If I were Taoiseach

Garret FitzGerald interviewed by Vincent Browne

Magill: I remember  a conversation I had with you in 1967  at a  dinner given by Liam Cosgrave in the Gresham for Fine Gael's education policy committee in which you said that your primary objective would be, if you ever became Taoiseach, a redistribution of wealth. Is this still your objective?

I don't recall that discussion, Fine Gael policy is based on the creation of wealth to redistribute after it has been created. With our economy in its present state, concentration on wealth redistribution (a phrase which for many people has in any event confiscatory overtones), would be like a doctor deciding to treat a patient for jaundice when he is bleeding to death from a severed artery.

Fine Gael is, and I am, committed to a fundamental re-allocation of resources to help tackle the serious social problems such as the plight of the elderly, especially those living alone, the desperate housing problem, the condition of our mental hospitals, the inadequacy of educational opportunities, and so on. In our present condition these problems can be realistically and effectively tackled only through an expansion of our resources by economic growth, and this must in logic be our primary objective.

Magill: If redistribution is going to come about only through the re-allocation of future increases in wealth rather than of current wealth, it is going to be a very slow process and, indeed, almost imperceptible.

I agree it is going to be slow but given the nature of our society this is the way it has got to be. I don't regard it as so insignificant however. I believe that our tax system could be geared to begin this process almost immediately.

In the last two budgets introduced here, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth from the less well off to the better off. The last budget meant that those on incomes of under £10,000 per year were left worse off and those on over £1,000 a year were left better off, some by as much as £10,000.

No budget we bring in will take that shape. Within the limits of what is practicable within a democratic system, I will certainly seek to ensure that wealth is better distributed.

I will attempt this not simply in terms of income alone, for the problem relates not only to income distribution, although there is obviously inequity there, but in terms of the whole social structure. The housing conditions in which people live are unequal to a point, which is unbearable and intolerable - it's an area like that which you have to target in on. We've got to be willing to put resources into housing to ensure that within a measurable period of time every person lives in decent conditions where at present tens of thousands of people are living in intolerable conditions.

So what I'm concerned about is something broader than income distribution in itself, although in that area too there are obvious inequities arising in part from the shape that the recent budgets have taken.

Magill: All this involves more taxation of course and, in the context, this means higher rates of taxation of the higher income groups and possibly some form of wealth tax. Fine Gael has very carefully avoided any commitments on taxation in the four years since you became leader. Why should we believe now that you would affect such a radical redistribution of wealth, since you have refused to commit yourself on the hard choices on taxation?

You'll have to wait for your answer to that until you see our taxation policy before the election and then make your judgement on that as to whether you regard it as a fair and equitable policy, different from the kind of policies carried out by Fianna Fáil. I can't prempt that at this stage for obvious reasons.

Magill: The fact that you have avoided publishing a policy on taxation until immediately prior to the election, suggests a lack of commitment on this issue. If you were really committed to redistribution of wealth, why wouldn't you have published a policy on taxation some time ago, showing how wealth was going to be distributed?

The one area where you cannot publish a policy until quite late at any event is taxation. You can publish a policy only that is meaningful to people, which sets out what they are going to have to pay, which sets out what the gains and losses are. If we publish a taxation policy now and the election didn't occur until several months time it would be completely irrelevant. Tax policy is something concrete and specific - there is a real difficulty there.

Secondly, we are engaged in a political battle with another party and in that battle we have to present at the election our key policies to people in a way that is likely to influence their  voting pattern. This is the job of any political party and there are certain areas that are particularly sensitive in that regard, taxation policy is one.

What we've done, what no other party has done, is to publish a range of policies over a wide area in advance which Fianna Fáil never did before the last election or any election that I can recall. We are continuing to publish policies. If the election doesn't come in the immediate future there will be further Fine Gael policies published in a number of areas, including, I think, the economic area and social areas. But there are certain specific matters which we'll keep for the election programme itself and taxation policy pre-eminently one both for technical reasons and because it is a central area of debate in an election campaign and you don't show your hand in advance.

Magill: We all know how the present Government has contributed to inflation, the chaos in public finances and the balance of payments difficulties and how it has failed to deal with he unemployment problem. What we do not know is what Fine Gael would have done about any of these problems over the last three to four years. Perhaps you could now tell us what you would have done differently from the Government's record and, in particular, how you would have coped with the huge employment-creation problem?

