If Minister comes to the Seanad, we’ll need answers

We keep returning to the issues of accountability and the role of the Houses and the committees. These Houses are not providing any real forum for accountability, and that is the problem. There is fury and outrage and there must be an opportunity for the Minister to come to the House to answer questions. However, Ministers regularly come to the Seanad. The Leader can agree to invite the Minister to the House next week or the week after, be it Deputy Mansergh or Deputy Brian Lenihan, if he has the time, but it will not make any difference because we do not get any answers.

What is the point? I do not say we should not invite them but what is the point?

Senator O’Toole said the committee is not a Star Chamber. Nobody expects it to be a Star Chamber, but people are crying out for accountability and for questions to be answered. They are not being answered anywhere else so why can they not be answered in the Parliament of the people? If the Minister comes to the House, can it be on the basis of a real expectation that he can give answers to questions?

I recall the Minister for Finance being in the House last September, on that long dark night of the soul we experienced. I recall asking him what exactly had happened on the day the Government extended the guarantee. We never got an answer as to what happened in the room that night. Does anybody, apart from the Minister and those who were present, know what happened that night? It has never been revealed to the public. What precisely was said by the bankers and their advisers to persuade the State effectively to commit the deeds of the State, as others have described it, in a guarantee to the banks? What was the reason for this? It might have been the right thing to do, although I believe it was not and many commentators are coming around to that view. I might be wrong but we will never be able to assess that or work out who is right and who is wrong until we are told why. I mean something more than the bland statement the Minister constantly makes about the system and the worries about it, with this and that bank having systemic importance, and all of this kind of stuff that we can get through. What was said and what was going to happen if the decision was not made? As somebody asked this morning in the Seanad, what was said in the immediate lead-up to the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank? What was the trigger reason that was done on the occasion when it was done?

We cannot have any debate, whether in a committee, here, in the public press or anywhere else if we are not being given the information. What is the basis upon which these decisions are being made? None of that has been provided here in the other House or in the committee, and we need to wake up to that fact because we are only fooling ourselves.

In relation to that, in the newspapers today there is a report of the Minister wanting to revisit the question of TDs’ and Senators’ expenses, allowances and otherwise. This is a sensitive topic for my colleagues in the House but look at what is happening. People are losing their jobs. There are people in this building, public servants, who are having the State delve into their pay in respect of their pensions. Are we seriously going to maintain the position that as Members of these House we ought not to sacrifice something as well? Is there anybody in this House who will take that view? If so, he or she should stand up and say so because this is a very serious situation.

There should be transparency, but it looks as if there needs to be more than just transparency, there needs to be a significant reduction in these matters. Personally, I support any suggestion that has been made, whether it is from the Green Party or from the Minister, that there should be moves on this and it should be done soon.