Shane Ross: "Empty promises"

This is an edited version of his speech to the Dáil on the nomination of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach in which Shane Ross welcomes the integrity of the new government, but fears that it will end up being similar to the last one. [There's a Wordle below highlighting the most-used words in this speech]

An avalanche of public goodwill is moving in the direction of the Government and I hope and pray that it will capitalise on it and fulfil the faith which has been put in it by the Irish electorate.


Having said that, I am somewhat dispirited after reading the programme for Government. I understand why Fianna Fáil will support Deputy Kenny for Taoiseach, namely, because the new Government, according to its programme, will implement the policies that Fianna Fáil imposed upon the country. That is something which I find difficult to accept, barely ten days after it had opposed it so vehemently. We see exactly the same parameters on the economy and the same austerity measures about to be imposed by the new Government.


I was deeply discouraged when I read the programme for Government that there was no vision in it and so little in it that was specific. As Micheál Martin said, there were so many reviews and fudges that we do not know exactly what is being promised at all, except that the Labour Party and Fine Gael will be the Government over the next few years and will stick together come hell or high water. That is not good enough. We needed a programme for Government which fulfilled the programme of electoral policies which were made on that side of the House, but we did not get that. We did not get a vision.

Take, for example, the EU-IMF deal. We were promised renegotiation and an end to what was called, so euphemistically, burden sharing. However, even before the ink was dry on the programme for Government, burden sharing was dropped last Friday in Helsinki and we have to share the burden with those banks which lent so irresponsibly to Anglo Irish Bank and Allied Irish Banks so many years ago over such a long period.

Renegotiation means renegotiation. It does not mean going into Europe and negotiating a cut in the interest rate, which we already know has been conceded. That is not good enough. We need a Government which is prepared to send people out to Brussels or Strasbourg or anywhere else armed with a referendum given to them by the people saying the deal is not acceptable. We are not getting that, but getting a Government that will go in with the same deal and mandate as the previous Government.

Second, the programme for Government is silent on the promises which were made about putting an end to cronyism. Instead, we have a vague and diluted promise that there will be a substantive reduction in the number of quangos. Where is the promise to reduce or abolish 145 quangos? The suggestion that the Government will make a substantive reduction in quangos is not good enough.

Furthermore, we no longer see any pledge to change the appointments to State and semi-State bodies and agencies as promised before the election. Perhaps this is just an omission from the programme. However, I fear that whereas the new Government is an amazing and welcome relief in terms of its honesty and integrity and of being an end to a dark period of political rule here, the promises of change are empty and are already disappearing.

I want to be certain that the Fianna Fáil version of cronyism is not replaced by a Fine Gael-Labour version of cronyism. They did pretty well in the 1994-97 period in putting their pals in power. It is important that we see a system established so that ugly aspect of Irish political life is ended.

I fear that because of the parameters and restrictions of the economy, the Government will almost inevitably yield to the temptation to be a government so similar to the previous one, perhaps not in its style or methods but in what it does, that it will be indistinguishable from it.

(Government and Programme are removed from this speech to create the Wordle below)