Order of Business

As Leader of the House, I congratulate Senator Pearse Doherty on his election to Dáil Éireann and commiserate with all other colleagues, especially Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, who fought such a great campaign.

Before detailing the Order of Business, the programme for national recovery agreed with the European Union and the IMF was the subject of much deliberation over the weekend. I am endeavouring to set time aside on the Order Paper for a discussion on the programme this week. I seek the agreement of the House to have an all-day debate on Thursday. If colleagues have their submissions prepared, I intend to include it in the business of the House to be ordered for Thursday.

The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on North-South co-operation in relation to sex offenders, to be taken at the conclusion of the Order of Business and conclude not later than 5 p.m., if not previously concluded, on which spokespersons may speak for eight minutes and all other Senators for five minutes and Senators may share time, by agreement of the House, with the Minister to be called upon seven minutes before the conclusion of the debate for closing comments and to take questions from party leaders or spokespersons; and No. 35, Private Members' motion No. 19 regarding the Government's four year plan, to be taken at 5 p.m. and conclude not later than 7 p.m.

I join the Leader in congratulating Senator Pearse Doherty on his success in the Donegal South-West by-election. I also congratulate the Fine Gael Party candidate, Barry O'Neill, on his performance.

He came second and the Fianna Fáil Party candidate came third.

Please allow Senator Fitzgerald to speak without interruption.

Senator Buttimer should give his leader a chance.

We have heard many times from the Government that everyone must share the pain to allow the country to move forward. While those in receipt of social welfare, the elderly and young children in classrooms must share the pain, it is clear from the deal the Government has done with the International Monetary Fund and other partners that bondholders will not share the pain. People are furious that bondholders will not share the pain while everyone else is being asked to do so. That is the outcome of the negotiations which the Government has concluded. People are also concerned about the raiding of the National Pensions Reserve Fund and the interest rate associated with the bailout. The euro continues to face critical problems which will have to be addressed. It appears Ireland is paying a heavier price than it should pay as a result of the decisions taken in recent days.

Parliamentary democracy was abandoned during the negotiations on the deal. Why will the deal not be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas? Why was so little information made available to the parliamentary process, namely, the Dáil and Seanad? The deal will not be put to a vote in the Dáil. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the House debate it today to give Senators an opportunity to put forward our views. The abandonment of parliamentary democracy is a continuation of what has been clear for a long time. This side has consistently raised the fact that much negotiation takes place and many announcements are made outside the House. We have seen this occur again in recent days and weeks. How can people have respect for politics when the Government shows so little respect for our political institutions? We must restore respect for politics. Surely, therefore, discussing the IMF-ECB deal in the Houses and having the Government provide more information is the correct approach? We are receiving more information from the Governor of the Central Bank and the European negotiators than from the Government. I call on the Government to provide much more information for members of the public, the media and the Houses.

I congratulate former Senator Pearse Doherty on his election. It is important that the House does so. Perhaps it would be better to avoid mentioning that the main Government party came third in the by-election.

In light of comments made in the House last week, including by Senator Paul Bradford, I congratulate the ICTU on organising an effective, responsible and civic-minded demonstration on Saturday. The march afforded people an opportunity to express their viewpoint in a manner other than at the ballot box. The demonstration will not have harmed the negotiations in which the Government was involved at the time. If anything, it will have helped the Government. When done properly, demonstrations are welcome. As Senator Bradford correctly noted last week, it is appalling and gives the wrong impression when protests degenerate into incidents such as storming the gates of Government Buildings or Departments. They are welcome, however, when done in a responsible and civic-minded manner.

In light of the issues raised by Senator Fitzgerald when calling for an early debate on the recent deal, the Leader should provide time for debate on another issue which emerges from all that has taken place. An issue emerges in the middle of all this and I wish we had time to discuss it, as it was to discuss such issues this House was established. Matters such as neutrality, sovereignty and independence are being confused and made to appear almost synonymous in much of the debate. Neutrality was never meant to be a concept in which nations would stand idly by while a wrong was being done. Similarly, the concept of independence does not exclude or rule out our having a shared view on global or international issues, while sovereignty is not lost in accepting help from another country or member state. None of this would be the case anymore than if we were to stand in line to help another country or member state, financially or otherwise, we would be taking away some of its sovereignty. That is the vital test. We would not do such a thing but would help by showing good will. We should not confuse a threat to or loss of sovereignty with a loss of good government which is an entirely separate matter.

