Ministers need to withstand “fierce pressure” from developers

It is interesting to note that last week the Taoiseach – to the extent that he did so, I welcome it – appeared to move from the narrative of “we are where we are” and made an attempt to recognise the significant contribution he himself and Governments of which he had been a member had made to the situation at which we had arrived, where we were close to the verge of bankruptcy.

In order that we are clear on what I am saying, I merely refer to his contribution and role, as people get carried away by what they believe are exaggerated criticisms of the Taoiseach; I am not saying he was entirely responsible. He played a significant role, for which he must answer. I, therefore, would like to know when the Honohan report will be published and whether we can have a debate on it in the Seanad.

We should include in that debate the remarkable statement made last week by the Taoiseach’s immediate predecessor, Deputy Bertie Ahern. It was truly remarkable, but it did not receive much attention. When talking about tax incentives, he agreed that they should have been got rid of much sooner. He went on to state, “there were always fierce pressures … there was endless pressure to extend them.” He stated the pressure had come from developers, the owners of sites, areas that had not seen development, community councils, politicians and civic society. That is an extraordinary statement that should be subject to scrutiny.

When we talk about having debates about politicians and the noble profession of politics, as I believe it is, we also must look at the responsibilities of a Government and politicians in government. The people are entitled to expect more of a Taoiseach or Minister that, when he or she is put under pressure, whether it be “fierce pressure” or “endless pressure”, by developers or the owners of sites, he or she will withstand it, when it is appropriate to do so. We need developers and builders and while I am prepared to accept and have no difficulty in accepting that they are perfectly entitled to meet Ministers, officially and formally, I expect more of Ministers, that they will not roll over and do the bidding of such individuals when they seek to apply pressure, whether it be “fierce pressure” or “endless pressure”, which words are not mine but those of the former Taoiseach.