In order to have any relevance at all, this House needs to debate the ESRI’s recently published quarterly economic commentary. We are talking about the first recession in this country for 25 years. We are not talking about speculation but about a clear forecast of an increase in unemployment and emigration. Two significant aspects of the current situation emerge from the ESRI report. First, the current recession is almost entirely home-grown. That is the factual position as outlined by the authors of the ESRI report. The alibi, explanation or excuse that is sometimes given in this House – that it concerns external, overseas factors – is not true. Therefore we must leave that aside because it has been proven to be incorrect.
We are talking about factual material which we need to understand before we can have the debate. The factual material, which is not speculative, points without question to the reality that this is a home-grown recession caused by developments over which this country, and the Government in particular, have substantial power to change. Members on the Government side may not like it but we need to face the facts first and then have the debate.
Second, the ESRI report’s commentary makes demonstrably clear that we blew the boom.
We had an opportunity to do otherwise. We had years of self-satisfied, smug commentary from the Government, including the then Taoiseach, about cranes in the sky, saying that everything was going to be great. We missed the opportunity, however. I want a debate on this report.
We blew it in this sense that we passed up the opportunity we had in this country to set down the basis for dealing with a downturn when it came. We did not do that. We simply decided not to do it. We did not fix the roof of the house when the weather was good and now we must face the bad times. Clearly we need an opportunity to debate it in this House.
If I can reflect back on what is sometimes regarded as the Taoiseach’s Angola moment when he was upset about having to deal with the Department of Health and Children, it would appear now that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, is having an Angola moment about having to deal with the challenges in the Department of Finance. They need to get together quite lively to put together a clear proposal on how we will proceed in the matter. They first need to face up to the fact that it would be unthinkable for them to go ahead and take pay increases in the face of a situation where they demand that people face pay cuts. Clearly, we need a debate on the matter.