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Dáil Speech on Promissory Notes Arrangements Thursday 14th February

I congratulate the Government, in particular the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and their officials, on the achievement of the deal, to which certain sections of the Opposition have been negative in their response. Deputy Dara Calleary referred to the mortgage issue. The burden of monthly repayments can be eased as a result of the deal. Those in mortgage difficulties will have the confidence to get on with their lives and be more likely to spend money in the economy. Even though it has been argued that the debt has been pushed out for a lengthy period, it will give us a chance to spend in the national economy and, in turn, create the necessary jobs. The level of long-term unemployment is a scourge, but there is the hope it can be dealt with.

The current debt-to-GDP ratio is 106%, but in 1988 it was 110%. I saw a photograph of a gentleman carrying his son on his shoulders who said that in 40 years time his son would still be repaying the debt. However, 25 years ago were people carrying their sons and saying the debt-to-GDP ratio, at 110%, was going to cripple the economy? When Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left lost power in 1997, the debt-to-GDP ratio was at 60% and falling. In 1999 it was at 52% and the overall national debt was at €40 billion and falling. In 2006 the debt-to-GDP ratio hit 25%. Over a period of almost 16 years it had dropped dramatically from 110% to 25%.

The Fianna Fáil Government which was in power for 14 years implemented policies which caused what had previously been put in place to be completely eroded. The Acting Chairman, Deputy Durkan, will be familiar, for example, with the policies introduced by a previous Minister for Finance whose outlook was “If I have it, I will spend it”. That was a reckless approach. The surplus funds that were generated during the Celtic tiger era emanated from the property taxes associated with the building boom and were unsustainable. It is as a result of this fact that we find ourselves in our current situation.

Deputy Adams was previously a Member of the British House of Commons and he will recall that in 1946, just after the Second World War, the British economy was in a state of devastation. The then British Government obtained loans from its counterparts in the US and Canada. Those loans were to be repaid over a 50-year period. Following a couple of five-year deferrals, the final repayment on those loans was made in 2006. As Deputy Adams will understand, a single withdrawal from the Northern Bank covered half of that final repayment. When one looks forward to the future, the period relating to our repayments seems long. I am currently on crutches and I have been informed that I will have them for four weeks. That may appear to be a long period when looking forward. When I look back on it in a few weeks, however, I am sure it will seem short.

My final point relates to the staff of the IBRC. Those people have provided a service and they were not responsible for getting the former Anglo Irish Bank into such a position of collapse that the entire country has subsequently been affected. I hope the Minister for Finance will use his influence to assist these staff either in transferring to NAMA or in obtaining positive redundancy packages.