Dáil Éireann - Volume 368 - 03 July, 1986

Estimates, 1986. - Vote 3: Department of the Taoiseach (Revised Estimate).

The Taoiseach: I move:

That a sum not exceeding £5,632,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st day of December, 1986, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of the Taoiseach and for payment of certain grants-inaid.

The referendum is now over. The people have delivered their decision and it is for all of us in this House to accept that decision. Deputies, of course, will be aware that it was my heartfelt wish that the Government's proposals be accepted by the people, and my sincere thanks and appreciation go to the very large numbers who voted “yes”, and who worked with courage and dedication for a “yes” result.

The issue and the debate proved to be difficult for everybody. There was, I believe, serious and honest intent on all sides. Those who voted “no” felt that the legitimate claims for minority rights and the call for compassion on behalf of those trapped in hopeless marital situations were, on balance, outweighed by their concern for the effects that they felt even a limited form of divorce might have on the family and our society generally.

[2215] Those who, with me, voted “yes” maintained that those concerns were greatly exaggerated and that the road of pluralism and compassion offered greater advantages for the Irish people in all its present and possible future diversity.

It was ultimately a matter of finely balanced judgment, a matter of a decision which each citizen had to make in the privacy of his or her own mind and heart, and I am certain it was not an easy decision for many people to take. Those who voted “no”, after deep consideration of all the issues involved, have my respect and understanding. I believe that they did not intend on Thursday to condemn the unhappy victims of failed marriages. Most of them voted rather to reflect their vision of Ireland where the role of the family is central and sacrosanct — a positive, not a negative, declaration.

To those who voted and worked for a “yes” vote, I say that, while the issue is settled for the present, the size of the support is a sure guarantee that the issue will remain, the debate will go on, the problems will not go away, and will not be solved by spurious subterfuges. Courage, resolution, patient resolve, conviction in the justice of your cause; these must be your passwords and your guiding lights out of the dark disappointment of these days. There will be better, brighter days in the future.

The very large numbers who abstained, almost 40 per cent, have, no doubt, their own justifications and rationalisations. To them I would say that democracy in the modern world is a privilege, something relatively rare, to be treasured, defended and nurtured. It is better to express an opinion than to sit on the fence; to be in favour of, or against, a proposition, than to try to be in both camps at the same time.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

The Taoiseach: Democracy confers power on the people and with that power comes responsibility — the responsibility to participate in the democratic process — the responsibility to have an opinion [2216] — to choose — to go out and vote on polling day. There were too many abstainers on Thursday last.

For myself, I am happy, proud indeed, that I brought forward the proposition and put it to the people. This for long has been the policy of the great party it is my privilege to lead, and the referendum was the culmination of a pledge I gave to the Irish people on taking Government. In this matter I have discharged my duty and honoured my pledge.

I believe, too — and this has not been seriously challenged by anyone — that the whole matter was dealt with in the best possible manner, involving the Oireachtas all-party committee, the Dáil and Seanad themselves, the Government and the Government parties, and extensive consultations with the Churches. The wording of the amendment was the best we could have devised. Even the timing was the best possible in the circumstances, as any later would have been too near an election, and any earlier would have truncated the very necessary discussion process.

The fact that the proposition was defeated does not diminish my belief that it was right to pose it. It is often the duty of a leader to lead, to put a proposition he believes to be correct and in the interests of the nation and its people. He should not be content to wait until he is certain of success. This can be the very abnegation of leadership as I firmly believe it would have been on this occasion.

I am happy in my conscience that I have discharged my duty in this matter, that I have honoured my pledge, that I have kept faith with the people who elected me to lead them. I accept the decision of the electorate and propose now to move ahead, putting before the Oireachtas in the next session proposals for changes in the law of marriage and separation, as set out in the Government statement of intent at the time of the publication of the text of the referendum amendment.

Work on the heads of appropriate legislation will begin immediately and will be brought to the Government in the [2217] autumn with a view to being presented to the Oireachtas in good time for full debate and enactment during the session of the Dáil that will end a year hence. In this connection we shall, for example, have a look at such matters as the preservation of provision for deserted wives where these wives are legally divorced by husbands who have established domicile abroad.

Clearly legislation to be put forward must be in conformity with the Constitution. It cannot, therefore, include any provision for the dissolution of marriage or for measures which could be constitutionally impugned as having this effect. Moreover, careful examination will have to be made of whether constitutional impediments may stand in the way of the implementation of certain other provisions, such as the transfer of property to a dependent spouse on the occasion of a judicial separation; but, these problems apart, the necessary legislation will be brought forward, and will, we have been assured by the Opposition, be given positive consideration.

Mention has also been made in recent days of the possibility of changes in the law of nullity. This, too, the Government will examine, as we have committed ourselves to doing in our statement of intent. But all should be conscious that in this area significant changes could carry with them a number of serious dangers. Any attempt to disguise as grounds for nullity a condition which was not operative at the time the contract was entered into, would be constitutionally void. Moreover, a very real concern, expressed both by many politicians and churchmen, clearly also by the people, about the rights of the first family, represents a powerful impediment to significant changes in the law of nullity that would put at risk the rights of dependent spouses and children of first families, which are at present secure under existing law.

In this area the Government must have due regard to the Constitution, to the rights of the first family, and to the importance of avoiding the casting of doubt on the validity of a wide range of existing marriages.

[2218] Having indicated the Government's intention to initiate the necessary reforms in respect of marriage and separation, and to examine further the question of improvements to the law of nullity, I may perhaps be permitted to add a comment of my own on this whole matter. I would not have embarked upon this referendum were I not personally convinced that the proposed changes in the Constitution would make possible changes in the law which would be to the general social advantage. While, of course, accepting the decision of the people on this occasion, I have not changed the view on this matter to which I have been brought over a long period of years, after careful consideration and deep reflection on this whole issue.

There are, moreover, broader considerations at stake: the principle of a pluralist society in this State, as in this island as a whole. And by a pluralist society I mean one in which the different traditions that exist in this State and this island can feel equally at home, not constrained by the predominance of the ethos of any one Church, or group of Churches. I have always seen that pluralist society not as a secular society, cutting itself off from its deep roots in Christianity, itself founded on Judaism — two great religions which share in common a vast body of moral values, and both of which, happily, are well represented in this House.

Of course I respect the fact that there are in this country a growing number of people who no longer belong fully to these traditions and who may in their own minds reject them — but who, I have often observed, base their own value systems for the most part on the values they have inherited from these religious traditions.

The pluralism to which I, and many more of our people today aspire, is a pluralism inspired by these religious values, respectful of them, and concerned that they be maintained. But what I, and others like me, reject is any suggestion that one tradition be subordinated to another. I believe in, and for decades have worked for, the right of the Nationalist people of Northern Ireland to [2219] be free not only from discrimination, but from the impact of laws based on a particular religious tradition to which they do not belong, and some of whose values they do not share — for example, the anti-libertarian laws that inhibit them from spending their Sabbath freely in accordance with their own traditions.

Our society in this State has been free of religious discrimination of the type practised in Northern Ireland — not perhaps because we are in some way inherently better or more tolerant than our Unionist fellow-Irishmen in Northern Ireland but, more probably, because in this truncated State the size of the minority has not represented for us a threat to which we have felt impelled to respond, in the way in which many Unionists in Northern Ireland have felt impelled to respond to the much larger Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland.

While this State has from its inception been free from any form of discrimination, we have not been free from the same kind of attempt to impose the value system of the majority religion here, to which most of us belong, upon those of a different tradition, when it comes to our Constitution and our laws. If I am to have the right to claim for the Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland not merely freedom from discrimination and a right to have their identity and tradition fully respected, but a system of laws based on common ground between the different Christian traditions of that part of our island, rather than on the tradition of the majority there, then I must, in all honesty and logic, make the same claim on behalf of the minority in this State, namely, that our laws, that our Constitution, will reflect the common ground we share with them, rather than the ethos of our majority religion.

I would not be honest with myself, nor with this House, if I failed to reassert on this occasion that fundamental principle, which to me, and to many others I believe in this House, to many others in all parties in this House, is what republicanism in the Irish context means.

[2220] In thus reasserting my own personal belief, to which I have been consistent throughout my political life, and to which I shall remain consistent in the years to come, I imply, as I made clear earlier, no criticism and no recrimination with respect to the result of the recent referendum which I recognise freely was decided in the minds of our people on the basis of different considerations and different issues. Many, very many, of those who voted against this referendum did so not because they reject in any conscious way the pluralist ideal of which I have just spoken; other considerations, some of them most genuine considerations of social concern, weighed more heavily with them in a campaign which did not, in fact, centre on this issue of pluralism. What is done is done. It can, and I believe in time will be undone. As a democrat I respect that decision. As a republican I hope to live to see it reversed.

Voices have been raised, especially by Unionists in Northern Ireland, suggesting that the result of this referendum has implications for the implementation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There are no such implications. The House will recall that this agreement is itself the fruit of the Forum report, the terms of reference of which addressed themselves exclusively to the problems of securing peace and stability in Northern Ireland. This, too, is the objective of the agreement, which, in its preamble drawn from the conclusions of the Forum report recognises the major interest of both countries, and above all the people of Northern Ireland, in diminishing the divisions there and of achieving lasting peace and stability. That preamble also recognised that a condition of genuine reconciliation and dialogue between Unionists and Nationalists is mutual recognition and acceptance of each others' rights and that the identities of the two communities in Northern Ireland should be recognised and respected, together with the right of each to pursue its aspirations by peaceful and constitutional means.

The structures and procedures set up by the agreement are directed towards [2221] these ends, though it has not been easy to secure recognition by the Unionist people of Northern Ireland that these are the objectives of the agreement, and that nothing in the agreement seeks to constrain them to accept any change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its people.

The negative vote in the referendum does not in any way affect the implementation of the agreement. But it is, I believe, something of a setback to the long term prospect of the two parts of Ireland coming closer together politically. It cannot reasonably be denied, and I think we ought to face this fact, that we in this State have a long way to go before we create in this part of Ireland a society that would seem welcoming to, open to, and attractive to, people of the northern Unionist tradition. The principal Opposition party should face the fact and reflect on the deep seated partitionist attitude implied in a failure by a political party claiming to be a Nationalist party to do so.

I want to turn now to the recent European Council meeting. By agreement, my report on the European Council is incorporated into this debate. The House will have had adequate time to discuss other matters in the last two days. The main issues discussed at The Hague, on 26 and 27 June were: South Africa; nuclear safety; the internal market; a people's Europe; agriculture; and the economic and social situation.

In preparation for the Council I had useful discussions in Paris with President Mitterand and Prime Minister Chirac. I have had the conclusions of the Council on these and other issues laid before the House, in the usual way. I do not intend, therefore, to go in too much detail into what was discussed.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dutch Presidency for the hospitality extended to us and to congratulate them on the order and efficiency with which the business of the Council was run. I should say at the outset that in the absence of contentious issues such as have made the work of earlier Councils [2222] tense and difficult, that is, contentious issues involving the European Community and their internal affairs, the Council in The Hague were able to proceed in the way in which these Councils had originally been intended to act. In other words, there was an opportunity for Heads of State or Government to exchange views without the disturbing necessity to resolve immediate and intractable technical problems. In this sense, the Council were constructive, even though their conclusions were not dramatic.

At the end of the Council, I met separately with the British Prime Minister for a brief discussion on Northern Ireland and other issues of mutual concern. In accordance with normal practice on these meetings, neither of us goes into detail about the subjects discussed.

The major foreign policy topic discussed by the Heads of State or Government was South Africa. The European Council reiterated the Twelve's grave concern about the rapid deterioration of the situation and the increasing levels of violence in that country.

The Council reaffirmed that the main goal of the Twelve was the total abolition of apartheid and decided to take additional action as follows:

They declared themselves in favour of a concerted European programme of assistance to the victims of apartheid, encompassing both Community and national action, in order to maximise the effectiveness of Europe's contribution in this field. In this connection the European Council agreed on an increase in financial and material assistance to the victims of apartheid;

The Council called on the South African government:

—to release unconditionally Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners; and

—to lift the ban on the African National Congress the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and other political parties.

The Council decided to ask the [2223] future UK Presidency Foreign Minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe, to visit Southern Africa, in a further effort to establish conditions in which the necessary dialogue can commence.

In the meantime in the next three months the Community will enter into consultations with the other industrialised countries, such as the United States, Japan and the other OECD members, on further measures which might be needed covering in particular a ban on new investments, and on the imports of coal, iron, steel and gold coins from South Africa.

The outcome of these discussions on South Africa was not as I, and a number of other members of the Council, had hoped. In particular, I and others had argued for the adoption now of further economic measures directed at the South African Government. Unfortunately, this proposal was resisted by three States who preferred the weaker formulation than I have just cited involving the commitment to consultations with other industralised countries on further measures which might be needed.

I was particularly concerned that the vagueness of this formula might leave open the possibility of a veto on such measures at the end of the three month period specified in the draft and I sought clarification on this point, and an assurance that no country would veto the suggested measures if Sir Geoffrey Howe's mission proved unsuccessful. This proposal for clarification had the support of a number of other member states and it eventually led to the agreement of a slightly different formulation, put by the Presidency of the Council, and accepted without contestation by any member state, namely, that no member state excluded the possibility of sanctions.

Thus, the agreement reached by the Heads of State or Government is something of a second-best solution for the moment. But on balance it was preferable to a split in the Community, which would have sent all the wrong signals to [2224] South Africa. The agreement does represent a modest step forward.

In relation to nuclear matters, I recalled the formal request which we had made to the Commission, long before the Chernobyl accident, on the establishment of a Community health and inspection force. Such a force, which would be independent of national Governments, would be important with a view to reassuring the public about nuclear safety but is also in the nuclear industry's own interests as the number of accidents at nuclear plants is eroding sharply the confidence of the public throughout the Community and more widely in the industry. I emphasise to the Council that it is in all our interests to bring to finality a comprehensive plan of action, and that we looked forward to proposals on nuclear safety and health from the Commission which we hope will include a Community inspection force along the lines which we have proposed.

One member state disputed our claim that the EC had competence in the matter of nuclear safety and I am particularly pleased that the Commission contested this and supported our view that Chapter III of the EURATOM Treaty provides a clear legal basis for further action in this area. Incidentally, it was on my proposal that the reference to nuclear safety as well as public health was included in the Presidency conclusions.

