Dáil Éireann - Volume 415 - 11 February, 1992

Nomination of Members of Government.

The Taoiseach: Tairgim:

Go gcomhaontóidh Dáil Éireann leis an Taoiseach d'ainmniú na dTeachtaí seo a leanas chun a gceaptha ag an Uachtarán chun bheith ina gComhaltaí den Rialtas.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of the following Members for appointment by the President to be members of the Government.

Seán P. Mac Uilliam

John P. Wilson

I also propose to nominate him as Tánaiste.

Deasú Ó Máille

Desmond J. O'Malley

Paralan Ó Eachthairn

Bertie Ahern

Riobard Ó Maoildhia

Bobby Molloy

Micheál Ó hUadhaigh

Michael J. Woods

Pádraig Ó Floinn

Pádraig Flynn

Séamus Ó Braonáin

Séamus Brennan

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

Seán Ó Conaill

John O'Connell

Micheál Mac Gabhann

Michael Smith

Daithí Mac Aindriú

David Andrews

Seosamh Breathnach

Joe Walsh

Cathal Mac Riabhaigh

Charlie McCreevy

agus

and

Brian Ó Comhain

Brian Cowen

[1541] It has been the practice at this stage to indicate the Departments to which members of the Government will be assigned. I propose to assign the Departments of Defence and the Gaeltacht to Deputy John P. Wilson. In assigning the Department of the Gaeltacht to him, I am conscious that he is uniquely qualified to discharge the onerous responsibilities involved. The other assignments are as follows:

Department of Industry and Commerce to Mr. Desmond J. O'Malley.

Department of Finance to Mr. Bertie Ahern.

Department of Energy to Mr. Bobby Molloy.

Department of the Marine to Dr. Michael J. Woods.

Department of Justice to Mr. Pádraig Flynn.

Department of Education to Mr. Séamus Brennan.

Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications to Mrs. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Department of Health to Dr. John O'Connell.

Department of the Environment to Mr. Michael Smith

Department of Foreign Affairs to Mr. David Andrews.

Department of Agriculture and Food to Mr. Joe Walsh.

Department of Social Welfare to Mr. Charlie McCreevy.

Department of Labour to Mr. Brian Cowen.

I also propose to nominate Deputy Noel Dempsey for appointment by the [1542] Government as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with special responsibility as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of Defence.

I propose to nominate Harold A. Whelehan, SC for appointment by the President to be the Attorney General.

Mr. J. Bruton: It had been my earnest hope that from today we would see the beginning of a new and more constructive phase in Irish politics. That will only happen, however, if the majority in this House — the two parties forming the Government — make a clear break from their past, not just in terms of personnel but also in terms of the way they look at politics.

We need something which we have not had for some time — a Government with a clear sense of direction. We need a Government which abandons the “make it up as you go along” approach to policy-making that has characterised Irish public life for the last four years. We also need a Government who are prepared to take Dáil Éireann into their confidence and see those who are elected to this House as capable of making a useful contribution to the life of this country. Leadership is not Government by press release, restricted debates in this House or indeed by smart answers to this House any more indeed than it is opposition for opposition's sale. All this, I hope, belongs to the past. It is on the basis of whether there is a real break with the past — not just a break for some individuals — that we will decide whether this is a new phase in politics.

The fact is that, for the last number of years, politics in Ireland have been drifting aimlessly and not responding to the sense of crisis which people in their homes, discussing political issues up and down the country, feel, a sense of imminent crisis, particularly as far as employment is concerned. They ask why the politicians do not seem to share this sense of crisis and why they seem more concerned about who is being promoted and demoted, whose face will appear on the [1543] poster, rather than what will be done about finding employment for their sons or daughters.

Ireland is not able to provide enough jobs for its people, it is failing and exporting its best brains. It has accepted 20 years of ongoing violence in Northern Ireland, a few miles from this House, committed by an organisation, much of whose arms are stored on this side of the Border in this jurisdiction, with dull resignation.

Ireland is a nation which has an expanding class of people excluded from life here by unemployment, living on the fringes of society. Youth unemployment is up 40 per cent in the last 12 months; in many areas of Dublin people are leaving school, one-third of them without any qualifications. Yet the process which led to the formation of this Government, to this exercise in snakes and ladders where so many have gone up and so many have gone down, did not relate to any of the problems to which I referred. Indeed they were not discussed by any of the candidates for preferment in any of their discussions in the last number of weeks. It has all been about personality, nothing about substance.

Today's nomination of the Government is the triumph of the superficial over the real; it is the triumph of personality over policy. Ireland, unlike other island nations which have become world leaders or at least regional leaders — like Japan and Taiwan which are no better blessed geographically than we are — remains in Europe's second division. This is because we prefer to spend our time arguing about who should lead us rather than where they should lead us — the constant triumph of the superficial over the real, of personalities over substance——

An Ceann Comhairle: Conversation in the Chamber and in the lobbies must cease.

Mr. J. Bruton: I have no doubt that as a result of today's vote the style will change, but does anyone in this House [1544] seriously believe that this change of Ministers is going to increase our economic growth, reduce unemployment, keep our emigrants at home or reduce the number leaving school too early? I am sure that question was not even asked when the selections were being made. Of course it will not do these things. Why not? Because the policies have not changed, indeed, there is not a single reference to policy anywhere in this sparse announcement of personnel changes. It is as if personnel mattered for everthing and policy for nothing.

Some of the Ministers who retain their seals of office sat at Cabinet and were collectively responsible, as was the incoming Taoiseach, for the errors of the past five years. What Government need is not a change of personnel in the sense that we have seen today but the establishment and election in this House of a Government who are truly radical in the sense that they are prepared to go to the root of our problems as a nation. We need a Government who are prepared to reduce taxation on work and raise taxes elsewhere to pay for that. We need a Government who will ask our people to change our Constitution so that for the first time the people of this State will fully and heartily accept the existence of a community of one million people on this island who regard themselves to be British as well as Irish, something we have never accepted in this House or as a people. That is radicalism.

We need a Government who will clearly say, as this Government have not yet done, that divorce should be allowed in this country. We need a Government who will introduce educational reform and promote higher standards and broader choices so that we will not come second last in international surveys in certain aspects of educational achievement, as was indicated in a survey published this week. We need a Government who will reform our welfare state to promote an active rather than a dependent society. We need a Government who will reform our legal system so that the amount of money one has no longer decides whether one can afford to get [1545] justice in Ireland's court system. We need a Government who will give dignity back to those who are ill, shelter to those who are homeless and a voice to those who are handicapped. All these people count just as much as the Ministers who have been promoted today and the Ministers who have been demoted. Their concerns do not seem to loom very large in anything we have heard so far from the Taoiseach at his initial press conference or his speech today.

We need a Government who will change the system of parliamentary democracy in this House so that democratically elected politicians of all parties will be seen to do a constructive job. We need a Government who will get our people back to work. We need a Government who will seek a mandate which will enable them to restore peace to this deeply troubled, divided and traumatised island of ours. In short, we need a Government with a vision.

Despite its superficial radicalism, I must confess that I do not see any real vision in today's rearrangement of office holders within the Fianna Fáil Party. For those who regard politics as some sort of spectator sport, all these changes are interesting and probably quite diverting in the same way as changes of soccer managers or changes of greyhound trainers, which perhaps is more appropriate as we are talking in a sense about blood sports, and I have no doubt they will fill several column inches in the newspapers tomorrow and maybe for weeks to come. However, for those who expect this House and politics to actually change their lives for the better — I am talking now about people outside this House — and offer them a glimpse of their future, to give them a lead, I am not so sure that these nominations add up to very much at all.

There is one thing I want to say directly to the new Taoiseach: I want him to succeed. The entire profession of politics has been dragged down by the scandals and the failures, particularly those of the past six months. Nobody in this House, and certainly nobody in my party has gained from anything which happened in [1546] the past six months. I do not see that any of us has been enriched by the misfortune of anyone on the other side of the House. All of us have suffered from what has happened. When I say I want the Taoiseach to succeed I mean it because it is up to him and the Ministers he has chosen to restore respect to the profession of politics so that people will begin, which they certainly have not done for the last six months, to look at us in this House and say, these are people who are telling us something about our future, these are people we respect, these are people who are leading us somewhere.

I hope that when the time comes for a general election the result will be very different to the one of 1989 which has given this very indirect mandate for the formation of this Government; in fact, I am very confident that the result will be very different. In the meantime, I hope the Government are successful, not just economically but also in restoring respect to democratic politics. In that sense, both personally and politically, I wish the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, every success.

I have already offered him co-operation on an all-party approach to the jobs problem; I suggested the setting up of an all-party forum on jobs. I am surprised there was no reference to this in his announcement today. He was being offered an unusual opportunity, an opportunity which reflected the seriousness of unemployment. Indeed, it would have given him an opportunity to show that when he spoke at his press conference of his Government being one who believed in consultation, not confrontation, of not being a Government who were defensive, on his first day in office he was offered by the main Opposition party and others an opportunity to give real meaning to those words by bringing politicians on all sides of the House together with the social partners to tackle the greatest scourge this country has — the fact that 270,000 people find their lives entirely wasted by unemployment. I offered him the opportunity to sweep aside partisan politics for once and bring all the House together to tackle [1547] that problem, perhaps denying the Opposition in that process some of the opportunity they might otherwise have of embarrassing the Government by taking some small share in the responsibility. Perhaps it is indicative of the Taoiseach's sense that all that really counts is what happens within Fianna Fáil that he did not take up that offer of an all-party jobs forum. I think it was a mistake, a mistake the Taoiseach will not have to wait long to regret.

I also proposed that we co-operate to reform the Dáil so that all of us would share some responsibility, through a committee system, for the budgetary and legislative decisions which the Government must make. There are issues like Europe, Northern Ireland and local government reform where the parties can and should work together. Fine Gael have shown many times before that they are willing to be constructive, but we will also be vigilant. We will not accept it if the prerogatives of this House are taken over by those outside it or by the Executive, as has happened so often in recent months. We demand now the introduction of a comprehensive ethics code not just for the chairmen and members of boards of semi-State bodies but for politicians in this House and in Government. We demand a comprehensive ethics cose with the means of enforcing it.

This side of the House, as long as we remain here, will relentlessly expose the type of moral cowardice — that is what it was that allowed the budgets of 1990, 1991 and 1992 to dishonestly conceal and postpone financial problems — that is what those three budgets did — leaving others to deal with them later. Not only is that bad financial practice; it is moral cowardice. They are not the types of budgets the Fine Gael Party in Government introduced. Those on this side of the House often have been the subject of criticism for our approach to these matters but one thing we have never shown is the sort of moral cowardice that was demonstrated in the budgets to which I referred, two of which bore the hand [1548] of the new Taoiseach. We will continue relentlessly to expose that type of moral cowardice in this House, and hopefully our work will ensure that it does not recur.

It is regrettable that in the only policy statement the Taoiseach has made since becoming leader of the Fianna Fáil Party — namely, his press conference — he did not refer to the imminent destruction of the economic base of rural Ireland in the form of the radical destruction of the Common Agricultural Policy arising from the European Community's financial problems and from the world trade round, an issue that affects the lives of so many of the people of this country, including many of his constituents. Combined with the increasing volatility of the world computer industry, the other pillar of our economy, we see Ireland's two major economic sectors, food and electronics, under imminent threat. Yet neither sector merited a mention in what the Taoiseach had to say at his press conference.

Our two major sectors are under imminent threat because, as far as economic policy-making is concerned on the international stage, the Irish Government over the past four years, abdicated responsibility to outside decision-makers. They abdicated responsibility as far as agriculture is concerned to Commission officials and they abdicated responsibility as far as industrial development is concerned to multinational chairmen of boards whom Ministers visit from time to time. Indeed they abdicated responsibility for much of our future to officials of the European Community who are conducting the world trade negotiations. Irish Ministers of our sovereign Government in the past four years have become mere supplicants on the international stage, not people with a vision of a common European future in which Ireland can play a pivotal role but people going to meetings in Brussels and elsewhere, hoping to get as much as they can and give as little as possible. That is the level to which international economic strategy-making has sunk here. In a sense our political leadership has abdicated [1549] responsibility to others outside this country not only for the shaping of the policy of Europe but also for our internal affairs.

The Taoiseach has spoken of consultation, but this should mean consultation with the Dáil, not just with the Deputies in his own party. The consultation which has dominated the Governments of which he has been a member up to now has been consultation not with this House but in private with outside interest groups. In particular policy on employment creation here has been devised exclusively in consultation with those who have jobs. Is it any wonder that the proposals in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress as far as jobs are concerned display no sense of urgency about job creation when the only people who were consulted about it were those who have jobs?

