Saturday, 27 June 2020
Ceapachán an Taoisigh agus Ainmniú Chomhaltaí an Rialtais: Tairiscint - Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government: Motion
Peter Fitzpatrick (Louth, Independent)
I am sharing time with Deputy Tóibín. I wish the incoming Government the very best of luck in what will be a very challenging time for our country over the coming years. The programme for Government is ambitious, and while I do not agree with everything in it, I will support it as long as it means our country is on the road to recovery. In recent Dáil terms, my constituency of Louth and east Meath has been neglected at ministerial level. As a result, we have lost out on valuable resources and supports. As an Independent Deputy, I will always put my constituency of Louth and east Meath first and fight to ensure we receive our fair share of resources.
I wish the incoming Minister for Health the very best of luck in his new role. My commitment to the restoration of full services to Louth County Hospital will continue in this Dáil. Unless the Minister can give me his full support in returning services to Louth County Hospital, I cannot guarantee my ongoing support for the Government. I gave this commitment to the people of Louth and east Meath during my time in the House and I intend to keep up this fight. To this end I look forward to working with the incoming Minister to ensure that Louth hospital will be supported in terms of both resources and services during this Dáil.
Our country has suffered greatly in recent months as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Everybody has been affected in some form or another. Many have lost loved ones or their livelihood or face a very uncertain future. Every sector has been badly affected, none more so than that of tourism. Coming from the north east, I know more than most the importance of tourism to the local economy and the livelihood of local people. I congratulate the incoming Minister with responsibility for tourism and look forward to working with her as we try to rebuild the tourism sector. Areas of great natural beauty such as the Cooley peninsula and the Boyne Valley rely heavily on tourism, and we must ensure we support businesses in order for them to open again. Such businesses employ thousands of people, not only directly but also indirectly. They are vital to their local areas and must be supported.
I take the opportunity to highlight the importance of sport to this country. We have seen during the lockdown how important sport is. In this regard, I want to work closely with the incoming Minister with responsibility for sport to ensure the level of supports required to bring back the sporting organisations. As chairman of Louth GAA, I know personally how important the GAA is to local communities. The extent of voluntary work carried out by members of local GAA clubs needs to be acknowledged and praised. We in Louth GAA are fighting hard to get our own county grounds in Dundalk, and all the clubs and their members are putting their shoulders to the wheel to bring this dream to a reality. I make no apologies for stating I look forward to working with the incoming Government and the GAA to ensure that this badly needed stadium is completed.
Coming from the Border area, I understand the devastating effect that Brexit will have if we do not put in place the measures necessary to deal with it. There are still so many unanswered questions. I am deeply concerned that the effects could be disastrous for Border towns such as my town of Dundalk. I am also very concerned about the lack of clarity on many issues, such as the information available to businesses. We still do not have a roadmap. We have constantly been told there will be no hard border, no issues for cross-Border workers and no checks at the Border. The people of the Border counties - Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim and Donegal - need answers now so they can prepare properly for Brexit.
I again wish the incoming Government the very best of luck in this Dáil term. I have supported it today, and voted for Deputy Micheál Martin as Taoiseach, because I believe that the country needs a strong and stable Government at this crucial time. The country does not need another election, just a stable Government. My support, however, is not unconditional. I will vote against the Government if I do not agree with it. The people of Louth and east Meath elected me as an Independent Deputy. I will support the Government when I believe that it is doing what is right but, equally, will vote against it if I consider that the right thing to do.
Finally, I congratulate the new Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, and all his Cabinet colleagues. I look forward to both working with them and holding them to account throughout the lifetime of this Dáil. I commend the outgoing Government on its work in the face of Covid-19. The then Taoiseach, the then Minister for Health, Dr. Tony Holohan, all the front-line staff and everybody else involved made a team effort and the golden word was "communication". If the new Government communicates to the people in the same way that was done for the past three or four months, it will have a good chance of going the whole way.