Saturday, 27 June 2020
Taoiseach a Ainmniú (Atógáil) - Nomination of Taoiseach (Resumed)
I will share time with Deputy Grealish. The year 2020 will never be forgotten. It will be remembered as a year that has turned the lives of people across the globe into a living nightmare. The world remains gripped by fear, sadness, grief and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. The virus that swept from continent to continent has robbed us of a sense of security. It took from us many of our cherished citizens and left broken hearts and many empty chairs around our tables. It left loneliness, fear, change and deep worry in thousands of hearts. However, it also made us a better people. It has shown us endless examples of people loving and caring for others, from those who were active on the front line to those who stayed at home to help prevent the spread of the virus. I acknowledge the Trojan work done by the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, his Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, and the entire Government, together with the National Public Health Emergency Team. We express our gratitude and appreciation for the excellent leadership provided and the unflinching resolve to keep us as safe as possible.
The people of Tipperary have given me the privilege of representing them in Dáil Éireann for 33 consecutive years. Since 1987, I have seen many Governments. I have seen the great triumph of the Good Friday Agreement, the terrible fall into austerity and the grim climb out of bankruptcy. I have observed political drama, party infighting, revolts, crises, nerve-jangling moments and political despair. I have watched the ebb and flow and changing fortunes of political parties. I thought I had seen it all but, on 14 April, with the announcement of an eventful new departure, agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to form an equal partnership, we witnessed two of the greatest rival political parties putting their differences aside to find common working ground for the good of the country. Both parties deserve credit for that initiative. That agreement recognises a new reality, a new chapter and a new dawn. This political alliance should not come as a surprise to anyone. The shift in political opinion and a decline in support for the twin pillars in Irish politics, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, has been gradual and progressive. The loosening of their vice-like grip on support and fading loyalty has led to this marriage. The singular monopoly days are long over and future glory days will have to be shared. Both parties have taken the correct option to embrace the will of the people and work together. Party supporters on both sides will worry whether they have married into the wrong family. I believe time will prove that they are an ideal match with common policies.
The public's approach and attitude to politics has changed and evolved in recent years.
It has developed to the extent that, on election day, voters made a fragmented choice which nevertheless gave a variety of options in respect of the formation of a Government. Through the ballot box, the people have advised this Dáil to choose a new partnership. This expectation has been driven in particular by young voters who want to live in the present not the past. They want to look to the future, not to look back.
Today is a time when history is just that and we focus on the future. When the results from the three parties were announced last night there were various reactions. Some were jubilant, some were disappointed, some were relieved, and many, like me, were happy to see that the members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had acted in the national interest. This is the start of a big adventure for the Green Party. I hope it has the temperament and resilience to stay the distance. Together, these three parties can give the Irish people the strength and stability of a Government at a critical time. It has seldom been needed more. We face a rocky road to recovery. Now there is consolation in knowing that decisions can and will be made, legislation can and will be passed and some of the uncertainty of recent months can and will be put to rest. The road is hard but we are strong.
For my part, I share the interests of the people of rural Ireland. I share their passions, pastimes, traditions and way of life. As a Member of this Dáil, I will work to ensure these unique values and principles will be protected. Since election day, I have consistently highlighted the need for a stable, strong Government at a time of great peril for our economy and country. In line with that sentiment and my conversations with Deputy Micheál Martin, I have decided to make my contribution to stability by supporting his nomination for Taoiseach and also supporting the appointment of Ministers to a new Government. Deputy Micheál Martin has the credentials to be an excellent Taoiseach and leader of our country. I wish him well and I know he will lead in a spirit of consensus and collaboration. To use the words of Deputy Martin’s fellow Corkman, Tom McSweeney, "fair sailing".