attempting to lecture me about what I am saying to pensioners and social welfare recipients in this jurisdiction. Sinn Féin is in office in Northern Ireland, where it tells pensioners, people who are unemployed, carers and people with disabilities they are worth less than £100 per week. The Deputy's party tells lone parents in the North whose youngest child is six years of age that they should not be treated any differently from other lone parents. Do not pretend to me, Deputy McDonald, that somehow your party is not in charge of that. Remember what you did because you were not willing to make decisions around welfare in Northern Ireland.


This always happens with Sinn Féin when it does not want to hear the truth.

It would be helpful if the Minister would address his remarks through the Chair rather than to the Deputy. I ask Members to have a little respect and allow the Minister to respond.

This always happens because Sinn Féin does not want to hear the facts. We all know what happened in Northern Ireland where the party's representatives voted to transfer the powers relating to welfare back to London in order to avoid making decisions. They then tried to claim they never had those powers. In fact, they did have those powers but they voted to transfer them back to London for a period of time so that the British Government could make decisions for them. That is what Sinn Féin means when it talks about republicanism and sovereignty. It is about making popular decisions when it suits and, when it does not, transferring the decisions to others.

The Minister might raise his concerns regarding welfare recipients in the North with the Tory Government. He might also raise the issue of partition. That would be a helpful thing if his concerns are genuine. I am fully conversant with the facts in this scenario. It is the Minister who turns his head away from the very simple fact that the proposed increases for Deputies, Ministers, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste simply cannot be justified. He reflected that fact in his answer when he clung to even the most implausible of explanations for those increases. We in this House earn more than €87,000. It is enough. I wonder whether tax-paying citizens reckon they are getting €87,000 worth of value out of everybody seated here? I wonder whether tax-paying citizens reckon they are getting €150,000 worth of value from every sitting Minister? That would be an interesting question to pose to the public.

The Deputy's time is up.

I know, and the Minister should know that there is no public tolerance at this time, when a fiver is given to pensioners amidst great fanfare and €2.70 is afforded to young people out of work, for so-called political leaders having the brass iron neck to suggest our generous salaries and the Minister's generous salary should be hiked up again.

The Deputy's time has elapsed. I ask her to resume her seat and allow the Minister to respond.

If the Government is not prepared to legislate on this matter, will the Minister, his ministerial colleagues and others, including on the Fianna Fáil and Labour Party benches, support the Sinn Féin motion?

If Sinn Féin gives us access to the Northern Bank account, we will.

I ask Deputy McDonald and all other Deputies to adhere please to the ruling of the House that sets out particular times-----

I was watching the clock.

That includes-----

I was watching the clock. The Fianna Fáil speakers went over time.

Yes, and I asked them to do likewise.

Deputy Ferris always had a keen eye.

I will ask the Minister, likewise, to adhere to the rules.

The Deputy always had a good aim. He always had a good sight line.


Can we have some order please to allow the Minister to respond?

Perhaps we should have a special new session where Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin can have questions among themselves and see how that dynamic plays out.

That will happen after the next election.


It might be handy to have a GP on the sideline.

I will, of course, pursue Deputy McDonald's suggestion of raising the issue of the paltry welfare payments paid to people in Northern Ireland with the Tory Government. I will also bring it up with the Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland, Mr. Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who is a Sinn Féin Minister-----

The Minister, Deputy Varadkar, should look somewhere else.

Again, I am being interrupted mid-sentence because Sinn Féin is terrified of the facts and really hates the truth being spoken in this Chamber.

Deputy McDonald is correct in saying that she is paid €87,000 per year as are all of the other Teachtaí Dála who are on her party's benches now. However, they claim that they only draw the industrial wage. Perhaps Deputy McDonald will tell us how much they return to the State. Perhaps she will tell us why the exact salaries of special advisers in Northern Ireland are not published, even though those of their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland are published.

I thank the Minister.

Perhaps she will tell us how much money Sinn Féin MPs, including some who are now Teachtaí Dála, claimed from the British Treasury for jobs they never did. Perhaps she will explain why they-----

The Minister is over time now. I call Deputy Michael Lowry on behalf of the Rural Independent Group. The Deputy has three minutes.

The Minister has not answered my question.

