Are we heading towards our own ‘Day of Reckoning’?

I previously called for a debate in the Seanad on the incredible disparity between prices here and those in the North and Great Britain. I and others asked for this debate to be arranged a couple of weeks ago but there is no sign of it. Surely it is a very urgent issue, sufficiently urgent to have the Minister in the House to explain what action, if any, is being taken by her to address the question of price disparities. It appears none is being taken.

I have no problem with having a debate on intellectual property rights this afternoon but, for the life of me, I do not know precisely why we are having it and what it is about. I am in favour of a debate, but there are urgent issues that require to be dealt with today and tomorrow, including the issue of prices, and we are not debating them. Not only is the economy grinding to a halt, but the political system is doing so also. We are not allowing debates on issues about which the people on the streets are talking.

With regard to prices, consider what has been happening in recent months. I think it was in the autumn that the question arose in the Dáil, when the Taoiseach had a famous Paul Gogarty moment and said to the Tánaiste that she should bring in certain people and speak to them. Then the Director of Consumer Affairs expressed certain views on the issue of prices, after which there was a Forfás report. Most incredibly, the Tánaiste is not taking action or addressing the issue but, as she stated on the radio this morning, she is asking the Competition Authority to conduct an investigation.

When will a Minister make a decision on an urgent question facing the people? Will the Government ever make a decision? As somebody said yesterday, will it constantly off-load and subcontract decisions on serious issues facing us all? We cannot talk about tax because the Commission on Taxation must deal with it, and we might deal with it in next year’s budget.

We cannot talk about prices because this or that body is being asked to investigate them. From what I can see, the political, parliamentary and government systems are grinding to a halt.

Barack Obama said one thing of considerable substance last night, which applies to us here. He said that a day of reckoning had arrived in the American economy in regard to decisions that had been put off there for many years, which people were now having to face up to making. The day of reckoning has arrived for the people of this country, for those who have lost their jobs and for those involved in the real economy. Sooner or later the day of reckoning will arrive for the people who made the decisions and those responsible for indecision over a period of ten or eleven years who have us where we are today.