The Taoiseach must recognise that the jobs crisis here will not be solved within the framework of Government policies as set out in the Government's joint programme. Corporatist policies, such as those in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, that are driven by the interests of those who have jobs are not the best way to help those who have no jobs. Tax policies dictated by the Progressive Democrats designed primarily to reduce top tax rates and give maximum benefit to those on £100,000 a year or more are not the best way to spend the limited amount of money that is available to restore incentives to work for those on the average industrial wage or less. Because the Fianna Fáil Party have no tax ideas and no economic ideas of their own, in policy terms they are like a blank sheet of paper upon which the Progressive Democrats can write whatever they wish.

The Programme for Government and the Programme for Economic and Social Progress would not even be claimed by those who wrote them to be a solution to Ireland's fundamental economic problems. It is even tacitly admitted by their authors that they are mere short term arrangements designed to serve the immediate needs of those who signed [1550] them. Yet the Taoiseach admitted at his press conference that as far as economic policy is concerned we have the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and the joint programme. That is all he had to offer: policies that were drafted by his predecessor. He did not offer any suggestion that those policies were going to be changed, and nobody took him up on that because of course we have come to accept that it does not really matter what the policies are. What is of real interest is who will be Minister for the Marine, who will be Chief Whip and who will be Taoiseach. It is all about personalities, about what is going to be done.

I do not believe that the existing policies that have been so readily, almost casually, accepted by the Taoiseach as continuing indefinitely will solve Ireland's jobs problems. Ireland's problems are so profound — violence, unemployment, alienation — that one Government, whether they last two years, two months or four years, will not solve them on their own. Any one Government's timescale is too short and their electoral needs are too pressing for the profound and radical steps that are necessary to bear fruit. That is why this Government should, through an all-party jobs forum, use the talent and experience of all sides of this House to improve Government legislation and scrutinise all Government spending and budgetary proposals in advance through a Dáil committee system. Such a system would force all Deputies, including the Opposition, to face problems openly, and recognise that while we compete and disagree from time to time we must do so within realistic financial limits. For that reason I see Dáil reform as crucial to restoring sensible long term thinking to Irish politics, something that has been gravely lacking for the last four years. That is the sort of profound reform that would lift politics onto a new plane here.

The new Taoiseach's remarks on Northern Ireland, so far at least, have been disappointing. Everything he has said, including his remarks on Articles 2 and 3, will be “on the table” whenever, [1551] if ever, anyone gets to the table. Do the Government have so little pride that they are prepared to just sit back and allow Irish people to die needlessly, waiting for initiatives from other people to create a table around which the Government will sit? Is that the sort of Government we want, a Government that will just sit and wait for other people to put forward proposals and then say: “we will put proposals on the table so long as someone else makes the first move”?

Do the Government have so little pride in terms of our Constitution that they wait for talks while others tell us what changes should be made? Surely if our Constitution needs to be changed we should be the first people to suggest how it should be changed. Yet the Fianna Fáil approach is to say and do nothing about Northern Ireland. They say obliquely that if a discussion forum is established they will be forthcoming in some unspecified way about what they will do. That approach essentially is to sit back and let it happen, it is a Pontius Pilate attitude. We are not to expect them to take any initiative to bring about talks. So far as they are concerned that is a matter for other people but if the various interests manage to get around the table eventually Fianna Fáil will start to think about the process. The Constitution is at issue. If we are concerned about the carnage in Northern Ireland we in this House should be the first to take an initiative to change our Constitution, to show that we respect the rights of the one million people living on this island whose ancestors have been here for the past 300 years and who are as Irish as anyone here but have a different allegiance from us. However, there is no sign in anything the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, has said so far to indicate that he wishes to abandon the traditional hopeless Fianna Fáil approach to Northern Ireland — of waiting for talks to start and then being forthcoming in some unspecified way.

If the Taoiseach wants to make progress [1552] on Northern Ireland, he must be prepared to abandon the territorial nationalism that has been the stock-in-trade of his party for the past 66 years. It is time to start building a real unity of purpose on this island — a lasting peace which will recognise that one million people see themselves as being both Irish and British at the same time and share the north east corner of this island with 500,000 people who see themselves as exclusively Irish. We should be prepared and willing to devise institutions that will accommodate both traditions on this island we share with them. There is no sign in anything the new Taoiseach has said of a willingness to grasp that, but perhaps I will be proved wrong. I am willing to wait but not for long.

I do not mean to be offensive or even controversial when I say that essentially the Fianna Fáil Party have no policies of their own. They have elevated what they call pragmatism to a form of holy writ. Indeed, the contestants for the leadership of the party spent the past three weeks trying to prove that one was more pragmatic than the other. Pragmatism is not a political creed, it is a way of avoiding trouble and decision making. It is not a way to lead a nation. A party who see pragmatism as an end in itself should not be in Government.

A pragmatic approach is fine in a country that is prosperous and stable, that has virtually no social or economic problems and that could afford to be pragmatic for a few years but Ireland is not such a country. We have a profound and deep-seated problem in the form of ongoing violence in Northern Ireland. We also have a profound and deep-seated economic and employment crisis starting us in the face over the next six to ten years. Our level of emigration is almost without parallel in Europe. Pragmatism will not solve these problems.

Apart from pragmatism, Fianna Fáil have elevated consensus with the social partners in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress as the other element of their holy writ. Naturally that suits a party who does not have their own policy but who are willing to take on board [1553] ready made interest groups who will write policy for them. The policy devised by the social partners, all of whom are employed, is not the best way of solving the problems of a country whose biggest problem is unemployment. Indeed that approach to policy making leads to the triumph of the lowest common denominator, promises now and payments later and a heavy does of fudge to fill in the gaps. That sort of decision making with which the new Taoiseach was intimately involved as Minister for Finance will not move Ireland up from Europe's second division to the first division. That is not the type of Government required by a society facing crisis. That is why we oppose this Government. Irish society require a far-sighted and decisive Government, a Government prepared to act on a profound analysis of our deep-seated problems.

The parties in Government have done no such analysis — no better evidence of that can be found than in their superficial Joint Programme for Government. The Progressive Democrats claim to be a policy driven party but their policies are based on the interests of about 6 per cent of the electorate.

I do not intend to spend much time dealing with the personal suitability of Deputy Reynolds for the Office of Taoiseach. As I said earlier, to the best of my knowledge, Deputy Reynolds is an open-minded and decent man. At his first press conference — some aspects of which I criticised — he showed a refreshing lack of rigidity in his views on a range of topics. I contend, however, that at this point we need more than just flexibility and openness. We need decisive and visionary leadership. I doubt that the combination of parties making up this Government is capable of giving us that.

We need also a Government of sound and courageous judgement. Many — both inside and outside this House — will question whether the Taoiseach's judgment has always been sound. He owes his election to the Dáil in the first instance to the 1977 Fianna Fáil election manifesto, a document he praised eloquently at the time, but subsequently [1554] admitted he had not read. He owes his promotion to ministerial office in 1979 to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Charles Haughey — in whose removal from that office he played no small part in the past few weeks. He was a member of the Government from 1979 to 1981, along with Deputy Haughey, when the grave financial crisis facing the country was openly and honestly admitted by that Government and then completely ignored by them. As a Minister in the Government Deputy Reynolds was collectively responsible for their decisions.

He was a compliant member of the Fianna Fáil Front Bench who opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. As Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1987, Deputy Reynolds was responsible for the restoration of export credit to Iraq. This was seen both at the time and afterwards as one of the more foolish financial decisions taken by any Minister in recent years. As Minister for Finance, too, Deputy Reynolds introduced the 1990 budget in which he backed away from the opportunity to complete the task of financial correction initiated by his three predecessors. Instead, his budget of that year laid the foundations for the financial problems that his successor, the present Minister for Finance, has now so irresponsibly postponed even further to 1993 in the present budget and in his renegotiation of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

To be fair, while he was Minister for Finance, Deputy Reynolds expressed on radio his serious concern about the financial implications of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. He did not, however, do anything about it. His ultimate dismissal from Government came about not because he had taken a stand on a policy matter but simply because he had taken a stand on a matter of personality — the personality of the then Taoiseach. All of these errors of judgement, and I believe they were errors of judgement, do not derive from any conscious irresponsibility on the part of the Taoiseach — I do not accuse him of that — but they may arise from a slight over confidence in the capacity of short-term [1555] deal making to solve longterm problems. Regardless of the motive the price the public have had to pay for the mistakes in which the new Taoiseach played a part, right back to 1977, has been very high indeed. Let us hope there will be no more such mistakes. If there are, Fine Gael will expose them to public view, and we will be vigilant.

I invite the Taoiseach to do what he did not do in his speech today, to set out clearly the course he believes the nation should follow. I have done so in this speech. As yet, he has not done so. I urge him then to bring parliamentary democracy back to life in this House and enlist the support of all Members of the House in a committee system to enable all of us to share some of the responsibility and the power that is at present exercised privately, and often irresponsibly, by the Executive.

The days of deals with powerful interests behind closed doors are, I hope, behind us — that remains to be seen. The penchant for making a deal at all costs-whether in individual commercial matters or in bigger issues — has been the prime cause of the decay that has set into Irish public and economic life in the past number of years. It must end, it must end quickly, and if the new Taoiseach does not end it the next one will. Let us restore democratic politics to its proper role as the driving force in public affairs.

As I have said, I do not see the rather dramatic changes in personnel in the Government as indicating any change of policy. As far as the people outside this House are concerned, the people who have no jobs, the people living on both sides of the Border waiting for the boot at their door that may be the prelude to a short burst of machine gun fire that will end their lives, the people who have been on a waiting list for an operation for perhaps two or three years, and cannot get it, people who have handicapped relatives at home for whom they can no longer care but for whom there is no place, the people who live in fear in their homes in the outer suburbs of this city and other cities, wondering when they [1556] will be run down by the misnamed phenomenon of the joyrider, those are the people who really matter, not the people who have been demoted and promoted — although I am sorry for some and happy for others. So far the Taoiseach has given no indication — and certainly not in his dramatically sparse announcement — that he is prepared to do anything different to solve any of the problems experienced by those people. In this debate they are the people who matter, and in this House we should be their voice. If the Government are not prepared to offer them a voice, I can assure the House that the Opposition will do so.

Mr. Spring: As a relatively long serving leader of a parliamentary party in this Chamber, I have a few words to add to today's debate.

I had hoped that the incoming Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, would take the opportunity to outline to the House his agenda and the agenda of his new Government and that he would set forth a programme of work he intends to pursue. Unfortunately, he failed to take that opportunity, for the second time today — understandably the first time this morning — to set out, however briefly, his intentions, aims, ideas and vision for his leadership of Fianna Fáil. Obviously he has been very preoccupied over the last number of days; perhaps the title of this show should be “Gone with the Wind” — or perhaps it was even a hurricane that brought in this Government.

I believe that the Taoiseach has taken not only the Dáil but the whole country by surprise by the nature and the scale of the appointments made here today. This is probably the first time in the history of the State that eight members of a Government were sacked in a Cabinet reshuffle, nine if one includes the former Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey. None of the Fianna Fáil Ministers, with the single exception of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, held onto his or her portfolio, strange times.

The new Government put before the Dáil today is undoubtedly Taoiseach [1557] Reynolds' own choice. For that reason I say he is playing for very high stakes. He has demonstrated a certain degree of political courage in doing so and there can be no doubt that the outgoing Government were stale and unimaginative and that Taoiseach Reynolds is now taking a fresh approach. I congratulate the Taoiseach.

I believe that at least in terms of style he has made an encouraging start. On behalf of the Labour Party, I extend our congratulations to all the ministerial appointees today. I am disappointed there is only one woman — a very able woman and Deputy in the Cabinet. Every Member of the Dáil will recognise the appointments of Deputy Andrews and Deputy McCreevy as a just reward for two Deputies who have been well known for their independence down the years. I trust that their independence will not cause the Taoiseach any trouble — although I could not guarantee that, of course.

The incoming Government have a difficult and onerous task to carry out and they will need constructive support as well as vigilant criticism and constructive opposition. I pledge to the Taoiseach that they will certainly receive constructive opposition from the Labour Party.

We will oppose the formation of the Government at the end of this debate when a vote is called primarily on the basis that this Government and these appointments have no mandate from the people, other than from the 83 Deputies on the Government side together with whichever Independent Members vote for them today. At best that mandate is a fragile and tenuous one, depending as it does on the mood of the Progressive Democrats.