Before raising some questions about Templemore Garda training college, I would like to commend the Government for prioritising Garda recruitment. Obviously, the accelerated and expanded recruitment campaign is very welcome from a national perspective and will help to address the deficit in Garda numbers.

The increased activity at the training college in Templemore will make an enormous contribution to the economic and social life of Templemore town and its community. This growth in college activity must be sustained into the long term. However, there are currently practical and logistical problems that need to be addressed. There is a need for more bedroom accommodation. Additional classroom space is required and parking around the college has become a nightmare for everyone, including those working in the college and locals living in the town. At present, there are 450 students at the college and another 200 students will start there on 20 November. From February to November of next year, 800 new recruits will attend the college. We now have serious accommodation and facilities problems at the college.

The Department of Justice and Equality is currently preparing a competitive tender for hotels to provide bedroom accommodation and classroom facilities. I am anxious to ensure that the competition will be run within the county of Tipperary and that no excuse will be made for moving some of that work to Dublin or elsewhere. I also want to raise the concerns of the catering and cleaning staff of the college, whom I met recently. They have a hugely increased workload, are completely understaffed and they feel that they are being treated very unfairly. There is a great deal of discontent, which has led to a threatened strike because staff are so overburdened.

I would also ask the Minister to consider a more permanent accommodation solution. The Office of Public Works, OPW, against Garda advice, purchased 200 acres of land in Clonmore, which is about eight miles outside Templemore. This land was purchased at an outrageously high price. The OPW paid in the region of €5 million for it but it has become a green elephant. Nothing has happened there since it was purchased. There was a security patrol on it for years and now it is being leased as farm land.

There was a grandiose pie-in-the-sky plan to relocate the driving school, the firing range and the Garda mounted unit to this land. It was never going to happen. It is not going to happen. I suggest that this land should be sold and that land available adjacent to the Garda College should be purchased to facilitate these plans. Will the Minister confirm that the multi-tiered block of office accommodation will go ahead? I understand that officials in the Department are attempting to invest €2 million in that. Will the Minister tell me what is the status of that project?

I thank Deputy Lowry for his acknowledgement of the reinvestment in the Garda that is occurring under the leadership of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald. I will give some examples of that investment. We provided for 457 new vehicles in 2014 and 486 new vehicles in 2015. More than 500 new vehicles will come on stream this year, compared to just 50 new vehicles in 2010 when the party opposite was in power. We have provided an additional €205 million to equip gardaí with much-needed new technology and ICT equipment. The number of civilian staff will be increased to provide support services and thereby allow gardaí to concentrate on their front-line work. The aim is to increase the strength of the force to 15,000, with Garda Reserve and civilian staff being in addition to that. A big programme of investment in Garda stations is under way. Anyone who passes Kevin Street Garda station on his or her way home today can take a look at what is being done there.

On the specific question of the Garda College in Templemore, I assure Deputy Lowry that the Government is committed to the target, as set out in the programme for Government agreed by Fine Gael and the Independents, of increasing the strength of the force to 15,000 gardaí. The Government reopened the Garda College when it restarted Garda recruitment in 2014. The Tánaiste has secured funding for the recruitment of 800 gardaí in 2017. It is anticipated that this level of recruitment will continue until the strength of the force reaches 15,000 by 2021. A major OPW programme of works to improve the accommodation and blocks in the Garda College in Templemore is necessary and well advanced. Plans are being drawn up and the Minister is seeking funding from within her Vote to allow these works to proceed. It is also acknowledged that further work may be required to provide additional facilities. The Garda and the OPW are analysing the needs and precise requirements for the coming years. We are confident that we can meet our target of putting 800 recruits through the college next year without significant additional works. It is essential that we ensure An Garda Síochána has the capacity to train larger numbers without any diminution in the quality of its training programme, to provide appropriate supervision to support newly qualified gardaí and to ensure the victims of crime are well served.

Deputy Lowry will be aware of the crucial role the training college plays in the local community in Templemore. It is a significant source of employment in north Tipperary and the surrounding region. Templemore will be part of the significant investment programme that is under way in An Garda Síochána, as will funding for the new forensic science laboratory, which is a very important facility. Budgetary increases have also been provided for regulatory bodies like the Charities Regulatory Authority and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

I welcome the Minister's comments. I ask the OPW to expedite the development programme. We need a tiered office block and training centre on the site in Templemore. The Minister told me recently that it is at an advanced stage and I welcome that.

