Saturday, 27 June 2020
Ceapachán an Taoisigh agus Ainmniú Chomhaltaí an Rialtais: Tairiscint - Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government: Motion
Mattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
I am sharing time with Deputies Michael Healy-Rae and Richard O’Donoghue.
From the outset, my colleagues and I in the Rural Independent Group made ourselves available for talks with all parties to try to form a Government. We met Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin but sadly there was no follow-up. I said at the outset that the wish of the electorate was for change and that its wish should be respected, but Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael refused to engage with Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin failed to come back with an alternative despite promises of further meetings, partly with our group. I consulted my constituents widely in recent days on this Government and noted there were other opportunities and possibilities. A national Government could have been formed. We had the perfect scenario with Covid and the co-operation that existed in that regard.
The focus in the document on urban centres and the uneven focus on agricultural development are crazy. Consider the number of Ministers we now have from Dublin and Cork. From Cork and Dublin, and out as far as Greystones, I believe I counted ten. What about the rest of Ireland? Deputy Tóibín mentioned the stretch from Donegal to Clare but he can continue right down to Limerick and from there to Tipperary on the N24 and indeed down to Waterford, Contae Phort Láirge in the south east. The south east has been abandoned. The east has not been; it is all about Dublin and there is nothing about the country. I am very disappointed in the Taoiseach over that: so rural Ireland does not need development because it is the right thing to do. I refer to the fact that the Government wants to give us crumbs and put some little things out to us because it wants everything in Dublin.
Rural affairs is now mixed up with social protection. That is a crazy scenario. It tells us how little the Government thinks of rural Ireland.
The position on disabilities is even worse because responsibility has been transferred to the Department responsible for children. Deputy Micheál Martin was Minister for Health and Children. I remind him that disabilities are not confined to children. Unfortunately, they go from the cradle to the grave. It is a shocking indictment of the Taoiseach's judgment.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen the great advantages of living in rural Ireland. The Taoiseach drives through it every day going to Dublin. Maybe he did not see it in the past 12 weeks. We experienced a wonderful rejuvenation by our people, not by the Government. All we need is our fair share of Government supports. I feel that the programme for Government will not deliver for rural Ireland. As Deputy Tóibín implied, there are 102 actions, or inactions, and talking shops – in other words, fudges.
I worry about some other points in the programme. Incidentally, I do not believe they were in the document that went to Fianna Fáil. The Taoiseach said today he is delighted to be the Prime Minister of a free nation, yet he is going to have an exclusion zone around places where abortions are carried out. Where is the freedom there? Where are the freedom to protest and the freedom of speech?
The Taoiseach states he is going to deal with legislation on hate crime. Who is going to decide what hate crime is? What elite group? Where is the free Ireland in this regard? We have not been free since we kowtowed to Europe and the banks. The banks are our masters along with our European masters and those further afield. This all happened when Fianna Fáil joined up with ALDE in Europe. It sold its soul and everything else with it. We have the result of it here today.
On the last occasion, we spent six weeks engaging in the negotiations on the programme Government. This time, we had no consultation. I accept the Government parties did not need us but they may need us yet.
I wish all the Ministers well in their roles but I am concerned about agriculture. One of the Ministries includes culture, the arts, media, tourism, sport and the Gaeltacht and I am sure whatever you are having yourself when the pubs open on Monday. My God, such a portfolio. Who has it only a Deputy from An Comhaontas Glas? It covers greyhound racing, coursing and indeed horse racing, huge industries that are important to my county. Deputy Catherine Martin and others have expressed a wish to see the demise of these sports. These are sports but they are also industries in rural Ireland that are of the people and run by the people. I say "Hands off" because the people will not tolerate this. We have lost enough.
I wish the Taoiseach and Ministers well in their roles but I am very concerned about the programme for Government. There is no costing for any action. It is a matter of kicking the can down the road and saying, "Live horse and you will get grass." The people are not eejits. They are very smart and intelligent-----