Angry scenes as Dáil votes for 11-week break

 

The Dáil today voted itself an 11-week summer recess amid rowdy scenes between Government and Opposition benches.

Parliamentary business will be adjourned until September 24th, although Oireachtas committees will continue to sit at either side of the August break.

Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton today said the Government had no strategies to deal with unemployment, inflation or the lack of competitiveness. “This is not a time to be adjourning the House. Clearly this Government is running for cover, and they remind me of a cork bobbing helplessly on the ocean.”

Last month Labour tabled a motion calling on the Dáil to continue until the end of July and to return in early September.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said today: “This Government is lazy and incompetent and is running for the bunker.”

Citing the economic crisis and delays caused by radar malfunctions at Dublin airport, he added: “The proposal to close down the Dáil in the circumstances that the country finds itself in, is simply unacceptable.

“As we are in here, there are passengers at Dublin airport who don’t know when their flights are going to leave. This is the second day of chaos.

“The country is actually becoming a disgrace. We have a bad economic situation. We have a Government that doesn’t know what to do about it. It now wants to run away and get back in the bunker and introduce cuts over the next few months.

“When people are out at the airport, can’t get in or out, and the Government wants to close down the Dáil until the end of September.”

Tánaiste Mary Coughlan responded that the Government will continue to run the country and to hold Cabinet meetings in the weeks ahead. “The Government will continue to govern,” she said.

The Dáil debate on the National Development Plan and the economy continued in the Dáil this afternoon.

The Tánaiste defended the Government’s handling of the economy and said the challenge now was to maintain and enhance our competitiveness.

She said the Government was committed, through the National Development Plan, to building the conditions that would allow us to maintain competitiveness when the current economic conditions abate and to ensuring we take advantage of any upturn in the global market.

She added: “It is nonsensical to believe, as Fine Gael does, that international factors have had absolutely no impact on our economy.”

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan told the House that Irish people had helped burst the Celtic Tiger boom by indulging in bigger houses, cars and holidays.

Mr Ryan said affluent consumer behaviour helped contribute to higher energy prices and a rise in the general cost of living.

“We bought bigger cars for the status that it gave. We built bigger houses with X number of bedrooms and bathrooms, regardless of how we were going to heat these massive properties.

“We flew to New York in a way that turned Madison Avenue into our latest Grafton Street. Let us be honest with ourselves, that is the phenomenon that occurred.”

Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke told the Dáil that the downturn was hitting all international economies.

“Listening to some of the Opposition TDs, the impression is being given that this downturn occurred just in Ireland, as if a big bold witch came along and said I’m going to single out Ireland. This is a global downturn not one just visited on this country.”

"’m amazed at the strident contributions which say Fianna Fáil threw it all away over the past ten years, as if we gathered up all the taxes, put them in big black bags and dumped them in incinerators, if one is allowed to do that," Ms O'Rourke said.

Labour Party deputy leader Joan Burton likened Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan to the British comedy duo, the Two Ronnies".

Earlier in the debate, a number of TDs criticised the Government's plans to cut spending in crucial areas as part of a package to rein in spending this year and next year.

Fine Gael TD Dan Neville said it was an “indictment of the Government” that the first areas to be hit by cuts were those affecting the most needy people in Irish society, including those who need psychiatric care and those in danger of taking their own lives.

Mr Neville said no funding had been put in place this year for the development of psychiatric services.

Paul Kehoe (FG) said people living in the south east who are seeking home-help grants for older people were being told to “go away” because of the “funding crisis” in the Health Service Executive.

Bernard Durkan (FG) said there was “nothing corrective” about the cost-cutting proposals brought before the House by the Government in recent days.

Additional reporting: PA