Dáil debates

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

2:00 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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A Thaoisigh, creidim go bhfuil fógra agat mar eolas don Teach.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Nach iontach ar fad go bhfuil slua mór anseo inniu.

Ba mhaith liom a chur in iúl duit, a Cheann Comhairle, tar éis ghnó na Dála seo, go mbeidh mé ag dul amach go hÁras an Uachtaráin, go dtabharfaidh mé litir ag éirí as an bpost seo chuig an Uachtarán agus go mbeidh sé sin ag dul i bhfeidhm láithreach.

I was hoping that having said that much, I could leave quickly and quietly but the business of the Dáil is such that I no longer have any control over how it is to be conducted. The prospect of making a speech or listening to them, either of glorification or flagellation, is not something that I really relish because this has never been about me. It has always been about the problems and challenges our people and country face. That said, I am very happy to have the opportunity to thank the Ceann Comhairle, his predecessors and all the staff of the House for their assistance and unfailing courtesy not just over the last six years as Taoiseach but over the past 42 years since I have been a Member of the House. It was Teddy Roosevelt who said "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." I have been truly blessed I have had that chance. I am eternally grateful to the Irish people and particularly the people of Mayo for repeatedly giving me that opportunity. I really believe that politics is work worth doing, a noble profession. Despite the many scandals and disappointments, I believe the vast majority of people elected to this House are here because we have an interest in and love for our communities and country and we wish to make a difference. For me, cynicism is always an easy cop-out. The true measure of worth and courage is to keep trying again and again, knowing that much of that effort will go unrewarded. I understand the people's disillusionment with politics and the political process. I believe that a first step towards overcoming that might be for us as politicians to treat one other with a greater degree of respect. We can argue vehemently the merits of issues or measures without questioning one another's motives or intent. Politics is always about people and government is always about making decisions. For my own part, I am the first to acknowledge I have not got everything right but I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people.

I thank my colleagues in government for their efforts and support in trying to make an unprecedented and difficult situation work. I also wish to recognise the contributions of the Members opposite, of the Fianna Fáil Party with their leader, Deputy Micheál Martin. It would be remiss of me not to mention the Labour Party for its enormous contribution to the success of the last Government, which under the leadership of Eamon Gilmore and Deputy Joan Burton, with the central involvement of the current leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Brendan Howlin, played a critical role in the rescue of the Irish economy. I thank them all for that. To my party colleagues, I want to say it has been a privilege and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to lead the party for 15 years, and the last six years in government. I wish them all good health to continue the work to overcome and deal with the many challenges that lie ahead.

I passed through Strade recently, which is the birthplace and final resting place of Michael Davitt. To paraphrase what he said in his will to the Irish people, to all my friends I leave kind thoughts, to others I express my fullest forgiveness and to Ireland my undying prayer for absolute freedom and independence, which it has always been my ambition to achieve for her. I hope that in the two Governments I have led, we have made a modest contribution towards that ambition.

2:05 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I now call on Deputy Micheál Martin.

2:10 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom i dtús báire ar son Pháirtí Fhianna Fáil agus ar mo shon féin buíochas a ghabháil leis an Taoiseach as ucht na hoibre a chuir sé isteach ar son mhuintir na tíre. Tírghráthóir ab ea é a chuir an daonlathas chun tosaigh i gcónaí ina chuid oibre. Tá 42 bliain caite aige mar Theachta Dála ag freastal ar mhuintir Mhaigh Eo agus tá siad buíoch as. Tá súil agam go mbainfidh an Taoiseach agus a bhean céile, Fionnuala, taitneamh agus tairbhe as na blianta atá le teacht.

On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I acknowledge the Taoiseach's resignation and wish him the best in the years ahead. Today's announcement is perhaps attended by less drama than is usual in circumstances such as these. In recent months, the Taoiseach has given a master class to certain of his colleagues in how to manoeuvre a difficult situation in a beneficial direction. Rather than disappearing quietly at the first sign of panic from Deputies more focused on polls than the work of government, he has managed events so that they have proceeded at his desired pace. He has ensured that those who were stalking the corridors in search of journalists to brief against him have been obliged to issue lengthy statements describing him as the greatest Irishman since Brian Boru. The mischievous enjoyment he has taken in this has been a genuine joy to behold.