It is not good for the country to face into a general election with people feeling a new Government would not be able to rule with full sovereignty and independence. Of course, it will be stuck with whatever the current Government will leave it and that is a fair and important point to make. However, we do not want to say to the people that there is nothing left to rule, that this is no longer an independent country and that we can no longer make decisions for ourselves. That is patently not true. We should focus on how we have come to be where we are and I hope we will do this in the debate which Senator Fitzgerald has proposed. In that sense, the blame game must definitely be played because one cannot walk away from these matters without apportioning blame. However, we must also look forward and create a sense of optimism and enablement for the people as we face into a general election.

Whether we have a debate on the IMF-EU programme either today or on Thursday, I would have thought an essential first step would be circulation of the document to Members of the Seanad.

We have not seen it.

We are working on a need to know basis.

Where is the document about which people are talking? Like everybody else, I read the newspapers. Is it not bizarre that not even one screed of paper on what this incredibly important programme is supposed to contain has been circulated to us? We are told the memorandum of understanding is before the Cabinet and will be published and brought before the Dáil. Can we see the document? The first principle in having a debate is that we should know precisely what it is we are to discuss. It is extraordinary that we have seen nothing. I receive material every day, as, I am sure, colleagues do. I have paper up to such a height in my office on legislation of varying degrees of importance, as well as other documents. However, I do not have this one which we have been told is the most important and momentous programme we will ever be in a position to debate or discuss in this House. As Senator Fitzgerald rightly noted, it is unbelievable and extraordinary there has been no consultation and that, apparently, not only was it proposed not to engage in consultation with the Houses of Parliament before the agreement was put in place — there might be some excuse for this — but also that there would not be any consultation afterwards. It is no exaggeration to say this amounts to a gross undermining of democracy, the Constitution and the way in which a parliamentary democracy is supposed to operate.

The points made by Senator O'Toole about sovereignty are well taken. However, even if no constitutional issues arise from the programme, it is certainly the case — this is where I depart from the Senator — that the policy options and alternatives a Government will wish to look at in the future will be seriously circumscribed and delimited by what is apparently contained in the document. Choices on social and economic policy will be circumscribed by what is contained in it. If one does not wish to describe this as a loss of sovereignty, that is fine. We can debate what is meant by sovereignty. However, the document will have an enormous and negative impact on the freedom of action and movement of a future sovereign Government for many years to come. Clearly that is a basis for us on which to debate this question.

As an example of how bizarre this state of affairs is, let us take the National Pensions Reserve Fund. Until last Friday we were all under the impression, including citizens who contribute to the fund, that it was an important prudential provision for the future of the country in regard to public service pensions. A colleague, former Deputy Derek McDowell, was castigated by Ministers in 2002 for daring to suggest a small amount of the pensions reserve fund could be used for developmental purposes — the head was taken off him. Now, it is not a question of dipping into it or using a part of it; from what one can see, every single penny of it is being handed away. The point I am trying to make is not so much in regard to the huge error contained in that decision but the complete failure even to signal the possibility that this would happen before a decision was made to do so.

I too wish to be associated with the vote of congratulations to Senator Pearse Doherty and to all those who stood in the Donegal South-West by-election. In the times we live in, we should express our gratitude to everyone who puts their name on a ballot paper and seeks to engage with the public, who are obviously angry, disappointed and disillusioned, and react accordingly.

With regard to the IMF-EU package and the all-day debate we will have on Thursday, it is necessary that we devote as much time as possible to this. I accept the point made by Senator Alex White that this must be accompanied by suitable documentation in regard to what exactly we are debating. I hope the focus of the debate will be not only on whether this is or a good or bad deal, or whether it is right or wrong for it to be accepted, but also on clear ideas as to what the current alternatives are, which is at the heart of the agreement that has been reached. It will be for others to argue those points on Thursday.

I also ask that Members emphasise that those negotiations were undertaken on behalf of the State, and the people undertaking them were officers of the State, including the Governor of the Central Bank, the Secretary General of the Department of Finance and the head of the National Treasury Management Agency. To try to bring down the negotiations to a political context is unfair to those people, in particular, and the job they were doing on behalf of the country.

It was a political decision.

I hope the debate will be understood in those terms.

