Dáil debates

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Ceapachán an Taoisigh agus Ainmniú Chomhaltaí an Rialtais: Tairiscint - Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government: Motion

 

1:05 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)

B'áil liom cead a chur in iúl, mar eolas don Dáil, gur chuir mé m'ainmniú mar Thaoiseach in iúl don Uachtarán agus gur cheap sé mé dá réir. I beg leave to announce, for the information of the Dáil, that I have informed the President that the Dáil has nominated me to be the Taoiseach and that he has appointed me accordingly.

The urgent and ambitious programme for Government which we have agreed requires a significant reform to the structure of Departments, as well as a new approach to how we work collectively to deliver for all of the people of our country. Following the formal nomination of members of the Government, I will give more detail about these changes and the work we will undertake starting this evening and throughout our term.

Tairigim:

Go gcomhaontóidh Dáil Éireann leis an Taoiseach d'ainmniú na dTeachtaí seo a leanas chun a gceaptha ag an Uachtarán mar chomhaltaí den Rialtas:

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approve the nomination by the Taoiseach of the following Deputies for appointment by the President to be members of the Government:

As Tánaiste and to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar.

To the Department of Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport, Eamon Ryan.

To the Department of Finance, Paschal Donohoe.

To the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath.

To the Department of Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney.

To the Department of Education, Norma Foley.

To the Department of Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman.

To the Department of Agriculture and the Marine, Barry Cowen.

To the Department of Justice, Helen McEntee.

To the Department of Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands, Heather Humphreys.

To the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien.

To the Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin.

To the Department of Health, Stephen Donnelly.

To the Department of Higher Education, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris.

I propose to nominate Paul Gallagher SC for appointment by the President to be the Attorney General. I also propose to nominate Deputy Dara Calleary as Minister of State in the Department of the Taoiseach as Government Chief Whip. In the coming week, I will propose further Deputies to serve as Ministers of State and will outline a series of special responsibilities to be assigned to them. These will be focused on delivering specific priorities.

The Government which I am nominating will be committed to working together in a new way and with both urgency and ambition. There is no time for quietly settling in. Each Minister has a substantial role to play not just in delivering the commitments for his or her Department but also in the Government’s collective work. The challenges we must overcome are both immediate and, in many cases, long-standing. They can only be met and overcome if we work together across our responsibilities. There is no question but that our first priority will be continuing the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and moving decisively to recover from its devastating social, economic and cultural impact. We will immediately begin the work of preparing an investment-led jobs and recovery initiative, which will be brought to the Dáil for approval next month. This will be a whole-of-government initiative about more than just the enormous task of getting our people back to work.

I, together with Deputies Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan, will lead this process through a special Cabinet committee which will begin its work in the coming days. The Cabinet committee will have a wider membership. The economic elements of the initiative will directly act to help businesses which continue to struggle and move forward with sustainable initiatives to save and create good jobs in every part of our country.

No one yet fully understands what the lasting impacts of the pandemic will be but we know for sure that these impacts spread deeply in every aspect of our families and communities. We must help schoolchildren so that they do not fall permanently behind. We must help people to cope with the personal impact of stress and anxiety. We must do everything possible to quickly recognise and decisively respond to groups and communities which show new and unexpected impacts from the pandemic. We have to continue to implement safe and proportionate actions to limit the virus. The shaping of a fair and inclusive recovery will be our absolute priority from today and until this work is done.

We have also committed to an ambitious and urgent programme which will define our work from today onwards and in the coming years. Ireland can achieve very little without a strong and dynamic economy. To have a strong and dynamic economy we must continue to transform it. We must have sustainable investment in good public services and in preparing the workers and businesses of today and the future for technological change, and we must play our part in tackling the existential crisis of climate change. In support of our programme to meet these economic challenges, we will restructure key elements of Government. The Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform will be led by separate Cabinet Ministers. Together the Ministers will lead action on a wide range of strategies for investment, reform and making sure that Ireland plays a leading role in shaping fundamental economic policies under discussion within the European Union and internationally.

Deputy Leo Varadkar will lead the restructured Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with its urgent agenda. The transfer of trade to the Department reflects the fact that the next few years will be unique with regard to the number and importance of the trade issues which will be decided. This requires an integrated approach. Equally, it is a statement by the new Government that Ireland believes that international trade is essential for helping countries to prosper. It has been central to our progress in the past half century and it will continue to be central to our progress in the years ahead.

All three parties in this new Government believe that climate change is a defining challenge not just of this generation but of human history. The programme we have agreed puts action on climate change into the work of every part of Government. We must not just overcome this challenge but we must turn it into a new opportunity. We must build an Ireland with a sustainable economy, an Ireland which protects and restores its wonderful natural diversity and which does not leave communities behind in this great transition. Deputy Eamon Ryan will lead this work with a major new portfolio. In addition to climate change and the natural environment, he will oversee other specific areas which are an essential part of the wider climate change agenda. This includes transport as well as communication networks.

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton will be the Minister covering international and road transport and logistics.