The Taoiseach came to this House as a young man and has witnessed many major figures here in the years since. He has seen eight others hold the office from which he will resign today and leave some time after 2 p.m. tomorrow. This experience means he does not need anyone to tell him that it is not colleagues or columnists who determine one's place in history; it is the perspective of time which will provide this.

The Taoiseach and I are from different political parties and I and my party have opposed him in many things. We have fought against him in tough elections and debated with him on every available occasion. There is no useful purpose to be served by going over those disputes. Throughout his time in elected office and in government he has been a proud representative of his community, political tradition and country. He is today, as he always has been, an Irish patriot and democrat. The office he leaves is the most significant in a State which is one of the world's longest continuous democracies. It is central to the Irish democratic republican tradition which has achieved so much and which overcame immense challenges in the past half century in particular.

Sport has always been important for the Taoiseach and the failure of Mayo to lift the Sam Maguire Cup during his term has been a great burden for him. However, his interest in sport has always been much wider. I share with him a love of the great days of boxing, particularly the "We were kings" era. This was something I learned at home from my late father whose boxing exploits are still a great source of pride for our family. I know the Taoiseach was often inspired looking at the great encounters of the early and mid-1970s. The look of sheer joy on his face was unmissable when he met his hero, Muhammad Ali, early in his term. Ali once said, "He who is not courageous enough to take risks will [achieve] nothing in life." The Taoiseach was courageous when he agreed to take over the leadership of his party when it was at such a low ebb in 2002. He was courageous when he decisively faced down those who challenged him and then went on to win the 2011 general election. Most of all, it was incredibly courageous of him to give his heart and soul to working on his job in Dublin knowing that Michael Ring was back in Mayo stealing his votes. I know he will continue to represent the people of Mayo in Dáil Éireann-----

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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When Michael Ring is in Dublin.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----so today is about resigning from one important office while continuing to hold another.

On my behalf and on that of the Fianna Fáil Party, I extend best wishes to you, Fionnuala, Aoibhinn, Ferdia, Naoise and the rest of your family. I hope you will have many years ahead in which to enjoy the comfort of a large circle of friends, a strong community and a passionate interest in our country's future. Go raibh míle maith agat.

2:15 pm

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I want to start by wishing the outgoing Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, well. Tá muintir Fhine Gael agus Mhaigh Eo buíoch don Taoiseach agus tá mé buíoch don Taoiseach fosta. Ní aontaím leis ar a lán rudaí, ach tá a fhios agam go ndearna sé a dhícheall.

Sinn Féin and Fine Gael did not agree on many issues and I did not see eye to eye on most political issues with the Taoiseach, but I have always found Enda to be friendly on a personal level, and I want to wish him, his wife, Fionnuala, and his children, Naoise, Aoibhinn and Ferdia, well in the time ahead. His departure from office will be a big change in all of their lives and in his life also. I hope that he get loads of time to enjoy that.

I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had and, indeed, meetings you have not had, and recollections of people you have met along the way, like the man with the two pints in one hand. I will miss your optimistic energy, your jizz, your sense of mischief, and your ability to field questions without giving the smallest clue as to your attitude to the questions you were asked. Forty-two years is a long time to be in the Leinster House bubble and you have earned your time off outside this place. So has the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan. I wish the two of you well. Go n-éirí an t-ádh libh.

There have been successes, for example, marriage equality and the way the Taoiseach captured the popular mood about the unacceptable attitudes in history of the Catholic hierarchy. However, it is important, and he would expect me to do this, to note that there have been abject failures, for example, his consistent refusal to recognise the state of Palestine for reasons beyond me and despite the Oireachtas support for it, the squandering of the largest mandate in the history of the State as the Fine Gael-Labour Government reneged on election promises, kowtowed to the elites in the EU and the banking and finance sectors, and saddled the people of this State with a debt of €65 billion. According to the Minister, Deputy Noonan, in the Seanad last month, the debt was approximately €25 billion before the crisis in 2007 and has increased to €200 billion, eight times more than what it was in 2007. No one has really been held responsible for that. This lack of accountability - this failure to hold those in positions of power to account - is the greatest failure of all. It is an historical failure and is not all down to the Taoiseach. Other failures include the historical refusal to tackle white collar crime and stamp out corruption, the ongoing crisis in housing and homelessness, the chaos in our health service, the deep crisis in policing and justice and the Government's deeply flawed strategy for dealing with the challenges of Brexit.