The Progressive Democrats have already exacted the second highest price that can be paid for continuation in office. They have effectively presided over the removal of a Taoiseach and a Tánaiste; obviously, the only thing left is to destroy the Government themselves. For that reason and for other reasons that I intend to spell out, I believe the first imperative [1558] facing the Taoiseach elected this morning is to seek a mandate from the people.

I said there are other reasons. The Government elected in 1989 have governed through a series of inquiries, examinations and investigations. They have been beset by scandal after scandal, some of them created as a result of the climate that they themselves encouraged, some of them created by an increasingly autocratic style of government and some of them created by deliberate Government policy decisions. I am talking not only about the various business scandals we have witnessed, which have done so much damage to Ireland's reputation and self-esteem; I am also talking about the scandal of homelessness, the scandal of poverty; the scandal of the social services which lurch from crisis to crisis; and, above all, the scandal of unemployment.

I intend to concentrate the remainder of my remarks on two issues that I believe are most important for the incoming Taoiseach and the incoming Government, that is, unemployment and the North of Ireland, because they are extremely serious and crucial for any Government of this country at this time. Other speakers from the Labour Party will concentrate on other aspects of the future life of this Government.

Month after month we have historic unemployment figures and month after month they are accompanied by blasé and sanctimonious statements. Surely it is reasonable to demand that at the very least the complacency which has been present should disappear by the end of this debate. Unemployment is at the core of our fiscal problems. The budget overrun last year, for example, was largely accounted for by the excess spending on unemployment related payments. Unemployment is at the core of the grinding poverty that afflicts thousands of families. Most of all, it is unemployment that is at the core of our equality crisis.

There have been many calls for a national forum on unemployment. The Labour Party certainly support such calls. During the weekend I was heartened by newspaper reports that the incoming [1559] Taoiseach has not ruled out the possibility of such a forum and I urge him to keep that idea very much at the top of his agenda.

I know the Taoiseach does not believe there is a simple, magic wand type solution to unemployment. No solution can be pulled out of a hat by a new Taoiseach. We must start from the point that the figure of 270,000 unemployed is unacceptable, completely and starkly unacceptable, in any kind of economic policy or any kind of economic and social basis for our society. It is all the more unacceptable in the context of a more prosperous Europe, a Europe in which our unemployment rate is by far the worst and is now almost exactly twice the European average. If we had started from that point some years ago instead of simply trying to export the problem, the position would not be as grim today as it is. We must recognise that there are crucial steps that can and must be taken, some big and small, some immediate and some longer term.

The Labour Party have already published a range of suggestions in relation to unemployment. I will not go into them in detail but I will make two points. We do not accept that every major policy initiative must be geared to the medium or longer term. A number of things can be done immediately which will give priority to those who are most affected, the long term unemployed. Our ideas are based on two single principles. The creation of extra wealth here is crucial and the retention of that wealth, translating it into jobs, is equally crucial. We must secure more added value from everything we do.

It would be dishonest to say the Government are entirely to blame for unemployment. I have argued before that we will only really begin to seriously address the problem when we look for solutions within ourselves and re-discover the patriotism inherent in a commitment to excellence, to economic flexibility, to high standards of service and to efficient production methods. Notwithstanding that, the Government must [1560] be criticised for their performance. Their complacency was totally unacceptable. They are also to be criticised for consistently ignoring the European dimension and for their unreceptiveness, which I hope has changed, to the idea of a forum on unemployment. Until the crisis of unemployment is seriously addressed it will continue to undermine the fabric of our society, and indeed this institution. In the end it will do irreparable damage. No Government who continue to turn a blind eye to the existence of that crisis and continue to ignore the need to achieve a consensus, committed to solving the crisis, is a Government worthy of the name.

Last weekend I called on the incoming Taoiseach to convene a meeting of all party leaders in this House to begin a process of consultation about how we could contribute to the restoration of peace and reconcilation in Northern Ireland. I sent a copy of that speech to the new leader's press office at his request. I will reiterate some of the major points in that speech. The violence in Northern Ireland demands a fresh start at a security and a political level. Any politician who chooses this moment to opt out of discussion with enemies and friends alike is allowing history to pass him by. Worse, if politicians fail to break the present impasse they will be harshly judged before the court of history.

There is a great deal that divides constitutional politicians on this island but there is also one thing that unites them — a total and absolute detestation of violence as a means of forcing change. Now is the time to build on that platform and for all politicians, whatever their persuasion, to agree to come together to find ways of ending the violence. What we need is a new forum. It should not be a place where politicians set out demands or lay down conditions or express aspirations. All that has been done already. Everybody knows the aims and aspirations of the other side. There is a place for aspirations but that place is on the back burner. We have to face the fact that the commitment to a united Ireland has not brought peace, any more than [1561] has a commitment to the union. Instead, the intransigent commitment to our aspiration has killed people. Our dream of a united Ireland is killing people every day, as is the dream of the union with Britain. That is not the same as saying they are evil dreams — far from it, but how can we cherish dreams used by evil people to justify evil acts? That is why we have to set our dreams to one side, not forever, and perhaps not even for too long. This is not a moment for dreams. It is a time to wake up and give the first priority to the needs of an Ireland at peace. We should consider the establishment of a successor to the New Ireland Forum to be called perhaps the Ireland at Peace Forum.

The Taoiseach already said that he has made no deals to secure the job to which he was elected this morning and that he does not owe anyone any favours. If that is true in relation to personnel, it must be doubly true in relation to policy and history. Nowhere is that more important than in relation to Northern Ireland. Deputy Reynolds' views on Northern Ireland have not been forcefully expressed in the past. There is no reason to believe he is encumbered by any of the myths or shiboleths that have dominated the attitudes of the past. In fact, it appears that, if anything, Deputy Reynolds believes strongly in the potential for closer co-operation and the kind of peace that leaves room for economic development. For all these reasons he is uniquely placed to make a break with the past, and I call on him to do so. Deputy Reynolds could begin by calling a meeting of party leaders in this House. I have not the slightest doubt that he would find every party leader in this House willing to respect his confidence and, above all else, willing to find new ways forward.

We must begin to think in a new way in relation to Northern Ireland. This is an opportunity for the Taoiseach and the new Government. We need a new concept which will define a nation as much in terms of its people and their rights as it does in terms of the territory they occupy. The concept I have in mind might [1562] be called nationism rather than nationalism. Any discussion about nationism would start from the point of citizenship and would progress to the rights of the individual. It would concern itself with the Border in the hearts and minds rather than the Border that exists on land. It would be more a process of giving than taking, more aimed at bringing people together for common purposes, rather than using fear and hatred to drive people apart. Above all, the underpinning principle of nationism would be that a nation consists of its people. A nationist would not ever find it acceptable to blow people up or arbitrarily deprive them of their livelihoods as some so-called nationalists seem to do. That is why we have to make a fresh start and the election of a Taoiseach in the Republic of Ireland represents a suitable point of departure. The pain and suffering so many families in our nation are undergoing this week makes it imperative that we begin the whole process of healing again. That will take fundamental changes of attitude. It will require taking risks. It will mean dropping the easy clichés of old, that we cannot hide behind any form of banal interpretation of our history. The time to do that is now and I urge the Taoiseach to do so now.

After being elected Leader of Fianna Fáil the Taoiseach in his press conference promised a more open and honest style of Government. Most people listening found that refreshing. Some people will be sceptical and some will be cynical about the capacity of Fianna Fáil to change but the Taoiseach deserves the benefit of the doubt. The Taoiseach has the reins in his hands. The leadership and responsibility lies with him. The promise given by him will be carefully watched. The people will want to see action leading to a reinvigoration of the democratic process. The Taoiseach has made a good start and I hope he will continue as he has begun.

Mr. McCartan: I take this opportunity to express congratulations to the new Taoiseach and to the members of his Cabinet, many of whom are taking on [1563] onerous positions for the first time. I am pleased for them and I hope they enjoy the tasks ahead.

Nobody believes the election of the new Taoiseach and the new Cabinet will bring any real change in the political orientation of this Government. The Government will presumably continue to operate on the basis of the Programme for Government agreed in July 1989 and reviewed by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in October last year. For that reason The Workers' Party do not support the motion of the Taoiseach for the appointment of his new Cabinet.

Neither the original programme nor the review offered any real agenda for tackling the country's daunting social and economic problem. The review failed to offer even one new idea or initiative for job creation. A level of unemployment which the EC warned against yesterday, reaching 300,000 within two years, is apparently acceptable to Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. At least in the review they dispensed with the phoney promise made in the original 1989 programme, that unemployment would be the major priority of the Government. The reality is that what is generally accepted to be the biggest social and economic problem facing us has received no priority at all and will not be given priority by this newly constituted Government.

Many commentators forecast we would see major changes in the Government but few suggested that changes would be as sweeping as those announced by the Taoiseach. What we have seen here is not just the formation of a new Government but the day of the long knives. Despite what the Taoiseach said last week, old scores have indeed been settled and favours have been repaid. An injection of new blood was certainly necessary but some of these appointments are extraordinary in the extreme.

People on all sides of the House will welcome the appointment of Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn to the Cabinet. She is a Deputy of proven ability, but I would not be alone in expressing regret that her [1564] appointment has apparently been at the expense of the only other woman member of the outgoing Cabinet. Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn now has responsibility for Tourism, Transport and Communications and I would ask her, since repeated requests had been made to her predecessor without any great effect, to take on board as a priority the ongoing dispute at RTE and to intervene directly to ensure that the matter is resolved. In my observations and consultations with personnel involved directly in that strike, it would appear that the parties are implacably drawn into lines of battle, that there is little common ground between them and that without the intervention of a Minister or Ministers to seek to resolve the dispute it will drag on unnecessarily in a long and bitter feud. There is a real proposal on the table for the establishment of a joint industrial council to arbitrate over issues and disputes which will inevitably develop as new technologies are introduced in that body. I hope the new Minister will take on board that proposal as a priority.

I am somewhat surprised, if not astonished, at the appointment of Deputy John O'Connell as Minister for Health. Although he is a medical doctor, people who depend on the public health services can draw little comfort from his appointment if he still holds the views expressed about patients being left overnight on trollies in corridoors, he uttered the immortal words that “a trolley is just a bed on wheels”. In the same week in 1989 he delivered an insulting message to hospital and health care workers when he told them that health care funds were perfectly adequate but that health workers were squandering them. I hope the new Minister for Health does not still subscribe to those antediluvian views and that his term of office at the Department of Health will lead to sweeping changes and progress for all people who rely on the public health service as a necessity to survive.

On a personal level I welcome the appointment of Deputy McCreevy as Minister for Social Welfare, but I have [1565] rarely heard him speak on matters affecting social welfare in this House. I look forward to hearing him and I will offer him every support as long as he is pursuing the interests of those who rely on the social welfare system.

Mr. Deasy: Disability to every non-trier in the horse racing industry.

Mr. McCartan: He has shown little particular interest in or sympathy for those who are dependent on social welfare, but I have heard him contribute very ably on the interests of the business community. That is not to be unexpected, considering his profession. I urge that he will now turn his considerable talents to pursuing the interests of that one-third of our community who live on or below the poverty line and who will be looking to him specifically for support and assistance.

I am pleased at the transfer of Deputy Seamus Brennan to the Department of Education. At least there is very little, if anything, there that he can privatise.

Mr. S. Brennan: Stick around.

Mr. McCartan: Despite those few reservations all of the Ministers will be proven and put to the test on their performance and all of us will be prepared to give them the opportunity of proving themselves in their specific jobs in the months to come.

Once elected Leader of Fianna Fáil Deputy Reynolds outlined at his press conference a number of objectives that he hoped to pursue during his term in office. In particular we look forward to any changes in policy that can hold out hope of some changes in the style of Government as promised. I hope the new Taoiseach will honour his commitment given at that press conference to operate an open style of Government, that the diktat will end and that we will be able to rely upon consensus and consultation. The Taoiseach has an onus on him to spell out exactly what he means by those aspirations and to say how he would hope to implement them.

[1566] There was nothing about the style of the out-going Government which demonstrated any commitment to openness or accountability. Indeed, the contrary was the case. This was especially so in regard to the Dáil and contributed in a major way to the exceptionally poor relationship between Government and Opposition parties in recent years. Had that Government been more open many of the embarrassing scandals might have been avoided or might have been cleared up much earlier. Mr. Justice Hamilton recently commented at the Beef Tribunal over which he presides that had Government Ministers been more forthcoming with information sought at various stages, then there might have been no need for that tribunal at all. I fully agree with him. Certainly the attitude with regard to Dáil Questions which permeated the last Government from the Taoiseach down to the most junior of Ministers has to change. I hope that the aspirations to openness, as espoused by the new Taoiseach, will involve a change. If a question could not be transferred or disallowed, then the fall back position was to give the minimum information possible. Extracting the simplest of information from Government Ministers was an extraordinarily tedious and often painful process. I hope there will be significant change in this regard. If the commitment to open Government is to have any meaning an area which must be addressed is fundamental reform of our own procedures. I listened with some degree of amazement to the comments of the outgoing Taoiseach when he talked approvingly about what had been done with regard to Dáil reform. We have had some minor improvements but little of any real significance and no root and branch reform. The Programme for Government in July 1989 promised substantial Oireachtas reform by the end of that year. It is more than two years overdue. The review of the programme at the beginning of the last Dáil session made further promises of reform but we are still awaiting them.

