Dáil debates

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Taoiseach a Ainmniú (Atógáil) - Nomination of Taoiseach (Resumed)

 

11:00 am

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank my colleagues, na Teachtaí Pearse Doherty and Mairéad Farrell, for nominating me for the office of An Taoiseach. It is, of course, a huge honour to be elected to that highest of offices and it seems today that the honour will fall to Deputy Micheál Martin. I wish him well in that.

February was the month of an election of change, when in unprecedented numbers people voted for fairness, progress and a new direction in Irish politics. Sinn Féin won more votes than any other party and, undeniably, this was a mandate for Sinn Féin to enter into government and a mandate for a Government for change. Faced with the prospect of losing their grip on power, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have circled the wagons. They excluded Sinn Féin and the voices of more than 500,000 people from Government formation talks. Chaith daoine vóta ar son athraithe. Tá athrú ag teastáil agus tá sé thar am.

Today's marriage of convenience is borne of necessity and not ambition; it is to buy time and to keep others out and in their place. For the political establishment, it is their way or no way. I have to tell those people they will no longer get it all their own way; that day is over.

The inescapable truth is that the future belongs to those of us who believe in change. The measure and mettle of the Irish people is reflected in how they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. It is evident in the daily acts of kindness, the spirit of community and the commitment to the belief that none of us is safe unless all of us are safe. The Covid-19 crisis has not dampened the desire; if anything it has strengthened it. People have had time to reflect on their lives and what really matters. Many people now realise the price of having Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together in government is too high.

The people were very clear in the election and they told us what the foundation of a good life means to them.

They said it was affordable housing, healthcare when they need it, childcare that does not break the bank, a fair economy that delivers for workers where one can retire with dignity at the age of 65 with a State pension, and a greener, cleaner Ireland built on climate justice and social justice too. The people also told us in large numbers that Irish unity matters.

This was not a protest vote. It was a vote driven by kindness, goodwill and compassion and one rooted in common sense, yet those very issues, which dominated the election, are the issues that have been dodged in the programme for Government. As Leader of Sinn Féin, let me set out our stall. Ordinary people will not shoulder the burden of this economic crisis. They will not be told to stand at the back of the queue while the banks and the vulture capitalists have their fill. They will not go down the black hole of slash and burn austerity again. We will champion investment, stimulus and policies that grow our economy and strengthen our society. We will stand up for those families who work so hard to make a good life for themselves but see their efforts cancelled out because of a sky-high cost of living and a failure to invest in public services. We will give those who go unheard by Government - people living with disabilities, carers, young people and our senior citizens - a voice. We will work to transform all of Ireland for the better because fairness, equality, decency and real solutions are the issues that matter to families and workers and they are the issues that will shape Sinn Féin's determination to deliver what will be the most effective Opposition ever seen in this State.

No longer is a better, fairer, united Ireland the dream of the idealistic few. It is now the achievable goal of the many. It is an ambition shared by people from all walks of life. Change pulses through the veins of our nation, fuelled by positivity, hope, solidarity and the promise of a better tomorrow. Those of us who believe in change are resolute. We are determined and together. It is the parties of the political establishment, hunkered behind their high walls, with their jaded ideas desperately clutching to yesterday, that are out of step. The people of Ireland are entitled to a future that is the measure of their hopes and ambition.

To those who believe in change, to all those who voted for change, to those who refuse to let go of change, dóibh siúd a chaith a vóta ar son athrú, impím oraibh gan thabhairt suas. Ná caill croí. Our time is coming because change cannot be stopped. To every person we met on the election trail who confided in us their hardships and deepest fears, who inspired us with their bright optimism and hope for the future, who entrusted us with the task of standing up for them, we are here because of you and for you. This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

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