In terms of where we are as a country and the need to consult widely with the people, the decision that has been made was a sovereign decision of Government. I agree with Senator O'Toole that we need to have a debate on the question of sovereignty. We have made many decisions in recent years about the nation and its sovereignty, how we pool it in the European Union and in the form of the euro currency, and how the policy decisions that have been made by successive Governments, which have made this one of the most open economies in the world, have exposed us to the situation in which we find ourselves. Those are all factors that have undermined sovereignty in this country and we need a debate in those terms.

In regard to the finer detail of the debate, I stress to Members that many of the aspects of this agreement require legislation to be passed, including legislation to deal with the National Pensions Reserve Fund. There will be opportunities to consider the finer points and details and to have the required votes and actions of parliamentary democracy in this and the other House.

I take the opportunity to compliment all the local authorities throughout the country for their wonderful response in gritting the main roads in particular during this bad spell of weather. A question arose for the city manager in Waterford yesterday concerning leaving bags of grit in estates so that civic minded people could spread it around the estates, given that local authorities obviously cannot get to every location. The manager indicated that an Oireachtas committee last year asked the Attorney General for advice in regard to any liability that would arise from residents spreading grit or clearing in front of their houses. The Leader might indicate what was the Attorney General's advice on that matter, which might enable local authorities to grit estates with the assistance of residents.

I compliment "Prime Time Investigates" on the programme screened last night in regard to cigarette smuggling and those involved, including subversives and hardened criminals. Will the Leader inquire whether we need further legislation to ensure the punishment fits the crime? When one hears that the importer of 13,000 illegal cigarettes was fined 13 cent by a judge and that importers of tens of thousands were fined €150, one realises the punishment is absolutely ludicrous considering the quality of the cigarettes. All cigarettes are bad for one but these counterfeit cigarettes are of serious danger to one's health. We need action regarding the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into the country. Will the Leader inquire about proposed legislation in this regard?

I regret the announcement of the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern, not to stand again for election. I would like to raise the same issue as Senator Cummins. I have regularly referred to the tobacco industry in the Oireachtas. The Joint Committee on Health and Children produced a report on it. It has always been said increasing the price is the only way to deal with tobacco consumption, yet the Minister for Justice and Law Reform and Minister for Finance baulk at the idea of setting the price too high because they say it will further the underground market. The two issues need to be dealt with simultaneously. There is no point in saying we cannot deal with cigarettes being smuggled into the country. The number of smugglers getting caught is small but if the number of staff tackling the problem were increased, it would be helpful. Smuggling represents a massive loss to the Exchequer and, therefore, any increase in the use of drug dogs and equipment that can detect smuggling will be of benefit. There is a serious price to be paid in our hospitals because of the arsenic and various poisons people are inhaling from the cigarettes in question.

The second issue I want to raise concerns a topic discussed on "Panorama" last night, FIFA's dirty secrets. A couple of weeks ago, I asked that Ireland become involved with the enlarged partial agreement on sport. We need to deal on an international basis with corruption, organised crime and circumstances that are not right in sport. Last night it was alleged that $100 million was given to three FIFA officials. Two other officials have been banned from making a decision on Thursday as to what country will be allowed to host the World Cup.

Where does the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport stand on corruption in sport? The International Olympic Council is saying it will investigate the matter. This is not appropriate and not enough. Why are sports commentators saying what has occurred in respect of Thursday's bid is almost treason against England considering that eight secret deals must be done with the government that cannot be exposed? They were exposed last night, however, by the Dutch Government. Considering the types of moral links and compromises that must be made, it is time to ask the Minister the price of hosting the World Cup in Europe.

The deal done on Sunday was pretty secret also.

I second the amendment proposed by Senator Fitzgerald. Will the terms of the memorandum of agreement be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas in order that the representatives of the people can vote upon them? If not, in what sense can this Parliament be described as a democracy? Are we in the Oireachtas the servants of the people or merely the lackeys of our own morally and financially bankrupt banks and international financial interests?

Is the Leader aware that every single economist and financial commentator, irrespective of whether he or she is in favour of burning the bondholders, acknowledges now that the process of not burning them is immoral and penalises the Irish people for the mistakes, stupidity and greed of the banks? Is it not the case that this process is immoral, unjust, unethical and unfair? Acknowledging these facts, will the Leader state whether, in these circumstances, a proper financial system or a proper and just civil society can be sustained on a foundation of immorality, unfairness and injustice? Is the Leader aware that the Nobel prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, said, "And you have to wonder what it will take for serious people to realize that punishing the populace for the bankers' sins is worse than a crime; it's a mistake." In light of the fact that the director of the largest single bond investment group, Mr. El-Erian, whose name I put on the record of the House last week, has indicated that the bondholders should be burnt, will the Leader comment on this matter? Will he ensure the House will at least have an opportunity to vote on it?

