Dáil debates

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Advice to Dissolve Dáil: Announcement

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Acting Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Mar a dúirt mé inné, níl sé i gceist agam seasamh don Dáil sa toghchán atá ag teacht. Is le meas agus le buíochas a sheasaim romhaibh inniu, le meas ar an obair a dhéantar sa Dáil agus orthu siúd a dhéanann an obair sin agus le buíochas don tacaíocht agus cairdeas a tugadh dom le linn mo 27 bliain anseo. Thosaigh mé sa Dáil sa bhliain 1984, tar éis báis m'athair. I rith an ama sin, rinne mé mo mhíle dhícheall ar son phobal na tíre seo. Ba mhór an onóir dom bheith i mo Theachta Dála ar dtús, ansin i m'Aire agus ar deireadh thiar mar Taoiseach.

Fifty years ago, almost to the day, on 30 January 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his first state of the union message, noting that the members of the Congress were "among [his] oldest friends, and this House is [his] oldest home." These words resonate with me here today. I have made many friends in this House and this Parliament and its traditions will always have my deepest respect.

There are enduring friendships that go beyond politics and any debates or disagreements that we may have had about the issues of the day. It was for that reason that I decided to come to the House so that the Thirtieth Dáil should conclude in plenary assembly. It has been a privilege to serve the people of Ireland in our Government. In every Department that I have served, my overriding objective was to do my best by the Irish people. Politics is public service and it is an honourable profession. I say this with sincerity, conviction and from experience. I have no time for the cynics who talk down or belittle people in public life.

Members will be aware that I announced my decision yesterday not to contest the forthcoming election. It has been my immense privilege to represent the people of Laois-Offaly in this House for the past 27 years. I will be forever grateful for their loyalty and support during good days and bad in my political life. I also want to express my gratitude on this, my last day here, to my late father, who gave me a great grounding in the values of community service and a love of politics.

I entered this Parliament as a young man of 24. I have been privileged to learn much since from many fine public representatives on all sides of this Chamber. I know from those years of experience that the vast majority of the representatives in this House from all sides do their utmost to serve the best interests of the people honestly and unselfishly.

The time is once again close at hand for the people to decide who to send here to represent them in the next Dáil. This election will define our economic future and decide whether Ireland moves forward from this recession, prolongs it or succumbs to it. The choice, in many ways, is that fundamental. I urge the people to examine the policies being advanced by each of the parties and to cast their vote accordingly. This election should not be about personalities but serious debate, reflection and the solemn business of democracy.

I hope that over the course of the campaign we will conduct a mature and responsible debate, where we show respect for each other and the democratic process. All parties bear a responsibility to be honest with the people about the solutions proposed to continue on the path to recovery. We all have a duty to give confidence to the people and not talk Ireland down for short-term political gain. This is especially true as there are still plenty of reasons for confidence in Ireland's future, our potential and what we can achieve over coming years.

Ireland's economy retains very significant strengths. We are the fifth best country in the world, as measured by the United Nations human development index, which ranks 169 nations in terms of health, education and income as a composite measure. We have the highest proportion of graduates in the European Union among the 25 to 34 years age group. Our exports are performing better than ever. United States investment in Ireland is greater than what it has invested in Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. Ireland's stock of direct inward investment is five times greater than the OECD average. Our competitiveness has significantly improved and we have clusters of the world's leading international companies, including household names such as IBM, Google, e-Bay, Intel and Facebook. Ireland is consistently in the world's top ten places in which to open, start and grow a business. Our investment in science, technology and innovation is increasing productivity across the economy and in our own companies, helping to create the jobs of the future. These are just a few reasons the real Irish economy, which is an open, flexible, trading economy, will prosper in future if responsible policies continue to be pursued.

Peace on this island is another foundation on which we can and must build. The achievement of peace in Ireland has always been a collective, cross-party endeavour in this House and we must continue to work collectively to protect it. The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement established by all of the people of this island in 1998 are now working as people intended. The successful conclusion of the Hillsborough Agreement on the devolution of policing and justice, which I was proud to play a part in negotiating, ably assisted on the Government side by Fianna Fáil's new party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, ensured that we will now see the longest ever unbroken period of power-sharing government in Northern Ireland when the Assembly elections are called in May this year.

