The Finance Bill was published today. In the last ten to 12 years, the Irish economy has been run in an extraordinarily successful manner. It is very difficult to find fault with the figures. It is equally difficult to deny the fact because we have performed so well in comparison with our competitors. If one compares Ireland with any of our European neighbours, its performance has been outstanding.
Furthermore, although it might be unpalatable in political terms to mention this, it is a fact of life that while we are fully fledged, paid-up and supposedly loyal members of the European Community, our loyalty in economic terms and the measures taken have been far closer to the economy of the United States of America.
Let us welcome the fact that we are now the most globalised economy in Europe, which means that we welcome outside investment unapologetically and do not wrap the green or European flag around ourselves when we are running our economy. We are prepared to say that we are chasing prosperity and are willing to allow outside interests to help us to become prosperous. That is the reality of the Irish economy.
We should not be ashamed of the fact that our dependence on multinationals has been partly responsible for our growth and largely responsible for our increased prosperity. The Government should take the credit for welcoming them in and standing up to our European neighbours in that respect.
I regret the fact that the Minister for Finance did not renew the bank levy. It was both a useful and punitive source of revenue. I see no reason taxation should not be used in a penal way to punish those institutions that have deliberately and knowingly broken the law.
That is one of the reasons the 1% levy was introduced, if we are to be honest about it. It was politically acceptable and the banks were being punished for breaking the law. When institutions break the law, the individuals within them never pay the price but now it appears that nobody will pay the price. The banks can afford to pay the 1% levy.
We should not take our feet of their throats at this point because they continue to abuse their customers in an unacceptable way and their shareholders are well aware of that.