Some days ago Senator O'Toole announced that he would not be seeking re-election. I was sorry to hear that, particularly on the basis that I value his contributions.

The Senator should put a question to the Leader on the Order of Business.

Senator O'Toole recently noted that, in its current form, the Seanad was indefensible. In his contribution on the Order of Business he referred to neutrality, sovereignty and our independence and asked whether these had been weakened by our entering into an agreement with the European Union and the IMF. I do not believe they have because there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

There is now more than ever a compelling requirement for us to examine our political system. Fundamental reform is necessary, particularly in the light of the fact that for the past three months Members on all sides have been point-scoring and trying to gain party political advantage. Therefore, this House must be retained. The debate on reform may not take place before Christmas or prior to the end of the lifetime of this Seanad. I hope I will return to the House following the next election and that the radical reform required will be introduced. I would like Senator O'Toole to be present to support such reform. There is a need for the reform to which I refer to be introduced immediately after the election of the next Seanad.

A number of proposals have been brought forward and I am not surprised that the one which recommends the abolition of the Seanad is gaining popularity, particularly when one considers the exact nature of what has been discussed in the House during the past three months. Members of the public are not tuned in to what is happening here.

They want Fianna Fáil to be abolished also.

Senator Ormonde should put a question to the Leader.

If the debate on the matter cannot be taken immediately, I urge the Leader to make time available for it as soon as possible. This matter must be kept on the agenda.

I remind Senators that the Order of Business involves questions to the Leader. Senators on all sides are drifting and tending to make speeches. If this continues, I will be obliged to make additional interventions. I have been quite lenient in respect of the contributions of a number of Senators, but I will be obliged to tighten matters in that regard.

I become worried when I hear people such as Senator Boyle passing off responsibility for political decisions. The Government is the Executive and its members, not the officials, negotiated on behalf of the people. The Government was duly and democratically elected. In the context of the debate on the future of politics, it is statements such as those made by Senator Boyle which oblige me, as a politician, to become concerned about the future of our democracy. As a result, I request a debate, for which others have called in the past, on the future of politics and the Republic. At this most critical juncture in our history, political accountability appears to be missing——

——when one hears the Deputy Leader of the House and chairman of the smaller party in government make comments such as those he uttered earlier. Political accountability is required for political decisions.

In joining the euro a number of years ago Ireland agreed to a shared monetary union. In essence, we agreed to a loss of sovereignty in respect of our monetary system. Sadly, in the light of the events of the past week and the programme agreed between the Government and the IMF, we are now ceding our fiscal independence and sovereignty. This will tie the hands of future Governments and policymakers to a large degree, which must be a source of some concern. The outcome of the negotiations was extremely disappointing and it behoves all Senators to indicate exactly how they feel in that regard. I am particularly disappointed at the interest rate that will apply. I am also disappointed at the fact that the National Pensions Reserve Fund has been raided. Fine Gael had made very solid proposals on how part of the fund could be invested in the economy in order to provide a stimulus. The most important aspect of this matter is that senior bondholders appear to be untouchable. The people cannot understand this and clear reasons must be provided as to why this decision was made.

Our national bank, namely, Anglo Irish Bank, which was bought by the Government appears to be engaging in semantics of late. It appears consideration is being given to rebranding it. We are referring to a zombie bank which has literally sucked up both the economy and taxpayers' money. It cannot be allowed to remain in place. As Fine Gael has continually stated since the start of the financial crisis two years ago, it must be wound down. There is, therefore, a need for a debate on the future of the banking sector. We need to find a banking resolution mechanism before it pulls the whole economy down.

I welcome the debate on Thursday on the EU-IMF funding. I am conscious, as is the rest of the country, that it is increasingly clear that the bondholders and the markets are particularly targeting the peripheral countries and the less advanced financially countries in Europe. First, Greece was targeted. We know there was short selling of Greek bonds, which was outlawed, and eventually Greece decided not to sell its bonds to anybody but banks or insurance companies. It seems Ireland has been targeted, Portugal has been targeted, and they are talking about Spain and Italy. Iceland has already gone into default. The reality is we are not alone in Europe but is happening throughout the eurozone.