In the discussions on the internal market I joined with a number of likeminded representatives in recalling the provisions of the Single European Act requiring that implementation of the internal market should be paralleled by steps to promote economic and social cohesion in order to ensure that the benefits are more evenly spread throughout the Community. I availed of the opportunity to remind the Council of the commitments we had been given in March 1985 that the part-financing of the integrated Mediterranean programmes from the structural funds would be from a real growth in the resources of these funds without affecting transfers to other lessprosperous and priority regions such as [2225] Ireland and that we will insist that these commitments are fully honoured.

On air transport, I drew attention to the limited scope of the proposals at present before the Transport Council. I said that the Commission should now also introduce proposals on the subject of market access, which would offer possibilities for all Community airlines to operate new services, and that these should be considered at the same time as the Commission's proposals to liberalise air fares and capacity-sharing arrangements. It is only logical and fully in accord with EEC Treaty rules on competition that priority should be given to access by airlines through expanding fifth-freedom opportunities throughout the Community, that is, the right of the airline of one State to carry passengers to cities in two other member states. This point was accepted and incorporated at my request in the Presidency Conclusions.

On public procurement, I recalled that at the Stuttgart European Council in 1983 I had drawn attention to the fact that policies in this area were being used by certain member states contrary to Community principles, in order to influence location decisions by investors from outside the Community and that we had been suffering from this practice and had lost a number of industries which otherwise would have come here. I again emphasised the need for action to eliminate this form of protectionism and urged that immediate consideration be, therefore, given to recent Commission proposals to liberalise public procurement.

I also drew attention, as I had done last December in Luxembourg, to the serious problems which would arise for us under the Commission's proposals on harmonisation of indirect taxes. The House might recall that, under the provisions of the Single European Act, proposals in this area are to be decided on by the council on the basis of unanimity and not by a qualified majority vote.

On the CAP, we discussed the development of the Community's agricultural policy in the international context against the background of mounting food surpluses and increasing EEC/US conflicts. [2226] I stressed the point that the Community is not the only body responsible for surpluses and urged the need for an orderly approach to the problem of their disposal and control.

I am glad to say that there was full acceptance in the Presidency's Conclusions that adaptation of agricultural policy to changed circumstances is not just a matter for the Community but is a problem to be faced by other countries, such as the United States, as well.

The European Council also gave specific recognition to a number of other points of particular importance to Ireland and ones which I had emphasised in the discussions. These included the retention of the objectives and principles of the Common Agricultural Policy, the need to take account of the Community's interests and location as an exporter of agricultural products, the specific nature of European agriculture, and the requirement to safeguard the social fabric in rural areas.

Overall, the European Council's Conclusions on agricultural policy in the international context were satisfactory from this country's point of view.

On the economic and social situation, I stressed the inadequacy of present policies in reducing unemployment and that every opportunity should now be availed of to accelerate Community growth and make it more employment-intensive, rather than wait until the end of the year for such a review, as had been suggested.

The Commission was asked to undertake a thorough study of the black economy. Preliminary estimates by the Commission suggest that this could be as high as 10 per cent or 20 per cent of Community GDP but they emphasise the difficulty of making accurate estimates of such matters as the proportion of registered unemployed who are actually out of work and seeking employment. The Prime Minister of one country reported that a study carried out by an institute in his country has shown that the actual number of people seeking employment is less than 10 per cent of the registered unemployed. I would not suggest that the proportion in this country is anything like [2227] that but there is obviously a common problem of gross overstatement of unemployment throughout the Community in every country and many people claiming unemployment benefit are actually at work. It is not a purely Irish phenomenon, in so far as that gives us any encouragement.

I laid a particular emphasis on the need to reduce further the level of real interest rates. And I urged support for the measures set out in the UK/Irish/Italian paper for an employment-creation strategy and, in welcoming the Commission's programme for the liberalisation of capital movements, drew attention to the problems posed for us in this area by the absence of the UK from the European Monetary System.

I also drew particular attention to the problems of developing countries, particularly the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in view of the fact that the flow of economic resources to developing countries continued to decline in 1985 for the fourth year running. In contrast, Ireland's development aid budget was being increased by almost 50 per cent between 1984 and 1987.

I was struck by the extent to which the Heads of State and Government expressed concern that the recovery — led by the fall in oil prices — had not yet really taken off in their countries or in Europe as a whole; and their view that measures were necessary now not next December, to ensure that the full benefits were obtained. Full implementation of the cooperative growth strategy agreed at the end of last year would, the Commission had estimated, reduce the rate of unemployment in the Community by one third or to a round 7 per cent in 1990. This is too large a prize to let go by default. We must pursue this and continue to press that the Commission's proposals for concertation of economic policies designed to achieve this objective will be implemented. The council urged a new sense of urgency on the Commission and it was agreed that the ECO/FIN Council be asked to look at this matter. The point was also made that they should look at it [2228] more seriously than they had looked at the results of the last European Council when they had seemed to reargue the conclusions of Prime Ministers rather than implement the decisions there taken.

The potential for a positive economic response in Europe will be of central importance in ensuring that the Irish economy benefits to the full from the new and more favourable circumstances. Indeed economic prospects at home are better now than at any time in the past seven years. The price of oil has collapsed. Interest rates have fallen sharply and are still coming down, and the annual rate of consumer price increases is set to fall sharply in the months ahead, to something around 2 per cent, and to remain at or below that level for some time thereafter.

The size of these favourable developments is very substantial, far greater than many people realise. On average import prices have fallen during the 12 months to April by over 10 per cent. This is not only due to oil price reductions but also to the decline in the value of the US dollar and sterling. It means a significant increase in purchasing power for the Irish consumer as these import prices are passed through into the shops. This has already occurred to a degree, with more to come. Moreover on Tuesday the VAT rate on restaurant meals and a wide range of labour-intensive services was cut by almost two-thirds. The estimated impact of this on the cost of living is two-thirds of 1 per cent.

The decline in interest rates has been equally striking. For a few months in the spring speculation ahead of the EMS realignment resulted in a temporary increase in interest rates. But since then money market interest rates have fallen by as much as seven percentage points and this has been translated into lower lending rates for industry and for the house purchaser. Looking back to 1982, when our predecessors were in office, the prime bank lending rate reached 19 per cent: it is now, in some cases, down below 10 per cent, half the level we inherited. In 1982 the mortgage rate was 16.25 per [2229] cent: it is now down to 10.25 per cent. The next reduction in mortgage interest rates could bring them to their lowest level for 13 years. This sharp fall in the cost of borrowing must be regarded as one of the most positive features of the present economic situation.

In saying this, I am not implying that interest rates are yet low enough. When they are compared with the rate of inflation the real interest rate that emerges, here and in other Community countries and more widely, makes it clear that there is ample scope for further interest rate reductions worldwide, and I am hopeful that these will occur and that the monetary authorities and Ministers for Finance of the different countries can so concert their policies as to achieve this objective.

This all adds up to the biggest increase in real household spending power in this decade. For the first time since the traumatic impact of the disastrous policies of 1977 to 1981 began to be felt by our people five years ago, the ability of the average man in the street to improve his living standards by increased purchases of goods and services is becoming a very significant factor. Both those at work and those reliant on social welfare payments will begin to experience a considerable and noticeable improvement in their standard of living for the first time in many years. Averaged over the economy as a whole, it has been calculated that real personal disposable income, the purchasing power of people in the home, will rise by between 3 and 4 per cent. The Government's innovative tax measures of January last will provide a further boost. These measures were designed to relieve the PAYE sector, while protecting revenue through the retention tax on deposit interest, and although the Government ran, and were willing to run, the risk of unpopularity by introducing this new tax, the very positive effect of the PAYE reliefs on take-home pay are now beginning to be noticed.

Social welfare benefits were also increased across the board in the budget by 4 and 5 per cent. These increases will take effect the week after next at a time [2230] when consumer prices may actually be about to fall over the coming months. The benefits of that to people on social welfare will be very substantial indeed.

What we would all like now is to see this increased spending power being translated into jobs. That has not yet happened, either here at home or in other European countries which are also benefiting from the decline in the price of oil. As I have mentioned, members of the European Council addressed this question and discussed the danger that some of the additional spending power might be added to savings for the time being instead of increasing consumer demand and investment. As we rely heavily on a healthy and growing demand in the economies of our trading partners, I am concerned, along with other members of the European Council, to see that, if necessary, steps are taken to ensure that the substantial increase in purchasing power is used to raise demand in Europe. Provided that this is done, the medium term growth prospects thus unleashed offer a good chance for an improvement in employment, after this prolonged depression. By the time the Dáil resumes in October, we will be in a better position to assess these developments.

Already the unemployment trend has improved dramatically over the past three years. In early 1983, after Fianna Fáil's last period in office, we were faced with an unemployment figure which had increased by 30 per cent in 12 months. In the most recent 12 months, the increase in unemployment was barely 3 per cent. Discounting the short lived summer influx of students and school leavers onto the live register which, if last year's experience is repeated, could be large, there is the prospect at least of continued near stability in the level of unemployment in the months ahead. I hope and expect that there will be a decline next year.

If the turnaround in the world economy can be maintained and be supported by stronger demand at home, there should be an acceleration in the growth of employment. The recent falls in manufacturing and building employment both [2231] seem to be coming to an end. In the final quarter of 1985 manufacturing employment fell by just 400 persons, when seasonal factors are taken into account, compared with 2,500 in the corresponding quarter of 1984. In the case of building, the improvement has been helped considerably by the extraordinary success of the house improvement grant scheme which has especially helped the smaller building firms. Although figures are not available, it is believed that services employment continues to show a strong growth. Moreover, the social employment scheme — designed to help the long term unemployed — has now reached its target of 10,000 participants.

I am not, however — nor can anyone be — complacent about the future of growth and employment. Tourism this year has been hit by a number of special factors affecting the North American market, and I am conscious of the competitive difficulties which have been reported to us by the Confederation of Irish Industry. In this connection it is important if these difficulties are not to be compounded that pay settlements take account of the sharp reduction in inflation which is in prospect for the next few years.

Another factor which is making it difficult to assess just what the impact in timing of these events will be is the complexity of our exchange rate position. Our currency has by and large retained it value vis-á-vis those of other European Community countries — except Britain, which is still the country with which we trade most. Since Britain is still outside the EMS, sterling is subject to pressures different from those affecting the EMS countries. We are, therefore, as far as our trade and financial relationships with the United Kingdom are concerned, at the mercy of factors outside our control. The same is true, of course, in relation to the US dollar. Thus, with the two countries to which we sell more than 40 per cent of our exports, and from which we buy about 60 per cent of our imports, we are subject to currency fluctuations largely unrelated to the fluctuations in [2232] the currency system of which we are a member. This creates difficult and uncertain trading conditions for some of our industries, including the tourist industry.

It remains true that the economic prospects facing the country are better than at any time in this decade. This position has been reached with a greatly improved external position and without compromising the objectives of containing public expenditure and of reducing, in proportionate terms, the Government's borrowings. Even before the fall in oil prices, there was a trade surplus of £312 million in 1985, the first year since 1944 in which an annual trade surplus was recorded. The volume of exports in 1985 rose by 6¼ per cent compared with an increase of 3½ per cent in imports. Trade returns for the first five months of 1986 show a surplus of £180 million in this period — over £300 million better than the same quarter last year. Our trade surplus is now of the order of £600 million.

Since January, there have been both favourable and unfavourable budgetary developments. On the one hand, interest payments on the national debt will be much lower than we had allowed for, but on the other, the collapse of Dublin Gas will have an adverse effect on revenue from Bord Gáis Éireann which will also be diminished by the fall in oil prices.

Tax revenue has been closely in line with budget expectations — which were for a level of revenue below that expected in the national plan — taking account of the lower level of inflation we have experienced and adjusted for some reliefs afforded in the Finance Bill. Spending, however, and particularly current spending, has been running somewhat ahead of the level projected in the budget. A combination of factors have been at work here which have been offset only to a very limited degree by the lower than expected level of unemployment in the first half of the year. The Government have taken some steps to trim expenditure in line with lower than expected inflation in order to hold the budget deficit close to that provided for last January.

I want to say a few words at this point [2233] about the unrealism of many of the proposals that have come from Opposition parties with respect to our present economic climate. On the one hand, we have seen the principal Opposition Party proposing time and again, and not just at times of local elections, increased in public spending, both capital and current, which, if implemented, would involve a scale of borrowing that could only have a disastrous impact upon the level of domestic interest rates. It would have a similar impact on the rate at which we are currently borrowing money abroad arising from the more favourable credit rating which this country has been able to secure in recent years owing to the measures taken by this Government in 1981, and again, when we returned to office in 1983.

Even at present spending levels it has been only with some difficulty that the Government have prevented pressure coming on domestic interest rates because of the current scale of Government borrowing, which is only barely within the limits those lending to us consider reasonable. We are still, and will for a long period to come remain, on a knife-edge to a degree that we are inclined to forget, or deliberately to put out of our minds. We would ignore this reality at our peril. I have to recall the action of the Opposition Party when they were in Government in raising the volume of public spending by 50 per cent in five years which had the effect of preempting the growth of revenue for 20 years ahead, for an entire generation. That has to be made up.

Mr. R. Burke: Nobody believes the Taoiseach any more.

Mr. Haughey: He has lost all credibility.

Mr. Dukes: The Opposition never believed themselves.

Mr. R. Burke: The Taoiseach is living in a world of his own.

The Taoiseach: Fianna Fáil do not like [2234] the facts and they do not like the country to hear about them. However, they will remember them next year.

Mr. Barrett (Dún Laoghaire): Let Fianna Fáil face the electorate and see what they have to say to them.

Mr. R. Burke: Where is Alice Glenn this morning? That great liberal, Alan Shatter, is not so fond of free speech.

Mr. F. O'Brien: Fianna Fáil do not know what free speech means.

Mr. Haughey: Is that the best the Government can do?

Mr. Barrett (Dún Laoghaire): Poor old Charlie had to bring back Deputy Burke as chairman for the second time——

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputies not to interrupt the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: It seems to me we are straying somewhat from the main topic before the House but I noted the reference to Dublin County Council.