The reality is that Fine Gael, no matter who is its leader, is firmly wedded to bad policies and bad politics. It does not serve all the people, it serves some of the people. The Fianna Fáil leader is no different. He is now going to elect a second Fine Gael Taoiseach. That will mean more hardship and greater disadvantage, not least for the people of rural Ireland, the growth of precarious work and poverty wages, more people locked out of the housing market and, ultimately, the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.

Another of the greatest failings - it is an historical failure - has been a clear lack of affinity with the North, one of the deepest problems facing the political system here, and a clear lack of consistent strategic engagement with the process of change that is under way on this island. The British Government has refused to honour commitments on a bill of rights, dealing with legacy issues, Acht na Gaeilge and other matters. Holding it to account is the role of the Irish Government, and the Taoiseach in particular.

Leaving aside the renewable heat incentive, RHI, scandal, the reason the institutions are not functional is because the DUP has wilfully blocked the implementation of these rights. The Taoiseach rightly expressed concerns about any deal between the DUP and the Tories last Saturday. The only way to address this is through consistent, strategic engagement.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin met both Governments and the other parties and it is our intention to see the political institutions restored on the basis of equality, respect and rights for all. The British Government, however, will not play its part unless the Irish Government makes these matters a priority.

The Taoiseach can look back on his 42 years here and take satisfaction from his achievements, but the biggest challenges remain. Struggle is a continuum; it is an ongoing process. The struggle to build a rights-based society in which the people are sovereign continues. The struggle continues for an Ireland which has a public health service and affordable child care and where a home is a right, not a dream. The struggle continues for an Ireland which is united and where equality rules. The struggle continues for an Ireland - all 32 counties - which is the best small country in which to grow up, grow old and enjoy life. Such an Ireland is possible.

Enda Kenny is probably the best leader Fine Gael ever had. I do not blame him for not bringing about the objectives to which I refer. In fairness, perhaps they were never his intention. They are, however, Sinn Féin's intention and I call on everyone who shares these objectives to work for them, regardless of their party politics. Tá a fhios agam go maith go raibh an Taoiseach ag súil leis an méid a bhí ráite agamsa inniu ach, mar a dúirt mé, bhí sé an-chairdiúil. Rinne sé a dhícheall agus guím gach rath agus beannacht air féin, ar a bhean chéile agus ar a chlann san am atá le teacht.

2:20 pm

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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On my own behalf and on that of the Labour Party, I wish the Taoiseach well and every success in his retirement. I have no doubt that others will use the opportunity provided by this short debate to attack him and his legacy. I will not do that, but neither will I embarrass either of us by presenting a hagiography of him.

We served together in two Governments. In the 1990s, during the very successful rainbow coalition, the Taoiseach served as the Minister for Tourism and Trade. In fact, he sat beside me. From Cabinet meetings back then, I still recall a strength that in many ways has later come to define Deputy Enda Kenny in his role as Taoiseach. That, quite simply, is his boundless enthusiasm. He is, of course, a politician of great skill and determination, but I think it is the hopeful, happy Enda Kenny that the Irish people have, and will continue to, identify with most. In 2011, that attitude was exactly what our country needed. Every day back then seemed to begin with a depressing litany of economic statistics and harrowing stories of their impact and the impact of the unfolding crisis on people and families the length and breadth of our country. Some could not quite understand the Taoiseach's high-fives with schoolchildren back then, but he saw two things quite clearly: first, he recognised that after the dark would come the dawn; and, second, he recognised that, in the meantime, we needed some superficial light just to keep going.

