Deputy Pat Breen: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. All Members share the anger at the burden that has been placed on the backs of the people and at the banks’ role in precipitating this crisis. The promissory note deal was another of the legacy arrangements the Government inherited from its predecessor. However, the Government has managed to renegotiate that deal, securing significant savings for the Exchequer in the future. The agreement was made possible because of the considerable work done by the Government to repair Ireland’s international reputation. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance are held in high esteem among their international colleagues, because they recognise the work they have done to bring sustainability to the public finances. Were this motion to pass in this House tonight, it would undo all of the good work that has been done in recent years.
I note 15 December next is D-day for exiting the bailout. This decision has been met positively by the markets, which also are positive about Ireland’s post-bailout prospects. However, such market sentiment would change very quickly if international investors thought Ireland was going to default on its debt.
Members cannot afford to let this happen at a stage at which an economic recovery is gaining ground and there are continued signs of stabilisation in the jobs market. Members should consider the Central Statistics Office, CSO, figures published yesterday, which confirm that 5,000 jobs per month now are being created in the private sector, compared with the position inherited from the previous Government, when 8,000 jobs per month were being lost. Foreign direct investment is flowing back into the country and I believe the Opposition motion, if passed, would seriously jeopardise this flow of inward investment. Put simply, international companies would not choose Ireland. They would take their investment and, more importantly, their jobs somewhere else.
The IDA perceives the competition from the United Kingdom and elsewhere to offer a considerable challenge to the goal of bringing jobs to Ireland. Moreover, I can vouch for this because as Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, I regularly meet international investors. They view Ireland as a good place in which to do business because the economic situation has been stabilised, because competitiveness has been maintained, because of Ireland’s attractive corporation tax rate and because of its position as a gateway to Europe and its access to a market of 500 million people in the European Union. If our reputation with Europe is seen to be damaged, I believe the incentive to invest here in the future would be greatly affected.
The people will never forgive those who want to prevent jobs from coming into this country and if passed, this is what this motion would achieve. We certainly would have no credibility in Europe or anywhere in the world. At present, nine of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the world are located here. We have the best-educated workforce and most of the social media companies have based their European headquarters here in Dublin. We certainly do not wish to renege on our obligations. Can the Opposition Members who support this motion tell me how they would propose to bring in further foreign direct investment were the House to approve it?
Ireland certainly would not be in the position in which it has found itself this week. Like many Deputies in this House, I seek more foreign direct investment and not less. I of course seek a greater regional spread of these projects, which is extremely important. Everyone is aware that 80% of foreign direct investment is coming into Dublin, Cork and Galway but I certainly want the other regions to get more of that as well. At every opportunity I get when travelling abroad, I try to educate investors about the importance of access and of investing in the other regions as well. I talk of my home region of County Clare, which has an international airport at Shannon that is an engine for growth for foreign direct investment.
If this motion is passed, all the work that has been done in recent years will unravel. To deviate from the Government’s economic strategy now would have catastrophic consequences for the country and more especially for the people, who wish to work. Ireland would have no credibility with its EU partners and it would drive international investors out of the country. As Ireland is on the brink of exiting its bailout programme, access to the markets is critical for it. A vote for this motion is a vote to enter another bailout programme and for that reason, as well as to protect the level of foreign direct investment, I ask Members on the Opposition benches to reject this motion and to vote with the Government to continue the approach that is delivering recovery and job creation for the country.