I need not emphasise in this House that lower interest rates are one of the key requirements for more investment and lower taxation, and therefore of greater competitiveness, higher economic growth, and more and better employment in this country. Persistent attempts to ignore these realities and to propose spending increases on top of the level of public spending to which we have found ourselves committed as a result of the 50 per cent increase in the real cost of public spending undertaken by Fianna Fáil between 1977 and 1982, are totally devoid of realism. These proposals demonstrate a degree of irresponsibility that parallels all too closely the attitudes underlying the events of those terrible years — so closely that one can only fear for the future if our country were to fall once again under the control of those who so mortgaged it to the hilt when they [2235] last had their hands on the levers of Government.

Mr. Dukes: Absolutely.

Mr. R. Burke: The Minister has a brass neck.

The Taoiseach: Other voices too have been raised proposing on the one hand reductions in the level of taxation and on the other hand cuts in public spending, both on a scale that is, quite bluntly, not attainable within any reasonable time-scale. It is frankly irresponsible to talk of cuts of £850 million in public spending without giving any indication as to where these cuts are to fall. The public are entitled to be told whether it is proposed to cut the costs of social welfare payments, which together accounts for over one-third of current expenditure excluding debt service; to reduce public service pay; to sack large numbers of public servants; to cut the health services, even more drastically than we have found it necessary to do; to sack teachers and reduce pupil-teacher ratios in schools, or to offset the cost of public services, such as education, by re-introducing charges for them. It is simply no use pretending that sums like £850 million can be secured by “greater efficiency” in a public service in which the last few years have seen unprecedented improvements in efficiency as a result of reductions in staff numbers at a time when the volume of work to be done has still been increasing significantly.

I am as sympathetic as anyone in this House to the idea of lower tax rates but I do not think that it is in the public interest to promise 25 per cent tax rates, unaccompanied by details as to how the system would operate, beyond the revelation that it would involve the elimination of personal allowances. It has been suggested that the appallingly harsh effect that such a measure would by itself have upon people on low incomes who are at present completely exempted from taxation would be met by providing a significant exemption limit — but of course [2236] if this were to be done there would be a net loss of revenue from income tax on an enormous scale. The figures do not add up.

We do no good to politics in this country by producing promises either of vast increases in public expenditure as Fianna Fáil have done, or equally unrealistic proposals for reductions in taxation which any voter can by now see have only the quality of a dream, after the nightmare of 1977 to 1982. I would have thought that the lessons of the years from 1977 onwards might have been learned by some of those then involved.

The time is long past when the public can be deluded by those kinds of promises of unlimited largesse, to be provided by unspecified means, as if we lived in some make-believe world instead of in the real world of the mid-eighties. The public are well aware that past actions of this sort have given us a level of public debt unparalleled in the developed world, twice as high as any EC country in relation to GNP, and have ensured a situation where debt payments alone absorb more than the total revenue from income tax — Fianna Fáil's legacy.

Mr. Haughey: This Government borrowed two-thirds of that.

The Taoiseach: I know that there are politicians who believe that times have now changed, that political memories are short, that when the next election comes the same routine of promises incapable of fulfilment will win the support of a short-memoried electorate, but I am convinced that it will not be so. I am convinced also that people are entitled to a choice between truth and falsehood, between realism and fantasy — and not between competing sets of look-alike politicians falling over each other to fool the people into voting for them on false premises, and false promises, regardless of the consequences.

In the meantime, we shall continue to provide the kind of honest, dynamic and imaginative Government that has enabled us to come through one of the worst world recessions since the thirties [2237] to do such things as to improve and expand substantially the education system, 3,000 more teachers than when we took office; to guarantee those on welfare against falling living standards, ensuring that in every year of the recession, irrespective of whose purchasing power decreased, the purchasing power of those on social welfare increased; to house 13,000 people through the Housing Finance Agency; to cut by over 7,000 the housing waiting lists, which for decades had remained a scar on our social fabric; to enable thousands of people hitherto forced regardless of their own preference, to be tenants of public authority houses to become instead owners of their own houses; to help 12,000 people on the live register to become self-employed; to put 10,000 long term unemployed to work part time in schemes throughout every part of the country; to get young people, who otherwise would be left to face the frustration of idleness, into community programmes under Teamwork auspices; to start the process of reviving the inner city areas of our major urban centres which had been allowed to rot and to decay under the preceding Administration. Part of this work has been held up by the opposition of Fianna Fáil but we will deal with that in the autumn.

This is what Government is about. It is about politicians getting on top of problems by using a combination of their experience on the ground with their imagination, finding solutions that of their nature are unlikely to emerge even from the most efficient bureaucratic machine. It has been the characteristic of this Government that we have been willing to innovate in all these ways and that these innovations have, without exception, proved many times more successful even than our own most optimistic expectations when we devised these proposals.

The major tasks that face us during the concluding years of this century will be accomplished only if our people retain their commitment to securing once again the full economic independence and freedom that comes only with the removal of dependence on foreign borrowing and of the burden of massive interest payments [2238] on debt, but especially external debt. If our people were to relax their vigilance in this respect, if they were, at any stage, to elect a Government which was not wholeheartedly and totally committed towards this objective, but which threatened to repeat the appalling experience of those years after 1977, then our future would be grim indeed. It is the task of all of us on these benches representing two parties which share a common dedication to the public interest, to ensure that this does not happen, but that in the years ahead, as in the last four years, our country will be governed in the interests of our people rather than in the interests of short term popularity of any group of politicians.

In the year ahead we will remain true to that commitment, and the policies which our two parties will present to the electorate, while they will no doubt differ in certain respects, according to our separate perspectives, will contain nothing that will put in danger what has been achieved during these four years — nothing that will prejudice the future prosperity of our people, and nothing that will reduce the quality of social justice in our society or damage the integrity of public life.

Mr. R. Burke: Hollow applause. Barely a quarter of his party bothered to come in to listen to him.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. R. Burke: This debate marks not only the Adjournment of the Dáil but it is also a parliamentary wake for the Coalition Government. It has been evident for several months that the Coalition have been living on borrowed time. The policy splits at the Cabinet table where the national interest has come a poor second to the ideological slogans of competing Ministers are now a matter of public record.

The Taoiseach's own credibility has been damaged again and again. Not only are Government policies failing but they are no longer believable. Not only is Government policy failing to regenerate the economy but it is compounding a [2239] sense of hopelessness in our people, employed as well as unemployed, young as well as old, married as well as single. When I talk of the Taoiseach's credibility being damaged, of course we have to look at his partner, the Tánaiste. Where is his credibility when we see him quoted in the today's edition of The Irish Times speaking of the Leader of Fianna Fáil as being involved in craven connivance with the anti divorce group? May I suggest that the Tánaiste is totally out of touch with public opinion, as was recorded by the people. He totally misjudged the views and the feelings of the people in recent weeks. I suggest that the Tánaiste would be far better off if he listened to the group with which he continuously claims to have a special relationship, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, who yesterday at their annual conference in Belfast called on him and this Government to resign when they discussed the economic situation, jobs and taxation.

I want to ask the Taoiseach and the Government, who is out of touch? The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Cabinet and their parties are totally out of touch with what the people are thinking and feeling at this time. That is not just our view. The Taoiseach's backbenchers tell him the same thing. This Government would be out of office in the morning if the other group which the Taoiseach attacked in his speech, the Progressive Democrats, the third silent partner to the Coalition, were to take their courage in their hands and vote the way they speak. They would then vote out this Government and take a load off the shoulders of the people.

Minister for Education (Mr. Cooney): Fianna Fáil should not have expelled them.

Mr. R. Burke: You saved Alice yesterday and we gave you a hand with the bells. Do not leave us now.

After three and a half years of Coalition bungling it is now more apparent than ever that what this country urgently needs is decisive leadership, a strategy for national recovery which will recognise [2240] the great and proven potential of our people, and a Government that can develop a true partnership with all the people and give them hope and confidence in the future. This is impossible under the Coalition because their economic policy has fixed itself on an intransigent line which does not allow it the flexibility either to encourage enterprise and initiative or to take advantage of improvement in the world economy.

It is government by remote control, out of touch with people on the ground. If proof were required of this we received it again in the statement of 1 July from the Minister for Finance on Exchequer returns when he showed that the proportion of the full year deficit outturn incurred in the first half of the present year is 76.5 per cent, and this from a Government who lectured the Irish people and all political parties in the three general elections of 1981 and 1982 on the essential need to eliminate the current budget deficit. Again the Minister on 1 July said the indications are that there will be some overrun on the targets for the budget deficit for the year as a whole and that savings under a number of headings are unlikely to be sufficient to balance expected shortfalls. This, if further proof was needed, indicates clearly that the 1986 budget introduced by the Minister, Deputy Dukes — who, by the way, was immediately fired and moved to the Department of Justice — is now totally off course.

This Government in their three and a half years in office more than doubled the national debt and borrowed more than all the Fianna Fáil Governments put together since the foundation of the State. Those are the facts, unlike the bogeyman stories we have just heard from the Taoiseach. This “carry on regardless” attitude is undermining the whole basis of our parliamentary democracy. The very institution of Government is being affected by it. Therefore, in the greater national interest this Coalition should go. They no longer have any credibility. They are a lame duck Government, nothing less, nothing more. National recovery can be brought about [2241] only by putting people first, only if the people are given a chance to contribute. As it is, the extension of our dole queues to the lines of young people outside the American Embassy should tell the Government that their policies are failing abysmally. The forced emigration of an increased number of our people, especially young people, cannot be the answer.

On the question of emigration, this Taoiseach consistently over the past 12 months evaded answering questions addressed to him in this House and delegated them to the Minister of State. Time and again figures were given by his Minister of State on behalf of the Government which indicated that emigration was running at a level of about 5,000 to 7,000, but the real story has now emerged, thanks to a question addressed to the Taoiseach by Deputy John O'Leary who was given a written reply on 1 July. Deputy O'Leary asked the Taoiseach the total number of persons who had (a) left Ireland and (b) entered Ireland by sea and by air during each of the years ending 31 May 1984, 31 May 1985 and 31 May 1986. The reply indicated clearly a tidal wave of emigration from this country. In 1984, the figure was 10,000; in 1985, it was 38,000; and in 1986, it was 64,000.

The national handlers yesterday attempted to argue away the significance of those figures, but every Deputy in this House is aware of the curse of emigration in his or her constituency to the extent that in some parts of the country the local football clubs are finding it impossible to field a team because the young people have left. I can give the House an example in my constituency of North Dublin. I was at a meeting in the village of Garristown there about a fortnight ago and I was told by the residents I was meeting that night and by mothers there that ten young people from that small village had emigrated in that week. Then this Government tell us emigration is not a problem.

There are many ways in which national recovery can be brought about, and over the past three years Fianna Fáil have suggested several both in policy documents and here in the Dáil. We have [2242] pointed to the pivotal role which the construction industry can play, because this industry is unique. As has been said many times in the past, it is a barometer of the economic health of the country. It reflects a whole range of support services and employment areas over and above those directly involved in the construction industry. However, under this Coalition this industry has all but been brought to its knees. The statistics tell us that the number of houses completed in the private sector in the past three years has fallen by over 25 per cent. In the current year the trend suggests that this decline is at an even faster rate.

In the Dublin area the number of new house starts during the first quarter of this year alone is 13 per cent down on the 1985 figure and 43 per cent below the corresponding figure for 1984. This decline is also marked in local authority completions, despite the Minister's undertaking in December 1982 to the contrary. What can one expect when in the current year Government expenditure on local authority housing has fallen from £200 million in 1984 to £170 million? Another example is that cement sales have fallen by 17 per cent in the past two years alone. For the first three months of 1986 the Construction Industry Federation figures suggest that there has been a drop of 15 per cent in cement sales over the same period in 1985. Then the VAT rate has been topped up consistently by this Government, rising from 3 per cent in 1981 to 5 per cent in 1982 and in the 1985 budget increased to 10 per cent. As a further example, we have seen a 26 per cent volume cut in the public capital programme since this Government came to power. A further example in 1986 is that the public construction investment is down £34 million even on the level projected in the Government's discredited plan Building on Reality 1985-1987.

These statistics tell us that investment in the construction industry is drying up. This began to develop when the Coalition withdrew from the capital programme the £200 million which had been allocated to the industry by the last Fianna Fáil [2243] Government. It is no wonder that An Foras Forbartha reported last May that investment in the construction industry in 1985 was only 10.6 per cent of GDP, the lowest since the sixties. The result of this suicidal policy is twofold. Firstly, it has obvious effects on employment. At the moment nearly 50,000 people are unemployed in the construction industry, a figure which represents an increase of almost 100 per cent since 1981. Secondly, this figure tells only part of the story, because the deliberate scaling down of the industry has also meant a dramatic increase in unemployment among carpenters, plumbers, engineers, surveyors and all types of skilled tradesmen and women. This will not be reversed until the Coalition recognise that there is a problem in the construction industry.

A very good start, indeed, would be for the Minister for the Environment, the Minister directly responsible for the construction industry, to build on reality and retract his remarks made in the debate on the Estimate for his Department that: “Last year was the best year for the industry since the present recession began. While there was a further marginal fall in the volume of output it is encouraging to note that by the end of last year unemployment had stabilised and, indeed, began to show an improving trend in the early part of the year.” This is a classic example of the level of unreality which permeates this Government.

From the CIF report 1985-86, I quote:

Unfortunately the state of the industry continues to decline. The industry's position is far worse than might appear to the public e.g. unemployment has remained static for the months December 1985, January, February, March 1986. What is not generally realised is that there is a massive haemorrhage of emigration at all levels of the industry — manual workers, managements and the professions. There is also an increasing number of people working in the Black Economy assisted by the doubling of VAT some of whom are not drawing the dole.

[2244] The decline in cement sales reached 12 per cent for the first four months of the year and other indicators, such as the decline in housing starts and the number of firms closing down in all sectors, is further evidence if evidence is needed.... It is unfortunate that some politicians and economists foresaw an upturn this year and this assists in preventing action being taken.

Instead of the Minister for the Environment closing his eyes and hoping that the problem will go away, he and the Government should take action. The Construction Industry Federation have denied the Minister's assertion that last year was the best for the industry since the present recession began.

