I support the motion tabled by Deputy Calleary. It recognises that soldiers and their families are an essential and integral part of their local economy. Moreover, their facilities are shared by many of their communities. Apart from their conventional role, the Defence Forces are critical in times of emergency to counteract adverse weather, disease and so on. It goes without saying that Members owe a debt of gratitude to the Defence Forces for the goodwill they have afforded the country while on peacekeeping duties abroad. The debate last night and again just now has been amazing. The Minister and his colleagues have deployed the usual tactic to which Members have become accustomed in the past six months. It is the usual mantra and battle-cry that it is not the Government’s fault but that it was walked into it.
The main thrust of that hypocrisy is that Fianna Fáil is being hypocritical in respect of barracks closure. The motion itself acknowledges that Fianna Fáil closed barracks. It recognises “the consolidation of Army barracks over the past number of years due to the changed security situation in Northern Ireland and the consequent reinvestment of those funds” to modernise the Defence Forces. Fianna Fáil acknowledges the previous Government made hard choices, delivered difficult budgets and passed severe Finance Acts. Moreover, it was not done in the interests of Fianna Fáil but in the interests of the country. Fianna Fáil Members, more than Members opposite, know what culpability is about. More than most, they are aware of the political consequences and it is high time Members opposite began to see that and recognise that as it approaches.
This week, the Central Bank produced reasonable figures. I refer to slightly better unemployment figures, a small degree of growth in the economy and better economic projections. Why is this?
As the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, said, the Government has implemented last year’s budget and Finance Act. However, he does not tell too many people how vehemently he and his colleagues opposed the Finance Bill and the four-year plan. The Government wants it both ways. It wants two jerseys to be on both teams. It speaks out both sides of its mouth.
It is coming to an end and Government has only a short while to wait because the reviews of the Departments are complete – they have not been published and will not be published.
However, it will need to make a few choices apart from these. It will need to bring in its own budget and make its own decisions, which will not be popular and will fly in the face of all the populist commitments Government Members made when they were going around the country in February. We will see then what they are made of. They were elected in such numbers. They will tell the people that things were not as they thought they were. Even though the books were made available and the Ministers, Deputies Noonan and Burton, reviewed them, they will tell the people they were bound by the IMF and EU agreement despite having promised to turn it upside down. They will say they were hamstrung by the memoranda of agreement.
However, they are not set in stone. The Minister for Finance says he got no extra revenue, but he came back flying the flag after saving €1 billion from the rate reduction achieved by accident rather than design. The Government will not give that to Mullingar, Kilkenny or Clonmel. In essence those of us on this side of the House can look forward to various acts of humility around the country when Government Members go back to Mullingar, Cavan, Kilkenny and Clonmel and tell the people there how they committed keep to Army barracks in February, but could not stand by them here tonight. One Minister described this proposal as crass stupidity and I could not agree with him more along with many others here. We will see what they are made of when they go to Cabinet next Tuesday and he is left on his own. I wonder why the Labour benches are empty tonight.