Dáil debates

Saturday, 27 June 2020

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


11:50 am

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance) | Oireachtas source

I am sharing time with Deputies Barry and Paul Murphy. People Before Profit will not be supporting the nomination of Deputy Micheál Martin for Taoiseach. That has got nothing to do with him personally. It has to do with our understanding of what people voted for in the general election of 8 February. The Taoiseach derides the use of the word "change" by some of us. If it was just used for its own sake, he might have a point. However, there was a clear, unequivocal sentiment among the majority of people who voted in the general election to break the cycle of two-party rule by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which have controlled the machinery of Government for more than 100 years. That was the majority sentiment in the election and we believe that the return to power of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael facilitated by the Green Party represents a betrayal and abandonment of that sentiment and demand for change. It is not just about the political parties. People wanted to break the cycle of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for very specific reasons. The policies and politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael produced the worst housing crisis in the history of the State, an absolutely disastrous situation in our public health system and an utter failure to tackle the climate emergency that is hurtling towards us. They failed to give a fair deal for working people in terms of security of pay and employment or a manageable cost of living with things like affordable childcare and bills.

This programme for Government has done nothing to address any of those issues. It is a rehash and reheating of the same failed policies that led to those problems in the first place. The housing policy is, in effect, the same one we have pursued for the past five years. It recommits to the Land Development Agency, which is a vehicle for the privatisation of public land, the very reason we have a housing crisis in the first place. Incredibly, on the issue of health, when more than ever we need a single-tier, properly resourced national health system, this programme for Government actually commits to going back to private healthcare and the two-tier system. On climate, the commitments are so vague and aspirational they can be pushed back to the end of the decade and can still potentially allow liquid natural gas terminals to be built to import liquid natural gas off the south west of the country. When it comes to workers, there is nothing but vague commitments to a living wage some time, undefined. There is no plan for a national childcare system that will make affordable childcare available to everybody.

Most of all, there is nothing for workers. Our guest of honour today in the convention centre is Jane Crowe, the shop steward for Debenhams, who has led an heroic battle for 2,000 workers who were dumped on the scrapheap by a cynical company using the Covid-19 crisis as the pretext to dump those who had served them loyally for decades. The three parties now entering government have not said a word or made any commitment to address the plight of those workers over the last three months. When they could have intervened, they washed their hands and that does not bode well for how this Government is going to prioritise supporting workers.

We make no apologies in saying we are going to continue the fight for change. We believe the only way to fight for change on housing and health, for a decent standard of living and support for working people and for addressing the climate emergency is by having a left Government. Furthermore, we make no apologies for our commitment to people power. The Debenhams workers outside are doing more for workers' rights than any of the three parties which are entering Government. Change has not come from shoddy political deals but from movements outside Parliament - the movements for marriage equality, repeal of the eighth amendment, getting rid of water charges and affordable childcare. Our commitment is to fight for that kind of change as that is what people voted for on 8 February.


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