Saturday, 27 June 2020
Taoiseach a Ainmniú (Atógáil) - Nomination of Taoiseach (Resumed)
Noel Grealish (Galway West, Independent)
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. I offer my deepest sympathy to the family, friends and members of An Garda Síochána on the recent tragic death of Detective Garda Colm Horkan. I also pay tribute to all the front-line staff who have done so much for this country in recent months during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is 140 days today since the general election took place. This has been a record length of time without a Government, during which Ireland and the world have changed completely. Since the election on 8 February, the country has been operating with a caretaker Government, which has done an exceptional job in managing this unprecedented health crisis. I compliment the outgoing Taoiseach, his Ministers and all involved.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on our society and economy. We have many challenges in the weeks and months ahead to get people back to work and the economy back on track as soon as possible. In recent weeks, I have repeatedly raised my concerns for small and medium enterprises, SMEs, especially those in the tourism and hospitality sector. Businesses need short-term and direct financial support as well as longer term access to low-cost capital. Getting these small businesses back up and running is the key to getting our economy back on track. The SME sector employs almost 1 million people and the hospitality sector employs almost 260,000 people, of whom 27,000 of these are employed in Galway alone. The SME sector is the backbone of the economy and requires cash grants rather than loans to help businesses reopen and deal with reduced capacity and additional requirements to meet social distancing rules. I have met many business owners in recent months who want to protect staff and customers in every way possible to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, they cannot do this without Government support. Tourism and hospitality will be the slowest sectors to recover. A well thought-out rescue plan must be delivered by the incoming Government in the coming weeks. Galway, like many other cities across Ireland, suffered a great deal during this pandemic. The loss of the Galway International Arts Festival and the Galway Races and the cancellation of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture events will result in lost revenue of tens of millions of euro in this year alone.
As I stated in the Dáil Chamber two weeks ago, when the banking crisis hit in 2009 the Government of the time bailed out banks to the tune of more than €100 billion at huge cost to taxpayers. The current crisis is even greater. It is time to support small businesses to help keep them viable and trading in the medium to long term. At the end of the day, there will be a return on this investment through employment, tax and VAT returns, thus resulting in a stronger economy to the benefit of everyone.
The need to extend the Offences Against the State Act and renew the mandate of the Special Criminal Court makes the election of a Government today a vital necessity.
We are also still in the Brexit transition period and a final agreement on the future relationship between Britain and the European Union has yet to be agreed. As the UK’s biggest trading partner, Ireland has most at stake if things go wrong. We must, therefore, have a strong Government in place during this critical negotiating period.
When the Dáil met on 20 February I voted for Deputy Micheál Martin as Taoiseach and it is my intention to do so again today. We need a Government to address the many challenges that face the nation over the coming months. Major challenges will face the incoming Government in many areas, including funding for childcare, health and the disability sector, and the reform of business insurance. I will seek vital support for the SME sector. Parents are also anxious that children will return to school in September. The availability of affordable housing and home care for the elderly remain vital concerns for many people. The crisis facing agriculture, particularly in the dairy and beef industry, must also be addressed by the incoming Government.
Another issue of concern is the major roads infrastructure projects, which include the N6 Galway city ring road, and uncertainty created by the Green Party regarding funding for vital projects. It is crucial that the roads programme and other major infrastructure projects are given clarity as a matter of urgency by the incoming Government.
I will be a constructive Member of Dáil Éireann but I will also hold the incoming Government to account. I am prepared to support good policy and legislation but only where they are in the best interests of the Irish people.
On this historic day, with the end of Civil War politics, I congratulate Deputy Micheál Martin on his nomination for Taoiseach. This is a great honour for him and his family and I wish him and the incoming Government the best in the months and years ahead.