I think that in various speeches and statements we have given a very clear indication of what we would have done. We made it clear that we held back in the last election from large give-aways because then it would be necessary for us in 1978 when the fall in inflation, which we had generated, began to peter out and inflationary forces began to reassert themselves, which we believed would happen correctly as it turned out - in mid 1978. We believed we would need to have these resources available to keep down the cost of living, possibly by additional subsidies at that stage, to the level of  7 1/2 per cent or 8 per cent, to the level to which we believed it would fall.

In the event it fell to 6 per cent, partly, let it be said, because of the Fianna Fáil package which removed rates and motor taxation. We knew we couldn't keep inflation down to the level of  7 per cent or 8 per cent unless we had the resources necessary to keep it down to that somewhat artificial level and by so doing keep the pay claims in the single figure level, which we had got down to in the spring of 1977. Our whole strategy was premised on that.

Had we succeeded in that, we would have gone into the second oil crisis, of which, of course, we had no inkling, with single figure inflation and single figure pay increases. We would not have been able because of the oil crisis to maintain that completely. But my best estimate is that we would have held inflation to about 12 per cent and we would avoid getting into this vicious cycle, which the Government has got into - of having to keep adding on, through indirect taxation and the removal of subsidies, to the cost of living - increases occurring in any event because of the oil crisis. So we have made clear what our policy would have been had we remained in Government.

Magill: Whereas  the Fianna Fáil policies did lead to higher inflation, balance of payments difficulties and problems in the public finances, nonetheless there was a record job-creation target achieved, during the first three years of the Fianna Fáil administration. Your policies would almost certainly have meant that the unemployment figure would have been significantly higher than it is even now.

On the contrary. The job creation was inherently temporary in character - that's what Fianna Fáil brought about. By overheating the economy at a time when economic growth was high already, they ensured that there was going to be a huge boost in imports, as our propensity to import is high - any extra money we get we tend to spend half of it on imports.

While there was an increase in employment, it was at such cost that it meant that there would have to be cut-backs in public expenditure and, unfortunately for us, those cut-backs in public expenditure have coincided with the partly foreseeable crisis in agriculture. I say partly foreseeable because it was becoming evident that agriculture prices couldn't continue rising at the same rate within the EEC as they had been doing from 1973 to 1977 and therefore that agricultural incomes would drop.

Our strategy was to hold back resources to pump into the economy at a time when we felt that import prices were beginning to rise and at a time when we could foresee that the EEC's common agricultural policy was beginning to get into difficulties. This strategy would have enabled us to continue the process of reducing unemployment right through this whole period.

I don't know, given the gravity of the world crisis, whether we could have kept on the reduction of unemployment which we began in mid-1976 and kept it going right through to the present time. But certainly the whole curve would have been different. Instead of a sharp dip in unemployment, followed by an enormous rise to a level which is 20,000 higher than the worst that was ever experienced after the first oil crisis, we would have had a continuing downturn in unemployment, throughout almost all of this period, possibly levelling off at this stage. The level of unemployment at this stage would have been much lower than it is now.

This whole question of economic management is fundamental. It is what Government is about and the one thing that I think Fine Gael can offer, that we did provide from 1975 to 1977, was good economic management. We did manage to get inflation down, start getting unemployment down, got growth up to a record level of 6 per cent and cut borrowing from 16 per cent to 10 per cent simultaneously. That's good economic management in operation.

I think we can offer that again and my own particular experience over 25 years has been in this whole area and I think that if I get a chance at it, as I hope to do, that even though the problems that I'm going to inherit are going to be worse than at any time since the economic war, perhaps since the civil war, I believe it is going to be possible to get on top of this over a period of years, tough years and it will require very careful judgement to get our economy moving forward again and at the same time getting borrowing down. We did it before under rather more favourable circumstances in 1975 to 1977, we have to do it under rather less favourable circumstances now, between 1981 and 1984.

Magill: I want to ask you about the borrowing rate, which you and most observers agree is at an unacceptably high level, presumably now around 15 per cent of GNP. What level of public borrowing would you find acceptable and how quickly do you believe we should arrive at this level?

Well it looks like being, by the State, 16 per cent or 17 per cent and something over 20 per cent by the State plus State sponsored bodies. You have to divide it however in to borrowing for the purposes of financing the current budget deficit and borrowing for investment. So far as borrowing for the current budget deficit is concerned, we should have, by now, got that under control and we must get it under control because we will not remain a viable economy and people will not lend to us indefinitely if we are not willing to balance our books on current account. That means that our immediate target has to be over a period of years to reduce the current deficit. The aim ought to be to get the current account into balance over a period of three to four years.

