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

 

1:50 pm

Photo of Aodhán Ó RíordáinAodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin Bay North, Labour)

It feels almost as though a wartime Government has just been assembled. We meet here because 1,700 people have lost their lives as a result of a virus that has hit our country. That should remind us all of our collective endeavour to beat this virus and return the country to some level of normality. Politics can be a harsh business, it can be quite personal at times, and in that environment the country needs to see politics working better. That is why it is disappointing to hear words such as "betrayal" and even "hatred" mentioned earlier today. My party tries not to trade in hatred or division but to oppose the elements of what Government does that we feel are wrong and support what it does that we feel is right.

I want the minds of Dáil Éireann to turn to the words of Thomas Johnson who, just over 100 years ago, wrote in the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil in 1919: "It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter". We are in Dublin's north inner city. The great thing that has liberated those who have been disadvantaged in this country has been education, but what has enslaved them has been inequality and drugs. This Government proposes two citizens' assemblies, one on education and one on drugs. I and my party say that if the Government is genuine about radically overhauling the education system, if it is going to treat the 17.9% of Irish adults who are functionally illiterate as a scandal and realise the 30% of children who leave disadvantaged schools have basic reading problems, if it is to understand the difference between one three year old and another is a 66% differential in their oral language capacity, and if it wants to tackle all those issues in its education citizens' assembly, then we will work with the Government and support it because we believe that education is the great liberator. However, what has enslaved working-class communities is the drug issue, which goes right across the land. It is the issue of addiction and the criminalisation of those in addition. Let us treat the drugs crisis as a health issue and use the resources of the State to tackle the drug gangs and not those who suffer from what they do.

We will disagree on tax, the role of the State and its size, and on many other things, but if the Government's endeavour is to eradicate educational disadvantage and illiteracy, and to have a radical change in drug policy, then it will get agreement from the Labour Party on those areas. It is not about talking about betrayal or about hatred, it is about making politics work for people. There is so much that can be achieved in these Houses of the Oireachtas if we put aside the pre-written scripts and actually do something for the people who sent us here.

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