Investment in the construction industry must be encouraged as a renewed and reinvigorated industry is central to lowering unemployment and to national economic recovery. It is also socially desirable that house buyers, particularly young couples, are given the incentive to buy their own homes. Private investment can be encouraged through the development of section 23 type incentives such as those introduced by the last Fianna Fáil Government but thoughtlessly discarded by the Coalition when they assumed office.

There is also a need for a more creative Government policy in other areas such as joint venture housing and, of course, fundamental to all the aids needed in the construction industry is a re-evaluation of VAT levels. It is absurd to have VAT at a rate of 10 per cent with the stated aim of bringing in extra revenue when it is obvious that such a rate is discouraging construction.

I also appeal to the Minister to take a more practical and realistic look at the operation of the reconstruction grant schemes. Fianna Fáil had been promoting these schemes for months as a way of reducing unemployment in the construction industry. However, when the scheme was taken up by Government last October it became obvious that there is a massive difference between the ideas [2245] promoted by Fianna Fáil and the Government scheme and its operation. In terms of the 1986 estimate, only £24 million has been allocated to these schemes. Based on Dáil replies from the Minister for the Environment on 12 February and 19 March, it is clear that this budget will be totally inadequate to meet the volume of applications. The Minister also stated in March that it would cost £45 million to fund the applications which had been approved without inspection and they are only a proportion of the applications. Bearing these facts in mind and in view of the budgetary allocation, it is no wonder that there is a great difference between the intent and the reality of the scheme. Householders say that the letters of approval are not worth the paper they are written on. They speak of delays in approval and of financial hardship caused by inspectors deliberately undervaluing projects, apparently with the aim of keeping the level of the grant down. As the scheme is operating, it may well prove counterproductive as householders are lulled into a false sense of security. The allocated budget is insufficient and householders may find themselves on the financial rack. This is a matter of fact and it is misleading of the Government to suggest otherwise.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. O'Sullivan): That is not true.

Mr. R. Burke: The Coalition mishandling of the Housing Finance Agency is also putting some householders in an untenable position. The Government are deliberately trying to run down the agency with the result that they are losing credibility with the banks and leaving many householders unable to dispose of their houses due to increased debt. Government policy is no longer believable adding a psychological malaise to economic and industrial mismanagement.

As employers and representative institutions, local authorities are also being forced into Limbo. How can they provide the necessary services when the Coalition [2246] use every opportunity deliberately to frustrate them? In particular, the Government are trying to undermine the decision taken by the Fianna Fáil Government to abolish domestic rates. Local charges are a form of taxation and they constitute double taxation on an already overburdened taxpaying public. Fianna Fáil do not see the provision of local services in terms of reintroducing creeping local taxation. Instead we again call on the Government to put local authority finances on a firm and solid footing by establishing a statutory annual contribution from the central Exchequer.

The backhanded way in which local authority finances have been treated by Government is matched by their attitude to local democracy. In 1984 local elections were postponed on the premise that local government was to be reformed. Two years later we still have no clear idea of what central Government have in mind for local authorities. Perhaps that is not entirely correct, two weeks ago a streets' commission was announced and, while I welcome that, the reality is that the Government are trying to subvert local democracy. If this is an indication of the way they are approaching local government reform, it does not augur well for local authorities. The Minister should be encouraging people to participate in local affairs instead of putting a gulf between them and the Government.

The Government have failed in many areas, especially in the construction industry, the operation of the Housing Finance Agency, home improvement grants and local democracy and finance. Their failure in one area is unforgiveable. I refer to Sellafield. If they had taken firm action they would have given leadership which would have unified the people. On two occasions we had a debate in Private Members' time on the question of Sellafield and nuclear power. Last May we had a Fianna Fáil motion that Dáil Éireann, in view of the serious menace represented by nuclear power installations which in the event of an accident could cause serious injury and longlasting contamination in Ireland, should request the Government (1) to demand the closure [2247] of the Sellafield complex in the light of its deplorable safety record and (2) to undertake a complete review of plans and arrangements for the protection of the civilian population in the event of fallout from a nuclear accident; to take whatever steps are shown to be necessary by this review and report back to the Dáil within three months on the current state of these plans. The Government, Taoiseach and the Minister for Energy took a craven approach to this motion to the extent of being afraid to disturb Mrs. Thatcher and the Conservative Government. They were prepared to put at risk the health, safety and security of our people in regard to this menace on our doorstep. They voted down the motion in this House instead of taking the opportunity to unite the people in calling for a closure of Sellafield. They argued that calling for closure is not sufficient and would not have caused Sellafield to close. We believe that a proper approach would have been to unite the people and that a call for closure from the Government would have put great moral pressure on the British Government to take seriously the threat to the Irish people and their own residents of Sellafield and the nuclear stations along the west coast of Britain. But this Government were not prepared to send out a united call from this House. Compare that with the Danish Parliament who suffer a similar threat from the nuclear power station in Malmo. The Danish Parliament were not afraid to send out a united call to their neighbours, the Swedes, to close down the power station in Malmo. But we have these knee-walking Minister led by the Taoiseach, afraid in any way to disturb the Conservative Government in England. They are prepared to put the health and security of the Irish nation at risk rather than call on the British Government to close Sellafield.

It is interesting to note that it took the Taoiseach until about the twentieth page of his speech to get to anything about the economy and the condition of those who are unemployed, and then it was only a passing reference. He claimed the [2248] present level of the sterling/punt relationship is a great thing because it allows imports to be bought by our people at a cheaper rate than would have been possible in the past. The reality is that because of the present value of sterling and because of the policies being followed by Government, our exporters and manufacturers are crippled and our traditional industries are very badly hit in regard to our export potential because of the value of sterling at the moment. It is essential that the Government take action in this regard.

It is interesting also that for the first time the Taoiseach referred to the collapse of Dublin Gas when he said that on the one hand interest payments on the national debt would be much lower than they had allowed for but that on the other hand the “collapse” of Dublin Gas will have an adverse effect on revenue from Bord Gáis Éireann which will also be diminished by the fall in oil prices. That is the first time there has been a recognition of the collapse of Dublin Gas and I would suggest that he talk to the former Minister for Trade about that matter.

As a representative of Dublin North constituency I must mention the problems being faced by the horticultural industry. I take this opportunity to make a plea to the Government, which will probably fall on deaf ears, to do something in regard to the Irish potato crop which is now coming on stream. Imported potatoes have had a clear run on the Irish market for the last six weeks. Would it be asking too much of the Minister for Agriculture at least to allow our potato farmers the opportunity to have some small period of sales into the Irish market for Irish potatoes free from imports so that they can survive — and it is a matter of survival? They need the opportunity to get decent prices and fair competition in the market rather than being subject to the unfair competition from imports that are at the moment being dumped on the market.

As I stated at the outset, the reality is that Government are pushing the people away from them. They are living in a vacuum having lost all touch with the [2249] reality of Ireland today. They have shattered the confidence of the nation. This confidence must be restored and this is the only way towards national recovery, the only way forward. The Government cannot provide it. One of the Fine Gael backbenchers is reported in The Irish Press today as having said to the Minister for Education — that was until she was fired, now Minister for Social Welfare — “Madam, you have had your day; you were rejected by the people”.

I say to the Government that they have been rejected by the Irish people: they have had their day and have been rejected. Fianna Fáil will, hopefully, have a chance within the next few months to raise the confidence and the belief of the people in themselves. Let the Taoiseach get out and give the people an opportunity to go forward.

Mr. Kelly: Deputy Burke must have graduated head of the class in the Brian Lenihan school of political blather. I have never heard a more predictable, robotproduced, automated lot of featureless rant as I have in the last 30 minutes. There is not a light note struck in it, not a trace of generosity, no give of any kind. It is just the old sort of thing which sickens people who come into this House, who wander in, perhaps sit in the Public Gallery for 20 minutes and go home again and say they were in the Dáil but did not think much of it.

The problems that this economy wrestles with and that Governments in charge of the country have to wrestle with in their turn are confronted in a framework which we inherited. This is a theme which the House will have heard from me before. It is a framework both psychological and organisational which is essentially British and we have never succeeded in getting away from it and we have never had the courage or the inventiveness to revolutionise it and to dig the spade, so to speak, deeper into the Irish soil and turn up a landscape, a governmental and psychological landscape, somewhat different in shape from that which the British left behind. We have a governmental structure which in [2250] all essential respects is the same as the British have themselves or would have left behind here if they had a full political structure in the country. We have an industrial relations ethos and industrial relations practices which are, as far as my inexpert eye can judge, indistinguishable from those which prevail on the other side of the Irish sea and are a major factor in the progressive impoverishment of the British economy, and we have a public psychology as to the role of the State, as to the duty of the State, being continuously to expand its systems of social support, continuously to provide jobs whether the jobs are wealth producing or not, and continuously to assume responsibility for the prosperity of individuals. These are the things that are making it impossible for a Government here ever to be able to render an account to this House or to the people of success, and make it impossible for any Taoiseach of any party ever to be more than defensive when presenting his accounts at the end of the year.

We are going to have to revolutionise some of the elements I have mentioned and I am not altogether pessimistic about our doing that because I have seen some signs of it. I must — and I do it gladly because he is a party colleague — give credit to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Bruton, for having the guts and the inventiveness to try something new and to try some new thought and to try to get others to share new thought that would not indeed seem very revolutionary in Switzerland or Scandinavia but is very revolutionary in these Islands. I salute Deputy Bruton for trying to turn the psychology of the people around. I notice that he is now beginning to speak, and has been for some time speaking, about the concept of the wider diffusion of ownership. He is absolutely right in that, in the strategic perception that the material happiness of people lies in their having a personal stake in and a personal share of the property of their country. He is absolutely right. It contradicts and, of course, flies in the face of the Marxist dialectic and the Marxist perception that is necessary to the revolutionary thesis [2251] that there is a ruling class which pre-empts and preoccupies all sources of wealth and that that is something which only revolution can displace.

I am very keen on avoiding revolution and all the horrors and tyrannies which result from it which one can see in many unfortunate parts of the world. I am keen on doing this by timely reform, the kind of reform which Deputy Bruton is trying to undertake by spreading the idea of wide diffusion of ownership. In his own field by inducing the greater participation of employees of firms in the share capital of their enterprise he is going on absolutely the right track. I hope he will be well supported for doing so. The Government's older schemes with regard to assisting tenants of local authority dwellings to purchase them and become owners of them have proved very popular, as indeed they have in other countries. That, even though not so advertised, is another dimension of the notion of diffusion of ownership, giving people a stake and a sense of property in the country which they can pass on to their children. This is something which gives them perspectives of life other than those which lead them always to be articulating demands on other people.

Apart from revolution in thought of the kind of which Deputy Bruton has given an example in regard to diffusing ownership, we need a much wider diffusion of control and government, economic management and an economic initiative. When we identify a problem here, we tend to set up an authority or board, to find some Irish name for it and hope that will take the problem by the throat and deal with it. The authority is only another aspect of the centralised State and does not mobilise the emotional support, commitment and co-operation of individuals in frames and on scales which they are able to understand and which they feel are modest enough for their own individual contribution to have some impact. We had an opportunity to do that, and in theory we still have, via the promised local government reform. That was the one part of Deputy Burke's [2252] speech with which I could not disagree. I am disappointed that it is taking so long to do anything serious in connection with local government reform.

The only reform we have seen so far which has reached the Statute Book has been a jiggling of a frontier here and a juggling of frontiers there, an increase in the number of councillors in Dublin city, leading to work for theatrical costumiers, an increase in the number of county councillors in various places and the upgrading or uptitling of a body, if these farces impress you. I do not believe they do impress you, Sir. If the farce of calling one impotent authority by a name grander than that which it already has impresses you, well that has been impressive legislation.

Anything in regard to transforming the actual function and character of local government is still awaited. I am afraid I cannot dissent from Deputy Burke's expression of disappointment. Nothing in that Deputy's operations on Dublin County Council leads me to suppose that he has any higher conception of local government than that it might give him personally and his party a chance to pull more strings and operate more levers. That is not what I am talking about. His general complaint that there has been no sign of any conceptual or structural local government reform is correct. That is an area in which it would have been possible, and still in theory is, for organisms to be devised, I hope based on relatively small communes or community units of a dimension such that an individual can see the impact of his own input into it. I hope it would operate on the co-operative principle which transformed the very poor economies of Northern Europe at the end of the last century and the beginning of this.

This country was notoriously the most wretched of all the European countries in the middle 19th century — traveller after traveller attests that. However, it was not, an objective criteria, all that much more wretched than the countries of Northern Europe with poorer land and exploding populations like our own. The [2253] populations of Sweden, Northern Germany and Denmark were nearly at the same level of wretchedness in the early and middle 19th century when they also emigrated in large streams to the North American continent, as our own did. But these economies are now among the richest in the world and reached that degree of richness, I think I am right in saying in the case of Denmark and Sweden certainly, although I am less well instructed about other countries, largely by the deployment of the co-operative principle and the operation of modest localised schemes for the improvement of agriculture, of stock, the better use of land and so forth. The problems of each country are different.

I do not say that in every respect solutions which worked very well in poor parts of Sweden in the 1890s would work equally well in the very different conditions of Ireland in the 1980s. I do say that there was an instance of a new principle, because it had not been known before then, being consciously introduced and seen within the space of two or three generations utterly to transform the existence of the people among whom it was being operated. That possibility is open to us as well. It needs a bit of a start from the State. I have very many times written letters, minutes, memoranda and made speeches about this, and submitted the idea to Minister after Minister. I am still waiting to see something happening. I do not say that it should, merely because I say so — far from it — but I do think that is a route which also could be described as putting the spade in deeper, revolutionising some of the inherited and now petrified structures in which the economy and political life here operate, doing something new and likely to be effective by mobilising the enthusiasm of individuals, giving individual people the feeling that they can do something for themselves and their neighbours.

A third way — and I have spoken many times about this here before — is to intensify our contact with the outside world. I get depressed, I must admit, at the sight of the long queues which I can see every day outside the American Embassy. [2254] They were so small once that they were scarcely noticed, but now they look like demonstrations because they are so large. One begins to wonder if it is something about Nicaragua again. However, it is only many people queuing up for visas. I am distressed by that if it is the case, as I assume it is with many of them, that economic circumstances have forced them to go. I have never advocated that we should simply welcome emigration as a safety valve, but the mere decrying of emigration even if it is only temporary, as being a loss and a disaster is wicked and there is something positive to be gained from intensifying the contact of this country with the outside world. That must be done at every level, in the schools by increasing linguistic skills which at the moment are lamentably low, at a later stage by encouraging cyclical migration of Irish people to the outside world so that they can become accustomed to outside standards and, in particular, the standards of the people in whose markets we are going to have to sell our goods.