I would ask the Taoiseach specifically to look again at the repeated requests [1567] in this House for the appointment of a foreign affairs committee. I particularly welcome the appointment of Deputy David Andrews to the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs. I hope the long years he has spent in Opposition in the back benches of his party, during which time he actively engaged in many initiatives on an all-party basis, will lead him to appreciate that there is great scope and opportunity for the idea of involving Deputies from all sides in consultation, negotiation and initiatives with regard to foreign affairs generally. It is essential that the Government also address the commitment for the reforming of the European affairs committee so that we can take on board in an active way many of the challenges being presented to us by the debate on Maastricht and developments at EC level on post-Maastricht affairs.

As The Worker's Party said in a document on Dáil reform published last year, the effectiveness and credibility of the Oireachtas depend on our procedures striking the correct balance between the right of the administration in power to get on with the business of Government and the right of Opposition parties to question, to query, to raise matters, to challenge, to contribute alternative views, to initiate new proposals and, where necessary, to oppose and to oppose strongly. The Standing Orders and the Rules of Procedure as currently constituted do not strike that balance and are unfairly tilted in favour of whatever Government are in power. That is particularly so with regard to the so-called strictures of the sub judice rule as it has been applied in this House, as recently exposed in the judgment of Mr. Justice O'Hanlon in the High Court.

The new Taoiseach and his Government must face up to the unprecedented degree of cynicism in the real world about the effectiveness of the Dáil. If the Taoiseach sets about modernising our procedures, ensuring that this House, and its activities, relate to citizens' lives, his real, lasting contribution to Irish public life will be undoubted.

[1568] A related area is that of full disclosure of financial interests by Dáil Deputies, an essential requirement also of open Government and to the restoration of public confidence in the integrity of our political system. On this issue the Taoiseach is reported as having said that he had an open mind. He is reported to have an open mind also on divorce and on votes for emigrants. It is now time for him to begin making up his mind on these issues, all of which must be addressed, no longer long-fingered, because they have remained unaddressed for too long by people who had not the courage to tackle them.

The performance of the Taoiseach and members of his Government will be measured by the way they tackle their respective portfolios.

We hope The Workers' Party will be appreciated in this House for the work they do, for the critical opposition they will bring to bear on Ministers' performances in their respective portfolios. We wish the Government and Ministers well in their endeavours.

Mr. Deasy: I should like to congratulate the Taoiseach on his nomination and those Ministers who have been selected by him to serve in Government. I find the Taoiseach's approach extremely refreshing, giving hope for the future. I predict that many people who had been disappointed with the trend of Irish politics in recent years will begin to believe that there is hope. I predict many people who had been cynical will say; well, the new Taoiseach has taken a huge risk in introducing so many new people into his Cabinet, on which he deserves credit; we hope the courage he has shown will bear fruit.

It is a pity there are not 15 seats along the front benches opposite to accommodate all Ministers. It is somewhat unfair to two new Ministers, Deputies Cowen and McCreevy, to have to sit in the second row. As I am aware from having served in Government, there is a huge chasm between the powers of a Minister and a Minister of State, indeed an even greater gap between any Cabinet [1569] Minister, Minister of State and backbencher. They should all be on the one level simply for presentation purposes.

I should like to outline the overall position for people who are not very familiar with Cabinet procedures. The Workers' Party may have an interest in this because, as the former Taoiseach often commented, they hardly ever see the inside of the Cabinet room although who knows what may happen in the course of time.

There are 15 Ministers, including the Taoiseach, and the Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Noel Dempsey. In addition to those we shall have also the extremely able civil servant and Secretary to the Government, Mr. Dermot Nally, who has served under a number of Taoisigh, now sitting on the right of the new Taoiseach.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Even though the Deputy would appear to be launching into complimenting public servants I have to inform him that it is not done. We do not refer to public servants.

Mr. Deasy: I knew you would rule me out of order, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but I got it in anyway.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If the Deputy wants to make capital of that reputation he has given himself he is welcome to it.

Mr. Deasy: Fait accompli. Nobody is more worthy of mention than that gentleman, an extraordinarily competent, able man.

We all appreciate that the Taoiseach is a self-made man. He has had vast experience in a number of positions ranging from clerk with CIE, to dance band promoter, to dance hall owner and to becoming the proprietor of a very successful pet food industry. I am in a very complimentary mood today, it being a very auspicious occasion. While I know the former Taoiseach said, in reply to Deputy Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) on Thursday last that he did not consider that occasion [1570] to have been auspicious, this one is extremely so because of the revolutionary nature of the changes announced in the Cabinet. Never in my experience in this House have there been so many changes announced within a Cabinet. That is why it is so revolutionary and deserving of comment.

As far as I am concerned there will be no derogatory comments made on this occasion. There were some before which caused much upset. I am not going to refer to expressions such as “flawed pedigree”. Rather will I refer to the new Taoiseach in terms of “Pedigree Chum”, in the hope he will appreciate the humour inherent in that remark. I wish him the best of luck in all his ventures.

It is particularly nice to see ability being rewarded. While we on this side of the House probably crossed swords with the former Taoiseach on many occasions it has to be said he has many outstanding attributes. But some of us felt he had not been playing ball with the general public, the people who really matter, in that Deputies from his side of the House were not picked because of their ability but rather for their blind allegiance to his leadership. I do not make that comment in any sense of bitterness but rather in a factual manner. It was not a desirable trend. Indeed, perhaps the former Taoiseach's son, Senator Seán Haughey, in his statement yesterday may have come closer to the bone in saying that the new Taoiseach should select people on ability, younger people in particular. We have seen an example of that here today on which the new Taoiseach is to be complimented.

I should like to refer now to some of the ministerial appointments. There are five new Cabinet Ministers, people who have not served in that capacity before. The new Minister for Health, Deputy O'Connell, who served in this House formerly as Ceann Comhairle, has some experience of having held a senior office. Nonetheless this will be the first occasion on which he will have held a ministerial portfolio. He may have felt somewhat aggrieved, when a member of the Labour Party in the mid-seventies, not to have [1571] been a member of that Coalition Government. He has now been given his opportunity. The new Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, was a senior Cabinet Minister for some time, not very long, but was an extraordinarily able Minister. A former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture once said to me: of all the junior Ministers he had seen in that Department in his day, Deputy Michael Smith had been the most competent. That was a fair tribute to him.

The new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy David Andrews, was referred to by Deputy McCartan. Everybody in the House will applaud his selection as Minister for Foreign Affairs. If I am not mistaken he has served in this House since 1965, 27 years, and has been one of the most competent Members of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. He served as a junior Minister for approximately two years and has been an outstanding Deputy in this House, his abilities, particularly on matters relating to Foreign Affairs and Justice being well known to all of us. Therefore, his is a particularly appropriate appointment.

We have two Ministers who did not serve previously even as Ministers of State. I refer to the new Ministers for Labour and Social Welfare, Deputies Cowen and McCreevy respectively. The Minister for Social Welfare is not just a good debater here in the Dáil—unfortunately in the past he has not partaken frequently enough—but he is also well known as a television and radio personality, and I hope he can bring his talents to bear in this area. I should mention in passing that the Minister who preceded him three months ago in that post —Deputy Woods, the new Minister for the Marine—did an extraordinarily good job in that area. I would like to think that Deputy McCreevy would continue that enlightened approach.

Regarding Deputy Brian Cowen, now Minister for Labour, the boot is on the other foot because he was noted more often for his interruptions and his heckling than for his lengthy contributions. He is a highly intelligent young man and [1572] when he did speak he expressed himself very concisely, precisely and definitely, and he is a man who has a very promising political future.

Of these new senior Ministers I have left until last the new Minister for Agriculture and Food—former Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food—Deputy Joe Walsh. It has been acknowledged for some time in the Fianna Fáil benches that Deputy Joe Walsh was the most accomplished Deputy in the party where matters relating to agriculture were concerned. It was a cause of concern to many of us, on all sides of the House, that he had not been promoted to this position, or some Cabinet position, many years ago. I have no doubt he will do a very good job in that area, one I shall refer to for a few minutes as it is my own area of responsibility in the Fine Gael party.

It has been a source of great pain to me over the past five years to see that portfolio being handled in a rather inept manner. I am not being kind in what I am saying here. In complimenting the new Minister for Agriculture and Food I have got to pinpoint—as is my duty on behalf of the members of my party generally and on behalf of the general public—what has to be said.

We have lost our position in Europe in matters relating to agriculture. Up to 1987 we had carved out a special position where agriculture was concerned and in the intervening five years that position has been seriously eroded. We have been seen to be without any bottle when it came to negotiating in Europe in those intervening five years. There has been an erosion of our position. That position will have to be reconstituted and it will take a strong Minister for Agriculture and Food, together with assistance from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in particular, to recover that position.

There was a time when we in Europe got special concessions in matters relating to agriculture. I am not referring particularly to the milk quota case in 1983-84 but to a whole series of measures where we got special payments and special [1573] moneys. That day has long passed and I want to see our position restored. I hope Deputy Walsh, in his capacity as Minister for Agriculture and Food, will be able to do that. The slide was not just at the Council of Agriculture Ministers, but also at summit meetings because I believe our authority was not stamped on the proceedings of those particular meetings. In Europe you are dealing with power politics. If the Taoiseach or Prime Minister of your country cannot make an impression or cannot make certain demands, then his Minister for Agriculture really does not have much of a foothold. I am asking the Taoiseach today, in conjunction with the Minister for Agriculture and Food and, to a somewhat lesser extent the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to see that that foothold is retained.

Nine or ten months ago in this House I had reason to ask the former Taoiseach if we were going to be subjected to the terms of the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy if he would use the veto, whereupon he answered that he wondered if the veto had any relevance any more and if it really ever had any relevance. Of course it had relevance, we had to threaten the use of the veto in 1984 to get what we got; we actually had to table a motion invoking the veto on that particular occasion. More recently we saw that the veto still does have a relevance. In the run-up to the Maastrich Summit in December last, the Spaniards let it be known that they were not prepared to accept less than was being offered. When I refer to what was being offered I am talking in terms of cohesion —that is the transfer of moneys from the better off states and the better off regions to the less well off regions. At the end of the day, because of the very threatening of the veto, the Spaniards made tremendous progress in getting what they wanted and we travelled along on their coat-tails. In actual fact the Greeks and the Portuguese also threatened to use the veto. We cannot afford to be seen to be travelling on other people's coat-tails where agriculture is concerned; we must be the ones who make the running [1574] because no other country is as dependent on agriculture as Ireland. If we do not get special treatment then we will have a catastrophe not just in the agricultural industry but in associated industries and in the economy generally. I want to make that point clearly, I will be hammering away at it from this side of the House and I hope my colleagues will be doing likewise in the expectation of getting a response from the Government of the day. We have slipped in Europe, we have gone backwards, we are not regarded as a special case and we will have to return to that particular position.

In the Dáil debate on agriculture in the House last week, I said that our performance in Europe over the past five years in agricultural matters had been “anaemic”. That might not be a nice word, but it was the most relevant word I could think of and it was the most pertinent thing I could say in relation to our negotiating stance. We will have to be strong and definite. There are no soft touches in Europe. Those of you who have negotiated in Europe know that; you have got to be dogged, tough and relentless. You do not necessarily have to be nice but there are times when it helps; you cannot be ugly all the time. We have lost our special position and I want to see the Government regain that position. I have confidence in the Taoiseach and in the Minister for Agriculture and Food to do that, but I would ask him to bear in mind what I have said. One will not get it by playing footsie or going softly softly, and there are times when one has to put the boot in. If it is necessary to invoke the veto then it must be done. One will get no thanks for being nice in Europe.

I have said most of what I wanted to say. Deputy Bruton and some of the other speakers have alluded to some other items which I might have mentioned. I hope the Taoiseach's acquaintance with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Major, will be of assistance to us; personal relationships such as that can be enormously helpful.