There is much misrepresentation and that is not good at this time. When financial debate runs out and there is nothing more to be said, that is the time to say nothing more instead of talking about a suite of rates, as if the IMF and the EU could have given us a different rate if we had only asked for it, which is clearly patently untrue. Similarly, why are there calls for a vote on the issuance of bonds and the taking up of a bond? Why is it being called for now? It never happened before in the history of the State that there was a vote on a bond issue.

At a time when we need level heads, we need to see a financial way forward and we should be talking about what is the best monetary policy and the best way of expanding the economy rather than stating that the Government should not have used the National Pensions Reserve Fund and it was needed for the pensions of the future. Each of the Opposition parties had intended to use it for something else anyway, in other words, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouth asking why the Government is not holding it for pensioners when they intended to use it to reflate the economy.

At this time, we do not need statements which are clearly not suitable in the financial context.

To create jobs, not to bail out the zombie banks.

Where does it end, with a senior financial spokesperson talking about the country being banjaxed?

I join colleagues on this side of the House in calling for a debate today on — where to begin — the bailout, the IMF-EU deal, what the Government is laughably describing as the national recovery plan etc. Fianna Fáil Members should listen to themselves. Clearly, they are still in denial if they are welcoming the deal that has been done and if they are asking what is wrong with looking for a little help from our friends. That is very different to what they were saying previously when they were denying that any bailout was forthcoming——

——and when they were denying that they were going to the IMF and to the EU, and when senior Cabinet Ministers were denying it even at the time when negotiations were clearly ongoing in Brussels and Frankfurt.

Questions to the Leader, please.

At this stage, we take their denials with a large grain of salt. No doubt it is devastating for the country. Everybody is talking about it today, as they were yesterday and over the weekend, when more than 50,000 people marched. I marched with them. It was a most well-behaved and civilised crowd, but the anger was intense.

Questions to the Leader, please. We are not dealing with marches in the city. We are dealing with questions to the Leader. I already asked Members not to make speeches.

That is why I am calling on the Leader to have the debate today——

Senator Bacik is entitled to call for a debate.

——rather than waiting until Thursday, and I support the call by Senator Fitzgerald and others for that

Was Senator Bacik canvassing?

I ask for clarification on the whereabouts of the mysterious climate change Bill which, I understand, was finally agreed by Cabinet on 16 November and was one of the main planks of the Green Party's policies when it entered Government. Are we going to see this climate change Bill become law?

Better ask the IMF.

Perhaps we should ask the IMF, as Senator Alex White suggests. Clearly, the Greens are now floundering in Government. It is clear they have lost any credibility they ever had. This is a bigger issue than one party. It is a matter of the utmost national and international importance that we pass the climate change Bill before the long-overdue fall of the Government. I ask the Leader for clarification on when he expects that Bill to be published.

I congratulate Deputy Doherty and, indeed, Senator Ó Domhnaill, who came second in the constituency of Donegal South-West.

We should be proud that the two were Members of this House.

Questions to the Leader, please. That is all dealt with by the group leaders.

Did Senator Leyden canvas for Senator Ó Domhnaill?

That was some vote collapse Fianna Fáil had.

I hope we will fill the two vacancies in the Seanad while we are at it. I ask the Leader to fill those vacancies as soon as possible. I compliment Michael Somers, the former head of the NTMA, who appeared on "The Week in Politics" with Seán O'Rourke on Sunday night, for his honest assessment of where Fianna Fáil was in 1985 when Charles Haughey was Leader of the Opposition, Ray MacSharry was spokesperson on finance and I was a Member.

You were in Ladbrokes.

We made a proposal on financial services and created 25,000 jobs. That is what it is all about and that is why I ask the Opposition to do something constructive. In the Mullingar accord, there is a Fine Gael proposal to spend the €25 billion——

Questions for the Leader.

——that we put into the National Pensions Reserve Fund——

Do not mind the Mullingar accord.

It is very important.

It is not relevant to the Order of Business.

I am not that happy with putting €10 billion into the banks. I would prefer to put it into constructive investment in jobs but that is where we are and we must do what we have to do at this stage. I hope we get the money back in order that we can invest it in jobs.

I second the comments made by Senator Maurice Cummins on the excellent programme last night on cigarette smuggling. The people involved in the programme, namely, the journalist, Paul Maguire, and his producers——

Do not mind naming people, please. I do not want names.

I think it is important.

People look and know who are on these programmes and they do not need the names being repeated and put on the record.

They like to hear it.

They do. They actually like to hear it.