We need to push our people out — I do not mean onto the emigration ships and I am sick of expressing the hope that I will not be misunderstood when I say that. We should encourage young people to get out for a couple of years if they can. I do not want to raise a silly hare, but it is not all that foolish to suppose that we might perhaps gain benefit if we could find placements in training schemes somewhere abroad for people for whom no work can be found at home. We could send them postal orders representing the amount of unemployment assistance they would have been getting had they stayed here, to top up whatever pittance of pocket money they might be getting as trainees abroad. That would pay us as well as pay them. When they came back they would be people of a training, experience, breadth of vision and a set of perspectives of a kind we desperately need here. We also need to overcome the ideology which is nibbling away like rodents at the foundations of whatever bits of psychological health are still left in the country.

Deputy Bruton has had to put up with [2255] much of what he called a lukewarm reception. He has not complained about it because he has to stay on good terms, naturally, with all sides, but it is clear that he has been getting a lukewarm reception from some sections of the trade union movement in regard to his proposal for share ownership. Many trade unions although they may not perhaps express it to themselves like this and might be shocked at my saying so, appear to have a vested interest in keeping their members poor and dependent. I hope I am wrong in that, but sometimes it really seems so. I think things are beginning to change, but that has seemed to be the case.

I saw an exquisite example of what I am talking about in a very interesting article by Maev-Ann Wren in The Irish Times of 13 May. I must frankly admit that I do not understand the mechanics of these concerts too well but a concert was launched on the model of the Geldof one for Africa, which was first to be called Jobs Aid but was subsequently rechristened Self Aid. The whole operation was intended as a source from which to fund jobs. Mr. Peter Cassells, Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU, is quoted by Miss Wren as saying the following about the retitling of the concern into Self Aid. He said that they were annoyed at the change and would be totally opposed to the ideological connotation that it is up to people to create their own jobs and that it is not economic and social policies generally that are creating our problems. Are these people living on the moon? If I am to follow the logic of that, he would sooner destroy the prospect of a job if it is self-created rather than have the principle that the State is the provider in any sense impaired or diminished.

At another stage Ms. Wren reports as follows: Despite the ICTU's reservations about the renaming of the project, Congress remains involved although the labour youth movement, journalist, Eamonn McCann, and musician, Paul Cleary, have all adopted positions of active opposition to the concert in protest against the Self Aid philosophy. Have these people not got the independence to [2256] put on their own trousers in the morning without help? Mr. Peter Cassells of the ICTU said — let me interpolate my own word — very grudgingly that the Congress still sees it as a useful mechanism for focusing attention on unemployment. The reason he gives for focusing attention on unemployment is in order to make people start asking questions about what the Government and political parties are doing. That gentleman figures in many dimensions of Irish life. I do not mean to offend him but not doubt he is typical of a whole slice of opinion in the trade union movement and at the senior and most important levels of it. This same gentleman was recently appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the board of the National Development Corporation. I do not mind there being a statutory input. Naturally I would welcome it. It has to be there from the trade union side of the industrial field. This individual thinks that it is a pernicious ideology that people should make work for themselves. What part has he got in the National Development Corporation?

The National Development Corporation is a reflection of the kind of psychological rut we have been stuck in ever since the British left from which the very first Government made some innovative efforts to escape but into which we have since sunk back. The National Development Corporation was wished upon this part as part of the Coalition deal. I asked repeatedly in the House and elsewhere over the years what it was going to do. I am still waiting for an answer. The first answer I ever got was not a direct answer. I got the newsletter of the National Development Corporation called Venture News. It is a very humble and modest little sheet. It is the first bulletin since the appointment of the new board. Venture News gives details of one venture which they have engaged in, the only one since the establishment of a corporation which is to create tens of thousands of new jobs like the jobs that Fianna Fáil said were only waiting to be created.

The only venture detailed in this bulletin is an enterprise for making Irish bog oak souvenirs. The chief executive said [2257] that this venture is backed by a skilled team of talented individuals and they welcomed this addition to the portfolio. I would like to clear the leprechauns out of the national portfolio and also clear out of the State's portfolio redundant agencies of which the NDC, I am sorry to say, seems to be one. If I turn out to be wrong about it and if it is able to exploit areas of the economy that it never occurred to private enterprise to exploit, I will eat my words cheerfully and gladly.

I want to move to the recently evolving political situation. I have just been dealing with how we need a much more revolutionary and deep-reaching reconstruction, psychological and organisational, if we are ever going to get clear of the economic problems we have. I have often said that before and I am not going to waste my time talking about it now.

Because of the referendum result we are faced with the indefinite postponement of any divorce legislation. I am not going to explore the question of whether if the Government had postponed it until after the next election or some other time, it might have had a better chance of getting through. For better or for worse and for reasons good or bad, the whole divorce option has been pushed out of the way for a considerable number of years. We need not speculate how many. In that interval, as the Taoiseach quite rightly said, there is a strong and urgent obligation on the Government to see what can be done within the constraint of a legal and constitutional system which does not contain divorce. It is important and urgent to do that, and I fully support the Taoiseach. He is right to eliminate any illusions people may have about the law of nullity. I said a word or two about it recently on a radio interview — I did not expect to be asked about it — but I think I have been misinterpreted by some people to judge by a couple of letters I got about it.

Nullity is not a substitute for divorce and cannot be a substitute for divorce. The Taoiseach is absolutely right in saying that any attempt to expand the nullity jurisdiction in such a way as to [2258] make it a substitute for divorce would be unconstitutional. It cannot be that. All I am saying, and all the Taoiseach means, is that there are some areas of matrimonial law — I am not an expert on matrimonial law, Deputy Shatter knows infinitely more about it than I do — e.g. the law of nullity in which some little improvement might be effected by statute. It will not solve the problems of the vast majority of people in broken marriages. No one ever pretended that it would. It will only solve the problems of people in whose marriage there was a flaw at the very beginning. That area has been untouched by statute. There may be room for statutory improvement in order to help what will only be a limited number of individuals. That should be done. In regard to the law on separation, the status of children and so on I hope the Government will vigorously push ahead with their proposals. I heard press mutterings about whether or not the Government will have difficulties with that. I do not believe that there will be any dissent from the Government's programme in that regard. If there is, I have not become aware of it.

The attitude of the Opposition to the referendum is unique in the annals of this country. I cannot remember anything corresponding to it. There was one occasion on which a party leader was involved in opposing a referendum but his heart was suspected not to be in it. I am referring to Liam Cosgrave who made no secret of the fact that he would have preferred a straight vote to PR. He said that before he became party leader and I do not know whether he has changed his mind since. He most vigorously opposed the Fianna Fáil proposal in 1968 and gave a marvellous and fighting lead to his party in so doing. These positions were not inconsistent. It was not inconsistent to say: “We refuse to let the country be tied down in this way”. There was tolerance by Fianna Fáil in regard to electoral boundaries Mr. Boland was proposing. Although the theory appealed to Liam Cosgrave he made no bones about leading a campaign to vote “no” and he won his campaign by a massive landslide. [2259] What have we got from Deputy Haughey? His own personal opinion, he simpered modestly, six weeks ago was irrelevant.

The press need to be lectured by someone who is less dependent on them than I am. I do not want to be blacked by the press, but I must say they get very stickin-the-mud about certain cliches and the way they operate. We have the conventional photograph of the Minister for Finance grinning foolishly over what is supposed to be the Hibernian equivalent of a battered despatch box. We have the equally conventional and superfluous pictures of the party leaders casting their votes, posing fittingly until all the cameras have been lined up, and dropping their ballot papers in the box.

There was one last Thursday showing the Taoiseach and his wife casting their votes. I take it the Taoiseach voted “yes”. There was one showing the Leader of the Opposition, prettily posing with his voting paper over the box. No one knows what was on the paper. He is a party leader. The vote is supposed to be secret for all voters. It is secret and, damn it, a politician is not in the business of refusing to say how the country should be run. He is not in the business of saying, “I would like to be Taoiseach, the man in charge, but I will not tell you my opinions about anything that will interest you”.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Can the Deputy say how he voted?

Mr. Kelly: I have said so in here and I will say again now that I voted “yes”.

Mr. D. Gallagher: We are tired listening to the Deputy talking about it. Why is he not talking about the economy or something that matters? We are sick and tired of the Deputy's blather. He has been talking the greatest blather I have ever heard——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will have to allow Deputy Kelly to continue.

Mr. D. Gallagher: It is very hard to [2260] listen to all this waffle. We are on the Estimate for the Department of the Taoiseach.

Mr. Kelly: Do not blow a valve.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Not once has he referred to the Taoiseach's Estimate or to his statement. We have heard nothing from him but blather.

Mr. Kelly: The Deputy will blow a couple of cylinders if he is not careful. If he does not want to listen to me he can go off with himself. On the radio the other day I heard Deputy Haughey say why he did not want to take a line and why his party did not want to take a line on the divorce campaign. He said that they did not want to politicise a social issue. Think of the niceness of it.

Mr. D. Gallagher: Tell us about the Fine Gael Party meeting yesterday and how the Deputy ran.

Mr. Kelly: This is amazing. On 5 November 1982, coming up to the last general election, Deputy Haughey's first act when the whistle blew was to proclaim that the pro-life amendment which he had taken under his wing would go through under Fianna Fáil. He was making it a political issue. I refer to Olivia O'Leary's article on that day:

Fine Gael could not be trusted to proceed with the anti-abortion amendment in Government, the Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, said yesterday. He would be making the anti-abortion amendment a major campaign measure on the basis, he said, that he believed only Fianna Fáil were genuinely committed to bringing it forward. Despite Fine Gael's welcome for the amendment last night and their commitment to support it in an amendment, Mr. Haughey claimed that there was still a difference between the Fine Gael and the Fianna Fáil attitude to the amendment.

There is the man who, when it suits him on different occasions, does not want to [2261] bring politics into a social issue. He knew that the pro-life amendment, if put to the people, had to win, that there was no possible way it could lose, and so he made it a political issue hoping to wrong foot Deputy FitzGerald who might have been hovering around or foostering about trying to decide whether to vote “yes” or “no”. Deputy FitzGerald rightly brushed the thing off the table and said: “We will do the same”.

It was quite different in regard to the divorce referendum. From opinion polls, Deputy Haughey might have had a hunch one way or the other but he could not be clear or certain. There was always the chance of antagonising the trendy-boots in the country who would be an easy target for the idea that Fianna Fáil were a republican party. He would still like to have a certain section of the crowd at Bodenstown believing in that dimension of the party's operations. So, he sat on the fence. I suppose the whole thing is a shambles but there is one silver lining in it, a very substantial one, for the Government and the party I belong to, that is, that I believe Fianna Fáil's leadership by taking that line has irreparably damaged itself with a significant section of thinking people.

Mr. D. Gallagher: What about Deputy Cosgrave as Taoiseach voting against the Bill of his own Government?

An Ceann Comhairle: If Deputy Gallagher cannot restrain himself he will have to leave the House.

Mr. Kelly: I have not patience with the noise coming from the North of Ireland about this. In the North of Ireland anyone who is honest and open minded must see that there is a huge change going on in this State. Twenty years ago no Irish Government of any complexion would have dared to bring forward a referendum on divorce. They would have fallen over backwards to conceal the fact that the thing had even been discussed among them. Had a document so suicidal been introduced in 1956 or 1966 as to put such a thing up it would not have been [2262] beaten 63 to 36, or whatever it is, but by 96 to 4 or thereabouts. Not even 5 per cent of the people would have been willing to vote for it.

There has been a huge turn around in opinion in this country under our eyes, as there was in the decade from 1974 to 1984 when the contraception law was dragged out of the 1870s and people are now willing to live with it. I have no patience with those who go on about this State being priest ridden, about nothing ever changing. Many times I have spoken here begging for understanding for Unionists, begging for a little sympathy for their position, but they are the ones who do not seem to change. They do not seem to have shown an inch of give in their attitude to life in the last 60 years. They have learned nothing from their experience and they have brought all the horror and sorrow and bloodshed on their own heads by their grotesque selfishness and shortsightedness at a time when they might have reformed had they followed the lead of somebody who had a bit of perception, like O'Neill.

We are now into what is called the “Marching Season”. What in the name of God do they want to be marching for? Would they ever close down their marches for a couple of years as a gesture to reconciliation? No, that is not negotiable, but everything down here is supposed to be negotiable. I defend the Unionists. I try to make their case and I try to get better understanding for them and for us to keep in touch with reality in regard to them but I will not take this sort of stuff from them about the episode we had last week.

Mr. J. Leonard: The Taoiseach commenced his speech on the referendum and I am sure we will have a continuation of the same speech by other speakers trying to defend the indefensible. The hard fact is that the Government got it wrong. They should now spend some time and money trying to solve our economic problems. The referendum result showed that they were not in touch at any level with our people. This morning we had this charade of justification when [2263] we have mass unemployment, collapse of industries, agriculture in a stagnant position and when the temporary emeployment schemes, funded almost entirely from the EC social fund, are collapsing around our feet.

The idea of an Adjournment Debate at the end of a Dáil session is to provide an opportunity for a general look at the state of the country. It is a necessary opportunity to cover the field widely without the limitations applying to most other debates. It is particularly necessary at present to indicate to Government how isolated they have become from reality, how inappropriate and inadequate their actions have been.

Our employment figures are given as 230,000, but the true figure is nearer to 250,000. One would think the figure was only 25 per cent of that judging by the absence of constructive comments from Government. The usual solution trotted out by the Labour Party is that we should turn to State enterprises. We have the reverse from Fine Gael, who sit back and say that when the book-keeping comes right the jobs will pop out of the woodwork. Have the Government not grasped the fact that the unemployed are not interested in ideology; they are interested only in jobs? Jobs do not appear, they have to be created. The phrase “nobody earns a personal living, but they owe them the opportunity” is true of a government. While they cannot create jobs Government can create the conditions. In that area the Government stand condemned. They have made no effort to create the atmosphere where jobs can be created. The attack on the jobs front should be from all sides, for example, State projects, private projects, co-operative and community projects.