I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister and the Department of Justice and Equality that a disagreement has arisen involving rent arrears at Templemore Golf Club. The golf club, which was founded in 1970 and is affiliated to the Golfing Union of Ireland, was controlled by the Garda authorities before it was handed over to the civilian membership by agreement. I am anxious to ensure the golf club, which has 300 members who value and appreciate the facility that is available to them, is retained. There are options to expand and develop the Garda training facilities at Templemore without encroaching on the golf club, which is used extensively by the local community. I would ask that the development programme would take account of that. In other words, it can happen without encroaching on the club.

The Deputy might invite the Minister to play a round.

I do not have any detail in front of me in relation to the golf club or the other site mentioned by the Deputy. I know this is a matter of great interest to him. This important national facility is located in his constituency. I think Templemore has served the Garda and the State extremely well over the years. I refer to the quality of the training that is provided at the college and the quality of the supports that are available in County Tipperary.

I was speaking to the Tánaiste earlier this morning, and I know she is back later today. I will certainly bring Deputy Lowry's comments to her attention. I know she will be happy to engage directly with Deputy Lowry on the matter.

This is a great opportunity to ask Deputy Varadkar a fundamental question. Where would he lead this country if he were Taoiseach? One aspect I wish to delve into is whether Deputy Varadkar is more Berlin or Boston in his attitude and thinking. A key example is where Deputy Varadkar lies on the issue of how we care for caring in this country.

We know now that Fine Gael does not want parents to care for their children in the home. We know this through the introduction of certain measures, including the combination of tax individualisation and supports for alternative care, something we also support, but also by the discrimination or lack of any support for parents who raise children in the home. In this way, Fine Gael is steering us in a Boston direction with all the downsides that brings.

Deputy Varadkar seemed to make it clear at the weekend that any further supports for parents in the home is out, that any supports for parents who might use childminders - again, they would be working in the home - is out and that any supports for grandparents who do that valuable and most important work is out as well.

No doubt, Deputy Varadkar will come back to us and say that the Government has just put in a paternity leave and benefit Bill. I very much welcome the fact that we now get two weeks parental benefit compared with getting nothing in the past. As part of this fundamental question of whether we go in the direction of Berlin or Boston, I wish to cite the fact that in Germany, as in 30 other European countries, people have potential access to up to three years of parental leave for either the father or mother. The Government maintains we are going all Scandinavian in the measures it is introducing, but I will outline the reality of what the Scandinavians do. In Norway, they provide paid parental benefit of up to 59 weeks. In Sweden they provide this leave for 480 days and have certain provisions to ensure the father takes up the leave. In Denmark, they take 52 weeks of parental leave. In case Deputy Varadkar makes the point that we have child benefit, those countries also have child benefit at €50 higher than our level. We are creating a system that amounts to going down the American corporation route to running our country. Would Deputy Varadkar have anything more to offer if he were leading Fine Gael in government, or is that it?

In fairness their next leader could be Deputy Paschal Donohoe.

Has Fine Gael locked us into a system that discriminates against parents in the home through our tax system and the provisions we have made? Does the Government have any plans for further improving parental leave or other measures that could help all parents equally and in such a way that the State does not determine or decide how people raise their children? Are these Government plans in the interests of the corporation rather than the interests of the children? That is what Fine Gael is doing at present.

Thank you, Deputy Ryan. I do not think that we can focus on the leadership of any particular party, but certainly the child care issue is critical.

We can hear from Deputy Coveney next week and the Tánaiste the week after.

Deputy Varadkar, on the child care issue, please.

I am happy to talk about the issues. I think that distinction was created by Mary Harney, someone I admire very much individually and as a politician. I have always taken the view that the attempt to create a distinction between a vision of Boston on the one hand and Berlin on the other to be somewhat bogus and a little outdated. It is somewhat outdated in many ways that the Green Party is still thinking in that way. There is a serious difference between a Christian Democrat Berlin and a Social Democrat Berlin, just as there can be a major difference between a Boston run by Republicans and a Boston run by Democrats.