One cannot believe what one sees in print too often nowadays but last week it [1575] was reported that the incoming Taoiseach said that he was going to have a Government who, above all would be honest and forthright, and I think that is what we will look forward to. We look forward also to the restoration of public confidence in the political system and we want openness at all times and the formation of committees such as a foreign affairs commitee and other committees relevant to the needs of the country, for instance, a committee on emigration and a committee on employment.

I do not think there is any need for the Taoiseach to be bound by the names of Departments which have been in existence for many years. He could rename the Department of Labour the Department of Employment and Emigration, if necessary. He could amalgamate Departments such as the Departments of Health and the Department of Social Welfare, as was done before. Before I became Minister for Agriculture the Department of Agriculture incorporated the Department of Lands, which had been a separate Department, and the Department of the Marine which is now a separate Department. Therefore, we had three Departments in one.

Let me suggest to the Taoiseach that, in an effort to create jobs, the Department of Agriculture and Food should be renamed as the Department of Food, with the emphasis on converting what we produce into food, thus encouraging processing and the provision of new jobs. The new Minister for Agriculture and Food, when he was Minister of State at that Department, had that title, Minister for Food. Why should he not carry that title with him? That might mean something in terms of jobs, because that is what it is all about at the end of the day. The produce should be converted into the end product within this country so that everyone can benefit, the farmer, the processor and the worker. Once again, I wish the Taoiseach the best of luck during his term of office.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Could I [1576] remind the people who are not in the Chamber that their participation must be of a silent nature?

Mr. Howlin: This is the second time in a matter of months that Dáil Éireann has been requested by the Government to debate a motion of this kind. There is a certain irony in that it was the sacking of the person who has moved the motion today, the Taoiseach, which caused the vacancies a matter of months ago. There is an air of calm in the House or at least there was before the announcement was made one and a half hours ago. It was almost as if there was no political crisis, that it was not a matter of great moment, that something had unfolded and it was simply a matter of putting the pieces into place—a new Government, what of it?

That calm belied a real crisis, the effects of which might not be felt in the House except probably among a not inconsiderable group of former Ministers. But outside this House there is a huge and deepening crisis about which I want to speak briefly. This crisis is characterised by the alienation of a significant proportion of our citizens from the democratic process. Many of our citizens, particularly those who are hurting — and that is at least one quarter of the total population — and those who have been hurt in recent years feel that they have been betrayed by this House and have no confidence in politicians of any political hue to solve the problems they face in their everyday lives. I say to the incoming Government and each of the Ministers whose nominations have been put before the House for ratification that they have many tasks, the first of which is to set about restoring confidence in our democratic system. That is a fairly tall order and a difficult task which will require a great degree of imagination and courageous decisions.

Some months ago I had the honour and privilege, on behalf of the Labour Party, of bringing before the House an Ethics in Government Bill which, unfortunately, was voted down. The debate which ensued on that proposal might have been seen as premature in the light [1577] of what has happened since when scandal upon scandal has been unfolded in our political system. What the intervening months have shown is the necessity for such legislation. I put it to the Taoiseach and the incoming Government that they should use it as the basis for sweeping reform of our political system. This is required to begin the process of restoring confidence.

We need to bring into political life a new openness and transparency in the way we carry on the business of this State so that people do not feel excluded from the decision making process and are not fearful of inner cabals or golden circles who are charmed in all their dealings with the great majority frozen out in a wilderness of misery.

I also put it to the incoming Government that they should begin in a real sense the task of reforming the Dáil, a matter to which we have paid lip service for years. I am a member of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges sub-committee on Dáil reform. To our eternal shame the most significant thing we have managed to do in two years—apart from televising the Dáil which was a great step forward—is to bring the grievance procedure into existence where Deputies have two minutes at the end of a Dáil day to discuss matters of importance and to increase the number of Adjournment debates from one to three, hardly stirring stuff in terms of allowing this Parliament and the Members of it to have an input in running the country and getting the Government to account for their actions in an open and transparent way as the people require.

We have talked about establishing committees. I have worked on committees of this House who were effective in dealing with the issues that were discussed but I have also worked on committees whose recommendations were pre-empted by decisions of the Cabinet who paid no regard to the work of those committees comprising Deputies drawn from all sides of the House, and who heard evidence from people outside. We do not operate a parliamentary democracy but rather an executive Government [1578] where the only people who matter in the decision-making process are 15 Cabinet Ministers and their departmental advisers. Backbenchers on the Government side and frontbenchers on the Opposition side of the House have scant or no input into many, if not all, of the political decisions being made and into the passing of legislation. For example, only half a dozen sections of the Local Government Bill, to which the Labour Party tabled 164 amendments, were dealt with. The rest were not discussed because the debate on the Bill was guillotined by way of an omnibus motion.

There is also a positive side. I worked on the Child Care Bill where a consensus evolved and all views and attitudes were taken into account. However, we need to make that the norm—and not the exception—in relation to doing business on behalf of the people who send us here as their representatives. In essence, we must end executive Government, Government by decree, Government by a small group, and open it up to all, particularly to the Members of this House who are sent by our citizens to give their views on matters of public importance.

The third element in reforming the way we do business of State is to grasp in a real sense the notion of decentralisation. It does not mean hiving off a section of a Department and X number of public servants to a rural town. That is not decentralisation. It is very good news for some of the population starved area of the country—and please send one to the south-east—but it is not decentralisation because decentralisation is based on the principle of subsidiarity where decisions are made at the lowest possible level, where they affect real people. The thrust of policy in recent years has run counter to that principle. We have not sought or tried to devolve power downwards to local communities or to local democratically elected institutions; we have sought repeatedly to grab power to ourselves as a corps and the tighter and smaller the corps the better, by all accounts in recent years. Let us have decentralisation, not simply of offices and civil servants but of devolved power. Let us [1579] take that courageous, dangerous, radical decision to allow people to govern their own affairs at local level.

The second task of the incoming Government is to restore another fundamental principle, equality of citizenship, which is a fundamental principle of a republic. Equality of citizenship has been sorely eroded in recent years; we do not have equality in virtually any area of activity. In the health service the thickness of your wallet is more likely to determine the quality and speed of health care rather than the urgency of your medical condition. That has been exacerbated in recent years and the gap between the haves and have-nots has widened since the first Fianna Fáil minority Government were elected in 1987 followed by the forerunner of this Government, the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats first coalition.

There is no equality of citizenship in housing. We have stopped building local authority housing; 1,000 local authority houses will be built this year, an increase on the figure of two years ago but it is virtually nothing considering there is a minimum of 25,000 people on our housing lists. Local authorities all over the country despair of even drawing up housing lists. I attended a housing meeting in my own local authority this week and we are still working on the 1987 list; that is not an insignificant date because it was not worth our while to draw up a new list since then. Yet, there are houses not far from this august institution which can command £100,000, £200,000 or £500,000. That is the gap in the equality of citizenship in relation to a fundamental issue such as shelter. There is a growing problem of homelessness which besets not just this city but cities and towns across the country. It must be an issue for the incoming Minister for the Environment and the Cabinet to address.

In relation to education, there are students outside the House at present demanding equality of treatment in relation to education. The previous Government's reaction to that was to means test European Social fund grants, [1580] hardly a radical or innovative decision in the light of the fact that there is a huge tranche, particularly of middle income people, who despair of sending even one child—let alone two or three—to avail of third level education. Surely, if there is a fundamental basis to solving or even addressing unemployment, it is preparing our young people, our most precious resource to whom lip service is often paid in this House, to the best of their ability to face the world of work and to prepare this country for participation in the Europe of tomorrow. There is a gulf in the basic equality of citizenship as far as education is concerned.

In relation to taxation, there has been clear evidence in recent times that there are two categories of people in this State, those who can evade or avoid paying their tax and those in relation to whom every penny must be accounted for and paid to the tax man. We must have equality of treatment in relation to taxation, not only done but seen to be done, because the great frustration among the PAYE sector is the sure knowledge that they are almost suckers in our economy because they pay while others are not expected to pay. The most innovative thing which the predecessor of this Government could do was to broaden the tax base to include social welfare recipients, hardly revolutionary, progressive or imaginative. These are just some of the issues in relation to restoring equality of citizenship in our republic.

The largest part of the contribution of the Leader of the Labour Party to this debate was the issue of Northern Ireland. In the past number of weeks we were faced with mind-numbing violence which requires to be addressed in a bold fashion, not from a basis of fear of losing face but rather from a determination to find a fresh accommodation, not trapped in history but committed to life. Boldness in pursuit of peace will find widespread support in this House and across the country. That is the third issue.

The fourth issue is unemployment and there have been many contributions already in relation to it. The Taoiseach has not closed his mind to the issue of a [1581] forum on unemployment. The Culliton report is at least a basis for beginning to address the problem but, unfortunately, even in its own description it is not a solution to the horrendous task of finding jobs for our young population and indeed for older people, many of whom feel themselves to be on the scrap heap in middle age. As a nation, we must make unemployment our top priority, an economic imperative which takes precedence over all other economic imperatives. All other economic requirements should be measured and addressed only on the basis of how they impact in relation to unemployment.

There are two other issues on which to make a brief comment. One is an appeal to two Ministers in particular, the incoming Minister for Labour and the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, both new to their portfolios. The national broadcasting station has not provided proper coverage — and cannot in the present industrial climate —of the momentous political happenings of recent weeks. It is imperative that the national television radio and broadcasting services are restored. I request the two incoming Ministers to please intervene directly and to try to bring about a resolution of the dispute.

The second issue is a parochial one. We have seen again in yet another announcement of ministerial appointments the counties of Wexford, Wicklow, Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford, the south-east corner of our island, left without a seat at Cabinet. Signs on it, in recent years in terms of unemployment and infrastructural development, the views and voice of the south-east are not reflected adequately at Cabinet. I greatly regret that.

Ireland is a modern and young Republic with talent and resources which have never been properly channelled and focused for the real benefit of the nation. As a people we often thrived and prospered abroad in a way in which we seemed unable to do at home. It is now necessary for all of us to seek to release that talent and nurture it at home. The experience of the Fianna Fáil and Fianna [1582] Fáil-Progressive Democrats Governments since 1987 does not fill me with great promise or hope. The last two Governments have been backward looking, stale and always surrounded with at least a whiff of scandal. There were those who were in and those, the great majority, who most definitely were out.

The Labour Party would have preferred a general election to allow the people to have their say on the performance of the Government over the last two years and who should sit in the Taoiseach's office this evening. I believe there is a wish and a growing and significant demand for a new Ireland, more open, more equal and more modern, that this incoming Government would not even recognise, much less be able to respond to. However, I remain an optimist. I wish the incoming Ministers well in their respective onerous ministries and for the sake of the new Ireland, I wish them a short term of office.

Mr. J. Higgins: Ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil don Taoiseach nua agus don Rialtas nua. I wish the former Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, well in his retirement. I also send my best wishes to Mrs. Haughey. I congratulate the former Taoiseach on his endeavours as Taoiseach, Cabinet Minister and Member of this House. Irrespective of what has been said in private or public debate, I think it is acknowledged both inside and outside this House, regardless of one's political leanings, that he was a brilliant parliamentarian and a man of enormous skill and ability. Irrespective of the cut and thrust of debate in this House, no matter how much heat or venom was generated within the House, he was always a man of unfailing courtesy. I very sincerely wish him well in his retirement.

I wish the incoming Taoiseach well. As I said in the Irish Press last week when I was asked to define the strong and weak points of the various contenders for the leadership of the Fianna Fáil Party, what made Deputy Reynolds unique was that he seemed to be able to separate the issue from the personality and to bring his [1583] business-like skill and approach to bear in the various Cabinet portfolios he has held. I am sincere in wishing him well and I hope he will have the success he is obviously looking for in energising the Government, which they certainly need. His selection of Cabinet Ministers has stamped his trademark and authority on the Government.

I am not without sympathy for some of the former Ministers. In dealing with dynasties, the Taoiseach has certainly wielded the scalpel with some considerable effect.

Mr. Howlin: A chainsaw.

Mr. J. Higgins: Gone are the Collins's, the Burkes, the Lenihans, both male and female, and the Daverns. Into the cabinet has come Deputy McCreevy, Minister for Social Welfare. One of Deputy McCreevy's unique characteristics has been his lack of spleen in any contact he has had with the Opposition parties. On radio and television he always manages to acquit himself with a considerable amount of media and communication ability; he has always managed to bring his own particular stamp of independent thought to Fianna Fáil. I believe the inclusion of Deputy McCreevy in the Cabinet will have a considerable beneficial effect.

