We need evidence that we have ‘turned a corner’

April 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

On Tuesday evening, the Seanad held a debate on banking. You can read what the Minister of State, Martin Mansergh said by clicking here. Following contributions from both government and opposition sides, I rose to speak…

I listened carefully to the speakers on the government side who started their speeches by telling us how they are satisfied or pleased that matters are starting to turn around and the position is changing. The phrase from the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, in the budget was that we were “turning the corner”. All these phrases are used. I waited to hear examples of concrete achievement.

The claim is that action is beginning to bear fruit but no example is ever given. The only instance I have heard repeated is what the Minister for Finance said on radio yesterday morning about the people who Richie Boucher met when he went to Europe last week being very happy with us. The people Mr. Boucher had dinner with in Europe, or wherever he was, appear to be happy, and the Minister for Finance said he was perplexed that everybody abroad seemed to be happy but nobody in Ireland is happy. That is because the people in Ireland are facing the brunt of what is occurring.

The Minister has spoken about finance ministers and other colleagues in European governments being supportive of what the Irish Government is doing. Forgive me if I am wrong but I do not think I have ever seen a minister in the European Union criticising a colleague from another country. What is this business about with people getting a pat on their back when they go abroad? They seem to think that is the approval rating needed. Of course, there is only one approval test and set of criteria by which we can meaningfully assess anything the Government is doing. That is the kind of delivery that some of the government speakers, when they come to their senses, would apply to the debate; it concerns when there will be real lending available to businesses and people in the Irish economy. There is no evidence that it has happened yet. I am sure if the Minister could find a morsel of evidence for it he would tell us about it all the time. There is no evidence.

I want to respond to some of the Minister of State’s comments. It is almost laughable for him to come to this House speaking about the “honest and full disclosure by the Government and its agencies of the appalling mess within our banks”. I cannot believe the term “honest and full disclosure by the Government”. I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I heard him saying that. What disclosure has occurred, whether honest or full? « Read the rest of this entry »

Alex on The Late Debate

April 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last night I appeared on RTE Radio 1’s Current Affairs show, ‘The Late Debate’ with Rachael English.  Up for discussion were the current state of the Greek economy and our own situation, protecting children and Gordon Brown.

You can listen to the show in full again by clicking here.

Education should be based on ability rather than wealth

April 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday there was a report on third level education which gave information that might have been obtained under freedom of information legislation. I ask the Leader to arrange a debate as soon as possible on the important question of funding third level education. Apparently, the Higher Education Authority is of the view that there will be a requirement for more than €4 billion – a familiar figure has been given to the banks and other places in recent times. However, this €4 billion is to meet a most important requirement in order that we can invest in our third level education system and, ultimately, the future of the country.

I am not sure whether the publication of this report – I do not know if the information was obtained or leaked – is intended to soften up public opinion in regard to the reintroduction of university fees. However, it should form one important element of the discussion we should have in the House. The reintroduction of fees would be a mistake. The Opposition is always being accused of being negative, including during yesterday’s debate on banking. However, one thing we have managed to do in the past 15 years, as a country and society, is maintain a progressive level of funding and a progressive approach to third level education, for which people are not charged. We regard it as a public, not a private good to be parcelled up and sold to the highest bidder. People are educated based on their ability, rather than on the wealth of their parents.

I am often struck by those who say it is mainly wealthy people or those who have money who are able to avail of free fees. However, whenever the issue of equality in the taxation system is raised, perhaps by taxing more than we do those with greater wealth, the very same individuals recoil from such a suggestion. That is the real contradiction. If we want to have equality, the single, best and most progressive instrument we can use, in terms of income and generally, is the taxation system. We should maintain our free third and second level education systems at the points of delivery to young people. If we cannot educate and give them an opportunity for the future, we will not achieve anything in this country.

Lack of information on banks starving intelligent debate

April 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Given there is no public element to the inquiries into the banking system which we are told are taking place, perhaps a progress report in terms of what precisely is happening in those examinations could be made to the Houses so that we can get some sense or insight into what if anything is happening. There is a need for public information so that there can be proper public debate on these issues. We simply do not have that information. I heard last week an independent economist, Dr. Alan Barrett of the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, say, when asked his view in terms of the comparative approach of allowing Anglo Irish Bank to be wound down or for the bailout to continue, that he could not give an answer in that regard because he did not have available to him the basic information that would allow him to give an intelligent response or any response.

When I hear Members the Government parties say that this is the only way forward and is the correct thing to do, I cannot assess that. I and no other member of the public can assess whether what we are being told is simply a spin because this is what the Government is doing and is the course on which it has set itself. We should be able to assess and understand independently what precisely is going on so that we can compare the two different scenarios. It is taxpayers’ money and the public interests that are being dealt with here and as such we should be given more information, even basic information, on what is going on. We have no information in this regard.

Update on Whitechurch Road

April 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

I received notice from Dublin Bus yesterday evening that they have decided to amend their contingency plan for the closure of Whitechurch Road.

After consultation with the council, a temporary bus terminus has been set up at the entrance to Pearse Brothers Park on Taylor’s Lane – between the petrol station and the junction with Whitechurch Road.

The 15B will now terminate at this new bus stop.

I understand that this has begun this morning.  I will continue to keep an eye on the situation.

More :: See where the new terminus is on Google Maps

Alex on TV3

April 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last night, I appeared on Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3.  The other panellists included Sarah Carey and Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times and Siobhan O’Donoghue of the Migrants Rights Centre.

You can view the show in full by clicking here.

Alex at Conference 2010

April 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

It has been a good weekend for the party.  The 2010 National Conference took place in NUI, Galway over the past three days where the subjects of jobs, prosperity and fairness were the main themes dealt with. 

It culminated in a rousing speech by Party Leader, Eamon Gilmore TD on Saturday night.  The speech seems to have been received as positively outside the hall as it was inside.  You can view the speech in full by clicking here.

I spoke on Saturday morning on a motion regarding NAMA and the need to stop any preferential treatment of developers and landlords over ordinary families.  Below is a video of that speech.

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