Agriculture, food and the marine will remain a priority, both as central to rural society and as a major economic pillar. I reject the false idea that one can either support agriculture or care for the environment. Farmers are the great custodians of our countryside. We owe it to them to work with them to ensure decent incomes and a sustainable future for them and our rural communities as a whole. Senator Pippa Hackett will be appointed as a Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

This new Government is determined that Ireland will be a constructive and effective member of the European Union and the international community. In the many struggles under way in our world, there is no doubt where we stand. We stand for strong international co-operation. We stand for humanitarian principles. We stand for a Europe which is stronger and has the ability to fulfil the great challenges that we face. We stand with those who share our belief in free democracy and strong, rules-based international organisations. Deputy Simon Coveney will serve as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence. He will do so in a challenging period during which we will carry the additional responsibility of membership of the Security Council of the United Nations.

Our international standing rests on many things, but nothing is more important than the tradition of peacekeeping which our Defence Forces have built over six decades. Óglaigh na hÉireann has served and protected our country with great honour and distinction. Eighty-six of its personnel have given their lives showing the world the values of our country. The new Government is committed to renewing our commitment to Óglaigh na hÉireann. Deputy Coveney will ensure that its voice is heard, not just here but in shaping the humanitarian policies which its members will continue to serve.

We are also committed to completing the work of reforming policing and ensuring that communities are safe. The Good Friday Agreement remains the defining blueprint for our island's future and a vindication of democratic politics. The new Government will move forward quickly to try to fulfil the vision set out in the agreement. We will work closely with the democratic institutions in Northern Ireland. I will establish within the Department of the Taoiseach a new shared island unit which will begin a renewed push to use the potential of the agreement to deliver sustained progress for all communities. We will do everything to seek the full implementation of the agreements made by the United Kingdom with the European Union concerning Brexit. Helping businesses and communities to prosper in spite of the impact of Brexit is an urgent and ongoing task for us.

This Government will work to deliver early and sustained action on housing. We are determined to restore hope to people that they will be able to find a place to buy or rent. There are no easy answers. Action and investment are required across a wide range of measures. We are also committed to delivering a public health service which will care for people faster and to the highest standards. We will focus not just on long-term changes but also on immediate action on the most urgent issues. As we have all seen in recent months, we have a great national resource in the skills and professionalism of those who work in our health service. I have no doubt that we can achieve sustained progress on long-standing problems.

The single most important decision in delivering progress for modern Ireland involved a decisive move towards expanding educational opportunity. The new Government is committed to delivering further progress on education and is implementing the most significant modern reform in the structure of how Government oversees this area. The higher education sector will form the core of a new, separate Government Department and will be combined with other science and innovation functions, including the area of science funding. This sector is going through a major transformation and needs clarity and engagement from Government. Equally, we need to do more to acknowledge and build on the incredible base of scientific research which has developed in the past two decades and has played a central role in our economy and ability to respond to the pandemic.

The Department of Education will implement a series of measures to make education more inclusive and to complete important reforms. Educational welfare functions and school completion services will be returned to that Department.

We will expand the work of the current Department of Children and Youth Affairs in a number of important ways. The vital task of improving child protection services and expanding childcare provision will be accelerated. Co-ordination of disability-related issues will be handled by a senior Minister for the first time.

One of the greatest developments in our recent history has been how we are becoming a more diverse society. History teaches us that in the long term, one has to work hard to achieve a successfully integrated society which respects the culture of all. Cabinet-level responsibility for integration demonstrates our commitment to undertaking this work.

Today would normally be the most colourful and joyful day of the year on the streets of Dublin. Pride is a reminder of just how far we can come in a generation through valuing equality, incorporating it in our laws and changing how we behave towards others.

Equality will have a strong voice in this new Government.

A free, independent and professional media is vital for our democracy. We have set out our commitment to helping not just our public service media, but our professional media as a whole to be able to have a sustainable future. Deputy Catherine Martin will lead our work on this as a matter of urgency. She will also lead the critical work of helping to restart and strengthen key elements of what makes us unique as a nation – our arts, teanga náisiúnta, sports and tourism. Beidh an Teachta Martin freagrach as an Roinn sin agus tabharfar suntasacht nua sa Rialtas d’fheidhmniú an stráitéis fad-téarmach do úsáid an teanga agus spreagadh eolais.

At this moment more than ever, we have been reminded of the central role the State must play in supporting people at key moments of their lives and providing them with security, including during their retirement. The social vision of the new Government includes giving a new impetus to community development. This is a major reconfiguration of central elements of how Government is structured and it will be accompanied by a new approach to how Government works. Ministers and their officials will work more closely together in a series of Cabinet committees which will be established. The challenges our country is facing cannot be placed within the walls of individual Departments. They cut across Government and we must work across normal boundaries to overcome these challenges, including decisive and rapid action on recovery; immediate and ongoing work to address the central challenges of housing, health, education, Brexit and climate change; and a positive and outward-looking engagement with Europe and the international community. These are the principles which will underpin our work. Our country has achieved many incredible things in the past and I have no doubt we can and will do so again.

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