Some have chosen to caricature Deputy Enda Kenny's time as Taoiseach as encompassing the entire crisis. That is nothing short of revisionism. It suits some of those who made no contribution to the recovery to suggest that he was in charge of the downfall as well. Of course, Fianna Fáil now likes to imagine that time began in 2011, but it did not. That party's crashing of the economy and its infliction of the most vicious elements of the crisis period will be addressed at another time.

We did not get everything right in our time together in the previous Government. We certainly did not agree on every issue and had very trenchant challenges of opinion on more than one occasion. However, our central role was to fix the mess that had been created by others. As you step down today, Taoiseach, that remains, in my view, your greatest achievement and your greatest legacy, and I believe in time it will be recognised as such.

While the economy dominated much time following the 2011 election, that was not the only area on which you left a lasting impact. In July 2011, you addressed this House on the Cloyne report in stark terms. You stated back then:

[T]he Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a Canon lawyer. This calculated, withering position is the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion on which the Roman Church was founded.

That speech made its way around the world in no time at all, and rightly so. When you spoke, you spoke not only on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of the whole people. It was not the last time that the words you used were expressed on behalf of all our people.

For a man who is sometimes derided for your folksy charms, you certainly know when to speak with impact when you choose to do so. Abortion and marriage equality were difficult issues for you. My party had a strong position on legislating for the X case and on holding a referendum on marriage equality. You did not agree to either in the beginning, but to your credit, once you changed your view, you stuck to it regardless of the political cost.

Of course, you step down today untainted by corruption. In many countries that might not merit a mention, but in this one it does. That you did not see power as an opportunity for personal enrichment is worthy of mention and in sharp contrast to some of your predecessors.

On a personal level, I wish you well. You have done the State and the people of Mayo great service over many years. I have no doubt Fionnuala is looking forward to having you home a little more often and that Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise will enjoy a little more time with their dad from now on.

Taoiseach, is leor ó mhór a dícheall agus tá do dhícheall déanta agat. I thank you for your service and wish good health to you and yours in the years to come.

2:25 pm

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Solidarity)
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Honesty in politics is important and so I will not engage in fake backslapping. I congratulate the Taoiseach on writing his own speech, which I believe he did. I was a bit bemused at him mentioning Michael Davitt, a revolutionary and socialist, but we will leave that aside.

In summing up the Taoiseach's legacy, I could focus on six years of unprecedented austerity suffered by the many to bail out the few, the massive homeless and health crisis he is leaving in his wake, or indeed the crisis in the Garda and in the State. However, in the short time I have and on the day that is in it, I will pick one issue that sums up completely the type of Ireland that the Taoiseach and the establishment he has so ably represented bequeathed in his five decades in the Dáil. I refer to the incarceration, internment and imprisonment of a vulnerable pregnant teenager who asked for an abortion and asked for help. Although we know little of the circumstances, we do know that a pregnant child should not be forced to have a child. A pregnant child in legal terms is a raped child.

A pregnant person best knows how she feels about being pregnant. People around the country are comparing this outrage to an episode of A Handmaid's Tale.

Twenty-five years ago this nation rose up at the incarceration of a teenage rape victim but it is still happening under the Taoiseach's watch because he did nothing to make sure it would not happen again. Under the much-heralded Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, about which the Taoiseach and the Labour Party boast, it has proven impossible for any suicidal person to access an abortion because women are put through an inquisition, their feelings are ignored and their rights to bodily and mental autonomy are completely ignored. This event happened last year. We do not know what happened to this girl, whether she succeeded in getting an abortion or if she was forced to remain pregnant. We have a history, which has been mentioned today, of incarcerating pregnant women and girls. We thought that era was over but many people have been outraged by what they found out in the past 24 hours, namely, that a psychiatrist would have the power, with his or her own views, to section a girl for the crime of wanting not to be pregnant. It seems it is an illness warranting being locked up to want an abortion. Not alone that, but it appears a judge heard and adjudicated upon this case and awarded a guardian to the girl and - wait for it -her foetus.

2:30 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am reluctant to interfere with any Member's contribution today but I am afraid Deputy Coppinger is venturing into territory that is completely at odds with the business that is before us today.

