Fairness was a real theme of the week. The absence of fairness in the salaries and pensions of bankers was the headline issue. The pensions of politicians and higher paid civil servants area clearly an issue also. While the Government correctly point out that their actions are constrained by private property rights which have Constitutional protection. I have no doubt but that they will act sooner rather than later. It will not be possible to reduce the budget deficit by the requisite three and a half-billion Euro without a clear set of actions that display fairness. This Government is a reforming one across a range of areas. I know that this reform will also be faced up to. If it takes a form of windfall tax to deal with exorbitant lump sums and pensions, so be it. If constitutional problems on interfering with private properties and contract law area barriers to addressing the salaries and pensions issue then it must be dealt with through taxation. Fairness is a core value for Fine Gael and Labour. The Cabinet is made up of very experienced politicians who can be relied upon to find ways of achieving balance, equality and fairness.
The Children’s Referendum was also about fairness. It will prevent a repeat of the Roscommon Case where dis-functional parents were able to extend the imprisonment and torture of their children for four long years due to a Court decision interfering with existing Constitutional provisions in a particular way. It will allow the adoption of children into loving, secure families, where they have been out of their birth out of their birth-family for more than three years, and in the care of their foster parents for more than eighteen months. At a time of scarce resources it will give vulnerable children a stronger claim to their share. Minister Frances Fitzgerald, the voluntary agencies and those who voted yes have reason to take a bow.
The Supreme Court ruling was about fairness and balance on the presentation of the Referendum information. This ruling will require a lot of attention in the future. Perhaps public information should be handed over to the Referendum Commission exclusively, with various political interests doing their thing afterwards. In my view, this seems the only watertight way of adhering to the requirements of the McKenna judgement.
I spoke in the Dáil last week on the new Credit Union Bill. Its objective is to give our Credit Unions viability, regulation, workable structures, good governance and necessary short-term liquidity. I made the point that big is not always beautiful and that small, workable and well-run Credit Unions should be able to survive if want to. I spoke of the need for sufficient flexibility to maintain the core of volunteers who keep our Credit Unions going. I would welcome your views on my contribution. The Credit Union movement has done more to create fairness in the Financial Services Sector than any Regulator or other instrument. It has provided a service to a sector of the population that had difficulty accessing it otherwise. It was radical in its approval, democratic in organisation and tailored to meet individual needs. The volunteers who pioneered the Credit Union concept and ideal have made an enormous contribution to all our lives. The Credit Union is a spectacular example of the co-operative or ‘meithal model’, where fairness is at a premium. It is our duty as legislators to affirm them, create the conditions where they will continue to grow and prosper and make sure they can maintain their ethos.