How many more climbdowns are likely?
Can the Leader indicate how many more changes, reversals or climbdowns are likely to result from the Budget Statement the Minister for Finance made in the other House last week? Does he agree that our community and society is a laughing stock, internationally and domestically, because the budget, which is the major economic statement of the year, has degenerated into such a shambles over recent days? I agree that this is a question of candour, honesty and clarity. When will the Taoiseach look the Irish people straight in the eyes and tell them, in a clear, honest and candid manner, what precisely is happening to this country’s economy? Why are we getting a drip feed of information, for example in the statements which are made in this House?
I would like to mention the most shocking – I use the word advisedly – experience I have had since I was elected to this House. Last week, the Leader, reasonably, ordered a debate on unemployment in this Chamber. When the Minister of State came in to the House, his so-called statement did not contain a single new proposal to deal with what looks like the greatest crisis this country has faced for many years.
I do not mean that there were very few new proposals in it, but that there was not even one. The point has previously been made that the budget contained no proposals on how to deal with the scandal of unemployment that is about to return to this country. If we are to have serious debate in this House, that kind of treatment of the Seanad is disgraceful and should never be repeated.
There is an issue of confidence in the Government and particularly the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach is an able and experienced man, but is not levelling with the Irish public. Scrappy interviews in the second part of the 9 o’clock news on television, early morning press conferences and rushes out to RTE are not the way to engage with the Irish people in this sort of situation. We need serious engagement and while I accept that we in the Opposition also have a responsibility, the principal responsibility rests with the Government and particularly with the Taoiseach.
Down the road there will have to be a political reckoning for what has happened in recent months regarding when the Taoiseach, and his predecessor, knew what was coming down the line, what he knew and when he knew it. All those issues will have to be reckoned with in due course. For now, we urgently need leadership, honesty and candour from the Government, and we are not getting it regarding the banks and the economic situation. We need Goodbody Stockbrokers to tell us there will have to be a second budget some time early in 2009. We are not being told what the situation is. It is the same approach that was, unfortunately, taken by the Government on the Lisbon treaty referendum.
One cannot treat the Irish people in this way. They are angry, frustrated and concerned, and have a right to be so. They demand, and are entitled to, a straightforward approach and account for itself by the Government, and they are not getting it.