Magill: That's going to mean pretty heavy taxation or pretty heavy cuts in public expenditure, or both, isn't it?

Or considerable buoyancy in the economy and that's what we must aim at. The first target must be to get growth again because if we get growth we get the revenue which resolves this problem. If we could get a cumulative growth rate over three years that would use up the spare capacity in the economy. I believe that that would of itself bring the current budget into equilibrium. A proper growth rate would help eliminate some more undesirable ways of attaining equilibrium.

However, I don't want to suggest that the solution lies there alone certainly, that we can simply sit back and wait for that to happen. It may be necessary to take other short-term measures, whether they involve increases in taxation or cuts in expenditure to get us through that period. Obviously the target must be to get the economy operating to capacity, so that the budget deficit eliminates itself.

Magill: So the likelihood is that we will have to have increases in taxation in order to deal with the problem of current budget deficits?

We may have to. Although I think it would be better to look towards reductions in expenditure rather than increases in taxation because in the last year alone the burden of taxation, as a share of GNP, has risen from about one-eighth - an enormous increase. I don't think this is a good moment to increase taxation if we can avoid it. I think we should try to secure the balance in the short term on the expenditure side. But really the emphasis has to be placed on getting growth.

Magill: The likelihood is that there will have to be either further taxation or cuts in public expenditure, isn't it?

I wouldn't like to be dogmatic about that. It depends very much on the response we get. A new Government coming into office with a new mandate and with public confidence could restore confidence in the business and agricultural sectors - this can have a very considerable effect on growth.

Magill: Getting back to the taxation issue. The fact is that there is unlikely to be the kind of rapid growth in the economy over the next three to four years to eliminate the budget deficit in itself Therefore there is going to have to be increases in taxation this Government and the Coalition Government both had great difficulties in even holding down public  expenditure, let alone cutting it. Therefore there will have to be increases in taxation to bring down the budget deficit. And given your stated commitment to redistributing wealth there will have to be even further increases in taxation on that account. The overall significance of what you are saying therefore is that there will have to be very considerable increases in taxation, on top of what you have conceded is an already very heavy tax burden. This is running in the face of the very obvious public demand for cuts in taxation and this must seriously affect the middle class and farmer vote which is vital to your election prospects.

You really have got a bee in your bonnet about taxation increases. You keep on asserting that increases in taxation will be necessary to remove the budget deficit on current account. I've said that the primary way we will seek to attain this objective will be through buoyancy in the economy. Our next alternative will be to look towards the expenditure side. Increases in taxation ought to be a last resort in a year in which the burden of taxation has already been increased by one eighth.

I'm not saying there will be no increases in taxation, but it will be very much as a last resort. At the same time it will be necessary to give agriculture a boost, we have to help industry in certain circumstances and there are several other areas where immediate action is required involving additional expenditure. In so far as expenditure is needed, it cannot be found by borrowing and will not be found by borrowing. It will have to be done through cuts in expenditure or, possibly, by some increases in taxation for that purpose.

I would hope that increases in taxation would be limited to the purposes of helping agriculture and industry and some other areas, which involve relatively minor sums of money, rather than using increases in taxation as a means of reducing this budget deficit. That would be a last resort to be used only after we had failed to achieved buoyancy and then failed to cut expenditure.

Magill: Well then, can we talk about cutting public expenditure. This means that you will have to adopt one of the following strategies or a combination of them: cut back or at least stall on social welfare, health and education; reduce the interest repayments on borrowings; or hold back public service pay. There isn't anything you can do about the interest payments on the borrowings in the next few years; This leaves you with the alternatives of cutting back on the social side or in public service pay and the public service is obviously in no mood for the kind of cuts that would be necessary.

Social policy will be a major feature of our Government. There certainly will be no cuts in social welfare - quite the contrary. We are committed to increasing the miserable amounts that people are getting at present, even allowing for the recent budget increases which we welcomed. Cuts in the social policy area cannot be contemplated.

We have to examine the whole of our public expenditure programme and see where cuts can be made and I won't pretend that that's going to be easy. No country has found it easy. Margaret Thatcher came into office with great enthusiasm for cutting public expenditure and she is now spending far more in that area than ever before. In fact, the burden of all her policies has hit the private sector, not the public sector. So this is difficult.

I agree that there is not much that can be done about interest payments on the borrowings in the first few years but the great burden of repayments of our foreign borrowings occur in the next few years, therefore if you can cut borrowing; you can, in a relatively short period of years, reduce the burden of repayments there.

