Does the Government’s stance on McCarthy make sense?

Before we went away for the summer we were told three major reports would be published during the holiday period to which we should all pay attention, which we should all read, understand and be ready to debate when we returned to the House. They were the report on the outline of the legislation on NAMA which has been published, the report of the McCarthy commission and the report of the Commission on Taxation. These three important documents which were flagged at the start of the summer were to form the basis of the debate we would have in the Houses and the broader community on the future of the economy and the country generally.

It has been made clear to the people in the NAMA report how serious, fundamental and historic the exposure of taxpayers will be to the wrongdoing of others. Every time an issue was raised in the Houses about taxation or taxation policy we were told by Senator Dan Boyle and others that it was a matter for the Commission on Taxation. If I heard that once, I heard it 50 times in my two short years in the House. It is not just that the Taoiseach appears to have sidelined the report, rather it has been abandoned. The report of the commission has been jettisoned by the Government and we are now asked to accept that it will play no part in forming policy, but that the Government will pick one good proposal from it, namely, the proposal on carbon tax, and abandon the rest. When we ask whether it is a good idea to have a debate on taxation and public services, Senator Boyle will not be able to say the answer will be found in the report of the commission or that the report will form the basis of our discussion because it has been jettisoned.

Regarding the McCarthy report and what happened today: two things were said by Ministers about the report. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, said it would form a key part of budgetary strategy, while the Tánaiste said large parts of it did not make sense.

Can anybody explain which of those two positions is the Government’s? Does the report not make sense, as the Tánaiste has said? Should we take it seriously, as the Minister for Finance has suggested? At the start of the summer, the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, said the Opposition would have nowhere to hide when the report was published. His own colleagues have spent the summer looking for somewhere to hide.

The Ministers, Deputies Ó Cuív and Cullen, do not like the report. The Tánaiste does not like it. When people come into the Gallery of this House, they wonder how Senators on the Government side very often make speeches that disagree with Government policy. I remind them that senior Ministers are making a laughing stock of their own Government. They are contributing further to what the Minister, Deputy Gormley, quite correctly described a couple of weeks ago when he bemoaned the complete breakdown in trust in this country’s Government.