Govt financial records are public property
It appears from reports yesterday that decisions relating to the budget and the economy generally are being postponed to the autumn and no decisions will be made by the Government until after the referendum on the Lisbon treaty in early October. The Taoiseach indicated in the Dáil yesterday that the Minister for Finance is only beginning the budgetary process at this stage. On that basis, it will take some months. I presume that the calls by a number of colleagues for detailed debate and the presentation by Opposition parties of their budgetary priorities will go off the agenda of the House given that the Government is only beginning the budgetary process and will not be in a position to present any of its proposals to either House until well into autumn. The calls by colleagues such as Senator John Hanafin and others, therefore, presumably cannot be met in those circumstances. If the Government is only getting going on its proposals, one can hardly expect the Opposition to put forward proposals until the Government at least indicates what it intends to do.
It would assist all the Opposition parties and the general public if the Government would come clean and publish all the information available to it regarding the budgetary position and proposals that have been made by expert groups retained by the Government for that purpose. What basis can there be for a delay in the publication by the Government of the documents prepared by Professor McCarthy’s committee? Why should there be a delay? They are public property. They are not the property of either the committee, because the Government has been given the report, or the Minister or Government. These are grave matters. One newspaper today describes our economy as being in an “historic slump” while others report the economy being in the “worst ever state”. What excuse can there be for the public and the Opposition parties not to be told or given all the information available to the Government? I have always believed this with regard to the banking situation as well, notwithstanding that some arguments can be made from time to time about confidentiality. However, those arguments have faded, particularly in the case of nationalised banks.
All of the information that is available to the Government is public property; it is the property of the people. The Government only holds that information in trust for the people and it should be published for the people. If the Government Senators seek any measure of consensus or co-operation from Opposition parties, they will have to come clean on the basic information that is known to the Government. If that detailed information is shared with us, we can have the type of meaningful debate the Irish public expects in this and the other House.