On public service pay we have a real problem. I did a calculation the other day, on figures that were given to me, expressed in current money terms, which suggested that in the last three years the real cost of public service, pay, minus inflation, has risen 30 per cent, and the real volume of the services being administered at that extra cost is minus 5 per cent. To pay in real terms 30 per cent more for 5 per cent less output doesn't seem to me to be very sensible. So there is an area here we have to tackle.

Magill: What do you think should be done and should have been done. Let's go back over the recent pay awards to the public sector and enquire if you would have agreed to the extent of the awards that were conceded and let's take the Gardaí first. Would you now be conceding even the extent of the pay award which the Gardaí have rejected?

Ah, you can pick in anyone area and...

.Magill: But you have to pick an area for a stand has to be made somewhere if you are to get public sector pay under control, let alone achieve cutbacks.

No. I think if you look at the public service pay awards, the claims that have been made in that area - I have a long experience of this because I worked on these pay claims, not just for the Guards, but for a large number of groups in the public service right through the 'sixties and into the 'seventies as part of my consultancy work. In the public service, as distinct from the private sector, pay claims tend to be based very largely on relativities. What has happened has been that you have different arbitrators making different awards based on different comparisons. The whole process leads to leap-frogging.

It hasn't been people in the public service saying that objectively we need more purchasing power to maintain our position in society as a whole - although there have been some claims of that kind - and it hasn't been based on productivity. It's been leap-frogging based on comparisons and relativities. And that has to be tackled. Public service pay has to be rationalized and put on some kind of rational basis.

Magill: Many people going to the  polls in this coming election will certainly be disillusioned by the performance of the present Government. But many of them will also have a vivid memory of the Coalition Government which aroused so much unpopularity. These people will have noted the fact that you have never bothered to examine what went wrong with the Coalition Government and also that you have never expressed any regret for some of the things that were done by it. I refer particularly to the Coalition's record on civil liberties.

I think we could have handled  some of these things better than we did. We learn from experience. In office I don't think we maintained contact with the electorate in a manner that is sensible to do. One of the things I have tried to do in opposition is through my touring of the country to establish some kind of communication with public opinion through informal groups as well as through the various organizations.

This doesn't mean that a government I lead will be soft on security. At no time in the history of the state since the twenties has it been more important for us to have an effective security system and to give the Garda Siochana the necessary support and assistance to be effective.

There is a balance to be preserved between ensuring that security of the State and ensuring that people feel that their liberties are being fully preserved. You can go wrong here by the language you use, by your handling of particular issues and by your tactics. I think we have something to learn from our previous experience in Government in that respect. For instance, the handling of the emergency legislation in September 1976 was, to say the least, defective.

Magill: What is your attitude now on these issues? Are you, for instance, in favour now of a permanent independent body being established to investigate allegations against the Gardaí?

There are several separate issues here. First of all I think we should have a police authority, which would fulfil several functions. One, it would distance the police from Government and from political interference. It would also offer some assurance to the public about the management of the police and give them more independence from the Department of Justice which up to now has had far too tight control.

The question of complaints is a separate issue and I know there are technical problems here. If you set up a separate complaints system it might produce a result which might inhibit or prevent a successful prosecution subsequently.

A system should exist which would ensure that the police were protected from false accusations and, on the other hand, to give people the assurance that interrogation methods are not being used which are improper. To give both these assurances something is needed. The O'Briain report made certain proposals in this respect. These would be helpful if implemented. 1 myself felt and the party felt that these proposals didn't go far enough and we suggested that some system of spot-checks on interrogations might be desirable to preserve the police from false allegations and to ensure that no abuses take place. We also suggested that the advantage given at present to the highly organized criminals by the maintenance of the right to silence, in the sense of the court not being told of the refusal to answer questions, should also be reviewed.  If that were done it would reduce certainly the pressure on the Gardaí to use improper methods.

MagillI'm not clear from all this whether you are in favour of an independent complaint's commission.

I believe that some mechanism" is needed, whether it be that or the Ombudsman could be used or what ever to ensure that the police are protected against false allegations. Many trials at present are taken up almost entirely into an enquiry into allegations of Garda brutality and not at all about the issues at stake in the case.

Magill: That is because almost all cases  before the Special Criminal Court are based on statements made by people in custody and on that alone. There is almost never other, even collaborating; evidence.

That is greatly improving. I think we are extremely defective on the forensic side but there have been immense improvements and this Government indeed must be given due credit for that.