The nomination of Deputy David Andrews as Minister for Foreign Affairs has been welcomed by Members on the Opposition benches as an enlightened move. Deputy Joe Walsh has managed to acquit himself with extreme effectiveness in all his junior Ministries. I am delighted that Cork has at last been acknowledged as having the right to have a senior Minister.

Looking at the make-up of the Cabinet one is struck by the fact that it seems to be largely Progressive Democrats oriented. Deputy McCreevy was one of the bridgeheads between the warring factions in the post-1989 election scenario. He was one of the go-betweens on that occasion in cobbling together the new Administration; Deputy David Andrews was of [1584] the same ilk; Deputy Joe Walsh could be described as an honest broker in the talks, and there but for the grace of God or something else, Deputy Séamus Brennan almost became a member of the Progressive Democrats. It will be very interesting to see how the new partnerships gel together, or is it a case that the marriage is virtually complete bar the consummation?

This is a courageous Cabinet. There is no doubt about that. However, I believe the changes are an acknowledgment on the part of the incoming Taoiseach that the previous Cabinet failed in relation to their economic remit, they failed to resolve the social problems, which still have not been tackled, and they failed to energise the country. If ever this country needed inspiration it is now.

The new Minister for Education is Deputy Séamus Brennan. He is a man of enormous experience and I sincerely wish him well in dealing with what is one of the most onerous portfolios. Before I deal with the area of education, I should like to say I am happy that my fellow countyman, Deputy Pádraig Flynn, has been brought back into the Cabinet. As a west of Ireland Deputy we would prefer if he had got an economic portfolio, but failing that, from the point of view of the resuscitation and resurgence of the west we would like to have seen him get education. I say this to the Taoiseach in all good faith; the outstanding undelivered promise for a regional technical college for County Mayo, which has the third highest participation rate in third level education, is our due. The people of Mayo would have seen the appointment of Deputy Flynn as Minister for Education as a clear signal from the Government that they would at last deliver on that promise.

In wishing Deputy Séamus Brennan well as Minister for Education, we are saying that, irrespective of how we laud ourselves on our educational achievements and educational system, we should not clap ourselves on the back too much. While our education performance is reasonably good by comparison with [1585] other countries, and while we have managed to hold the line in relation to standards and performance, nevertheless there are huge gaping holes in the education spectrum. By becoming Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan will inherit the greatest social instrument of all.

Recent surveys have shown that our crime rate is soaring, our prisons are bursting at the seams and there are huge no-go areas in this city where even essential services, such as the ambulance and fire brigade, cannot go. There are massive ghettos on the outskirts of those cities that are now wreaking the social havoc that was inevitable because of the haphazard way in which the cities were built.

Education is the greatest civiliser, the greatest enlightener and the greatest moulder of society provided we can make it work. We must ensure that the central plank of Government policy is education for all and education to the highest standard. Somebody once said that education is what remains when all else has been forgotten. Irrespective of the degree of formal education achieved, we must encourage pupils to remain at school at least until they complete primary education. The subjects taught must be as relevant as possible and we must eliminate from the education system the type of porosity that exists at present, with a massive drop-out rate before any reasonable level of education is attained.

Despite the manner in which we may vaunt our education achievements, after all the expenditure on education we still have the largest class sizes in Europe. At present there are 685 primary school classes with in excess of 40 pupils. It is very difficult to educate such a class because you are talking about damage limitation, crowd control and containment rather than on education. There are 4,000 primary school classes with between 35 and 40 pupils; 4,000 with between 30 and 35 pupils and 3,800 classes with between 25 and 30 pupils. In all, there are over 11,000 classes in which the official pupil-teacher ratio of 25:1 is exceeded. The minuscule changes in the Programme for Economic and Social [1586] Progress will have no major impact on class sizes. It is quite obvious that what we should be targeting is a maximum class size with positive discrimination in areas of disadvantage, particularly in terms of the massive social problems in the suburbs of this city.

Recently I visited one of the schools which features prominently in the Sunday papers in terms of looting and burning of cars. The school principal, when looking down the classhall, said he could point out the people who might be featured in The Sunday Tribune in two years' time. That is a sad indictment of the fact that we cannot keep these pupils in the education system. I make a particular plea to the incoming Minister for Education to consider as his number one priority remedial teaching. Of the 3,400 primary schools only 300 have remedial teachers. Yet, it has been proved that between 11 and 12 per cent of children entering primary school require specialist remedial teaching. If we cannot deliver an educational service to each and every individual at primary level, what hope is there of delivering it at second or third level?

I would ask the Minister to tackle what is an impending civil war at second level. Given the decline in population and the fact that the number of children leaving primary schools will drop by 110,000 between now and the end of the century, we are on the brink of an educational civil war at post primary level. In rural communities post-primary and vocational schools are vying for a diminishing number of pupils. I ask the Minister to acknowledge in a positive fashion the requests from the various catchment areas and post primary centres to immediately set up a task force with a view to rationalisation. It would make economic sense, social sense and good education sense, and it would result in a much healthier environment in many post primary centres.

I agree with the concept of free education. By introducing free education in the mid-sixties the late Donogh O'Malley left a massive imprint on the whole social services in this country. As a result of bringing onstream new subjects and the [1587] introduction of modern languages, intermediate and leaving certificates to vocational schools and a whole range of certification, additional teachers were appointed. At present teaching is becoming a greying profession. The education system is beginning to suffer from arthritis or a hardening of the arteries. There are many teachers who are incapable of coping with the demands of the modern classhall. The changing system in terms of discipline, new methodology and subject choice and range poses challenges to people who are simply incapable of coping with them, particularly in view of the fact that we do not have in place a proper in-service regime.

I ask the Minister to introduce an ongoing early retirement scheme, first from the point of view of giving people suffering from lethargy the option of retiring and, secondly, from the point of view of employing the thousands of highly skilled, highly motivated young graduates who are champing at the bit to get into the system and who have much to offer. I ask the Minister to introduce some of the obvious innovations that are necessary such as teen teaching and a proper system of career breaks to ensure that young people may avail of the service to which they are entitled.

Last Friday week in the region of 50,000 young people signed their CAO and CAS forms for entry to third level education. The die is now cast for these people. They have made their choice of subjects and courses and their choice of career, and in many cases there is no going back. Recently when I asked the former Minister for Education, Deputy O'Rourke, a parliamentary question as to the number of career guidance counsellors I was amazed to hear that of the 1,135 post primary schools only 380 have career guidance counsellors. As a parent who has tried to wrestle with the CAO and CAS scheme I am in total sympathy with the 17-year old who tries to fill out such forms and also with parents who try to help their children decide on the multiplicity of subjects that are available. [1588] I have no doubt that due to the lack of career guidance teachers many people made the wrong choice last Friday week, resulting in drop-outs from college and people opting for a career that is not suited to them.

It is fundamental that on completion of their education young people should have available to them professional advice and assistance and towards this end I would ask the Minister to avail of the talent of unemployed teachers and graduates. He should introduce a crash course for career guidance counsellors so that one career guidance counsellor is provided, if not for every school at least for every three or four schools. I also ask the Minister to provide that career guidance counsellors be available in schools during the two weeks after the announcement of the leaving certificate results to give the pupils the benefit of their advice as to the career they should follow. As a quid pro quo these teachers should be given two weeks holidays in September. It is unacceptable that pupils who completed their leaving certificate and are faced with a range of choices as to the career they should follow do not have the advice of career guidance counsellors because they are on holiday. That matter should be considered by the Minister and some arrangement should be made whereby students have the benefit of professional advice at such a crucial time in their lives.

I ask the Minister to take note of what is quite obviously pledged as a fundamental plank of European union. The Maastricht Summit recognised the central role of education in relation to European union. It laid emphasis on technical, technological, vocational and practical education and looked at the range and choice of subjects at second level. This was also alluded to in the Culliton report which reiterated the need to reorientate education to put greater emphasis on and to provide more resources to both vocational and technical education.

The issue of European Social Fund grants will be a hot potato for the new Minister for Education. What the Minister is doing is importing into the ESF [1589] system all the anomalies, inequities and wrongs of the current higher education grant system. By so doing he is not levelling the playing field. You do not pull one group up by pulling the other group down. If you are going to level the playing field you take everybody up to the same level. I urge the Minister, rather than going ahead with this very devisive move in September 1992, to set up an all-party committee, an expert review group or committee, to examine the whole area of higher education, the inequities, injustices and anomalies in the present scheme and keep the existing European Social Fund grant system in place until such time as that is done. Having been lobbied by and received representations from PAYE parents, middle income parents and the students themselves, I know that the issue is a powder keg that will explode.

I urge the Minister to do the sensible thing—to buy time by setting up a committee which will involve the students, the parents, the relevant Departments and Members of the European Community. If they do not provide jobs, if the European Community is part and parcel of providing a twin pincers movement by way of GATT and Common Agricultural Policy and agriculture is going to suffer, then I believe the Community has a social and moral obligation to provide us with education. It is recognised that this country has become the education conveyer belt for top quality engineers, scientists and technologists for Germany, Italy, France and other member states.

The waiting is now over, the Cabinet has been announced and it is now down to business. Ireland is a country with great potential but we have frittered away a lot of that potential; we have failed to tap many of our indigenous resources; we have a high degree of potential self-sufficiency if we could only get our act together. There is so much work to be done and so many are unemployed, it is a case of producing a blueprint to bring the twain together. That is a formidable task. In tackling it the Taoiseach and incoming Cabinet will have everybody's [1590] gratitude. We will suspend judgment we will wait and see.

I wish the Taoiseach and the Members of his Cabinet well.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley): I would like to say a few words in my capacity as leader of the Progressive Democrats.

Today must mark the start of a new era of policy focused politics in this country which is so desperately needed as we grapple to resolve the many social and economic problems facing us in the South and the scourge of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

The past 15 years especially have been dominated by the politics of personality here, personified by and often deliberately focused on the careers of the country's two last Taoisigh. Deputy Haughey and Deputy FitzGerald. There is no doubt, of course, that outstanding personalities—as they both undoubtedly are—will wield disproportionate influence, particularly from the political pinnacle of the Taoiseach's office, but at the end of the day, it is what Taoisigh and their Governments do, how they affect and alter the welfare of people's lives rather than their personalities, which should be the real basis of politics and political endeavour.

Since our foundation just over six years ago, the Progressive Democrats have sought to assert the dominance of policy over personality in Irish politics. Because that is what really matters for our people, even if they do not always fully realise it. I believe we have demonstrated our commitment to this principle on many occasions, most especially at the time of the formation of the Progressive Democrats-Fianna Fáil Administration in July 1989 when both parties managed to put aside personality considerations and agreed to devise a radical and far seeing Programme for Government, which is serving this country very well in many important spheres.

The commitment of the Progressive Democrats to getting things done in Government is further underlined by the even more comprehensive contents of the [1591] revised Government Programme, adopted on 18 October last. Quite understandably the constant interruptions caused by the political events of the intervening period since October have led to a delay in meeting various deadlines established in that programme. However, I and my party confidently believe that renewed effort and energy will be applied by all members of the new Government to implementing the various policy commitments of the programme in the coming weeks and months.

Naturally, the overriding objective of the new Government must be to advance a whole range of inter-related economic, social and institutional reforms that taken together will effectively tackle the unemployment crisis, which is the foremost domestic issue facing us in this Republic.

These reforms include maintaining strict control of public spending, and getting our overall borrowing requirement down to 1.5 per cent of GNP next year, in accordance with the Government progamme; continuing the radical pro-jobs tax reform programme, on which such a decisive step was taken in the recent budget so as to create a tax system that is simple, equitable and transparent, and which promotes greater output, and encourages work and enterprise; implementing the comprehensive reform of industrial policy advocated in the splendid Culliton report, which I commissioned in June of last year; protecting and promoting our vital agricultural and food sectors in the light of the radical overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy that is now going on and the changes and pressures emanating from the current Uruguay Round of GATT talks; further developing and improving our vital social services, especially in the fields of health care, social welfare, the penal system and caring for children at risk; successfully prosecuting the referendum to adopt the Maastricht Treaty which heralds an era of intensified European integration, and the creation of a more unified Europe in economic and monetary terms first and then perhaps in [1592] political terms: undertaking major institutional reforms affecting how our democracy functions, from updating the archaic procedures of the Oireachtas to delivering meaningful local government to local communities.

If one wants to reflect on just how the procedures of the Oireachtas need updating, I would remind Members that they are at liberty to say far less inside this Chamber in their capacity as elected Members of the Dáil than they are to say it outside the door or on the street in their capacity as private citizens. That is fundamentally wrong; modernising our whole legal code; ensuring proper accountability by the State, its agencies and by business at every level; protecting and further enhancing our natural and built environment, so vital not only to the quality of life of our own people, but crucial to the development of key industrial sectors like the food industry and tourism.