I have always said that the genius of the Good Friday Agreement is that we agreed as a people to go on a journey together without predetermining the destination in advance. We must continue to take this journey together in the new and renewed spirit of friendship, reconciliation and respect that is the essence of the Good Friday Agreement. Imbued with that spirit, the forthcoming decade of centenary anniversaries will be a time of reflection and renewal across this island, not a time for dwelling on a divisive, internecine past but one for shaping a better future with deepening political co-operation across all major policy areas to our mutual benefit on this island.

Today is not a day for me to list achievements or engage in contentious debate. While the past two and a half years since I was elected Taoiseach have been a time of great trials and tests, we have worked hard to correct past failures and secure the future recovery of our country. I know some of the decisions my Government had to take were not popular but they had to be taken. In making judgment, people should remember that sometimes it is not just the content of a policy that defines a political decision but its context too. More than anything, a political decision is defined by the motivation that inspired it. Politics is about serving the interests of the people first and last. That was my motivation starting out in public life and I stayed true to it right to the end. In every decision I took as Taoiseach, I can honestly say the common good was my overriding concern and loyalty to this country and its people informed every choice I made.

I wish to quote the wise words of a man I came to know through his friendship with my late uncle, an tAthair Andrew. I refer to the poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue, whose book, Benedictus, contains a poem called "For a Leader". I commend it to all in the House and particularly to those who will be in positions of leadership in the Thirty-first Dáil:

May you have the grace and wisdom to act kindly, learning to distinguish between what is personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism.

May you never put yourself at the centre of things.

May you act not from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself, building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May those who work for you know you see and respect them.

May you learn to cultivate the art of presence in order to engage with those who meet you.

May you have a mind that loves frontiers, so that you can evoke the bright fields that lie beyond the view of the regular eye.

May you have good friends to mirror your blind spots.

May leadership be for you a true adventure of growth.

Dá fhad é an lá, titeann an oíche. I wish to inform the House, as a matter of courtesy, that I will proceed presently to Áras an Úachtaráin to advise the President, pursuant to Article 13 of the Constitution, to dissolve Dáil Éireann and to summon the incoming Dáil to meet at 12 midday on Wednesday, 9 March 2011.

As we have witnessed on our television screens in recent weeks, there are people in many countries across the world who still fight for the opportunity to cast their ballot in a democratic election; so I hope the electorate will use the opportunity to cast their vote in the forthcoming general election here.

I wish those Members of the House who are not seeking re-election a very happy and healthy future. I wish all other Members well in their endeavours to return to this House.

Go n-éirí libh go léir i bhur n-iarrachtaí. Agus duitse, a Cheann Comhairle, mo mheas agus mo bheannacht. Mar fhocal scoir, ó pheann Raifteirí, an file: "Anois teacht an earraigh, beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh, 's tar éis na féile Bríde, ardóidh mé mo sheol."

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Go raibh maith agat a Thaoisigh. I now call on Deputy Enda Kenny. I intend to call the Leaders of the various parties in the House for a brief comment.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am glad you are calling all the Leaders, a Cheann Comhairle. It is important that they all contribute in a situation like this. I welcome the Taoiseach's confirmation that the people of Ireland will finally get to choose a new team and a new direction for our country to get Ireland working again.

Tá a fhios ag gach duine, mar a dúirt an Taoiseach, gurbh é seo Lá Fhéile Bríde. Casann an taoide, casann an bhliain, tugtar isteach spéis nua agus beatha nua. Fine Gael wants to bring that same new hope, new possibility and new life to Government, to our people and to our country.

On a personal level, I wish the Taoiseach, his wife Mary and daughters Sinead and Maedhbh, well as he retires from this House. Last year, I sat beside little Maedhbh at the national celebration in Kilmainham. When the Taoiseach came in with a guard of honour, I asked her: "Who is that man?" and she said "That's my Daddy". The Taoiseach has one strong supporter there and rightly so.

