Private Members Business – European Debt Conference

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Dáil Éireann 3 February 2015

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this motion.

 

It has been acknowledged by previous speakers that the unprecedented financial crisis that Ireland and Europe was plunged into exposed vast fault lines in the economic underpinning of individual countries and in turn revealed problems with the design of the euro.

 

Particular flaws were exposed in the banking framework and the intervening years has seen much work done to underpin banking systems across the EU and ensure that we never again see the banking system brought so near collapse.

 

Difficult decisions had to be made by this government in terms of tackling the huge burden of debt that this country faces and I would like to commend Minister Noonan and his officials on their work behind the scenes in securing a reduction in this burden by negotiating reduced interest rates, the promissory note deal and the lengthening of maturity timelines.

 

In terms of the domestic economy, this government’s focus remained firmly on jobs, on ensuring that the correct conditions existed for employers wishing to create jobs and on the other hand incentivising the taking up of those jobs by people on social welfare. Getting unemployment below 10 percent this year is achievable and would be a very significant achievement, given that employment figures were falling off a particularly steep cliff as this government took office.

 

Technological advancement is continuing at a rapid pace and I also welcome this Government’s continued commitment to re-skilling and up-skilling people so that they can be market ready for the jobs that exist in 21st century Ireland.

 

This unwavering focus on jobs, particularly in the SME export sector, has reaped rewards and the tentacles of that economic recovery are now beginning to be felt right across the country. That in turn has allowed the government to ease the taxation burden on working families across the state, which in turn will be reflected in the spend in local shops and local services. News today that the Irish economy is expected to grow by 3.7 percent this year is particularly heartening, especially as the Irish growth is bucking the continental trend and the European Commission has now identified Ireland as the fast growing economy in Europe.

 

I know that Minister Noonan is continually working on Irish debt sustainability and his efforts and those of his officials are firmly focused on the Eurogroup and Ecofin, which of course are the appropriate places for these discussions.

 

Rather than any gimmicky two or three day event, our focus must remain firmly on reducing Ireland’s debt burden, growing the Irish economy to ensure that the debt continues to reduce as a percentage of our gross national product, while continuing in our efforts to make Ireland the best place to do business and promoting Irish exports in an international marketplace.

 

When one considers that in 2013, just a few months ago, Irish debt was 123 percent of Gross Domestic Product and will be 110% for last year and is on track to reduce to 100% by 2018, it shows that the sensible measures being taken by this government on a weekly and monthly basis are paying dividends.  Across Europe, the average debt is 95% of GDP and while this is still high, it shows how the Irish situation, which at one stage appeared like a runaway debt train, has been brought to a halt and is now in a slow reverse mode.

 

The economic course being pursued by Minister Noonan is a prudent course and one that is bearing dividends for our country. Minister Noonan’s quiet style of operating is in stark contrast to some of the more attention-seeking antics of his counterparts, but I believe that the course that is currently being pursued is the correct one and the fact that this is recognised internationally is reflected in the historically low interest being charged on Irish borrowing, just over one percent on ten year bonds.

 

I fully support the efforts of Minister Noonan and his officials in terms of their approach to debt sustainability and I believe the decisions he has made in recent months, supported by the government, are steering this country on to a much more steady, safe and prudent path in terms of reducing Irish debt levels and putting the country’s finances on a sustainable setting.