Magill: Are you not a bit  worried that so many prosecutions and convictions are made solely on the basis of statements made by people in custody, statements which are clearly not in their interests to make and therefore there must be some prime facie  suspicion that they were not made voluntarily?

I think this must be a matter for concern at any time.

Magill: Would  you be in favour of amending the law so that corroborating evidence was necessary to allow a conviction that a statement by an accused person, made while in custody, should not on its own be sufficient for conviction?

I would reflect on that but I wouldn't immediately say yes to that question. I think that some system, such as the spot-checks on interrogation, may be a better way of tackling it. I should remark by the way that as far as I'm aware there has been no accusation in recent times of any organized abuse of interrogation methods by the police. I'm not saying there haven't been individual cases.

Magill: There is obviously going to be no election  pact between Fine Gael and Labour before the election but can I ask you if you personally are in favour of going back into Coalition with Labour if between you, you command a majority in the Dáil after the election, rather than forming a minority Government on your own with Labour support?

I haven't a clear view on that. There are pros and cons to that either way: If you are a leader of a minority government, supported by another party which is not in the government, then you can be subjected to pressures which may eventually necessitate a general election, such as those that Mr. de Valera called in 1933, 1939 and 1944. That has obvious disadvantages. On the other hand if you have another party with you in government then your policies have to be joint policies.

But I have to say that when we were in government together this never caused any problems. It worked very well before and I see no reason why it should not work well again. But there are clear advantages of being a leader of a one party government and pursuing your own policies.

Magill: Well which  set of considerations outweighs which?

I haven't made up my mind on that.

Magill: It's going to be a very unsatisfactory situation from the electorate's point of view. The electorate will be asked by Fine Gael and Labour for, support for their policies in the knowledge that almost certainly neither of

these policies will be implemented in their entirety but not knowing which items in these policies will be implemented and which discarded. You and Labour will be asking the voters to buy a pig in a poke effectively. At least in voting for Fianna Fáil the electorate will know what it is voting for.

The electorate has the choice of voting for a Fine Gael majority government, the same as it has for Fianna Fáil. And I can state quite categorically that in the event of a coalition arrangement there will be no abdication of Fine Gael policy. We are not going to barter away our approach to Government and our policy simply to secure power and I think that people who know me, perhaps even by repute, know that if I lead a government it will be led on the basis of the policies that we've put forward and that we will not be diverted into following other policies that are incompatible with the philosophies of Fine Gael.

Magill: I want  to ask you now a number of questions related to women's issues. First of all on divorce. Is Fine Gael in favour of a constitutional referendum to remove the constitutional prohibition on divorce?

Yes the party is committed by a resolution passed by a large majority at the 1978 Ard Fheis to a referendum to remove the constitutional prohibition on divorce. Obviously the timing of a referendum must depend on a political judgement as to whether it would be successful or not. But the whole issue is extremely complex and this is why we have proposed in the Dáil the establishment of an all-party committee to discuss marriage under modern conditions and marriage breakdown.

The fact is that on whether there should be divorce and on what form it should take, if there is to be divorce, all three parties are divided. This reflects a divided public opinion on the issue and therefore there is a great need to have the matter fully debated in all its complexity - hence our proposal for an all-party committee.

Magill: Fine Gael is in favour  of an all party committee on contraception as well. We know that you opposed Charlie Haughey's contraception Bill. What is the policy of the party on this issue now?

The proposal for an all-party committee on this arose during the debate on Haughey's Bill, simply to try to get a better piece of legislation.

Magill: Well  are you in favour of amending the present law on contraception?

The present law on contraception is a nonsense and it would be much better if it weren't there. Whether to allow that law to fall into disuse and eventually fall from the Statute Book or whether you launch again into this issue which has bedevilled all parties is something you can have varying opinions on. But our position on contraception is that the legal position is unsatisfactory. It means that many women have neither information nor access to contraception.

Magill: Is Fine Gael in favour of amending the law to ensure that all adults who want contraceptives have access to them?

That was our position. That was the Bill we brought in when we were in Government with the exception of single people but that would have been ineffective in fact because nobody can prove somebody is single. Frankly at this stage all politicians are so fed up with the subject, having gone round in circles for ten years that there is no enthusiasm in any party to introduce any further legislation at the present time.

Magill: This is not very satisfactory from the point of view of women who don't have reasonable access to contraception and to advice on contraception. Just because the politicians are fed up with the issue are they to go on without what is an absolute necessity for many of them?