Despite strongly disagreeing with many Government policies that the Taoiseach and his party have pursued, I have no doubt about his integrity as a person or as a politician.

Ba mhaith liom aontú leis an méid a dúirt an Taoiseach faoi na Teachtaí atá ag éirí as an bpolaitíocht agus nach bhfuil ag seasamh don Dáil arís. Is dócha gur fíor a rá gur rinne siad an rud is fearr dóibh féin, thar gach páirtí polaitíochta, agus gur thug siad seirbhís dá ndáilcheantair. The Taoiseach is retiring after leading what many people consider to have been the worst Government in living memory. It displayed serious political misjudgment. His colleagues in Fianna Fáil are required to be accountable for their collective governance of this country over the past 13 and a half years. None of them will be able to dodge responsibility for driving Ireland into the arms of the IMF.

I have listened to the people of this country over recent years. I understand the depth of anger felt by people all over Ireland who have lost their jobs, their homes and their loved ones to emigration. Their anger is real and proper, but it will not get Ireland working again. In this election, we are offering them a chance to turn their anger into action. We are asking them to work with us and vote for us because we have a plan to get Ireland working. Our plan has been worked on for the past three years. It is sensible, realistic and credible. It will get people, systems and the Government working.

Public Ireland is not working at the moment. People in personal and private Ireland who are lucky enough to have jobs are working harder than ever. They are putting in the grind and coming up with plans. Our entrepreneurs have not run out of ideas. They are full of ideas that are more brilliant than ever. Our young people are more eager than ever to live and work in their own country. The trouble is that at a time when Ministers have two or three jobs, the Government is not working. The systems on which people depend are not working or are not working as well as they should in the interest of the people. We will change that with our plan to get Ireland working. Our plan gives clarity, credibility and light to what will be a difficult journey to a better future ahead.

The first important point is to protect and create jobs and opportunities. That will give us the best chance to keep our best asset - our young people - at home. We plan to create 20,000 new jobs a year over the next four years. We will cut employers PRSI and create a welfare system that encourages work. We will invest an extra €7 billion, gathered from State pension funds and the sale of strategic State assets, in the development of critical infrastructure that will make our economy really competitive for the future. In that way, by 2016 we will make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business.

Second, we will introduce fairer budgets and keep taxes low. We will fix Ireland's budget deficit by prioritising the cutting of waste over the raising of taxes. I know that high taxes kill jobs. We will keep taxes, particularly income taxes, down. No country has ever taxed its way to economic recovery.

Third, we will change and create a completely new health system. As a result of the creation of the HSE by the former Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, each year €17 billion is spent on a health system that does not work as it should. That is going to stop. Our fair care plan, which is modelled on the reformed and proven Dutch health service, will cut waiting lists and end apartheid in our health service. With universal health insurance, we will offer equal access to everybody, for once and for all. There will be more and better community care. That will mean fewer hospital stays and fewer hospital patients, which, in turn, will lead to lower hospital costs for the taxpayer.

Fourth, we will provide for smaller and better governance. We will ensure the people's money is spent wisely on vital public services. By streamlining systems, cutting red tape and abolishing quangos, we will reduce public service costs by €5 billion. In making that system more efficient, we will protect the essential services provided by teachers, nurses, doctors, gardaí and local government workers. Any redundancies in that package will be voluntary.

Fifth, we will create a political system that achieves more and costs less, with the Government leading by example. We will cut the number of politicians by over a third. We will impose a ceiling on higher public service salaries. We will introduce car-pooling for Ministers. We will ensure proper accountability for decisions. A single chamber parliamentary system with powerful Dáil committees will hold Ministers to greater account. Under our plan, when cuts are needed, they start at the top; when accountability is needed, it starts at the top.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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Where is the statesmanlike speech?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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When sacrifice is needed, it starts at the top and not with the blind, the carers or the poor. If people give us the most precious possessions they have - their trust and their votes - we will have a duty to respond in kind. With our plan, we will replace old Government cynicism with new Government compassion, and old Government indifference with new Government insights. We will replace the old dysfunction and disorder at the heart of Government with a Government that holds the hearts and the needs of the people within its own heart - a Government that will show understanding of the fragile and shattered lives of the many thousands of people out there for whom politics has not worked. What people need is reassurance that politics can and does work. What they need now is leadership, to point the direction to a new future with a higher quality of personal and working life. I know I can offer them that. What they do not want is more of the same clichés, more of the banal, the reported and the tired.

