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Dáil speech on debate on Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendement) Bill 2013 – Wednesday 23rd January

This is part of an ongoing process and is the second or third Euro Area Loan Facility Bill we have had before us. This Bill deals with the current situation in Greece. This time last year, commentators and economists, and even politicians, feared the Greek situation was getting out of hand and that Greece would leave the euro, having a detrimental effect on the entire eurozone. Now, however, we are talking about a different situation, where there is greater stability in the eurozone.

The key word is “confidence”. I mentioned this when Deputy Ó Cuív was talking about the sale of the Bank of Ireland preference shares. The Minister dipped his toe into the water to see if there was interest in those preference shares and there was: the offer was well oversubscribed. Yes, there is potential for losses over a number of years of potentially €60 million per year but confidence is key. There is confidence out there that is attracting people to invest in a bank that was in serious difficulty three or four years ago. There is confidence out there that is attracting people to invest in a bank the State had to bail out – AIB.

This is like going fishing. To catch the big fish, we must set the bait. The bait the Minister set was the number of shares he put on the market and many investors were interested in buying them. That instilled confidence in the Irish economy among the international community. What we must do with regard to this Bill is instil similar confidence in the Greek economy. The Greek economy has gone through dramatic changes in the last four or five years. Greece was the first country to require a bailout and its situation is totally different from that of Ireland. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel in the Greek crisis. It is predicted that unemployment will stabilise in the country, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. It is also predicted that it is possible the Greeks will have a balanced budget by the end of the year. It might be a small positive sign but it is the sort of confidence building block that has been put in place by EU member states that will generate confidence in the international markets that we are trying to enable the Greek economy to exit the programme it is in now.

If we were to listen to the commentators in recent years, they tried to remove the confidence that had been there previously from the Irish economy. International markets felt the Irish economy was on a similar track to the Greek economy. Thanks to major changes in Government, policy and regulation, however, along with the input from our friends in the EU of the funds needed to keep us afloat, this outlook changed. I listened to a Member of this Dáil say on radio yesterday that all the funds given to us by the EU and the IMF were used to bail out the banks and such misleading commentary does not help build the sort of confidence we want to establish in this country

I was fascinated in recent years by the commentary on some of our major radio stations. Any good news was always followed with a “but”. Over the last two or three days, I have noted a seismic change in the attitude of some commentators on radio, particularly on RTE. I noticed this two or three days ago when a “Dragons’ Den” type gathering in Cork was covered by a well known Cork journalist.

He used the word “positive”, which was mentioned by those present. When I listened to him, it came across to me that he found it extremely difficult to say this word, “positive”. What he was trying to express was that those who were at this “Dragons’ Den” type event at which they were looking for funding for their innovative ideas all had positive feelings about the way forward in the Irish economy. What struck me was that he had difficulty in portraying to the listeners the positivity that was coming from those on the ground.

The next morning, on “Morning Ireland”, in the business section, there was a commentator, Dr. Stephen Kinsella from the University of Limerick, who spoke about a report he had produced on the number of jobs being advertised. He stated that it must be a shock to have an economist coming on the radio to bring good news and I stood back and thought to myself that this is the first time RTE has brought on someone who is quite positive from an economic point of view. Dr. Kinsella mentioned the fact that compared with the previous year, there was a 25% increase in the number of jobs advertised. It was a good news story. At the end of his commentary, there was no such word as “but”. He was positive in what he had to say.

Later on in the morning, “Today with Pat Kenny” interviewed Mr. Tony Foley from DCU.

Mr. Foley was discussing the talks that happened at the ECOFIN meeting. He came across in a very positive manner and explained it so simply that a layman like myself could understand exactly what was going on.

I am delighted that we are here today to support our Greek colleagues. Unlike Deputy Boyd Barrett who, if there was a fire in the house of my neighbour, would be running around to see who caused it, I would be going out to help put it out first. I note he was dressed in black. Should I call him the Grim Reaper in future given he is so negative about everything?

I am a staunch European who believes in all of the European ideas. In 1972, when we joined the EEC, I started studying agriculture in UCD.

As a stanch European, I will do whatever I can in this Parliament to help our colleagues who sometimes are in difficulty, like our colleagues in Europe helped us. I welcome this Bill and I will be supporting it wholeheartedly.