Photo of Michael D'ArcyMichael D'Arcy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Solidarity)
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With the legacy of the Taoiseach-----

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Coppinger is talking about a specific case on which none of us has full information.

Photo of Ruth CoppingerRuth Coppinger (Dublin West, Solidarity)
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Thank you a Cheann Comhairle, I will bear that in mind. I am going on the information we have and I am generalising. As I said, a judge adjudicated on the case. The Taoiseach is going and I hope the reactionary policies are going with him. I hope the backwardness that was visited on young people in this country for so many decades will also go. The Taoiseach has had his time. Hopefully, we will have a different time and the yearning there is for a different type of society, among young people in particular, can be brought about.

In conclusion, I hope we see a movement now to bring about the separation of church and State and the type of legislation that gives the person involved the right to make this decision for themselves. Hopefully, that movement will not take very long with the new incumbent. We will find out but I encourage people to actively ensure that it happens because we cannot trust the people in this Dáil to ensure that these cases do not happen again.

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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I wish to share five minutes with Deputy Thomas Pringle if that is all right.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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I was beginning to think I was in a scene from "Julius Caesar" given the mixture of praising and burying that has been going on. It can be difficult to separate the man from the party and the policies. My main criticism about the policies could be encapsulated in the slogan, "Keep the recovery going" because we know the recovery was not felt by so many people and that there were constituencies and areas - part of which I represent - which suffered most considerably with the savage cuts in community, youth and addiction services. While difficult decisions and sacrifices had to be made, it was regrettable that the sacrifices were on the part of those who could least suffer them.

I have been here eight years, so when it comes to separating the man from the party and the policies in those eight years I will remember the Taoiseach as Opposition leader first and then as Taoiseach, as somebody who was always personable, friendly, approachable, somebody with great energy and, very importantly, somebody with a sense of humour. Ní féidir gan aitheantas a thabhairt do chumas Gaeilge an Taoisigh agus an chaoi a mbain sé úsáid as an nGaeilge.

One of the most moving moments here was the apology to the ladies of the Magdalen laundries. Of course it was an apology that should never have been made, but yet the Taoiseach made it and he did it in a way that they found very satisfactory. I also acknowledge the Taoiseach's personal involvement in the north-east inner city over the past horrible time that the residents and communities have been suffering there. I know it was appreciated by them the way in which the Taoiseach engaged, the way in which he came out and the way in which he understood the anxieties and tensions for the people there, especially children and the elderly. He listened and he took on board what was happening. I trust his successor will also continue that part of his legacy. Críochnóidh mé le seanfhocal: uaireanta, is é an bóthar is faide an bóthar is casta. The Taoiseach has had a very long road. There have been lots of twists and turns and I wish him well on whatever road he will take from here on in.

2:40 pm

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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I take this opportunity to personally wish the Taoiseach well on his retirement and to wish him and his family well for the future. There is no doubt that Fine Gael will make much of the fact that he is the Taoiseach who led Ireland out of the bailout and into the recovery. We on this side of the House, however, believe that the State could have had a very different recovery that would have benefited all of the citizens rather than a recovery that benefits a few.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to visit a day centre in Donegal for adults who have intellectual disabilities. One of the service users, who has been using the centre for two years, was approved for one-on-one care in his centre. Two years later, the person for this care has yet to be recruited. This is the legacy of the recovery that people see every day right across this country. That is the unfortunate thing about it.

Chancellor Angela Merkel makes much of saying that one must never miss the opportunity of a crisis. I believe Ireland has missed it big time here for the ordinary citizens in Ireland; they have not seen an improvement overall through the recovery. From a Fine Gael point of view, the Taoiseach has managed the recovery well because we now have more than 110,000 millionaires in the State. This figure has grown exponentially though the period of the crisis. This will be a sad reflection on his legacy, when it could have been so much more.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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On behalf of the Rural Independent Group, I invite Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I wish the Taoiseach, his wife, Fionnuala and all of his family the very best of good luck, health and happiness for the many years ahead.

My late father held him personally in very high regard - the Taoiseach knows this himself, they both got on very well - and he always complimented the Taoiseach's record of work and his genuine commitment to politics. Whether or not people agreed with him politically, nobody could or can ever take that from the Taoiseach. He is a worker and that is a nice thing to be able to say about anybody.

