June 18th, 2008 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen on Wednesday 18th June 2008 speaking during the Labour Party’s Private Members Motion which sought to reduce the number of days of summer and Christmas recess breaks.

 I thank the Labour Party for bringing this motion before the House.  The body politic is being seriously undermined.  I concur with my colleague Deputy Varadkar when he said last night, “Public trust in politics and politicians is at an all-time low.”  The disappointing result in the Lisbon treaty referendum is testimony to this mistrust.

  Proposing an extra week’s sitting to have statements on the national development plan without debate shows how this Government does not have its finger on the nation’s pulse.  This extra week’s sitting is a complete waste of time with no Dáil business, Order of Business or any opportunity to raise matters on the Adjournment.  Last night, Deputy Cuffe of the Green Party claimed this is a movement in the right direction.  It is just another charade to fool the people into believing the Government is dealing with the challenges facing the country.

  Nothing could be further from the truth.  One only had to read this morning’s headlines.  Or did the departmental media monitoring units miss these like with Aer Lingus transferring its Shannon-Heathrow slots last summer?  The headlines stated consumers face a record hike of 30% in electricity prices, the Health Service Executive is losing €1 million a day and international investors are shunning Ireland for greener fields.  While fairy tales were being played out at the Mahon tribunal and while the former and current taoisigh were out clapping themselves on the back on extended laps of honour in America and Birr, a crisis was raging in our economy.  Inflation has risen to 4.7%, the live register figures have hit 200,000 for the first time in a decade.  The overall number of those working in the construction industry fell by 13.8% in April this year compared to the same month last year.  There is also the problem of the major fuel price hikes hitting all sectors in the economy.

  I have been warning the Government for some time of the effect the slowdown is having in County Clare.  Yet there has been a deafening silence from Government.  It must bear a burden of responsibility having allowed Aer Lingus to depart from Shannon with the Heathrow slots.  There has been a staggering 26.89% increase in the live register figures in Clare in the past 12 months.  Last week, further bad news on the job front came when Buffalo Technology Ireland and Kielys Electrical closed their operations in Clare.  Up to six businesses have closed in Ennis over the past several weeks.  The loss of the Shannon-Heathrow air service is a considerable obstacle when attempting to attract new investment to the area.  Access to markets is a serious cause of concern.

  The extension of the US Customs and Border Protection facility was promised to be in place in Shannon Airport by 1 May but like many Government promises the deadline has passed.  The lack of connectivity to broadband continues to frustrate individuals and businesses in many areas of the county.  A broadband operator was promised be in place at the end of August but, again, I have my doubts this deadline will be achieved.

  Last night I raised on the Adjournment the third world conditions that teachers and children have to put up with at Ennis national school.  I could have been speaking about many of the 36 primary and six post-primary schools in Clare.  Six months into the year funds have dried up in County Clare for the housing aid for the elderly scheme because no funding is forthcoming from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

  In ten years Ireland’s competitiveness has fallen from fourth place in the world to twenty-second.  The steps that are required to address these problems are well documented and included in the national development plan.  They include improved access, fast-tracking infrastructural projects in roads, rail and broadband and maintaining investment in education.

  There will be no debate on the national development plan in the House in July and the Government will not be held to account.  The House needs more accountability not less.  Many Members are already frustrated at receiving no answers from the Government when they raise important issues.  Instead, Members are informed such matters are the responsibility of various agencies such as the Health Service Executive or the National Roads Authority.  That is why the extra week of statements in this House is a sham with no real business transacted.

  I am reminded of the quote, “If we get a government that reflects more of what this country is really about, we can turn the century – and the economy – around.”  Unfortunately, we do not have a Government that reflects but a show business one that performs for show.