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Semi-State Spending

Posted on: July 10th, 2008

On the last day of the Seanad session, I spoke on the Order of Business about the current state of the ‘Public Purse’, especially in light of the issue of the Irish Aviation Authority. A very important point must be considered in respect of yesterday’s debate on cutbacks. €116 million was spent on a radar system that does not work. It is not that it did not work once but that it did not work several times. This begs the question as to what on earth is going on in semi-State agencies. It is not only a matter of the radar system not working but of there being no backup system. I therefore suspect there is something wrong with the culture of agencies.It appears Dublin Airport Authority is not providing the sort of information to which the public is entitled at this time.

Considerable money is spent on the Dublin Airport Authority, the Irish Aviation Authority and all such agencies, yet the issues that arise in respect thereof are, for some reason, political taboos in the House. I have mentioned FÁS several times in the House but it is no coincidence that the matter has not been taken up by anybody. Everybody in the House knows damn well that FÁS is wasting money hand over fist in various areas, but ignoring this problem is embedded in the political system such that politicians are frightened of taking it on. One billion euro is being spent on FÁS every year, which represents a decrease by comparison with previous years.

Although €1 billion is being spent, nobody raises a hand. They are frightened of the matter because it is embedded in the political system. If we are talking about cutbacks, let us stop messing around in regard to bogus minor savings of sums that would not be spent anyway. Let us tackle the taboos radically. Let us tackle the State agencies and ask what they are doing. Do we need to spend such sums on them? My point on making minor savings in respect of moneys that would not have be spent in any case is borne out throughout the document issued yesterday.

Yesterday this House was treated not with contempt but certainly with casualness. The Minister entered the House and read a statement, the facts of which were all in the public arena already. They were all in the newspapers yesterday. Why does this happen? There is another taboo at work, on which I request the Leader to have a debate in the autumn. Nobody really cares about what we say about the economy. Members of all parties have surrendered power to the social partners and have done so willingly.

We all pay lip service to the social partners and let them decide what happens. What is said in the House falls on deaf ears. I refer to the Minister and everybody else. Unless we tackle the taboos in the political system – the semi-State agencies, the social partners and many others I could list – this House will become increasingly irrelevant and we will have more justifiable bellyaching. It will be our own fault. The untouchables, such as FÁS and the social partners, must be touched and tackled.