Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)

Debt is a millstone around the necks of the Irish people and of all low and middle-income families across Europe. I support the call for a new European debt conference. There is precedent for that. In 1952-53, Germany had 50% of its debt written off with a moratorium on repayment and a lengthy repayment period of 50 years or more.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan has told us that the Irish debt is affordable and repayable. Of course it is, but it is only affordable and repayable if we are prepared to starve our children and have them live on the streets in cardboard boxes in Dublin and other towns and cities across the country. Of course, that is an absolutely outrageous suggestion.

The Minister of State, Deputy Harris, has told us we talk about abstract statistics. I can tell the Minister of State that the 350,000 people who are unemployed are not abstract statistics. They want a debt writedown. The 90,000 people on local authority housing lists want one, as do the 40,000 families who are facing repossession of their family homes.

The 30% of the population experiencing deprivation and the children living in poverty want a debt write-down. Certainly, they do not believe the debt we are repaying is either affordable or repayable.
Unfortunately, that is only half of the story. This assessment is made on the basis of the country paying interest on the debt of €7.5 billion per year. What will happen after the next general election is something the Government is not telling the people about. That is when the fiscal treaty will kick in and we will have to pay to meet the structural deficit.

How much more will that take out of the economy? I figure it will be anything up to €11 billion for several years. What will happen when the second part of the fiscal treaty kicks in? We will be obliged to get the debt down to 60% of GDP from its current level, anything from 102% to 120%, depending on to whom one is talking. That will give us austerity for a further 20 years or more. Austerity is not something abstract; it means human misery and chaos for low and middle-income families throughout the country and the eurozone.

It is unbelievable the Government will not take the opportunity to look for a debt conference and a write-down of debt that could ensure jobs would be created, houses built and trolleys taken from the corridors of accident and emergency departments, It could also ensure thousands of families would not lose their homes and children would not live in poverty. It is unbelievable the Government does not support the concept of seeking a debt write-down for the people in question who are already paying through the nose for a recession they did not create. Even before Syriza came to power in Greece, because that country had stood up to the European Union it had received a better debt deal than Ireland. Ireland should get together with Greece and the other programme countries and demand a new European debt conference for the benefit and betterment of the people.