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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The same corporate donations.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy will be back to defend this, I am sure.

That is why leadership in politics is now more critical than ever. The fundamental job of a politician is to find solutions and make decisions in the best interests of the people. I know what it takes to revive a disillusioned and demotivated political force and rebuild it to a point at which it can legitimately challenge for the trust of the people. I know the grind and relentless commitment required to see it through. That is why I will offer my party and myself to rebuild our country and provide a high-quality future for all our people.

No incoming Government elected by the people has ever faced the scale of the economic challenge now facing our country. We have strong and powerful friends in Europe and beyond, and we need them, but it is for us to face this crisis in the first instance. Our time is analogous to that of the first Government of the State. That Government built a new young country from the ruins of a country. The next Government will have to build a new future from the ruins of our economy.

My words to the Irish people are clear. I am prepared to offer the people a strong, courageous and fair Government that will implement the proper plan to rectify our problems. The people now have the influence and power to determine our country's future. I am happy indeed for my party to put its plans before the people for them to decide upon. I know I can deliver on what I say I will do, and I will ask for their mandate to deliver on our plan to get Ireland working.

Maidir leis an rud a dúirt an Taoiseach faoi Raifteirí an file, ba cheart dó leanúint ar aghaidh le:

Ó chuir mé i mo cheann é ní stopfaidh me choíche, Go seasfaidh mé thíos i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I welcome the fact that the people will have their say in a general election which is long overdue.

The Taoiseach has announced his retirement from politics. I wish him, his wife, Mary and his family the very best for the future. He and I have clashed in robust debate. He has always stood by his position and I have stood by mine and now the time has come to put our case to the verdict of the people. We have just over three weeks to decide the future of our country.

From this point on, the future of Ireland lies in the hands of its people, all of us, together. On polling day all of us are equal as voters, and each of us has an equal responsibility for the way we mark our ballot paper. All of us, each and every voter together, have the opportunity now to decide the future of our country. Ireland is a great country with a great future. We have grave problems, but we especially should not doubt our capability. Our abilities are far greater than our problems.

We can and will get through this recession. We can and will get the country on the road to recovery, creating jobs and forging opportunities for the future. We can and we will change the way this country is run and fix the system that is broken. Our country's best days are still to come.

It is not enough to wish for a better future. We must grasp it and work for it and on polling day we have to come together and decide on change. That is what this election is all about, change for the future and for the kind of Ireland we want to rebuild now, not just for ourselves but for our children. Change is nothing new for most people in Ireland today. Most people have already had to change their lives out of necessity; the change from work to no work, change in living standards and changes in everyday living.

Now we have to change our country and its politics and we have to do it together - to change from being the victims of change to being the drivers of change. For the first time ever in the 90 year history of this State, we can elect a Government led by neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael. For the first time people have a choice to elect a Government led by Labour.

This is not simply a choice of party label. It is a choice about the future direction of our country. This election is a three-way contest. Those who want more of the same can vote for the Fianna Fáil party that brought down the country, that tied the State to the sinking and stinking misfortunes of the banks and that sold us out in the deal with the EU and IMF. People can, if they wish, choose a Government driven by the same old ideas that have already failed us. It is clear that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are comfortable with each other's policies. They both voted for the blanket bank guarantee. They are happy to embrace austerity – to line up behind the EU-IMF deal, whatever the cost in jobs. It is clear that neither has any wish to break up the Celtic Tory consensus that has brought us to where we are-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies, please.

Photo of Noel O'FlynnNoel O'Flynn (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Gilmore has said too much.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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-----or we can say enough of that and that we want real change.

