Dáil debates

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Advice to Dissolve Dáil: Announcement


2:30 pm

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Acting Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)

Mar a dúirt mé inné, níl sé i gceist agam seasamh don Dáil sa toghchán atá ag teacht. Is le meas agus le buíochas a sheasaim romhaibh inniu, le meas ar an obair a dhéantar sa Dáil agus orthu siúd a dhéanann an obair sin agus le buíochas don tacaíocht agus cairdeas a tugadh dom le linn mo 27 bliain anseo. Thosaigh mé sa Dáil sa bhliain 1984, tar éis báis m'athair. I rith an ama sin, rinne mé mo mhíle dhícheall ar son phobal na tíre seo. Ba mhór an onóir dom bheith i mo Theachta Dála ar dtús, ansin i m'Aire agus ar deireadh thiar mar Taoiseach.

Fifty years ago, almost to the day, on 30 January 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his first state of the union message, noting that the members of the Congress were "among [his] oldest friends, and this House is [his] oldest home." These words resonate with me here today. I have made many friends in this House and this Parliament and its traditions will always have my deepest respect.

There are enduring friendships that go beyond politics and any debates or disagreements that we may have had about the issues of the day. It was for that reason that I decided to come to the House so that the Thirtieth Dáil should conclude in plenary assembly. It has been a privilege to serve the people of Ireland in our Government. In every Department that I have served, my overriding objective was to do my best by the Irish people. Politics is public service and it is an honourable profession. I say this with sincerity, conviction and from experience. I have no time for the cynics who talk down or belittle people in public life.

Members will be aware that I announced my decision yesterday not to contest the forthcoming election. It has been my immense privilege to represent the people of Laois-Offaly in this House for the past 27 years. I will be forever grateful for their loyalty and support during good days and bad in my political life. I also want to express my gratitude on this, my last day here, to my late father, who gave me a great grounding in the values of community service and a love of politics.

I entered this Parliament as a young man of 24. I have been privileged to learn much since from many fine public representatives on all sides of this Chamber. I know from those years of experience that the vast majority of the representatives in this House from all sides do their utmost to serve the best interests of the people honestly and unselfishly.

The time is once again close at hand for the people to decide who to send here to represent them in the next Dáil. This election will define our economic future and decide whether Ireland moves forward from this recession, prolongs it or succumbs to it. The choice, in many ways, is that fundamental. I urge the people to examine the policies being advanced by each of the parties and to cast their vote accordingly. This election should not be about personalities but serious debate, reflection and the solemn business of democracy.

I hope that over the course of the campaign we will conduct a mature and responsible debate, where we show respect for each other and the democratic process. All parties bear a responsibility to be honest with the people about the solutions proposed to continue on the path to recovery. We all have a duty to give confidence to the people and not talk Ireland down for short-term political gain. This is especially true as there are still plenty of reasons for confidence in Ireland's future, our potential and what we can achieve over coming years.

Ireland's economy retains very significant strengths. We are the fifth best country in the world, as measured by the United Nations human development index, which ranks 169 nations in terms of health, education and income as a composite measure. We have the highest proportion of graduates in the European Union among the 25 to 34 years age group. Our exports are performing better than ever. United States investment in Ireland is greater than what it has invested in Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. Ireland's stock of direct inward investment is five times greater than the OECD average. Our competitiveness has significantly improved and we have clusters of the world's leading international companies, including household names such as IBM, Google, e-Bay, Intel and Facebook. Ireland is consistently in the world's top ten places in which to open, start and grow a business. Our investment in science, technology and innovation is increasing productivity across the economy and in our own companies, helping to create the jobs of the future. These are just a few reasons the real Irish economy, which is an open, flexible, trading economy, will prosper in future if responsible policies continue to be pursued.

Peace on this island is another foundation on which we can and must build. The achievement of peace in Ireland has always been a collective, cross-party endeavour in this House and we must continue to work collectively to protect it. The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement established by all of the people of this island in 1998 are now working as people intended. The successful conclusion of the Hillsborough Agreement on the devolution of policing and justice, which I was proud to play a part in negotiating, ably assisted on the Government side by Fianna Fáil's new party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, ensured that we will now see the longest ever unbroken period of power-sharing government in Northern Ireland when the Assembly elections are called in May this year.

I have always said that the genius of the Good Friday Agreement is that we agreed as a people to go on a journey together without predetermining the destination in advance. We must continue to take this journey together in the new and renewed spirit of friendship, reconciliation and respect that is the essence of the Good Friday Agreement. Imbued with that spirit, the forthcoming decade of centenary anniversaries will be a time of reflection and renewal across this island, not a time for dwelling on a divisive, internecine past but one for shaping a better future with deepening political co-operation across all major policy areas to our mutual benefit on this island.

Today is not a day for me to list achievements or engage in contentious debate. While the past two and a half years since I was elected Taoiseach have been a time of great trials and tests, we have worked hard to correct past failures and secure the future recovery of our country. I know some of the decisions my Government had to take were not popular but they had to be taken. In making judgment, people should remember that sometimes it is not just the content of a policy that defines a political decision but its context too. More than anything, a political decision is defined by the motivation that inspired it. Politics is about serving the interests of the people first and last. That was my motivation starting out in public life and I stayed true to it right to the end. In every decision I took as Taoiseach, I can honestly say the common good was my overriding concern and loyalty to this country and its people informed every choice I made.

I wish to quote the wise words of a man I came to know through his friendship with my late uncle, an tAthair Andrew. I refer to the poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue, whose book, Benedictus, contains a poem called "For a Leader". I commend it to all in the House and particularly to those who will be in positions of leadership in the Thirty-first Dáil:

May you have the grace and wisdom to act kindly, learning to distinguish between what is personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism.

May you never put yourself at the centre of things.

May you act not from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself, building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May those who work for you know you see and respect them.

May you learn to cultivate the art of presence in order to engage with those who meet you.

May you have a mind that loves frontiers, so that you can evoke the bright fields that lie beyond the view of the regular eye.

May you have good friends to mirror your blind spots.

May leadership be for you a true adventure of growth.

Dá fhad é an lá, titeann an oíche. I wish to inform the House, as a matter of courtesy, that I will proceed presently to Áras an Úachtaráin to advise the President, pursuant to Article 13 of the Constitution, to dissolve Dáil Éireann and to summon the incoming Dáil to meet at 12 midday on Wednesday, 9 March 2011.

As we have witnessed on our television screens in recent weeks, there are people in many countries across the world who still fight for the opportunity to cast their ballot in a democratic election; so I hope the electorate will use the opportunity to cast their vote in the forthcoming general election here.

I wish those Members of the House who are not seeking re-election a very happy and healthy future. I wish all other Members well in their endeavours to return to this House.

Go n-éirí libh go léir i bhur n-iarrachtaí. Agus duitse, a Cheann Comhairle, mo mheas agus mo bheannacht. Mar fhocal scoir, ó pheann Raifteirí, an file: "Anois teacht an earraigh, beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh, 's tar éis na féile Bríde, ardóidh mé mo sheol."


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