Senator Leyden's respect for the Chair is noted.

I commend RTE on its excellent work and I ask that "Morning Ireland" have five minutes of positive news every morning about exporters in this country and have something positive to say about our economy. I thank the Cathaoirleach for his time.

With regard to Senator O'Toole's announcement on standing for the Seanad on the next occasion, I am not sure he fully appreciates that if the Seanad is to be reformed or abolished, we need a Seanad to pass the legislation. In light of this, he might reconsider his position.

With regard to last night's "Prime Time Investigates" programme, a number of weeks ago I raised this very issue, about the continuous increase in excise duties on tobacco in Ireland. This has been done by successive governments on the false assumption that as the price of cigarettes is increased, consumption will fall. The fact is that one third of cigarettes smoked in Ireland today are illegally imported. We have to draw the right lessons from this. The price of cigarettes here is now double the European average. This is a problem we have created and we have to deal with its essence, which is the level of excise duties and the price of cigarettes. If we do not reduce the price of cigarettes to the European average, we are enriching criminal gangs and dissident republican organisations which deal in this illegal trade with a vengeance. The loss to the Exchequer is estimated at €500 million to €1 billion, and for economic reasons alone and in the interests of the public finances, it is necessary to address this problem. The only solution is to deal with the pricing of the product and the taxation on cigarettes.

We had thought the Government could do no further damage to the economy and then we find it has entered into an agreement with the IMF and the EU at an unsustainable rate of interest. It shows that for people leaving the House to enter into this type of negotiation is a very bad idea. The Government was beaten before it started. It was playing above its league in these negotiations. It is an extraordinary outcome and one which I believe those on the Government side of the House——

The Senator is making a political speech. I call Senator Callely.

——know is an awful outcome for the Government and they are totally responsible. The election cannot come quickly enough——

The Senator has made his point.

——in the light of the damage the Government is continuing to do to this country.

Senator, please.

I congratulate our former colleague, Deputy Pearse Doherty, on his election to Dáil Éireann and Sinn Féin on its win in the Donegal South-West by-election. I also congratulate him on his courage to challenge the holding of the by-election. Part of the Government's defence in the High Court was Article 15 of the Constitution.

What happened in court is not relevant to the Order of Business. The Senator can congratulate someone who has been elected to the Dáil. I have accepted that. It is questions to the Leader on the Order of Business and if the Senator has a question for the Leader, I would like to hear it and so would he.

I am about to put the question relevant to what I am saying.

It is questions now. There is not much use in going through what happened in the courts with regard to the former Senator Doherty's case on the by-election in Donegal South-West. Everyone read about it and knows about it.

I hope the Cathaoirleach is not somewhat touchy on the subject. The committee on the Constitution is currently reviewing parliamentary power of inquiry, under Article 15 of the Constitution. It has received evidence from academic experts in this area and suggestions have been made that a constitutional amendment is required, partly because of uncertainty with regard to the Oireachtas and its committees having the relevant power to hold inquiries. Similarly, on a very important issue——

The Government has appealed that in the Supreme Court.

——problems have been identified — on which I wish to put a question to the Leader — with regard to fair procedures——

We do not have the power to amend the Constitution.

——and interests. I note the view that investigations or inquiries could take hearings in private——

That is said now. I call Senator Quinn.

Respect the Chair.

——which may prove to have been unjustified.

I ask Senator Callely to resume his seat.

On a point of order, I wish to object on two grounds. First, a Senator is required to declare a conflict of interest when making these kinds of points. Second, this is a matter before the courts. I would be very happy to discuss it otherwise. Raising it here is completely out of order. This is an example of riding roughshod over the rules of the House.

We are on the Order of Business. I indicated to the Senator that the issue has been appealed by the Government and is before the Supreme Court.

I am asking whether the Leader will advise when it is likely that proposals——

The Senator has gone way over time. I call on Senator Quinn. I will not allow Senator Callely continue on that.

May I not ask a question about——

No. I ask the Senator to resume his seat. His time is up. I call on Senator Quinn.

I do not wish to be disorderly, but I will write to the Chair on this issue and ask——

I will ask the Senator to leave the Chamber if he does not resume hisseat.

I will resume my seat, but I will write to the Cathaoirleach on the issue. It is a very important issue and cannot be put aside.