Only Labour can lead that change. I am talking about change of Government, and in the way it works and thinks, a change that brings the real concerns of the people to the heart of Government. Labour will fight this election on three issues, jobs, reform, and fairness. Throughout this crisis, Labour has insisted that jobs must be at the heart of what Government is doing. Labour is the party of work, and a Labour-led Government will have jobs at the top of its agenda. We will work to provide skills and work experience opportunities for those without work. We will work to develop new opportunities through trade and innovation, finding new markets, and new goods and services to sell in them and promoting the knowledge economy. We will work on the basis that every job counts. Labour is the party of reform. For generations, in and out of government, Labour has championed progressive change in Ireland. Now, once again, we are determined to lead a new wave of change and to fix a broken system, a system that has failed the Irish people. Labour is the party to reform politics because it has the best track record on reform. Labour is the party to reform our public services because it believes in public services, respects public servants and has the plan to bring about reform. Labour is the party of fairness. We have led the way in showing how the two-tier health system is bad for all of us and how it can be fixed. We have lead the way in demanding fair taxation. Alone among the political parties, we will make literacy, not just a policy objective but a national cause. Labour's vision is the vision of one Ireland, where we are driven by what unites us, not what divides us. Our country is too small, and our problems too great, to indulge in divisions, solo runs or sectional interests. This is not a time for division or the politics of pitting one group of Irish people against another. This is the moment when we must come together, and move forward together – le chéile. Government is not a hospitality tent, roped off for VIPs. Government is not a big house shielded from the people by high walls. Government is not the business of the insiders, it is the business of us all. It is time to roll up the tent and put the concerns of the people at the heart of Government. That is what Labour is all about. That is why Connolly and Larkin founded the Labour Party and now its time has come. One Ireland, public sector and private sector, those with jobs and those looking for work, employers and employees, rural and urban, women and men, gay and straight. Now is the time to pull down the walls that stand between the people and their Government. Now is the time for change. Today, 1 February, let us leave our winter behind. Anois teacht an earraigh.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I join other speakers in wishing the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, the very best for the future. I wish his wife Mary and his family all the best. I also wish good health to him and all retiring Members. Far too many Members are suffering from ill health and this is often overlooked. The recognition the Taoiseach gave to politicians is one we all must face up to. Politics have been denigrated for far too long. Likewise, our civil servants have been denigrated and they have performed admirably. I pay tribute to the civil servants in my former Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I thank the staff of the House, I thank the Ceann Comhairle and I wish all members the very best for the future.

The Taoiseach said he did not want to talk about achievements and perhaps he was being modest. That politics is defined by the economic crisis may mean we overlook these achievements. I am very proud to have served in a Government that produced civil partnership. Yesterday, a gay couple came up to me in Ranelagh and thanked me for it. I am proud we delivered the legislation. I am proud we delivered rigorous planning legislation for the first time. We will not revert to the irresponsible over-zoning of land that led, in part, to the property bubble. I am proud that we have financial reform at long last, with an independent Financial Regulator, Mr. Matthew Elderfield. I am proud that we have a new Governor of the Central Bank, a person of independence, Professor Patrick Honohan. These measures will make a difference. I am proud that we have investment in renewable energy and insulation. I am proud that we were part of a Government that produced real political reform. We reduced the number of Ministers of State for the first time, where previously there were increases.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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The Green Party got a fair share of them.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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We reduced ministerial salaries. We stopped ministerial pensions going to sitting Deputies. We reduced expenses and the number of civil servants working in Ministers' offices. These are all necessary and such a programme of reform should continue.

As we leave this House to participate in a general election, we must ask ourselves the fundamental question, "What more must be done in terms of political reform?" It is clear that the political and electoral systems have not served the people of this country well. Let us be honest, when we reflect that young people had to emigrate from this country in 1950s and in the 1980s when I myself had to leave, and now again when we see so many people facing the pain of unemployment and emigration, we must ask ourselves if the political institutions and our electoral system have served the people well and can we do better? The answer, of course, is "Yes". This time of crisis offers us an opportunity to debate these issues and in the electoral competition which will now take place we have such an opportunity.