Those are just some of the policy priorities of the Progressive Democrats. They are comprehensively addressed in the Programme for Government and I am confident that the new Administration taking up office after today will quickly address the missed deadlines that have occurred and will set about vigorously implementing the programme.

One of my priorities in my departmental area is to implement the radical agenda of reform in industrial policy outlined in the Culliton report. To be successful, no such reform programme can be confined to a narrow definition of industrial policy, which we have had here for perhaps too long. The Culliton report makes that clear. The reform must also address many related issues, including energy policy, education, transport infrastructure, telecommunications, natural resource development and much more.

While this Government naturally must within our own jurisdiction give priority to the unemployment crisis, the continuing and worsening carnage in Northern Ireland must also dominate our thinking.

The tragic events of recent weeks appal [1593] every decent person. How can such evil lie in the hearts of certain people that they can coldly and ruthlessly blow up a busload of workers or indiscriminatly shoot up a bookies shop full of people? Those evil people must be afforded no hiding place; no possible label that they might put on themselves of Republicanism or Loyalism can be allowed to mask their awful deeds.

I sincerely hope that today's meeting at Downing Street between the British Premier and the Northern constitutinal party leaders offers some hope. It is essential that the Brooke talks, so fully supported and encouraged by our own Government, resume as quickly as possible and that they should not continue to be deadlocked by considerations relating to the outcome of the upcoming British election.

For our own part in the Republic, I believe that we must try and try again to reach out and build greater understanding with the people of Northern Ireland. In particular, we must also make it clear that this State has no predatory designs on either the people or the territory of Northern Ireland.

I welcome the prominence that the Taoiseach accorded the Northern issue in his first press conference and also his indication that contentious issues such as Articles 2 and 3 of our Constitution are negotiable in any talks embracing the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The Progressive Democrats have since our foundation favoured comprehensive constitutional reform in this State, relating not only to matters directly affecting Northern Ireland but also to more accurately enshrine and reflect a caring and liberal civil rights ethos in our own society.

We believe that so far as our present Constitution is concerned it is necessary to look again at the territorial claim expressed in Articles 2 and 3 and to make it clear, even in advance of North-South constitutional talks, that we are willing to revise these Articles and to refine them in light of the Anglo-Irish Agreement to reflect an aspiration to unity by consent, [1594] rather than a territorial claim of jurisdiction or domination. In suggesting that, I remind the House that this is not a novel step that would be unfamiliar to Members of this House but was a central recommendation of a committee of both Houses of the Oireachtas which was set up by the late Seán Lemass in 1966 and which reported to the two Houses in 1967. We should remind ourselves that 25 years have passed since then.

One of the truly tragic dimensions of the Northern Ireland question is that while evil men on both sides of the community intensify their efforts to perpetuate civil strife and to render the coming together of both parts of this island ever more remote, developments at the wider European Community level are actually bringing the peoples of these islands institutionally closer together every day.

The creation of a single Europe, with the free movement of people, goods, capital and services, is accelerating by the day. Last Friday, although it passed virtually unnoticed here we had the historic signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which must be subsequently ratified by referendum of the Irish people later this year.

That referendum campaign is of a vital importance to the future welfare of this country. This week its significance in pure economic terms will be graphically underlined when the President of the EC Commission, Monsieur Delors, unveils the new Structural Aid Programme for 1994-98, which could see Ireland's direct aid from the Community rise to more than £1 billion per year after the conclusion of the existing Community support framework at the end of next year.

I should like to pay tribute to the former Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey. He helped in no small measure to bring about the historic Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Coalition Government in July 1989 and there is no doubt that that marked a feat of real political courage of a kind that was repeated on several occasions throughout his career. I also wish his successor, Deputy Albert Reynolds, every success and good luck [1595] as Taoiseach. I pledge the fullest support of the Progressive Democrats to the effective working of Government as we jointly set about vigorously tackling the various social and economic problems facing the new Government.

In conclusion, I express the human reaction that there are people in the House now who served with me as colleagues in Government recently and as far back as 20 years ago who from today are no longer colleagues of mine in Government. I regret that the nature of politics must sometimes require the unfortunate departure of people. I recognise that fact at least as well as does any Member of the House. Those who have departed the Cabinet are almost more in my thoughts today than are my new colleagues. I offer them my thanks for the support and friendship I have known from them in Government. I hope that friendship will continue when they are no longer in Cabinet.

Mr. Ferris: I have already taken the opportunity of wishing the outgoing Taoiseach the very best in his retirement and thanking him for the contribution he made to public life here. At times that contribution was controversial but he certainly did make a major contribution and had a flair and panache that many people admired. He will certainly be missed on the floor of the House.

I take the opportunity to extend the congratulations of the Labour Party to the new Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, and his new team that he proposed to the House.

The focus of the nation is now placed on the Government, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the personalities involved. It is only natural that the constituencies of the new Ministers will show a certain degree of joy and happiness that one of their public representatives has been chosen to be a Minister. There will also be sadness in constituencies that have lost a Minister. That is inevitable and, as the previous speaker, Deputy O'Malley said, that is the nature of politics. Those of [1596] us directly involved can understand the personal triumphs and sadness that follow elevation or demotion. There is no one in the House who has not been touched by such personal occurrences in his or her political life.

It is appropriate for me to express my regret at the removal from Cabinet of my constituency colleague, Deputy Davern. Deputy Davern had only just a few months to settle into his new portfolio and become involved in the preparation of budget estimates. His efforts in this area were cut short because this new Taoiseach said that he was going about his business on the basis of no promises or favours and that appointments would be based on ability. Looking at the Taoiseach's new Cabinet there is no doubt that the Taoiseach honoured his commitment and has picked his own team with a certain amount of courage. We look forward to a change in direction in the Cabinet as a result of the changes. New enthusiasm might have an effect in particularly difficult areas. Some of the new appointees are certainly of independent mind. We must wait to see if this new Cabinet is capable of dealing with the pressing problems facing us. The new Taoiseach has never underestimated our problems and he will have the support of most Members of the House in tackling them. Of course, the Opposition will be critical. It is our job to highlight inadequacies, to point to where priorities are missed and to highlight areas of need. I wish the new Government well.

The Leader of the Labour Party today highlighted some of our priorities including the crises in employment. One out of every five of our citizens is affected by unemployment. That figure is almost three times greater than a former Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, suggested as being totally unacceptable.

The most up to date analysis of European unemployment figures shows that for the first quarter of last year Ireland replaced Spain as the country with the highest rate of unemployment. In Spain the rate has stabilised at around 16 per cent while here it has increased from 15.5 [1597] per cent to over 20 per cent. In some areas it is as high as 60 per cent and 70 per cent. In parts of Dublin unemployment is at crisis point. Over the last 12 months my constituency has suffered from job losses, bankruptcies and so on and people who are capable of work have been thrown onto the dole queues. Carrick is a real unemployment black spot. Clonmel has not been exempt from unemployment nor has Cahir, Cashel or Tipperary town. The European Community statistics dramatise the frightening increase in unemployment in Ireland. This reflects badly on the Government who were devoid of any understanding about the proportion of unemployment in society and were unable to implement a real jobs creation policy. They depended totally on creating the proper environment, on social employment schemes and on retraining schemes. That is not enough. This Government will have to show some initiative and they will be supported in that by Members of the House. This support has been offered by all party leaders in their speeches today. We need to address unemployment as a matter of urgency, else we will condemn our young people either to unemployment or to emigration. This would be a dreadful sentence to impose on young well qualified people coming from our schools. It would be terrible to have nothing to offer them apart from an employer who will employ them only if they get a special grant from the Government. Creating a proper environment has not been successful in the area of job creation.

The Taoiseach today said that unemployment is at the top of his agenda. That is a welcome response from him. I hope that Deputy Reynolds who, as Minister for Finance, participated in the previous Government will now have the vision to implement a series of concrete job creation policies which will in the short term discriminate in favour of the long term unemployed and in favour of youth.

It was with regret we noted that the Taoiseach did not today take the opportunity to outline any programme for Government with his main priority being to [1598] tackle unemployment, and did not agree to a national forum on unemployment. Perhaps the Taoiseach wanted to choose another time to come before the House with his proposals to address this cancer of unemployment in our society.

The 1992 budget was silent in many areas, for instance on health. There was one small paragraph on the health services and one or two lines with regard to the handicapped. After the last election everybody, including the previous Taoiseach knew that there was a crisis in health services. Anybody with personal experience of health services knows that there have been shortages in this area for a number of years. The health services are unable to meet any additional demands despite the fact that budget estimates will be produced confirming that additional spending is taking place. Because of inflation and further demands on the health services health boards cannot increase their level of service beyond the 1990 level. They have to ignore additional demands which exceed the 1990 level of services which the Govenment have agreed.

The budget made a passing reference to handicap, an area which has been shamefully neglected by the Government but which should be a priority for the new Minister for Health. I hope he will remedy the neglect in this area. I am concerned about the new Minister for Health. Although he was previously a party colleague, I must say that I have heard him utter in this House the most extreme right wing comments on the health services. He has always quantified the cost to the Exchequer of certain medical and surgical interventions as if to say that if something is too expensive we cannot afford it, irrespective of whether a person needs it. The new Minister has referred once to new fangled operations. These procedures may be new but I suggest that they are needed. Nobody asks to go into hospital. It is traumatic to be told that you need to be hospitalised for an operation. These matters are decided by professionals. We should not criticise the patient if the need is established. If it is possible to improve a lifestyle or to [1599] help save a life we should not put a price tag on the necessary medical or surgical intervention.

Mental handicap has been of particular concern to all of us. I pay tribute to Deputy O'Rourke, the outgoing Minister for Health, on showing some flair in taking on board suggestions we made in this area. The Minister for Finance on budget day gave a miserly £3 million but she immediately responded by topping it up with another £3 million. A total of £6 million added to last year's £4 million is still only £10 million over two years in the area of the handicapped. Research documented by the Government's review group on mental handicap services indicates that the under-funding amounts to £27.15 million. The parents of the mentally handicapped and the review group which brought out the document Needs and Abilities have identified need as being much greater than that to which the Government are prepared to respond.

The incoming Minister will be made aware by all of us of the acute financial difficulties experienced by health agencies and others dealing with people who have a disability. They have been starved of finance by the Government. Since 1987 they have been subjected to more and more cutbacks. During the general election campaign in 1987 Fianna Fáil used posters which declared that health cuts hurt the old, the poor and the handicapped, but in achieving office they actually increased the hurt in all these areas and they have not in the meantime properly addressed the need.

The situation of families of people with a mental handicap has deteriorated in recent years. The report of the Minister's group states there has been a standstill in budget terms. We have documented the needs in this area. About 2,000 places are required, some 600 or 700 residential places and practically 1,000 daycare places for persons with a mental handicap. Deputy O'Rourke as Minister suggested the introduction of a home care service for parents of children with a mental handicap. That was welcome but it was not to be seen as a substitute for [1600] daycare services and long stay and respite care. The introduction of the home care service could be viewed only as a welcome backup. We hope the new Minister will address this area. We have tried to assist him by publishing on behalf of the Labour Party a Private Members' Bill giving specific legal rights to people with a handicap. Those rights would be enshrined in Irish law and the State could be found guilty of dereliction of duty if it failed to respond to those needs. It is ironic that parents who choose to care for their children at home, thereby saving the State millions of pounds, are neglected when they cry out for State residential places for adults with a handicap. The Minister cannot afford to ignore their plight. We call on the new Minister for Health to take action in this regard and we remind him of his social commitments in that area in the past when he was a member of our party. We call on him to drop the right-wing attitude he adopted when he joined the Fianna Fáil ranks. The comments he made on Health Estimates will not now be acceptable to the vast majority who are in need of a health care service.

There is a financial crisis in the health boards. According to recent press reports, most of the eight health boards owe between £30 million and £50 million to suppliers. In some health board areas they have been refused supplies from ordinary suppliers who generally welcome such contracts to supply basic foodstuffs, health care products, drugs, medicines and so on. At the end of last year firms were requesting that their names be withdrawn from the list of suppliers because the health boards were unable to pay them due to a cashflow problem. That problem is still occurring, despite recent gestures by the Minister. It is unacceptable that any major agency involved in health care should postdate cheques or even run the risk of cheques bouncing. The State's credibility is a little better than that. From a business point of view this would represent mismanagement by the Department of Health who in themselves are major spenders of money.

