I support the amendment to the motion. The situation we find ourselves in as a country is unforeseen, and it is the fact it is unforeseen that is one of the biggest problems I have. What does “unforeseen” mean? Does it mean nobody was paying attention and that there were no watchdogs or caretakers in recent years? The dictionary definition of “unforeseen” is unexpected, not predicted, surprising, sudden or accidental. However, this was no accident, and the signs were there if the last Government was looking for them.
However Ireland came to be in such a state, this Government has to deal with the legacy and we must face the resolution together as a country. In an ideal world where there were no risks or consequences, the idea of the proposed referendum might be a good one. Then again, if we lived in ideal world, we probably would not be in the situation we are in today. A motion such as this only serves one purpose, namely, to give the people of Ireland a false sense of hope, which to my mind is a cruel and unusual punishment.
We are but a few weeks after a general election where the Irish people gave the Government the mandate to sort out the economic situation, which is what we are doing. We are committed to a programme of financial support for Ireland but one must remember that the EU-IMF deal is negotiable and, therefore, it can be amended to accommodate the new programme for Government, provided the aggregate fiscal adjustments are respected.
Hypothetically, if this referendum was to take place and the result was to reject the bailout deal, what then? What is the Technical Group’s plan after that? Is there a plan? If there is one, I have not heard it, other than in regard to the plan to raise corporation tax, the one tested initiative that brings tens of thousands of foreign investment created jobs to this country to support Irish families. If that is what is on offer, I could not agree to it, and it seems the best on offer here is to jeopardise those jobs.
The reason there has been general acceptance of the EU-IMF deal thus far is because there is no other feasible or workable alternative. From where does the Technical Group propose we get our future funding? While there have been many criticisms of the renegotiation process and many ideas on what we should do immediately, no long-term plans have been proposed. With the EU-IMF deal, we have a plan. It may not be as good as we hoped but it is a workable plan that will see results.
In the history of the State there has never been an ordinary referendum, which is the type of referendum proposed in this motion. While there have been referendums on Lisbon, Nice, divorce and so on, these all went to change elements of the Constitution, the very foundation of our State, whereas this proposal would not.
We said throughout the general election campaign that there would be greater transparency when it came to all matters of Government and we have been truthful with the Irish people. I reject the comments Deputy Adams made yesterday that Fine Gael has done a complete U-turn on its five-point plan. The Government has been working steadily for the people of this country since it was elected and it will continue to do so. Now is not the time for a referendum; now is the time to boost the confidence of Irish businesses and gain European and international trust in doing business in our country. We need to prove Ireland is a stable country in which to set up business.
We have no choice but to honour the commitments made by the previous Government to protect those whose funds are guaranteed by the State in order to move Ireland’s growth and development onwards. Since the announcement of the stress test results and the Government’s restructuring plans for the banking sector, we have seen a rise in Bank of Ireland shares. This type of confidence has not been seen in Irish banking shares for a very long time. The banking system is a key enabler of economic activity and a return of this type of confidence will assist the Government’s jobs strategy success. We will continue on a path towards recovery. We will make the jobs fund a major priority to support employment and encourage sustainable enterprise. In this way we will reach the targets under the EU-IMF programme, thus reducing the pain felt by individual families throughout Ireland. That is our priority. I trust the Government to fulfil the promises my party made during the election campaign. I commend the amendment to the motion to the House.