I was very impressed yesterday that despite the very bad weather, when I walked out on my street, I met a number of neighbours who were visiting people who lived on their own. I was impressed that the spirit and enthusiasm of self-help and community effort was alive and well despite the bad weather. I mention this because just the other day we heard talk about the problems facing this country and about what we as citizens should do about them. Mention was made of civil disobedience, protests, strikes, etc. We have a huge challenge facing us and we as citizens can do something about it. I suggest that what we should do should be something not unlike showing the spirit I saw yesterday when people were visiting neighbours and helping them out. I suggest we should encourage a sense that we can move as a nation to do something that will set an example. For instance, when we had problems like this in the past, it was suggested we should consider offering to do one day's work free of charge as a way of contributing to relieve our problems.

I make this suggestion for two reasons. First, it would help the community and we would all feel better for it. It would also send a wonderful message to the rest of Europe that while our nation has been dragged down and castigated by the media around Europe, we are able to set an example and demonstrate that we are different and will do what needs to be done. It would demonstrate that we were going to stand up and fight the situation, not by protests or civil disobedience, but by putting our hearts and souls into doing something along the lines suggested. The week before last, the traders in Rathfarnham main street all got together to discuss the problems they were having with the cleaning of the street. They agreed they would do it themselves rather than ask the council to do it. I mention this to show it is possible to do something about problems. We can do something to solve our problems ourselves. Let us see if we can turn and be positive rather than negative about the situation.

I endorse the comments of Senator Quinn and congratulate the former Senator Doherty. Can we have a debate on the minimum wage? It is important we have a debate on the issue because it is going almost unnoticed that it is proposed to reduce the minimum wage by €1 an hour, which amounts to approximately €2,000 per annum to the lowest paid in society. The Croke Park agreement protects the wages of workers covered by that agreement but those at the lowest end of society potentially will have their wages reduced by up to €2,000 per annum. A case has been put that this will create jobs. I would like to see the evidence for this assertion. There is no point in introducing such a measure without allowing for a proper debate on it because we must have clarity on how the proposal will be implemented. Will the pay cheques of those at present on the minimum wage be reduced by €40 a week, or €2,000 a year? Will the measure create new jobs or will it simply mean that existing workers will be cheaper to employ? It is important that we debate this issue with honesty and integrity. I have previously made proposals in this House on a maximum wage within the public service, an issue that has to be considered carefully also.

I support the call for a debate on the IMF-EU package. We are postponing a debate we must hold; it is not right that we must wait until Thursday. As Senator Alex White noted, the memorandum of understanding should be published because if the package goes through, we will have to live with it for a number of years. I am concerned about the use of €17.5 billion from the National Pensions Reserve Fund. That clearly was not the reason for establishing the fund. In regard to the €35 billion firebreak, on which the markets are taking a different view, €10 billion will be invested immediately in the banks, while the other €25 billion will be a liquidity support. Is that where the National Pensions Reserve Fund is supposed to be used? That is why we should be debating the matter today. Was the possibility of having a debt for equity swap considered in respect of creditors and bondholders? We are left in the dark. It is wrong that everything we know came from people such as the Governor of the Central Bank and Ajai Chopra rather than Government sources. It appears the banks have not been properly stress-tested. We do not know how many more mortgages and business loans may be sour. On the average or blended rate of interest, how is the money to be drawn down? We have no information on the order or priority of loans. We have been left in the dark on many of the details of the negotiations. It is wrong that the document has not been published and placed before us.

I concur with Senator Quinn. Given all of the negativity in the media on a daily basis, it is good to see people responding positively. I am confident that the spirit of the people will emerge in due course to lead us back onto the road to recovery.

I support Senator Ormonde's call for a debate on Seanad reform. However, I would go further because there is a national emergency. Surely we have learned from what happened in the past decade that we need to provide for greater political oversight. We should, therefore, broaden the debate to include political reform generally.

In regard to the parties which claim our discretion has been circumscribed because of the arrangements made in respect of the IMF, the European Union and the ECB, does the Leader agree that, in fact, the agreement puts a ceiling on the interest we will pay on borrowings and that our discretion has not been impaired? It will be open to any Government, including the current Administration, to borrow in the markets when the rates are appropriate. I welcome the deal and, while the interest rate payble has been criticised, it was predicted last week that it would be 1% higher. The Governor of the Central Bank has clearly explained why the rate was pitched at 5.8%. While there is a great deal of obfuscation and negativity, will the Leader agree, although I have been critical of some of the pro-cyclical budgetary and taxation policies pursued in the past ten years, that in investing in infrastructure, including the road network etc., in reducing the national debt to a very low level and in putting money into the National Pensions Reserve Fund, was a good idea? Will he Leader agree also that it would make no sense to leave money in the fund on which we would receive an interest rate of only 1% and to borrow money at a rate of 5.8%? There will be nothing to stop a future Government if it has good ideas on investing in job creation and providing a stimulus for the economy from acting in that regard. Many economists would disagree and say that would be a foolish approach to take because of the openness of the economy. Will the Leader agree that what we have done in this arrangement seems to be the most prudent course to take in all the circumstances in which we find ourselves?

