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Senator Bacik speaking on the Economy, Unemployment Figures, Banking, and Women's Participation in Politics

03 February 2010

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I support Senator Fitzgerald's call for a debate on the stimulus plan for the economy and jobs, and her call that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Coughlan, should lead the debate in this House. She is one of the Ministers we tend not to see in the House. We see a great deal of some Ministers and very little of others.

The bad news today is that unemployment figures have reached 13% which makes the need for such a debate urgent.

I call also for a debate on the need to ensure there is a stronger ethical code and regulation in banking, something Deputy Joan Burton has called for consistently, as has Senator Alex White. It is made even more urgent by reports today that Anglo Irish Bank is proposing to make an interest-free loan to a developer and has declined to state on what security. This is now a State-owned bank. The ESRI is highly critical of the long-term impact of this type of practice. It is important that we keep some kind of scrutiny, particularly on the actions of a State-owned bank.

I ask for clarification of the date on which the Leader will ensure we have a debate on women's participation in politics. Last night I took part in the first sitting in Trinity College of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution. We had a panel discussion afterwards about Article 16 and on the way in which Deputies are elected. A major focus of the discussion was on my presentation about the need to ensure we have more women in the Dáil and Seanad. A great deal of interest in the topic was expressed by the audience and other participants. We need to have such a debate in this House.

One point raised concerned the difference having more women would make. In my view, it would make an enormous difference in the ethical codes in the governance of our banking and financial services systems. It has been said in this House, including by me, that a machismo led to this sort of profit-at-all-costs culture within banking that caused the economic collapse we see today. It has often been said that if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters the international financial crisis would not have been nearly as bad. It is no coincidence — …that the Icelandic people moved from a male-dominated Government to a female-dominated one in order to get themselves out of the financial mess. Perhaps we should follow their lead.