I am unsure whether Deputy Ryan knows much about American companies, but I had the pleasure to visit Facebook recently, which is an American company that provides four months paid paternal leave to all employees. That is quite extraordinary and is very much to be welcomed. This is an American company that no doubt Deputy Ryan would like to characterise as something rather different.

Our view, as a Government, now and for the future, is that it is the role of Government to support families and to enable them, as much as possible, to make the best choices for themselves, their families and their children. How do we make that real? What policy decisions have we taken to show we are serious about that? First, we have introduced the second year of free preschool. That saves parents, on average, €4,000 per child per year. As Deputy Ryan acknowledged, we have introduced paid paternity leave and paternity benefit for the first time. That started in September and the uptake from those measures has been rather encouraging.

I will be publishing those statistics soon. It is our intention to extend that and provide an additional two weeks of parental leave which can be shared by either parent. That requires legislation and funding but we have made a commitment to do that. We have also brought in free general practitioner care for children younger than six years and we intend to extend that to all children younger than 18. In the budget one of the increases that perhaps went unnoticed was an increase in maternity benefit and paternity benefit. As the Deputy is aware, we are going to bring in a radical and new programme to subsidise the cost of child care, for all parents, for young children and for parents, subject to a means test, of older children.

We have also increased the home carer’s tax credit which was not acknowledged by Deputy Ryan. There is a tax credit for home caring parents worth €1,000 a year which allows income up to €5,000 to be sheltered from any taxation. That was increased by €100 or 10% in the budget and that increase takes effect in January, long before the child care measures in September. We are supporting the home caring parents first, before the child care measure comes in. As the Minister for Finance has indicated it is our view that in the coming years, and I am sure this would be true for anybody in Fine Gael, should the economy allow it, we would continue to increase the home care tax credit to recognise the value of parenting at home and we will continue to expand the child care subsidies to support families to make the decision to go for one or two incomes should they choose to do so.

There is a difference between Boston and Berlin so it is perfectly valid to use that in a question because in Boston, as in the rest of the United States, there is no statutory right to leave to help parents, whereas there is in Germany and Scandinavian countries. The Minister gave me no answer as to what fundamentally he would do differently. He seems to agree with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, about the measures the Government has announced, which absolutely discriminate at scale against parents who decide that their best approach, whatever way, is to raise children at home. Fine Gael seems to have nothing for that. It gave a €100 increase in the tax credit. The total value of that is approximately €7 million as set out in the budget. The Government has given four times as much for sheep welfare as for the welfare of those parents raising children at home. That speaks about where the Minister stands. I hear the Minister promise possible increases in that tax credit. I would like to see the provisions that are given to one parent given to all. Let us treat parents equally, as they do in Scandinavia. The Minister is not going in that direction, he is going in the Boston direction. That is a mistake and it is wrong. I would oppose the Minister’s leadership of Fine Gael if that is the direction he wants to go in. I would be interested in what the people behind him think.

Is there going to be a vote?

How will they vote?

Is Deputy Ryan a member of two parties?

What about Frances?

I hate to disappoint Deputy Ryan but he would need to be a member of Fine Gael in good standing for at least two years before he had an opportunity to vote on that question.

He does not appear to be contemplating it.

I would buy Deputy Ryan a pizza if he were.

He is doing a head count.

It could well be two years or more so perhaps he will have the opportunity to join up. I understand the Minister, Deputy Zappone, is from neither Boston nor Berlin but from Seattle. Leaving that aside, I have a radical suggestion for Deputy Ryan, rather than try to ape systems in other countries, whether Boston, Berlin or the Nordic countries, we should strive to take the best from Boston, Berlin and the Nordic countries and maybe even the best from Singapore and other places around the world-----

The idea for Seanad abolition came from Singapore.

-----and design a vision for Ireland that suits our culture and aspirations. The aspiration of this Government is to support families by doing the things I have mentioned already, expanding maternity, paternity and parental leave-----

Not for all families.

-----by reducing the cost of health care and education for children and supporting stay at home parents through the home care tax credit, child benefit and subsidising child care. We do not want to force Irish people and families to make a choice between Boston and Berlin, we want to build the best model for everyone.

That was a reasonably good audition.