I also ask the Leader why we are not having a debate on IMF-EU bailout package today? Is the Government afraid to have one? Are its members hiding? Of what are they ashamed? The revisionism in which Senator Walsh and others have engaged has been nauseating because they are members of the party——

That is not revisionism.

Senator Buttimer should put questions to the Leader, not address Members across the floor of the House.

——which for the past 13 years has been party in government.

Under Standing Orders, if the Senator gives ground, I will——

If I had the Senator's record, I would be ashamed of it too and embarrassed.

Will the Senator give ground?

I ask both Senators to resume their seats.

Under Standing Orders——

I am in possession.

The Senator is afraid to give ground because he knows he is wrong.

I make that decision. Senator Buttimer is in possession and should ask the Leader a question.

I know Senator Walsh is embarrassed, as I would be if I was him.

I do not want any exchanges across the floor of the House.

Senator Buttimer is afraid to give ground.

The Senator was a cheerleader for the Government for the past 13 years.

I seek a debate on the future of the European Union and the eurozone and ask the Leader to arrange for the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to be present for it. Many people have asked me a question in the past few days since the events of last Sunday. They thought this country was an integral part of the European Union and that other European nations were friends of Ireland. Senator Walsh, among others, made reference to the interest rate to be charged. The IMF is charging a much lower rate than the European Central Bank. Why is that the case? Why is it that our so-called friends in Europe are putting the boot into Ireland?

The Governor of the Central Bank clearly explained the position yesterday, if the Senator had wanted to listen, but he does not want to do so.

In asking for a debate on this matter I will go a step further. I would like to amend Standing Orders to allow Professor Honohan to address us in this Chamber. I ask that question legitimately because Senator Boyle commented on the negotiations. I have no difficulty——

No individual is allowed to change Standing Orders; that is a matter for the committee.

I ask the Leader if he would be prepared to do so.

It is not a matter for the Leader to consider.

It is a matter of national importance that we——

A Chathaoirleach——

The Senator spoke for a long time. It is a matter of national importance that we understand the deal and what it means——

Time, Senator, please.

I will conclude on this point.

The Senator's time is up.

A Chathaoirleach——

The Chair decides when a Senator's time is up.

I appreciate that. However, it is very important that we get answers to the question of what happened not only last Sunday but in the events leading up to it.

The time allowed for the Order of Business is almost up.

We cannot air-brush it. The people want answers.

I ask the Senator to resume his seat or leave the Chamber.

We cannot deny the people the answers they require.

I ask the Senator to resume his seat. I call Senator Mooney.

At a time when the people are looking for and receiving leadership from the Taoiseach, on the events of the last week and the direction the country will be taking, I find it very disconcerting that there seems to be an effort led by the Opposition and other elements in society to rubbish the deal. At the same time statements are being made in complete isolation from what is happening in the rest of Europe. During the past few hours bond rates charged to Portugal, Spain and Italy have all increased. The cost of money to the Italian economy has increased by half a percentage point in 24 hours.

That is because the bailout was such a bad deal.

Senator Regan, please.

I want the Leader to rebut the somewhat silly arguments being made but which are nonetheless mischievous. I will have no difficulty in having a rational and logical debate on the issues involved, but slogans and banner waving will get the country nowhere; in fact, they are doing it enormous damage on the very day Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland have launched an international marketing strategy.

A lot done, more to do.

How would the Senator feel if he was listening in another European country and reading some of the statements made by political leaders in the Opposition during the past few days that has done an enormous disservice to the country?

It is the Senator's party which has done us a disservice.

Senator Mooney's party has no mandate.

One of them went so far as to say he was going to——

It is the Senator's party which has done us a disservice.

The Senators should be ashamed of themselves.

The Senator might wave the green flag because his party has sold us out.

It is Senator's Mooney's party which has done the country a disservice.

What Senator Mooney said was so hurtful.