Extending the Guarantee

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last night, the Seanad was invited to extend the guarantee covering Irish banks that was first put in place in September 2008.  This was before we were told the final bill for Anglo Irish Bank, which was announced only this morning.  The extension was carried by a margin of 6 in the Seanad.  The following is an edited transcript of my speech…

It is not irresponsible to oppose, to test government policy or to seek to amend it. The opposition at any period of a country’s history performs a major task for the body politic precisely by being in a position to test, criticise, query and, if it judges it to be appropriate or necessary, oppose. It is for a government to ensure its policies are sufficiently well argued in public and in parliament and that it has sufficient support among the members of a parliament to get those policies through. Opposition parties must exercise a sense of responsibility and, especially at moments such as this, restraint in how they present their arguments, marshal their arguments and participate in the debate. I do not disagree with that for one minute.

I do not believe we have time at this point to rehearse all the arguments that were gone through in the days and weeks after 29 September 2008. I assure the House that at all times the position taken by my party, then and since, has been motivated by no other objective than the interest and common good of the country. The fact we took a different view and opposed a proposal brought forward by the Government does not and should not in anyone’s eyes lessen in any way or suggest to anyone, either in this House or outside, that a political party that takes an opposite view is somehow offside, cannot be relied upon or is in some way undermining the common good. The opposite is the case.

We do not have time to deal with or go back through all the arguments we had then. Some of them have been touched on because they are still live and relevant. That is the basis upon which the guarantee was presented at the time and the basis of the claims that were made for the guarantee. Senator Boyle says it has been very successful. I do not know how it is possible for anyone to say it has been successful. While it would be difficult for me to say definitively that it will historically be proven to be unsuccessful, I do not know how Senator Boyle can say it has been successful because it will not be possible to pass that judgment for many a long year from today. I can understand him defending it but to suggest it has been a success seems contingent on many different things that lie in the future such that it is not possible to make the point.

At the time of the original guarantee legislation in regard to which this proposal is an amendment, the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, stated:

There is understandable concern that the Exchequer is potentially significantly exposed by this measure. This is not the case. The risk of any potential financial exposure from this decision is significantly mitigated by a very substantial buffer made up of the equity and other risk capital in the relevant institutions. It is estimated [he does not say by whom] that the total assets of the six financial institutions concerned exceed their guaranteed liabilities by approximately €80 billion, which is half of Ireland’s total GNP. By any measure there is, therefore, a very significant buffer before there is any question of the guarantee being called upon.

I note the narrative has moved in recent days and weeks in the view of Ministers and certainly former Ministers, such as Deputy O’Dea, and I saw the Minister of State, Deputy Curran, nod his head when someone made the point that the banks had lied to the Government. It may well suit the Government that the narrative now becomes “the lies the banks told the Government”. It may be that lies were told and that the Government can somehow seek to portray itself as being blameless in that regard and being the hopeless victim which has been misled. « Read the rest of this entry »

Summer recess shows current govt is part of the problem

September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

With regard to people’s confidence in the future, unfortunately we must record the fact that whatever about the mood in this House and the mood in Leinster House, there is a really palpable mood of despondency and fear throughout the country and that has not changed since we were here last. If anything, it has got worse. We have a responsibility to address this. The principal responsibility lies with the Government but I accept that the Opposition and the people involved in public life have a great responsibility also. The difficulty for the Government – particularly during the summer when there were many examples – is that most people have now taken the view that the Government, far from being able to produce a solution or be part of the solution, is itself part of the problem.

I refer to the question of engagement with people. It is reported in the newspapers today that the Taoiseach stated the Irish Government is trying its best – I do not have the exact words to hand but he is quoted in this morning’s newspaper – to persuade people on the international front that we are doing the right thing. I can understand the Taoiseach attempting to do this but when is he going to start persuading and addressing the issue of the confidence and the belief in this country on the part of the people of this country? Again and again in the spring, Members opposite referred in the House to The Wall Street Journal and various other newspapers in America which they thought were praising Government policy. I do not see them bringing in copies of The Wall Street Journal or some other publications that have been commenting recently on the deterioration in the economic situation here.

On this question of confidence, I agree that the Irish Government should be engaging with the people. There is a serious failure on the part of the Government and in particular, on the Taoiseach’s part. I do not want to hear again another reference to turning the corners. What does the phrase, “turning the corner” mean? The Irish people are able to put up with bad news and they are able to put up with the truth. They are able to put up with honesty and they do not get that from the Government. They get this happy, clappy sort of soft-soaping where everything is fine and we are turning the corner. How many times have we turned the corner? We are going around a roundabout at the moment and that is the sort of corner we are turning. The first time this phrase was used was a year ago and the Minister for Finance is still saying it. The Government should level with the people. Let us have facts and honesty and the first place we should have it is in this House, today and tonight, about Anglo Irish Bank. I refer to the ludicrous scenario whereby tonight, the House will be asked to extend the guarantee but we will only be told the story about Anglo tomorrow.

What sort of nonsense is that and what way is that to treat the Parliament and the people of Ireland? The Government should level with the people. Let us have the facts. We can take it and the people of Ireland can take it. It would be much better for the Minister for Finance and the Government and Taoiseach to level with people and give the facts to the people of Ireland, however negative are those facts, so that people can then be part of this great confidence-building exercise which we all want them to engage with.

Alex on Newstalk

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday morning, I was part of the panel for The Dunphy Show on Newstalk.  Other panelists were Minister of State, Conor Lenihan, editor of the Star newspaper, Ger Colleran and the editor of thejournal.ie Jennifer O’Connell.

Up for discussion were the events of the week including the fallout from the Taoiseach’s Morning Ireland interview.

You can listen to the show in full on the Newstalk website by clicking here, or by downloading the podcast from iTunes.

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