Saturday, 27 June 2020
Taoiseach a Ainmniú (Atógáil) - Nomination of Taoiseach (Resumed)
An Comhaontas Glas will be supporting the nomination of Deputy Micheál Martin for Taoiseach today. The Irish people may well ask why it has taken us almost five months to get to this point. We should first reassure them that for most of that period we stepped back collectively as a Parliament to support the caretaker Government in the management of the unique health crisis that we faced. I would like to pay tribute to the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, his Ministers, the public servants and above all the Irish people for the way we have done that. We have shown our strength as a country, as terrible as the loss has been - the loss of life and the loss of so many different kinds. We see the virus continue to flare in the rest of the world and we have to prepare for its return here, but as a country we have come together and taken a lot of the steps needed to minimise the terrible loss.
We now have a critical job to do as a Parliament to help our country in the next phase of managing this crisis, the economic recovery. The loss of economic activity has been beyond compare. I believe that Deputy Micheál Martin is perfectly qualified to lead the Government in trying to take on that task. I believe that because of his experience as Minister in a range of different Departments, including Foreign Affairs, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Education and Science and others as set out in some of the earlier speeches. I know from direct experience that he is calm in a crisis. He is good-humoured and the value of social justice is at his very core. As a man, he is forward-looking. Any time I have heard him speak over the years he has been thinking ahead, not closed to new ideas and new ways of doing things. That qualifies him for the difficult task that he and the rest of the incoming Government face.
I believe we have a good plan to address this huge challenge. The programme for Government may not include everything one might want. It is subject to criticism and it will certainly be subject to change. The real test will be in its delivery rather than its writing. However, it provides a good plan and an immediate stimulus. We will get down to work the first thing on Monday morning. We have to start preparing a plan to get people's jobs back straight away. We will borrow for that on our good name internationally and we will continue borrowing to invest in the future for our people and our country. We must invest first and foremost in homes for our people: homes that are bright, warm and affordable; homes that allow people to walk to school, the shops or work; homes that give people the secure knowledge that they can raise families. That is what we have to build for our people. That is the message from our election. We also have to build up our public health system. We must build on the good work that has been done, particularly in recent months. We must be clever, efficient, flexible and fast in delivering services for our people. This is about public health. Our health is guaranteed when everyone else's health and security is provided for.
It is a programme for Government which will invest in climate action, because that is what we need to do as a people.
It is what the world needs to do because our security will be absolutely ruined if the natural world is rent apart, which is the course we are currently set upon. We have to use everything we can to prevent that happening. It is action stations time if we are to avoid it and play our part in trying to avoid it. Here at home, we must work to restore nature and our local environment. We are connected to nature, not separate from it, just as we are connected to one another.
To achieve change, we have to invest in a completely new energy system. That is where the new economic opportunity will lie and where we will be able to invest and create jobs. It is how we will create a secure economic future, because we will be relying on our own resources. That ambition goes back to the core founding principles of this State of managing our own resources for the benefit of our wealth and security into the future. The energy system we are going to create in this low-carbon world will do exactly that. It will mean changing completely how we run our agricultural system, forestry and fisheries. How we look after our land will be central to meeting the challenge we face, and that will create an opportunity for young Irish families to play the front-line role in their own homes in protecting nature. That is something the next Government will have to set us upon.
More than anything else, the challenge we face needs a new economy. It will be a circular economy that is hyper-efficient and very productive and that uses new digital systems in really clever and innovative ways, which are ethically founded around our owning the data they generate. This a constitutional, democratic Republic, not a corporation, and it is the people who are sovereign. If we can create an economy that is ethically based on that principle, then we will thrive. It must be innovative, as I said, but more than anything else, it has to recognise that there is a change coming in economics, that the old thinking that the market knows and it is all about the money and economic growth is outdated. Increasingly, economics is changing. The new doughnut economics is about looking at both social protection and environmental protection as core measures of success and about measuring success in terms of the quality of our lives, our well-being and health, including our mental health. Let that be the test and the measure of progress for this Government as it sets out on its course.
We are at a time of change in the world. It is a difficult time, when technology is changing so fast that it is hard to keep up. It is a time when the global order seems to be torn apart, where the great power blocs of old are again threatening each other. It is a time of uncertainty to our east and to our west, where the political system is full of division and derision, which is something we seek to avoid. We have an opportunity as a Parliament and as a country to provide, we hope, a small beacon of light in these dark and difficult times. We do that when we stand up for the smaller nations of this world. We do that when we stand up for the rights of those in Palestine. We do that when we stand up in the United Nations, where we helped to negotiate the sustainable development goals. We do that when we reflect the same principles at home by being welcoming to all visitors and showing that this is a safe country of refuge and one where we do not tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind. We can, in these difficult times, be an island that tries to show a bit of integrity. We are not perfect and we all know it, but we are not the worst country in the world and it is our duty to stand up and provide the best political system we can for our people and, if we can, provide a light in the world in these dark and difficult times. That sounds a bit big, bold and ambitious but why should we not, as we try to form a new Government, set ourselves a big task?
I thank the two parties who have negotiated with us and who have done so a fair and honest way. We look forward to working with them as best we can. We look forward to working with the Opposition. We do not believe in a politics of division and we will start by co-operating in every way we can, being as open as we can in government, trying to answer every question in as truthful a way as possible and engaging with the Opposition. Let us use our committee system in a constructive way. The outgoing Dáil showed a lot of real strengths. Its minority made it difficult for the governing party to govern but we should keep some of the good things that happened during that time, such as the collaboration we saw in committees like the Sláintecare committee and the climate committee. I could go on. Let us keep that engagement and work collectively for our people.