The problem of emigration was highlighted yesterday by a Parliamentary Question. Emigration is more apparent in the region I come from than in most others. We are very concerned about it. Almost 12 months ago I tabled a question asking the number who had emigrated from the RDO region of Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. That question was [2264] tabled following the local elections as a result of a canvass through the area in which it was found that two to three young people of many houses had gone to America, most of them illegally on temporary visas. They left themselves very vulnerable. If they suffered health problems or the loss of employment, they had no benefits. It is a serious problem.

In reply to the question of yesterday the Taoiseach admitted over 100,000 have emigrated over the last three years. For the year ended May 1984, 10,000 more people left the country than returned. For the year ended May 1985, 38,000 more people left the country than returned. In the year ended May 1986, the number was 64,000. In one of today's newspapers it was suggested that these figures were not necessarily accurate as a person could leave from Belfast on a business trip, fly to Dublin, travel onward from Dublin and return to Belfast. It is ridiculous to try to base an argument on that being a general trend. I can say without any fear of contradiction that those leaving in massive numbers from the constituency I represent and from along the Border region are leaving from Belfast. They would not be included in the figures which the Taoiseach gave.

Factories and industries are closing down. People are becoming redundant. The social employment scheme was introduced in February 1985. It did not operate in many local authority areas to any extent until late 1985. There is one project in my area by a community committee who were quick off the ball. They were the first in the region. They had two men employed in an old world village doing very necessary work. This was in line with the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Boland's announcement of tidying up the country. Their 12 months have expired. They have been told that due to financial constraints they cannot be re-employed. I have appealed to the Department to give serious consideration to cases such as this one. These workers were carrying out work for a community organisation. That type of work is vital at present. When there are many demands on the State that type of effort [2265] is much needed. That scheme should be allowed to continue. It is regrettable that the social employment and temporary employment schemes should now suffer the fate that other industries have suffered over the last number of years.

Many of us believed when industry was finding it hard to compete that agriculture should have taken up the slot in different areas. On the agricultural front, there has been a miserable performance from Government. I am not denying there are serious obstacles in the EC, which will remain. The Government's approach has been one of conceding defeat early on. They have bemoaned the changed situation. All other member states seem to be able to manipulate the rules to their own advantage. They succeed in buying time by these tactics and on many occasions improve their own situations. There seems to be little effort to adjust our tactics in the circumstances of limitations on production, for example, on butter and meat et cetera. The Department should apply their skills to identify and develop alternative enterprises, for example, utilisation of foreign produce for industrial applications. It is conceded that there is substantial scope in this field. Little effort is made to promote it at any significant level. What the farm sector want at present is the courage and enterprise shown by the late Seán Lemass in the industrial sector.

Fianna Fáil were the first to recommend the EC to the public in 1972. They did not promote it as money for old rope. The EC was promoted as a huge marketplace with opportunities to be grasped. If we sit and bemoan our lot, we will deserve what we get, which will not be a lot. The time has come for an imaginative approach, especially now that there are surpluses and where so many areas remain underdeveloped. Many believe that afforestation should be inter-linked with land usage. This is an area where we have potential. There is the suitability of land. We have about 3.5 million acres of wet mineral lowland soil which is particularly suited to forestry. It has been proved scientifically that returns from forestry are better than from mainly dry stock [2266] enterprises by 28 per cent to 117 per cent depending on assumptions for price rises for timber. The recent ACOT corporate plan clearly indicated that there was no financial return from a livestock enterprise unless it could be developed from one's own resources.

The lack of income while forestry matures and the unfamiliarity with forestry techniques are still major deterrents. There is need for support during the development period while the trees are growing and planting grants are not sufficient. There will have to be some type of payment similar to headage payments to provide an income over the years. A very interesting article published recently states that in some European countries people depend entirely on forestry farming for a living.

The biggest problem here is the securing of land reserves. In my constituency there is a very large acreage of suitable land but only 587 acres have been reserved. This is completely inadequate for development, in spite of the great opportunities provided by the wet mineral land, especially in west Cavan. We must be more positive in our approach.

Some time ago I asked the Minister if his attention had been drawn to the UK method of private forestry and his views on whether this system would be effective in Ireland. He replied that the incentives here were more attractive, yet private enterprise in the UK and the Six Counties has made a success of these undertakings. We had hoped that afforestation would have contributed greatly to the economy of the Border region through the creation of jobs. However, most of the products of the forest are taken into County Fermanagh and come back in the form of log and pallet timber. All we are gaining is a few jobs for men felling timber and hauling it to the roadway. That is the extent of the contribution of that forest to our economy.

I now turn to the area of health. I am a member of a health board and it has been sad to witness the amount of time devoted during the past year to a slanging match with the Minister. He chose to [2267] close a number of hospitals and put forward his views in a way which was almost guaranteed to generate opposition to his proposals. The function of the health boards is to provide the best possible service for the public from the finances available. A greater effort to achieve consensus should have been made. The Minister wants to set up a good community health service. That idea is acceptable to all of us but it must be achieved progressively and not through panic action. There were panic decisions during the year to close a number of hospitals.

The report of the General Medical Services Board, published today, shows a staggering increase in costs of 10 per cent, in spite of the current low rate of inflation. During my 12 years as a member of a health board I have constantly criticised the increase in these costs. The cost of medicines rose by 8 per cent in the past year and doctors fees rose by 12 per cent. After all the efforts that have been made in the health field, the consultation rate is increasing again, although it had levelled out in 1982-1983. Another serious aspect is that the increase last year was accounted for by those in the 45-60 age group.

I have raised questions here and with the health board regarding drug prices. The use of generic drugs can greatly reduce costs and in England the Minister has made an order that generic drugs of good quality should be used instead of branded drugs. The health authorities in America have also demanded that generic drugs should be used. I take a very serious view of this matter.

The Minister has been harsh and uncaring in his attitude to the county I represent. A few years ago a letter from his secretary announced the closure of hospitals. The people of Monaghan decided to contest the decision to close the maternity hospital and successfully brought their case to the Supreme Court. About two months ago the Minister came again to the constituency and tried once more to create that type of fear, with complete disregard for the decision of the highest court in the land. He is a man [2268] who does not know when he is defeated and he wants to ensure that his decision will be imposed, irrespective of the wishes of the people and the efforts they have made to retain a service which they paid for years ago through the rates and will continue to maintain, regardless of the Minister's efforts.

On the subject of housing, we welcome the increased grant aid for reconstruction but there is no point in announcing plans and schemes without the personnel to carry out inspections. There is a scarcity of housing inspectors in our region. Despite having brought this matter to the attention of the House and the Minister, there is still a delay in inspections, leading to a delay in payment. This, in turn, delays the payment of the loan subsidy to which people are entitled.

A task force of Ministers of State was set up to consider the question of import substitution, of fruit and vegetable production and other matters but there does not appear to have been any feedback. We have heard nothing from that committee to indicate any improvement in what has been happening. In the past month I asked a parliamentary question about the deliberations of that committee with regard to fruit and vegetable imports and it appears that imports have been reduced by only 1 per cent.

In my constituency the footwear industry was a major employer for many years. It operated in Cavan and Monaghan and the industry had been given assistance by successive Fianna Fáil Governments. In October 1983 imports of footwear were worth £67.3 million but now the figure has risen to £95.5 million. Imports accounts for 93 per cent of the footwear bought by people in this country. Craftsmen working in the shoe trade are now in the dole queues or are looking for other jobs. This whole problem should be examined by the Department. If the industry could adapt itself to new trends and designs work could be available. In my constituency we had a number of tanneries that gave good employment but now our hides, which are of excellent quality, are being exported at an alarming rate.

[2269] I have constantly commented on the lack of attention given to the Border region. Three different reports have been carried out and the areas in need of help have been identified. It has been generally accepted that the climate is right for cross-Border co-operation and it has been recommended in all the reports. An EC office in Belfast was established recently with Mr. Dennis Kennedy in charge. I should like to quote from a report in the Derry Journal regarding EC aid. It stated:

At a special meeting of Derry City Council this week, councillors were told that grant aid from the EEC could only go so far in solving the unemployment problem here. At the meeting, arranged for councillors to be advised on what grant aid was available. Mr. Dennis Kennedy of the European Commission Office in Belfast, stressed that more money would be on the way if the British and Irish Governments could agree on cross-Border projects.

Since 1981 the various reports identified the areas in need of help. The Social and Economic Committee reported on the matter also and they identified the agricultural and industrial projects that should be set up in areas where there was sufficient goodwill to ensure the success of the undertakings. However, we have now been told that agreement cannot be obtained with regard to cross-Border projects. This is happening at a time when the Government tell us there is co-operation and when they talk about the agreement reached between Ireland and Britain. However, it appears they cannot even agree on such basic matters as the projects.

Cavan County Council appealed to the Taoiseach to ensure implementation of the report dealing with the Erne catchment drainage scheme. He replied to them that the Government were reviewing the question of arterial drainage and he spoke about the availability of funds and so on, but at the end of the day nothing was done. A few weeks ago the Minister for Foreign Affairs visited the [2270] constituency. He explained what could be done but it is not being done.

I appeal to the Government at least to honour their commitments. They must be positive in their approach. It is no use talking about goodwill when they will not do anything to have the projects implemented.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. G. Birmingham): Government is about leadership, courage and vision, and this Government have shown that leadership, courage and vision. They have shown it in the way they have approach the economy, in the approach to Northern Ireland and in their willingness to address different social questions.

We have been in office for three and a half years and in that time the political agenda has been changed. Three and a half years ago politics in this country reeked with the stench of corruption. Ministers of an Irish Government behaved with all the sensitivity of Interior Ministers in a South American banana republic, prepared to use the Garda force as their own personal fiefdom and prepared to treat decisions of the courts established under the Constitution as simply the first word to be reviewed at their leisure and for their own purposes.

The real measure of the quality of this Government has been that those issues no longer surface. The political integrity of the Government and of the system is taken for granted. No longer does arrogance or failure to appreciate the essential distinction that exists between party interests, personal interests and the interests of the State hold sway to such an extent that, for example, State security and charges of anti-national behaviour could be used to justify the bugging of a free press. What is of interest is that all of those things happened under a Government whose existence was precarious from the day they took office with the support of Deputy Gregory and The Workers' Party. From that day there was a doubt about the length of their tenure in office.

I raise these points not to open up old [2271] sores but because I think there may be lessons in it for the future. Even the most dumb of crooks in this city know one does not commit offences when one is likely to be found out. That Government behaved as they did in the full knowledge that at any time their term of office would end and their activities would be exposed to public scrutiny. Now, if the opinion polls are to be believed, it is no longer inconceivable that that party opposite may secure an overall majority. If in seven short months they were prepared to behave in such a way that they filled 396 pages in a best seller with their misdeeds, what will they do given four years with an overall majority and the expectation that they could obfuscate their misdeeds and bury the evidence during those four years? Anyone who is concerned about civil liberties or about the wellbeing of the body politic has to think long and hard.

I have said I believe the leadership this Government have provided is to be found in a number of areas. It is to be found in our approach to the economy. When this administration assumed office they found this State in the most difficult economic situation ever. We found ourselves looking into the abyss of economic ruin while the rest of the world looked on and wondered if we were prepared to work ourselves out of this situation or if it would be a matter for the international receivers in the shape of the IMF. Were we to go the way of other banana republics?

The fact that we were in that situation was not the result of well intentioned policies knocked off course by international pressures. We found ourselves in that awesome situation as a result of sheer unadulterated cowardice. The remedy needed was known to all. The then Taoiseach, now Leader of the Opposition, within days of assuming office, went on television to tell the country what was required and to offer a prescription. Having analysed the situation and having drawn himself to his full height, he then skulked away, afraid to face up to the issues. Instead he sought to buy a lease on power with taxpayers' money, and [2272] not just the money of taxpayers of that generation but the money that is to come from the taxpayers of generations to come. Industrial disputes were settled without regard to the cost or the merits of the dispute but with every regard to the political climate of the day.

This Government have restored stability to finances. There is confidence in this Government's economic projections and we are on the road back. On other occasions I have put on record the comments of economists as independent and as distinguished as Dr. Whitaker on Fianna Fáil's performance on budgetary matters during those years. He said it was an abuse of language to refer to Fianna Fáil budgetary projections, so little resemblance to reality did they bear, and what was expected to happen in the real world.

The stock answer from Fianna Fáil is that balancing the books is cold comfort to those struggling to make ends meet, but what they do not seem to accept is that failure to have the books in order guarantees misery, high taxation and high unemployment for decades to come. That is something we are not prepared to inflict on people but we have been concerned about the plight of those who are struggling to make ends meet and we were determined in Government to assist those in need and to help those who can to help themselves.

Under this Government the Dickensian wall that existed between the world at work and world of welfare has been breached. Until this Government took office a pre-condition of receiving any support from the State was that one remained idle. That cruel dilemma has been ended. We have offered thousands of people through the enterprise allowance scheme — 12,000 at the last count — the opportunity to reject unemployment and to strike out for self-employment, enterprise and entrepreneurship. Many of those projects which were set up in the early days, some of them in my own constituency, have already taken off to the extent that they are employing a number of people.

The Government were concerned to identify those sections of the community [2273] which had previously been ignored and neglected — the low paid worker for example. That particularly reflects the philosophy of my party. Our concern is that those at work who are seeking to support their families should not be worse off under any circumstances than those who are not at work. The family income supplement scheme was introduced to support the low paid and particularly the low paid with family responsibilities.

The same sense of flair, style and imagination was to be found in our response to the housing problem. When I entered politics seven years ago, every Saturday I could expect many people to come to me with housing problems for which there was no relief. It was simply a question of standing and suffering in the housing queues. We have been talking a great deal lately about marriage breakdown, but no step taken by an Irish Government in recent times has done more to support the family and to lift the unbearable pressures that were being put on so many marriages, than the efforts of this Government to address the housing problems, which they have done with remarkable success. In part, this success was due to the £5,000 grant introduced by the Government which fulfilled two objectives. First, local authority tenants with aspirations to become home owners, something very dear to the Irish ethos, were given the opportunity to acquire their own homes. Secondly, thousands of people were taken off the housing list and were offered a home from the local authority.

