If the Taoiseach’s statement contains nothing of substance, then he must travel to the Phoenix Park

How can the Seanad take itself seriously, or how it can have any self respect if there is no debate following the Taoiseach’s remarks at 4 p.m? I have appealed to the Leader to answer that question. Apparently the Leader will suggest that it is not entirely clear whether that statement will contain any substance. This is even more worrying. If the Taoiseach’s statement contains nothing of substance, then he must get into his car and travel to the Phoenix Park. That is the only place for him if he has nothing to say to the people this afternoon. There has been months and months of inaction, despite the worsening news regarding the public finances, job losses, failure to put forward proposals and so on. It amazes me that after so many months of inaction, the Government could turn around at dead of night in the middle of a blizzard and table proposals at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and expect to resolve such massive issues. This constitutes taking people less than seriously in this entire discussion.

Members of the main party on the Government side always have prided themselves on being in touch with the people. Consequently, I presume they know what people are saying at present, which has gone far beyond people simply complaining about this or that decision by the Government. People are saying there is no Government, that no one is in charge and no one is making decisions. This is an extremely serious moment for Ireland, which I do not underestimate. I certainly do not make light of it. It may surprise some Members on the Government benches that Members of the Opposition do not seek to grasp this opportunity to engage in political point scoring of the nature that could be seen from the parties on the Government benches when they were in opposition. This is a highly serious moment for our country and a debate is required in this House this afternoon. Even if no Minister is available, Members should have the debate anyway, as Ministers have not contributed greatly to this debate in the last couple of weeks.

The Government as a whole should engage to some extent with the Opposition parties. The latter merely seek some information and as Opposition parties do not seek necessarily to be making the decisions because that is a matter for the Government. However, some information should be provided to and there should be some engagement with, the Opposition parties. Moreover, there should be a little respect for the institutions of this House.