It is time for a new electoral system in this country, where we would have a reduced Dáil of perhaps 120 Members, with 60 being elected from single seat constituencies and 60 being elected from what is called a "list system". That would be the best way froward. It serves the people of other countries well and it would serve us well. We could draw on a pool of expertise and we could have more women participating in politics. That is the way forward. It is the type of radical reform that is now required as we enter this election. I hope-----

A Deputy:

The Deputy was a Minister for three years.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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-----that we will get change in the next Dáil.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy is no longer a Minister. He is not in charge now.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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It seems we will have a Dáil and a new Government consisting of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Deputy Kenny in likelihood will be Taoiseach and Deputy Gilmore will be Tánaiste.

A Deputy:

It is not over yet.

A Deputy:

Do not give up so early, John.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Do people really believe that will deliver change?

A Deputy:

What about yourself?

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow Deputy Gormley to continue without interruption.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I do not believe that will deliver change. I do not believe for one moment that such a Government would reverse the cuts that have had to be introduced. I believe we will get an election full of false promises and false hope, and that is wrong.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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We need honesty in this election.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Like the Deputy's promise to stop the incinerator project in Poolbeg.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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If that is not going to happen, we will revert to the old politics that so many here are decrying.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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That gave us planet Bertie.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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It is vitally important-----

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy did not get to ban the Ward Union after all his talk.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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-----that we have strong representation of the Green Party in the next Dail.

Photo of Shane McEnteeShane McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Its members are still hunting.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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As I said earlier, I have always found the Taoiseach to be a decent person. We have had our strong disagreements but I hope he will agree with me that there is a great regret that we did not get to some of the important legislation, including the ban on corporate donations-----

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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It was so important that its introduction could wait three and half years.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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-----to break the link between big business and political parties. Are the Members opposite prepared to do that? Are they prepared to put through a climate change Bill-----

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Where was the Deputy for the past three years?

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy is lecturing.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy has his chance.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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-----which recognises that peak oil and dwindling resources are a reality, that we now have a population on the planet of 7 billion which will increase to 9 billion in 2050? The Members opposite can smile about this but that is a reality.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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This is a debate-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies, please. Deputy Gormley to conclude.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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If they do not have the imagination or the courage to face up to that, then I am afraid it will be the politics of old-----

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The election of a lord mayor was more important than those issues.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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-----tweedle dum and tweedle dummer. That is what we will get, unfortunately.

(Interruptions).

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Let us face up to that reality.

A Deputy:

The Deputy will be good in opposition.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Let us have an honest debate and let us ensure that in the next Dáil we have a strong Green Party presence to hold the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party to account.

Photo of Lucinda CreightonLucinda Creighton (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)
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Like the Deputy's party held Fianna Fáil to account.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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I wish all Deputies well in the forthcoming election. Let us have a fair competition.

Considering that we talk in the House about regulations and fair play, it is a pity the Deputy from Dublin South-East has to breach the litter laws by putting up posters early. Let us have a fair election at all times.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle and all the Deputies and wish them well.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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On behalf of the Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála, I welcome the dissolution of the Dáil today. It is long overdue. Cuirim fáilte roimh lánscor na Dála seo. Tá sé thar am agus tá sé in am don phobal anois cinneadh a dhéanamh ar thodhchaí na tíre.

All Deputies receive calls to their Dáil offices from members of the public. Often the callers are the old, sick and vulnerable. Yesterday, my office received a call from an elderly man whose blind pension was cut in the budget. He had one simple message: "Give us a voice". We all must listen to him and to countless others like him.

On this day when the Dáil is dissolved, the cut to the minimum wage comes into effect. That is just one of the ways the least well off in society have been forced to pay for what I repeat are the disastrous decisions made by the outgoing Government.

