Senator Zappone called for a 'People's Debt Conference' or a civic forum on debt sustainability, to which Heads of States, finance Ministers and others could, along with progressive economists and policy-makers, be invited.
While Government is arguing that the debt policies are working, Senator Zappone reminded that people in Ireland don't agree. The statistics that show that poverty and inequality are on the rise indicates that the debt solutions are not working for everyone.
Senator Zappone said:
"The empowerment of the people in any democracy does not happen in their silence. A people's debt conference would be a way of breaking the silence and allow the emergence of a new and mutual vision between those in leadership and the people they govern."
Read her full remarks below.
I echo Senator Bacik's call for a debate on quantitative easing, which I also raised last week.
The Greek election of the Syriza party into government is another prime marker of the surge of people power in democracies and its resulting impact on the exercise of politics and the use of power. These are shifting dramatically and creativity is being unleashed. As Irish people and as Europeans, we need to find ways to tap this innovation and bring it to bear on the problems of the 21st century, rather than following old, dead formulas of the traditional business cycle to map economic and social recovery. Does Europe need a debt conference? This is what I want the Leader to ask the Minister for Finance. He is quoted today as saying, "No, not yet". That was echoed in this House earlier by the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, in response to Senator Bradford. All bailout negotiations so far have been conducted within the context of the euro group. He and other members of Government argue vigorously that Irish negotiations have been successful and the economy is recovering.
It has been said that because the Irish negotiations were successful the economy is recovering but our people do no think so. Again, is this not what the water protests were about? Although Ireland is creating jobs, increasing exports and decreasing unemployment, which is good and the Government deserves due credit for it, alongside those statistics are the CSO statistics that point to the shocking rise in poverty, children in poverty and poverty among those in work, some of whom in all of these categories are from the middle classes. Other statistics demonstrate hard evidence that the gap between the rich and poor is increasing. This means Ireland's debt solutions are not having a sufficient impact on poverty and inequality. It is not true that with more time the economic recovery will reach everyone. I do not agree. Tens of thousands of children will lose a happy, nourishing start in life due to poverty, which cannot ever be recovered.
Can Dublin host a debt sustainability conference, as proposed by Dr. Tom Healy, director of NERI? Dr. Healy argues that Europe would then begin to face up to the delicate balance of democracy, markets and debt. Such a conference could consider a range of progressive resolutions to the crisis which is not going away. If the answer is no then let me propose another idea. If this Government will not do it I call on the citizens of Ireland to organise a debt conference. Let us call it a people's debt conference or a civic forum on debt sustainability, to which Heads of States, finance Ministers and others could, along with progressive economists and policy-makers, be invited. The empowerment of the people in any democracy does not happen in their silence. A people's debt conference would be a way of breaking the silence and allow the emergence of a new and mutual vision between those in leadership and the people they govern.
Then we can find solutions for this generation and those that follow.