With all the economic indicators coming right, are we to set at nought all that has been achieved? Are we really prepared to spend ourselves out of a recovery as apparently is proposed by the Opposition? At the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis we heard a remarkable series of proposals running into hundreds of millions of pounds — something like £800 million on the specifics and other proposals which were so vague, so general and all embracing that it would be impossible to put a price on them. This would involve £800 million of taxpayers' money for no particular purpose that one could identify.

[2274] The recipe that failed in 1977 and in 1979 is all that is on offer. We will not buy that. We will not forfeit the sacrifices that have been made in recent years and tell the people they have suffered in vain. That road would be suicidal and would not hold many attractions for the Irish electorate.

I mentioned at the outset three areas in which the courage and vision of this Government were to be seen — our approach to the economy, our approach to Northern Ireland and our approach to the social issues. Perhaps no area shows the contrast between the Government and the Opposition more clearly than the area of Northern Ireland. What role have the Opposition played? At best they have been petty and carping and, at worst, to use their own much favoured phrase, their conduct has been anti-national. In the days before Hillsborough when those long sensitive negotiations were coming to a head, Deputy Haughey was to be found addressing Fianna Fáil women's conferences warning them about the need for great viligance, warning them that the Irish people must not again have a treaty imposed on them or be asked to accept some dubious settlement entered into in response to the short term political needs of those involved.

How shameful, how petty, how carping; but how much worse, how anti-national the behaviour of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who travelled to the US in October last year to canvass opposition to the efforts of a democratically elected and sovereign Irish Government who were seeking to advance a solution to an historic problem? Successive Irish Administrations have valued the support of the Irish-American community and in particular have valued the support forthcoming from the leaders of Irish-American political opinion. Yet in October 1985 the Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Lenihan, visited Washington to seek the backing of the influential Friends of Ireland group for the rejection of the Anglo-Irish Agreement which at that stage had not even been signed and the contents of which he and they were unaware of. In doing so [2275] he sought to undermine an agreement that was then being negotiated in the interests of all Irish nationalists. Only history can judge just how base that treachery was. The only thing that can be said in mitigation is that apparently Deputy Lenihan was not taken too seriously, and that is not altogether unusual. He was apparently sent off home with his tail between his legs.

That shabbiness was to continue after the agreement was signed. It was to be found in vilification of and pique at the SDLP in the debacle at the European Parliament when the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party there outraged Ireland's friends in every one of the member states by that scurrilous and scandalous attack on the leader of the SDLP, John Hume. However, John Hume's efforts for reform, his promotion of reconciliation, his striving for reunification will be remembered long after those mean, petty people will have been forgotten.

What Opposition was it that was engaging in that process? Let us recall the background to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Let us recall when that process began. The process that led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement began six years ago when the now Leader of the Opposition, the Taoiseach of the day, met the British Prime Minister and issued a communiqué with her in which he declared that any change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would come about only with the consent of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland. There was nothing new in that for some of us. That was the view which the Fine Gael Party had committed themselves to long before then, away back as far as September 1969. The view that the then Government adopted in 1980 was the right one. Unfortunately, it was not a view, a road, to which they were going to stay attached for very long. It is, of course, the road to which this Government and in particular the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach remain attached, and it was they who displayed the openness and generosity of view, the patience and the sheer hard work which were necessary to [2276] bring about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I do not need to say that exactly those qualities of patience, generosity and commitment are required now as the agreement is implemented.

When in 1980 the present Leader of the Opposition agreed that unity would come about only with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland he accepted then the concept of consent but in Opposition he has found it politic to change. In this House on 19 November he said, “When we speak of the need to secure the agreement of the Unionist population that agreement applies to the new arrangements for, but not to the concept of, a united Ireland”. What arrant nonsense. What cheek. What impertinence. In other words, he was saying to Unionist people, “So long as you agree to a united Ireland we will hear your views afterwards on the arrangements for it”. That is no kind of consent. If the Unionist people of this island ever give their free consent to a united Ireland they will do so on the basis of their appreciation of the nature and intentions of society in the South. That society will have to have demonstrated to Unionists the sincerity of its intentions before people sit down around any table or are presented with any papers to sign. I say with real regret that nothing in the record of the Leader of the Opposition suggests that he is aware of that necessity, let alone capable of conveying it to Unionists. The manner in which the Opposition have tacked backwards and forwards on Anglo-Irish relations and relations with the North since 1980 has been determined by the uncertain whims of opportunism and not by serious intent. Opportunities were available. It was Deputy Haughey who seized the interest of the British Prime Minister, and he blew it. He and Deputy Brian Lenihan between them blew it. They put politics before results. They were so concerned about the short term publicity opportunities that they were not prepared for the long road.

What are Unionists to make of such a figure? What are Unionists to make of a political leader in this House who will [2277] give no leadership in this? What are they to make of his statement that they will be surprised — mark this — by his generosity when he has failed so completely to show generosity to a small minority in the South? They are not impressed, and is it any wonder?

This Government have secured by the agreement a framework which will work for the benefit of all the people of the North and of this island. Progress has been made in the vital areas of security and relations between the security forces and the community, the administration of justice, the reform in civil rights in one area and another, special legislation for the greater protection of civil rights and economic rebuilding by assistance through the international fund the first sign of which was the contribution signed into law yesterday by President Reagan. We are not fudgers. We are not easily pushed aside. This Government will stick to their steady course and will bring results which the Irish people want and need so very badly.

This tendency towards rushes of blood to the head, towards irresponsibility laced with a fair dash of xenophobia is to be found in other aspects of foreign policy. It is to be found in the approach of the Opposition to our relations with the EC. Notwithstanding the fact that we have been such a substantial net beneficiary since membership, the Opposition appear content to seek for some kind of second class citizenship on the other periphery. Is it any wonder that the former leader of the party opposite, the former Deputy Lynch who led this country into the EC, should have found it necessary to express publicly his disappointment with that party when he spoke recently at a function of the Irish Council for the European Movement? Nowhere has this mischievousness, this frankly mendacious approach been more obvious than in the approach taken to the Single European Act. That Act represents no threat to this country. It is not the major step towards European union that I, Ireland and a number of our fellow member states would like to see, but it represents a significant step forward. But no, the [2278] benefits are not to be seen. Instead we have the red herring that somehow our neutrality or our sovereignty is undermined. That is just not so. Our concern about security aspects were met very fully during the negotiations. The Single European Act provides for closer co-ordination of the political and economic aspects of security. On the other hand, the military aspects of security are expressly left to be developed by member states that wish to do so within the Western European Union or within NATO. Ireland is not a member of either. So those conditions do not apply to us nor will we be bound by them.

The term “security” has a connotation which is far wider than military questions. Questions relating to international security in general and European security in particular have always been central to European co-operation. In the past discussions on security issues have not compromised our neutrality. We participated fully in perhaps the most urgent question of the day, disarmament, when we attended the conference on security and co-operation in Europe. We are now actively participating in the Stockholm conference on disarmament. That wide concept of security, and not the much narrower one of military security, is quite clearly demonstrated in the preamble to the Single European Act in which it is spelt out that the commitment of all states is o the maintenance of international peace and security. That phrase is taken from article 1 of the United Nations Charter and to suggest that the word “security” later on could have a different meaning is mendacious.

This debate is taking place just a week after the referendum. Again, the contrast of the approach between the Government and the Opposition is clear. The Government saw a problem — and everyone accepts that there is a problem although we might disagree about its dimensions. Some people suggest that 70,000 people are affected and others say only 30,000 or 50,000 are condemned to the misery of an unhappy marriage. However, we agreed that there was a problem and we considered how best to [2279] approach it. We did it painstakingly and carefully, we sought a consensus and we set up an all-party committee to look into the problem. We had long debates in both Houses, consulted the Churches and deliberated on it within the party rules. But then it was time for us to make up our minds. We did so, and the Taoiseach chose to lead in this matter. Any other action would have been a shameful abdication of leadership. Of course, the cute ones will say that we would have been wiser to leave the issue until after the next election and the really cute ones will say “Look at your man on the other side, the way he kept quiet and by saying nothing kept in with both sides”. How shameful, how miserable, how pathetic, how dishonest. That course of action was never open to us because we believed that we should seek the deletion of the constitutional prohibition on divorce. We took our courage in our hands and went to the people.

I very much regret the fact that the referendum was defeated by a quite disparate coalition of many people who recognised the arguments for but felt that, on balance, social good would not be served by voting yes. That was fine, but it included others for whom I have somewhat harsher words, whose enthusiasm for the sixth commandment and all that goes with it was not matched with any equal enthusiasm for the obligation to tell the truth. Certainly, the religion I learned at school told me that a lie was always sinful, but that did not bother some of those who lobbied for a no vote.

Fundamentally, it was a question of leadership and courage. For the moment people have said no; we must live with the decision and make the best of it. In the next session we will introduce reforms in the area of marriage, just as we will introduce reforms in the family law area to end the scandal of illegitimacy, which will free the thousands of children in institutions because of our unchristian prohibition on the adoption of legitimate children. We shall also introduce reforms in regard to family poverty and we will [2280] not be deterred by the undoubted setback of last week's decision.

Anyone who says that we would have been better off to leave difficult questions alone will find no sympathy from the Government or within Fine Gael. The road of moral cowardice has no attractions for us. In a year's time, perhaps longer, the electorate will be making a direct choice between the parties. It will not be simply a question of expressing understandable frustrations with the Government. They will be putting their money on the competing teams, especially on one or other of the competing captains. When the choice is presented to them between leadership and stroking, between courage and cowardice, vision and the philosophy of “the cute hoor”, I have no doubt as to whom they will choose. The people have enough confidence in themselves to respond to leadership which is and will be on offer in 15 months' time.

Dr. O'Hanlon: I listened with interest to the Minister of State, Deputy Birmingham, when he told us that the Government had courage in three specific areas — the economy, Northern Ireland and social issues. Let us start with the economy. The main economic task of the Government on coming to office was that they would eradicate the current budget deficit in four years. However, the budget deficit is now as high as ever and will reach 8 per cent in 1986. So much for the courage of the Government in telling the people what they intended to do in relation to the budget deficit and then allowing it to increase every year. I thought we might have heard why this was allowed to happen. I know that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Minister of State are immune to the economic area and that was demonstrated by the last Coalition in 1973-77 when the Taoiseach, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, came into the House and praised the level of borrowing which was being indulged in by the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Ryan.

In 1975, in the budget debate, it is clear from the contribution of the Taoiseach [2281] that borrowing was at its highest percentage since borrowing began. I share the concern of the Minister of State in regard to the taxpayers of future generations having to shoulder the interest created by borrowing. However, it is important to look at when and where that borrowing started on a grand scale. It started in 1973 under a Coalition Government and rose to its highest percentage in 1975. It continued unabated through 1977.

It was interesting to note this morning that the Taoiseach did not refer to the level of borrowing since the Government came to office. The national debt at the end of 1982 was £12 billion and it is now over £21 billion, £9 billion of an increase since the Government came to office. We were not told those figures this morning. If we are discussing figures we should be told what is happening. What the people of the country are interested in is the performance of the Government since they came into office, not what statements were made in the past. I would have thought the Adjournment Debate was an opportunity for the Government to tell the House what they had been doing in case we had missed something. We are not being told about the level of borrowing, when it started, and the serious situation that has been created by the last Coalition and continued by this one who came into office on the promise that they would eradicate the current budget deficit altogether.

The Minister also referred to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and was critical of the Leader of our party. It is true that in 1980 the present Leader of our party raised the issue of the Six Counties between the British Government and the Irish Government to an international level. The statement which he made here in November last, when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, was a very positive contribution to the debate in this House. Deputy Birmingham, the Minister of State, referred to the difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael regarding the position in the Six Counties. He is quite right. I can never see a situation where we on this side of the House would legitimise Partition or [2282] indeed support the guarantee to the Unionists, and the Leader of our party was quite right when he said they should have a say in any new arrangements in a unitary state.

The other point he referred to was the European Act. The only comment I have to make is that I would like to have seen that Act debated in this House before it was signed and I do not know why it was not done.

The referendum on divorce was held last Thursday and the people made their decision. Yet the Taoiseach came in here and devoted one-third of his speech to this, with all the serious problems we have. He devoted two pages to unemployment, none to emigration. He did give us some figures about the currency exchange rates. He expressed concern about the level of borrowing but he did not give us the figures I have quoted here; he did not give the figures by which the national debt has increased since 1982 when this Government took office. At the end of 1982 the national debt was £12.8 billion. It was over £21 billion at the end of March. The Taoiseach, as he has done on Adjournment Debates since he took office, told us about the economy turning, about the recession moving away. But there is no evidence of that boom; there is no evidence outside of an improvement. I wonder when and where we will see that evidence.

The Taoiseach referred to taxation. He said:

The Government's innovative tax measures of January will provide a further boost. These measures were designed to relieve the PAYE sector, while protecting revenue through the retention tax on deposit interest and although the Government ran the risk of unpopularity by introducing this new tax, the very positive effect of the PAYE reliefs on take-home pay are now beginning to be noticed.

The PAYE workers do not notice the positive effects. As regards the suggestion that the retention tax on deposit interest will in some way protect revenue, I fail to understand that because, as I [2283] understand it, when that tax was announced there was a run on money out of the financial institutions; people were not prepared to invest, and those who had invested removed their money from the agencies because they did not want to find themselves paying this exorbitant tax which militates against the poorer people who normally would not be eligible to pay tax anyway. I fail to understand how the Taoiseach can tell us that the retention tax will protect the revenue in some way.

In my own constituency, right along the Border throughout Monaghan and Cavan, we have suffered as a result of the Government's economic policies. Let us take petrol as an example. In the years 1983-84, 57 filling stations closed along the Border. In 1982, 81 million litres of petrol were sold in the Border counties; in 1984 that had dropped to 50 million litres, a drop of 30 million litres. That is a direct result of the Government's economic policies. In January 1983, their first month in office, the Government increased the price of petrol on two occasions. That had the effect of encouraging many people living along the Border areas to go across the Border for petrol with a great loss of revenue to this State — the loss of the tax and VAT on the petrol itself and that incurred because people took their families along to do their shopping in the Six Counties. It became so attractive for people living in the Border areas that, after a few months, people who did not need petrol were going in busloads across the Border because they thought they would get better value there. Apart from one or two items, by the time people travelled and changed their currency, the value was not as great as had been expected.