I accept that but what we have to establish is whether the present law can be used in a way that ensures availability. Obviously, if it can't be it will have to be looked at again.

Magill: Are you in favour of a programme of affirmative action to redress the discrimination against women in many areas of employment?

Yes. A policy outlining our position on this and on women's issues generally will be published shortly. We are committed now to ensuring that women start getting adequate representation on state boards and commissions. I think we need to make use of the talent bank which several women's organizations have produced to ensure that we get adequate representation on these bodies.

Magill: Does this kind of positive discrimination apply to executive positions in the public service, for instance?

I'm slow to introduce quota systems, which women don't like. In discussions I have had with women and with women's organisations since I became leader it has become clear to me that they are reluctant to get involved in quota systems where women have to be appointed regardless of merit. They do want a bias in favour of women when positions become available but they don't want an arbitrary arrangement which means that a woman has to be appointed whether or not there is a suitable woman available.

Magill: Finally, on one of your favourite topics, Charlie Haughey.  I have to refer back to your speech on his nomination in the Dáil as Taoiseach. You made a number of comments during the course of that speech and I think the public is entitled to know what you were talking about. In your introductory remarks you expressed the hope that you would be able to meet the task at hand and you said "recognizing how much I cannot say for reasons which all in this House understand". . . What did you mean?

I was referring at the time and my reference was unclear and it is the one thing and, I think the only thing, I regret about the speech. I was referring to how the election had taken place within the Fianna Fáil party and I did not want to get involved in that at the  time because it was too close to the events and the people concerned were too much involved and there. . .

Magill: What was there about his election as leader of Fianna Fáil that you  felt you could not mention in the Dáil?

Members of Fianna Fáil were dissatisfied with the method of the election.

Magill: In what way?

That's for them to say rather than for me but it was communicated to me that they were dissatisfied and they considered the various methods of challenging the election.

Magill: Why could you not have said that at the time, instead of leaving this innuendo?

I shouldn't have made the statement at all because it left itself open to false interpretations. I regretted making it afterwards for that reason. It was very present in my mind because of what I knew and had been told in the previous 48 hours about what had been happening in the Fianna Fáil party and present as it was in my mind I spoke of it in a way which to people who were not familiar with what had been happening couldn't make sense and which led to I misunderstanding. That is why I regret using that terminology.

Magill: Was there any insinuation there about his private life?

No. I wasn't thinking about his private life at all. I was thinking about this particular matter which loomed very large on my mind at the time.

Magill: You went on in that speech to refer to Charlie Haughey as a person with a "flawed pedigree". What did that mean?

Most politicians come up through the process - TDs or Senators, Junior Ministers, Senior Ministers by a more or less steady process. In his case that whole process halted in May 1970 and his political progress and pedigree was flawed at that particular point. Again, it's a phrase which was obscure, which was not understood at the time and to that extent.

Magill: You went on to say that his motives in public life could be judged only by God. In what sense did you mean that his motives could be judged only by God in a manner that doesn't apply to yourself and the rest of us?

It applies to all of us. Nobody can judge another person's motives. I'm sorry, I have no desire to go back over it. I made that speech in particular circumstances. I was faced with the question of whether I would state honestly what I felt or whether I would withhold from the House what I felt and act dishonestly. I knew that in making that speech I would incur unpopularity and that indeed my own party supporters would themselves be unhappy with my having spoken in those particular terms. But I was faced with that choice of saying honestly what I felt or not and I felt that I had a duty as leader of the Opposition, before the choice was made, to say what I thought.

I have no intention of returning to it and I have said since then when asked about it, he has to be judged on his performance as Taoiseach. Once he is elected as Taoiseach I give the respect due to the Taoiseach of this country

Magill: You said in that speech, you refer to "the dangers to the State that lie almost inexorably and fatally embedded in the nomination now before us.What was this about?

You can read the speech. It records four reasons. I think, why I thought he was unsuitable to be chosen as Taoiseach. Those reasons provide the answer to that question. I do not propose to go back over it.

I have said and I have said since that I had to make the speech in honesty and would not have  been able to live with myself if I had not made that speech, if I had, in a cowardly way, not have said what I thought, regardless of the consequences in terms of unpopularity at the time, which proved, fortunately evanescent but I don't propose to go back over it and I refuse to go back over it except to explain two references which have caused confusion and where my own imprecision led people to query what I meant.

Otherwise the speech was made, he was elected, he is Taoiseach of the country. I deal with him as such and the country must decide not on the basis of what I said in my speech but on his performance, whether to re-elect him.          .