People are being impoverished so the Government can throw money into the banking black hole. Some €873 million was cut from social welfare in the recent budget, yet only yesterday Anglo Irish Bank, the zombie bank that is being propped up with Irish taxpayers' money, paid out €750 million, which is almost as much, for a maturing bond, despite the fact that the debt is not covered by the State guarantee.

We in Sinn Féin are proud of the part we have played in the 30th Dáil in defending people's rights and in holding to account one of the worst Governments ever seen, not only in this country but anywhere. Sinn Féin played a key role in finally removing this Government, through exposing the full extent of its contacts with Anglo Irish Bank executives. We have stood firm against the consensus for cuts. We have stood for the democratic rights of the people, including those in Donegal South-West, in which constituency we won the by-election. The election of Deputy Pearse Doherty set in train the events that have resulted in the fall of this Government.

We have stood against the IMF-EU deal. I call on all parties in this general election to make clear to the European Union, the IMF and the wider international community that this deal is not acceptable, not affordable and ruinous to the Irish economy and the Irish people. It was negotiated and imposed by a discredited Government and it must be set aside. Any parties going before the electorate should make it clear that is their intent if they are to form a Government.

At the start of the 30th Dáil, we stood against the Lisbon treaty and warned that it would reduce economic and political sovereignty. We were proven right. The "Yes" parties in this Dáil urged people to vote "Yes" for jobs. Where are those jobs now? For so many of our young people, they are in Australia and other foreign locations.

This general election will be about what we and the other parties stand for. The most critical issue, on which I hope we are, at least, agreed, is employment. We cannot protect and create jobs without strategic investment to develop infrastructure, foster enterprise and enhance public services. Sinn Féin has put forward a plan to do that.

We need to protect our public services. They are the people's services – health, education and, for those dependent on them, social welfare supports. All of these areas must be defended. We need to stop the attacks on the incomes of families struggling to survive and we need political reform. We need politics based on commitment, not careerism. We need a vision and a strategy for an Ireland of equals and a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin in the days and weeks ahead will be setting out our proposals in detail and we look forward to the debates that will offer. We are confident that we will return to the Thirty-first Dáil with a greatly strengthened mandate to serve the Irish people. More important, the Irish people need a new Dáil that will put the people's interests first.

I listened with interest to Deputy Gormley's contribution, in particular his closing remarks. He has made a prediction regarding the formulation of Government and who the Taoiseach and Tánaiste might be. I have been listening carefully, not only this afternoon but for some considerable time, and I am not so sure his prediction is on solid ground. As to the notion that we are facing Tweedledum and Tweedledumber, for heaven's sake, I thought that was what was going out the door today.

At this juncture, I would be remiss if I did not extend my personal thanks and good wishes to my Dáil colleague, Deputy Arthur Morgan, and thank him for his service and his years of colleagueship in this Chamber since 2002. I wish Arthur and Marion health and happiness for all the years before them. I take the opportunity sincerely to wish all retiring Dáil Deputies the very best for their respective futures, too.

I extend to the Taoiseach and his wife and children in these last moments of his holding that office my personal best wishes for the future that lies before you all. Gach beannacht daoibh i gconaí.

I will conclude with words from the Democratic Programme for the First Dáil. Dúirt an Clár Oibre Poblachtánach:

Is mian linn an ceart, an saoirse agus cothrom do chách a bheith mar bhuntacaí rialú na tíre...

We declare that we desire our country to be ruled in accordance with the principles of liberty, equality and justice for all.

Now let the people decide.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Before I adjourn the Thirtieth Dáil, I would like to say a few words. As parliamentarians, we turn to the final arbiters, those who hold to themselves the right to designate the rulers of the State, namely, the people.

Some of our number retired during this term, some passed on. Let us remember them and the good work that they did in the service of our people. Some here today have signalled their intention not to seek re-election. I would like to pay tribute to you now and to thank you for your work, some spanning many, many years. You can be proud of your achievements.

To those who are seeking re-election, I wish you well. You will bring to the rulers of this State your policies so that they may decide the national policy according to the requirements of the common good. It is now for them to decide the path to be followed. The Dáil now stands adjourned. Tá an Dáil ar athló.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.