[1601] We realise that spending must be targeted to areas in need. Money is a scarce commodity and must be used correctly,. We have tried to identify areas of specific need. It is hoped that the incoming Minister for Health will be prepared to take a new and imaginative approach to the severe funding problem. He must be aware this is no way to run a health service. If he does not take immediate action to remedy current shortfalls, patients will suffer.

We have all talked about the long waiting lists for essential treatments and interventions. It is sometimes forgotten that the treatment available to people when they get to the front of the queue and are given a bed is getting worse by the day, particularly in the case of long-stay patients of all kinds. There is the scandal throughout Ireland of old age pensioners, holders of medical cards, who have no place to go because the community are unable to meet their urgent needs: They might not be ambulant and would need long term geriatric care and attention but there are long waiting lists for hospitals providing this service. People are forced to go to private nursing homes and to supplement their meagre pensions by £70 or £80 extra per week to cover the cost. The outgoing Government with the co-operation of the House, passed the Private Nursing Homes Bill which permitted the State to supplement the cost of private nursing care. Yet to date the Minister for Health has not introduced the necessary regulations to give effect to the provisions of that Act. I call on the new Minister for Health to make this one of his priorities and use the £1 million provided in the budget for the care of geriatric patients in need, many of whom are becoming bankrupt because neither they nor their relatives are able to meet from their pensions the increased charges on private health care expenditure. Increasingly such patients are being accommodated wherever space can be found for them, with some non-ambulant patients being accommodated on second and third floors in dilapidated buildings. The attitude on the part of the Department that somehow or other all these [1602] commodity problems will be addressed, has meant amongst other things that such old buildings have been neglected. There is no extra funding being provided to ensure that such people can remain within their communities as long as possible. I might here compliment hospitals and day care centres who have endeavoured to address this problem, many funded through public generosity.

There is one reason only for all these problems, that since Fianna Fáil resumed office in 1987, in coalition, the proportion of national wealth spent on health care has declined annually. For example, in the 1991 Estimates the proportion of national wealth spent on health care was estimated at approximately 6 per cent, failing totally to take account of the real GDP obtaining in that year, that figure being even smaller now. The net effect is that, in real terms, we are spending nearly £200 million less on health care than we were a few short years ago. The recent budgetary provisions will merely paper over some of those cracks. They will not alleviate the cash flow crisis I have identified within the various health boards, stave off the potential bankruptcy of some major health agencies or allow for heating to be turned up in some of our hospitals if the weather becomes colder. It will clearly be seen that our health system is deteriorating before our very eyes.

One of the most tragic occurrences of recent years has been the shameful manner in which our nurses have been treated by the outgoing Government, having refused replacements, thereby forcing the nursing profession, a caring one, into taking industrial action and causing them and their patients much physical and emotional stress. Unofficial work to rule and other such actions had to be taken by nurses in order to make the outgoing Government sit up and take notice of matters which have been a grave source of worry to them, particularly staffing levels. This has been the fate of our health services under the outgoing Coalition Government comprised of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, [1603] causing a crisis it gives us no joy to identify here but which continues. Therefore, we will be demanding of the new Taoiseach and his Ministers, in particular the Minister for Health, that the health services and those for the handicapped be given priority.

The new Taoiseach has already made some promises with regard to what will be the priorities of his Government. It is to be hoped that these promises will not be of an aspirational nature but rather will be implemented as soon as possible.

There are some new Cabinet appointments deserving of mention. For example, the new Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy McCreevy, will bring a new independence and flair to his portfolio. All Members will welcome back Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, another Cabinet appointee, and in my constituency also the reappearance of the new Minister for the Environment, Deputy Micheal Smith. He has been in and out of Cabinet, demonstrating that he has always been available and capable of accepting any portfolio allocated to him.

I regret the passing over of the former Minister for Health, Deputy O'Rourke. I regret also the passing over of the former Minister for Education, Deputy Noel Davern, a constituency colleague, and that of the former Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Daly. I always found him most courteous within a very sensitive area touching on the lives of almost 1 million of our people, with 270,000-odd unemployed, people striving to penetrate the bureaucracy of the social welfare system in order to prove their means, availability for work and so on. The former Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Daly, had the courage in this House to commit himself to effecting changes, to ensuring that his departmental officers helped people rather than obstructed them in reaping their due entitlements. He showed a certain amount of flair and courage which had already borne fruit. It would be remiss of me not to extend my thanks to him for the manner in which he approached his [1604] tasks within a very sensitive ministry and to wish him well in the future. There have been other personality changes, some shocks, some surprises, and other appointments coming as no surprise to us. We wish them all well in their new portfolios.

The electorate will demand that the incoming Government immediately tackle the priorities identified by the Taoiseach and Members of this House, for example, our huge unemployment problem, the crisis prevailing within the health services, that obtaining in the public housing programme with its long waiting lists of people seeking local authority housing. It is to be hoped that the Government will meet some, if not all, of these demands, thereby indicating to the electorate that they are responsive to people's needs as highlighted from these Opposition benches. The electorate have been shocked in recent months by the various scandals and crises that have occurred. They look desperately to this incoming Taoiseach and his Cabinet to move away from them, into a new era, within which they will have a certain honeymoon period. But I warn them that we will be watching, waiting in the wings, calling the shots, voicing our demands. It is to be sincerely hoped that they will deal effectively with the real problems.

Mr. R. Bruton: I should like to begin my contribution by wishing the former Taoiseach, Deputy Charles J. Haughey, a constituency colleague of mine, well in his retirement. I have had the opportunity to witness at first hand his personal generosity and great sensitivity to people's needs. Indeed his successes, of which there were many throughout his career, owe no small part to his outstanding sensitivity to people and their needs. He will be missed in Dublin North-Central constituency. I should also like to wish the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Vincent Brady, well, another colleague from the same constituency, who lost his Cabinet appointment today. Indeed ours must be the only constituency to have lost two former Ministers on the same day. I hope both [1605] of them will have bright futures in their chosen activities.

The incoming Government face a daunting task. I was disappointed at what I detected to be complacency on the part of the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the scale of our economic problems and what needed to be done to tackle them. The truth is that our economic policies of the past 20 years have failed dismally. One need look only at the year 1991, supposed to have been a record year for growth, when the new Taoiseach boasted of his part in having boosted growth. Yet that was a year when 5,000 additional jobs were lost; there were 5,000 fewer people working at its end than at its commencement, despite the so-called great improvement in growth. There were 43,000 additional people unemployed; it was a year in which the number of young unemployed grew by a massive 23,000, 40 per cent more of our young people being unemployed at the end of that year of so-called outstanding growth.

It is extremely depressing to examine the pattern of unemployment among our young people. I examined the recently published 1991 Census figures giving information on where people attending school, aged between ten and 14 years ten years ago, were now. Of those 340,000 we discover that an alarming proportion, 76,000 in fact, had emigrated already, that almost one-quarter of those students who sat in our classrooms ten years ago, before reaching their early twenties, had already emigrated. No more revealing statistic of the failure of our economic policies could be produced than that. We have failed dismally to produce the growth in employment that people needed.

Equally, we have failed our young people in many other areas, not least in education. Of those young people who were in our schools aged ten to 14 — ten years ago — 25,000 left school without any qualification. In a survey of their employment experience in the five years after they left school it was shown that they had spent half of their time out of work. Those 25,000 people are facing the [1606] most dismal employment prospects, they are already in a category which will lead to long term unemployment unless there is effective intervention to deal with their needs. In Dublin it is extraordinary that one-third of children of working class families are leaving school without any qualification. If the Government want to intervene and produce effective policies to tackle unemployment they have to intervene at that level. We cannot allow a situation to continue in the city of Dublin where so many people are leaving school without any qualification that can give them a decent hope of obtaining employment.

In 1974, long before I was a Member of this House, I was working as an economist in research. At that stage the self-same analysis of the problems of our industrial policies were presented to us. To hear the Minister say that something new and exciting has come from the Culliton report is beside the point. It was recognised in 1974 that we were developing a foreign sector that did not have sufficient linkages to the Irish economy and that the capital grants being offered to foreign industry were not suitable to develop the indigenous sector. To hear the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, say we now had the great blueprint for the future in the Culliton report is disheartening to say the least. These issues have been around for a long time, the Minister has been responsible for industrial policy for a long time and there has not been any enhancement in performance from our indigenous industries sector.

The Minister referred to the small moves in taxation this year as if this was the major breakthrough that would transform employment performance here. There is no evidence that any of the tax changes, small and modest as they were, will produce one job. In the past few years we have seen the abolition of capital allowances which their author — the new Taoiseach — had hoped would produce jobs but we have not seen any growth in employment from the manufacturing sector as those capital allowances declined. The evidence [1607] internationally of people who have tried to hinge employment policies on a simple reduction of a few tax rates is not encouraging.

This year the Minister for Finance reintroduced a series of training schemes in the private sector. People seem to forget that this same Minister, less than three years ago, abolished a similar programme which was then called the work experience programme. Now it is called training in industry. The same programme, the same idea he abolished three or four years ago is now reintroduced and vaunted as a great step forward, an answer to the needs of people who are out of work. That is not realism. The Minister should re-read the speeches he made when he abolished that scheme and, perhaps, apply them to his present proposals.

We have had nothing but lip service to producing a radical approach to our unemployment problems. The budget did nothing about the poverty trap — one of the most practical things that could have been done — in which many people who are unemployed find themselves. That poverty trap is brought about because there is no recognition in the tax code of the burden of various household expenses. People who are unemployed may have the advantage of differential rents and childrens allowances from social welfare but they cannot obtain similar advantages if they accept offers of low paid work. We are trapping people in unemployment by failing to deal with those poverty trap issues that have been highlighted in report after report.

The Minister referred to Culliton's proposal to break-up or reorganise FÁS. Only a few short years ago the Minister for Labour told us that the reorganisation which was consolidating FÁS would give us a great leap forward in employment. Now by breaking up FÁS we hope to have a leap forward in employment. Those are not realistic options. The Government should face up to the fact that we need new ideas in the employment area. They should sit down with the best from all sides of the House, from the social partners, the unemployed and the [1608] disabled who are excluded from the social partners, in a consultative process which will put before us a vision of an Ireland that can produce worthwhile employment for its people, be they low education achievers, persons with a disability or whatever their position.

I turn briefly to the health area. I am disappointed to see that Deputy O'Rourke was not retained in her portfolio. Many people looked to Deputy O'Rourke's energy in addressing policy issues to bring about improvements in the health sector. I am sorry to see her go before she had an opportunity to fulfil the hopes she raised among many people who are interested in the health sector. The past few years in the health sector have been disappointing. Last year a series of panic measures were introduced to deal with budgetary problems, all of which hit directly at patients. The Government brought in tough measures to reduce the ability of patients to get refunds on their drugs and introduced measures to attack the VHI's funding base which was already precarious and took money from people who are members of the VHI in a way they had no right to do. The Government introduced bizarre arrangements to handle accident and emergency services in Dublin under which two of the hospitals were taken out of the system each night. None of those panic measures produced results in the health sector. We have not seen any new thinking from the Government as to how they will tackle the major problems confronting our health sector.

It was very disappointing that the Government did not tackle the two tier service which has developed. Instead they institutionalised the notion that there will be good health care for private patients and a much inferior service for public patients. The Government should have developed the notion of common waiting lists whereby people would be taken off the waiting lists, based on their medical needs. Instead the Government agreed to a system that will separate completely public and private. None of us need to be told that what we will have is a continuation of what we have had for [1609] the past four or five years: those with money in their pockets can have any operation immediately while those who cannot afford private treatment will be put onto the end of the waiting list.

Last year the Government published the scale of those waiting lists and we saw that 1,700 people are waiting hip replacement operations; 1,000 are waiting for cardiac surgery and 3,000 waiting for cataract surgery. Typical waiting times in some parts of the country range from two years to three years for basic surgery which prolongs life. It was a very retrograde step for the Government to introduce a measure which drew apart the public and private sectors in a way which had not been done before and accepted that that would be the norm in providing health care services in this country.

There is another major problem that must be confronted, that is the problem of AIDS which poses a threat in this country. We do not have any strategic policy to address that problem. Official figures show that 1,100 people are infected with the HIV virus but most experts would accept that the true figure is probably three to four times that number. At least 4,000 people are infected with the HIV virus and the number is still growing at an explosive rate. As I said, we have no coherent strategy to tackle that problem. Indeed, outside of Dublin there is virtually no service available for patients with the HIV virus or AIDS and the sad fact is that many of those patients will end up in London anonymously looking for care because in many rural areas there are no facilities to care for them. It is crazy to expect that one could have a patient-centred plan to care for a patient with AIDS based on an allocation to a general practitioner of just £18.

Debate adjourned.