Having increased the price of petrol and widened the gap between the price of petrol in the Republic of Ireland and in the Six Counties, the Government continued in that vein and this year they increased the price of petrol in the budget and retained the first major reduction in the price of petrol for the Government Exchequer, so aggravating the situation [2284] in the Border areas. It was interesting to hear the Taoiseach say this morning: “I was struck by the extent to which Heads of State and Government expressed concern that the recovery — led by the fall in oil prices — had not yet really taken off in their countries or in Europe as a whole”. If other Governments behaved in the same way as our Government behaved, the Taoiseach should not be surprised that there is no recovery visible because the Government retained what should have been rightly passed on to the consumer which would have stimulated the economy, reducing the price of petrol and reducing the cost of the services and transport, and this would have been well worthwhile. Rather than that, the Government decided to retain this money for the Central Exchequer, as they have done on so many occasions since this session of the Dáil began. We had an example of this last week in the Malicious Injuries Bill which has now been passed through the House. It is purely a measure to add another £20 million to Exchequer funding.

The Border areas, particularly the 12 western counties where the land is not so good as that in the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's constituency, but also the country generally has suffered from a severe fodder shortage. After an extremely bad summer farmers found themselves in dire straits. They realised that they would not have sufficient fodder to feed their animals during the winter months. Their plight was highlighted in this House on numberous occasions by our spokesman on agriculture, Deputy Noonan, and by many other members of this party. When the Government did move with food vouchers they did too little too late, using a very unsophisticated method of determining who was entitled to these vouchers. It was proved towards the end of the winter months, when animals were dying in all parts of the western and northern counties, that many people who should have been entitled to this assistance did not receive it, mainly because of insufficient funding [2285] being allocated by Government for the scheme.

The Government then went to Brussels to negotiate agricultural prices. I quote the Taoiseach this morning:

I am glad to say that there was full acceptance in the Presidency's Conclusions that adaptation of agricultural policy to changed circumstances is not just a matter for the Community, but is a problem to be faced by other countries...

He goes on to say:

Overall, the European Council's Conclusions on agricultural policy in the international context were satisfactory from this country's point of view.

I do not know how any Taoiseach could say that. Perhaps he could say nothing. We are the producers of mainly milk, cereal and beef. We accept that the European Community has an oversupply of those products. We make a very small contribution to that over supply — 5½ per cent of the total milk in Europe. Nevertheless, we, with our smaller herds of 15 to 30 cows fed mainly on grass and with a productivity half that of the European countries, have to pay the same penalties in terms of the super levy as big factory farms in Germany and the Netherlands. They import cereal from the Far East. Indeed, it is interesting that the amount of cereal in intervention is about the same as that imported into the European Community — 15 million tonnes. The same applies to butter which is imported from New Zealand into the European Community. Surely there is a major area there where the Government could have negotiated to protect the interests of the Irish farmers? I would have expected the Government to do so and having failed to do that, I would not expect the Taoiseach to come into this House and say that the results were satisfactory from this country's point of view. Nobody in farming, or who sees farmers working or has to work among them would accept that. This applies to farmers not only in the western counties but throughout Ireland.

[2286] On the Anglo-Irish Agreement, I am disappointed that there has not been more progress in a number of areas. The Minister of State said that there was progress in security, but I fail to see it. We still have supergrass trials and still have the UDR running rampant through the Six Counties. They are supposed to have a RUC officer with them, but there is no evidence of that. They are still harassing the nationalist people of the Six Counties. We would have expected that to stop immediately on the signing of the agreement.

On this side of the Border there has been an increased Garda presence since the Anglo-Irish Agreement. One day there was a front page headline in The Irish Press to the effect that Garda overtime had been reduced and that the number of gardaí on the Border would be reduced considerably. This was denied the following day by the Government. What is interesting is that during the 24 hours in which the newspaper carried the two different stories, landladies in the various towns in Monaghan who accommodated gardaí on temporary Border duty were told that the gardaí no longer needed that accommodation. The gardaí had left and in the 24 hours the landladies received telephone calls that accommodation was needed again. Obviously there was some change of thought there.

Local authorities are suffering particularly badly under this Government, this year worse than any other year since the Coalition came into office. One has only to look at the condition of the roads, main and county, to see the serious deficiency resulting from not having proper funding from Government. The social employment scheme was taken up by a number of local authorities. Unfortunately now, halfway through the year, no more people can be employed under that scheme, again because of insufficient funding. That scheme was supported by the European Social Fund. The Minister for Labour, in answer to a question from me last year, told me that two-thirds namely £20 million of approximately £30 million would come back to the Government by way of savings in social welfare [2287] payments and the amount of tax that would be collected. If that scheme is supported by the European Social Fund and if the direct cost to the Exchequer is only one-third of what is allocated, surely the Government should be in a position to maintain that scheme until the end of the year?

I referred earlier to the Malicious Injuries Bill and am concerned that should courthouses in Monaghan and such places be destroyed as a result of riot or the work of unlawful organisations the local authority will not be compensated in the same way as other bodies are compensated that may suffer damage to their property. This is a serious discrimination against local authorities. I regret that the Minister did not use the opportunity in that Bill to rectify that serious situation.

The Taoiseach this morning admitted that the Government found it necessary to curtail health services. The Minister for Health has never really admitted that. He has told us that the level of service has been maintained. The Taoiseach admitted here this morning that the Government did find it necessary to curtail the level of the health services. The Government are responsible, of course, for health policy although the Minister for Health articulates the policy. Indeed, he carries a responsibility as a member of the Cabinet.

It is important to point out that the effects of the Government's health policy are the responsibility of the Government. It is not fair to lay all the blame on the Minister for Health because it is the Government's responsibility. This was clear when on 30 January the Minister for Health announced to the House that the Government made a decision to close eight hospitals half way through the current year. That decision was taken on the eve of the budget, presumably for budgetary reasons, without any reference to the need for these hospitals in terms of patient care. That was not the criteria by which that decision was made. No negotiations were held with the staff, the unions or the health boards concerned. [2288] It was an ad hoc decision. The Minister for Health had to take the objections of the people even though it was a Government decision.

That was only part of the Government's cutbacks. Half way through the year we are now told that some of the hospitals which were to be closed will not be closed, that they will have a change of use. This is causing serious concern. The nearest hospital to us, Sir Patrick Dun's, which was to close in 1989 and to be moved to St. James Hospital, is now to close on 29 August 1986. Again this is without proper consultation and negotiation. Services are being taken away from them and transferred to St. James's Hospital without proper attention to the needs of the people in the area and without proper consultation with the staff, the unions and the Eastern Health Board.

The cut-backs in hospitals are having very serious effects particularly where there is a highly specialised unit such as a heart surgery department or a kidney department. Some hospital wards were closed last year. We all accept what the Minister said, that wards close because they need to be painted and for maintenance. That is not what is happening. Wards are being closed for an inordinate length of time. Some are open for a couple of months and are closed until the end of the year because there is insufficient funding available. This is having disastrous consequences. It increases the waiting list for out-patients and for admissions to hospital.

This morning we were circulated with a report of the general medical services. We must all be concerned with escalating costs in the health service as in any other service. Concern is being expressed at the increased number of times that patients visit their doctor. It was announced in the report that in 1985, the year the report refers to, patients visited their doctors on more occasions than in any previous year since the general medical service was introduced. The reasons for that are fairly obvious. One reason is that if you cut back on hospital services, on out-patient services and on admissions to [2289] hospitals, somebody has to look after the patients. The family doctors have to look after patients who would normally be seen earlier at the hospital out-patients department or who might be kept a day or two longer in hospital and who have now been discharged earlier. Inevitably the visiting rate has to increase. There is nothing extraordinary in that. I cannot understand how Government Ministers can complain when it is a direct result of their action.

Another reason which is obvious from the report, which shows that the visting rate increased for persons in the 40 to 60 age group, is the result of unemployment which comes from the Government's economic policies. It is well recognised that there is more morbidity where there is unemployment. This is something the Government are not conscious of. They accept the structured unemployment that should be totally unacceptable.

The drugs bill is expensive. We referred to that on the Health Estimate two days ago and to the whole question of prescribing generics. The Government have a role to play in that they must ensure good quality control so that doctors know exactly what they are prescribing. It is not enough for a doctor to write the base name of a product on the prescription. The doctor does not know exactly what product his patient will get.

This morning the Taoiseach spent about one-third of this time speaking about the divorce referendum which has already been decided. We would have liked to hear more about his plans for economic development in whatever few months are left to him. He said that he is going to up-date the family law in a number of ways. This is to be encouraged. One area that interests me is the area of nullity. What is being said about up-dating the laws on nullity is something that was agreed by all the members of the all-party committee on health, including Government spokesmen. We are now at the end of this session of the Dáil. I ask the great democrats on the Government side to go to the people and have a real referendum in order to give the people an opportunity to change the Government.

[2290] Mr. Skelly: If they did that it would be a bit premature. I do not see any objective or anything that would prevent them from bringing in any legislation during the remainder of the term. Even though there is a tight majority in theory, in practice it seems to be fairly comfortable in passing through legislation in the House. As there is a very full programme remaining in the pipeline we should deliver that. I do not see why we have to go out for a second mandate before that term is up. I have been hearing that for the last four years by spokesmen on the other side of the House, particularly in the first, second and third years of the Government. They should give up thinking along those lines. If you are running a race with four laps and you have run three of them and still have plenty of energy left, you will try your best to win in the last lap. I have no doubt that that is going to be the intention.

There are a number of things I wish to talk about in the areas of justice, social legislation, education and career opportunities, Irish society, some of the legislation that has gone through and some that has yet to go through and the effects of some of the things we are doing which are both beneficial and damaging to our society, even though the intention is good. There is an unfortunate element in the way legislation is put through the House, as was demonstrated last night when we passed the Lotteries Bill. We used the House to pass legislation which has a clause in it enabling the Minister to make regulations under the legislation without having to come back to the House. That is going away from democracy, and it is getting worse. We have reached a stage when by resolution a Minister can reserve to himself the power to change Acts. The Act has to conform to regulations, and not withstanding anything in the Act, if it conflicts with the regulation it is the regulation that holds. This proves that this House is merely a rubber stamp. I am sick to death of Ministers coming in with legislation and they are prepared only to make cosmetic changes in words but not to accept amendments of any substance.

[2291] Most Bills never are discussed in detail in Committee. Such Bills have not been discussed by the parties to decide whether the legislation is good or bad. Whatever the nature of a Bill, it is taken for granted that it will be passed when we go into the lobbies. As far as I am concerned, it is frightening. I have been posing a question and I think I have the answer now about who is running the country. We are not running it. We have very little say on it. We are just here to put the stamp on legislation when we go through the lobbies.

I am disappointed to see Ministers going along with that. They often take the Bill that is handed to them and get the heads from their Department. I doubt very much if the details of Bills are gone into properly, and we got an example of that last night. It was noticeable that nobody seemed to know anything about it and Deputies on the Government side or in opposition did not seem to know what they were talking about. Yet we were passing legislation which will be very damaging to society.

We are doing that on a daily basis. The same thing happened with the Gaming Bill. It was rushed through as emergency legislation, without much thought being given to it, at the eleventh hour. It increased stakes and payouts, and even though it has been stopped, the evil has been proved and we have not managed to bring in legislation to reverse the position.

Recently we discussed the Estimates for the Department of Justice. I was concerned very much at the effect the Department and the Garda have been having in the fight against crime during the past number of years. Four years ago, when the Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism were set up, we began by talking about the management of the Garda and criticising its inefficiency and saying we could do much more. I was immediately tagged as being antiGarda and Deputies got up here on their hind legs and swore fealty to the Garda Síochána and asked how dare anybody even question what they were doing. The [2292] same thing happened when I criticised the IDA.

At the beginning of the first meeting of the crime committee the Garda Commissioner came along and I asked him how he deployed members of the force. He said he did not understand the Deputy's question. The answer came to me last week on the “Today Tonight” programme on RTE. I had said to the Commissioner that there were 11,400 members of the Garda and I asked what they did all day. At that time I identified what I thought to be the main problem, that of management. I suggested that there should be a more scientific system of management of the Garda. I agree that the men and women in the Garda are very sincere about what they do; but we are in a different age, in a different society, with different problems to tackle, and they can only be tackled successfully in a modern scientific way. That was shown up clearly in the “Today Tonight” programme. Retired members of the Garda pointed that out.

We have a real crisis in the force and it has all to do with management: the problem lies at the top, not the bottom. It is frightening to realise that few of the 11,400 men and women in the Garda do duty in the streets, combating crime, making allowances for the numbers on leave or on court duty at any given time. We have the highest number of police officers per head of population of most countries in the world. We should be able to do a much better job. I hope that the penny has dropped and that both the Minister and the Commissioner will realise the job they have to do and that they will set about changing management.

A startling thing about the Garda is the few civilians employed. I understand there are only a couple of hundred, whereas the proportion of civilians in other countries is very high. If we increased the civilian complement in the Garda we could release many more for patrol duty. Above all, we need an effective modern system of management which will have the respect and support [2293] of members, who will then have a higher morale.

We should look at the adversarial system as opposed to the inquisitorial system. The latter does not work very well here. In criminal cases we rely too much on statements and when it goes wrong individual gardaí become scapegoats. That is because of our faulty system and it is grossly unfair to gardaí who are carrying out their jobs in a professional manner in accordance with the training they receive and their experience over the years. I think particularly of two recent cases which showed up the faults in our system.

We should also look at our judicial system, particularly the manner in which we appoint judges and others, having particular regard to their backgrounds and experience.

We have managed to get a considerable lot of social legislation on the Statute Book in the past number of months. We had a setback in regard to the divorce legislation, which I regarded as social legislation. It was defeated, thankfully without the help of the Pope this time. I do not intend to speak at any length about it except to say that we should recognise ourselves for what we are. We have a tendency to think we are something other than what we are. At least we now know what the attitude of the country is. We should lead from in front, not from behind. If there is one thing worse than narrowmindedness it is intolerance. I hope we all have learned from recent experience and that we will start afresh and build and educate from our experience of the tragedy of marriage breakdown. It should be part of an education process in the coming years.

Debate adjourned.