Yesterday, the Bill that will introduce NAMA began its journey through the Upper House. The Government have insisted that the legislation must be back in the Dail by Thursday, giving the Seanad three days to deal with the Bill. Below is my Second Stage speech. Keep with the site or with the Facebook page for further updates.
It is true there are no certainties in this matter. There can be no certainty on anybody’s part. In particular, the Minister cannot be certain that what he hopes will occur will actually transpire. There can be no certainty associated with the assertion that matters will come right. None of us can be certain with regard to what is going to occur. That is a measure of how momentous and serious is this debate.
We have reached the 11th hour and the Government has signalled that the legislation will return to the Lower House on Thursday, which constitutes a curtailment of the debate in this Chamber. In such circumstances, there is a sense of inevitability regarding Members’ approach to this debate. However, this should not mean we should set aside our serious and genuine objections to what the Minister is proposing.
Like other Senators, I recognise the Minister’s good faith about the way he has approached this matter. I sometimes feel uncomfortable making that point in respect of Government Ministers. I assume good faith on the part of members of the Government, whereas other Senators often use half of the time available to them to inform a Minister that he or she is a great man or woman. I operate on the basis that the Minister for Finance is doing a professional job for the country and believe this is also the basis on which he operates. He does not, therefore, require to be congratulated. In so far as it is important to say so – particularly on a personal level – the Minister’s input has been considerable, if wrong-headed, in recent months. However, that input has been solely motivated by the need to act in the very best interests of the country.
Unfortunately, in the context of what has occurred in the past 15 years, the Minister is dealing with a legacy created by the Government and his party, as a component thereof. It is fine for Senator MacSharry to express his frustration and annoyance that this point continues to be raised. I will not treat him to a few minutes’ worth of material on the Galway tent. Owing to time constraints, I will not refer at all to the history of Fianna Fáil, its associations, etc. but if I had time, I would gladly do so. I am referring to Fianna Fáil as the party of Government; I am not dealing now with its historic links with the building industry or anything else. Fianna Fáil was in office when our current difficulties emerged. It was in power when my party brought forward proposals in the late 1990s to examine the matter of house prices.
At that time my party argued, in trenchant terms, that there was no requirement to amend the Constitution in order to implement the principal recommendations made in the Kenny report which was published over 35 years ago. These issues were canvassed and debated during the lifetime of the last two or three Administrations. It is not satisfactory for those opposite to simply state they are not to blame and that everything happened around them and that they had nothing to do with it. That is simply not the case.