When this is over, the Taoiseach will have more time to give in a very important place. That is a place called Kilcummin in Killarney, County Kerry. He will have more time to do the Ring of Kerry cycle. He will not have to be as quick; he can go a bit slower as he will not have as many places to go to and the end of it. The Taoiseach will actually be able to go into Murphy's or into the Fáilte on College Street and maybe even have a pint. The one thing he will be able to do is to watch Kerry winning another Munster final, take notes and go back to Mayo with them.

On a serious note, while I do wish him well, I also want to thank another group of people here today. That is the Irish people. When we talk about the recovery, the people who suffered, who sacrificed their incomes and who really had a tough time over the last years, were the Irish people. I think of those people today - those who are in pain and suffering; the young people who have high mortgages repayments and who are struggling, and those people on waiting lists who are still not sorted out. There is a big job of work to be done. I do not say this in a critical way but in a positive way to the incoming Government and the new Ministers. There is a massive job of work to be done and we must all stick together and work together, in a positive way, to reduce waiting lists, to ensure that people have work, to ensure our health system is something we can be proud of and not be critical of and people will not be blinded while waiting to have cataracts removed, and to ensure that farmers will have their payments on time. In other words, we must do our job properly and correctly. That is all I ask of the new Ministers, and I ask this is in the most positive way. I compliment the Opposition and everybody. We all just have to row in and do our job. It is as simple as that. Good luck to the Taoiseach.

Photo of Michael HartyMichael Harty (Clare, Independent)
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As a first time Deputy, I believe Ireland is a fantastic democracy. It is diverse, edgy, free of fear and free of terror. The Taoiseach is a credit to making that situation possible. He upholds this democracy extremely well. He has addressed social issues that have shaped Irish culture and he has restored our confidence in ourselves. The Taoiseach addressed the financial crisis. He and his Cabinet took very hard decisions, which have been painful for all of us in society.

There are some legacy issues relating to austerity, health and housing which I hope the next Administration will be able to resolve.

The Taoiseach has represented Ireland in Europe and the United States with great wit and enthusiasm and has ensured that we are respected worldwide. He has influenced the progress of Ireland's position in the Brexit negotiations and ensured that we are at the top of the agenda. I congratulate him on that.

On a lighter note, as mentioned by Deputy Adams, the Taoiseach has mastered the art of not answering a question and taking up to three and a half minutes to complete that task. Unlike my Kerry colleagues who always answer a question with another question, the Taoiseach neither answers the question nor asks a question - I am joking, of course.

The Taoiseach has been a decent and honest politician, with no taint of corruption during his tenure in office or as a Deputy, which is what we would always expect of our politicians. I compliment the Taoiseach in that regard. He has always tried to do the best for the Irish people and he has dealt with us honestly. On a personal level, he was always dealt with me very fairly.

I wish the Taoiseach, his wife and his family long happiness, not in retirement, I am sure, but in a new phase of their lives.

2:50 pm

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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I wish to share time with Deputy Eamon Ryan.

On behalf of the Social Democrats, I join other speakers in acknowledging the Taoiseach's significant contribution to Irish politics and public life. However, there is no gainsaying the political differences between the Taoiseach's party, Fine Gael, and the Social Democrats. We come from two very different political traditions, namely, Christian democracy and social democracy. We have different value systems and very different views on solutions to some of the major issues facing the country. Indeed, we have frequently clashed. However, where we are in agreement is on the importance of public service, especially in the political arena, and the potential for individuals to effect change by their contribution to public life.

The Taoiseach has devoted practically his entire adult life to the service of politics - 42 years as a Deputy, 15 years as Fine Gael leader and six years as Taoiseach. That is a remarkable record by any standard. In that time, he set a number of new records within Fine Gael. Those are records in which, I am sure, he has taken great pride. He has displayed many strong personal attributes that have served him well in politics, including longevity - which is clearly important - energy, determination, steeliness and a remarkable and important ability to remain upbeat and positive even in the face of some terrible adversity.

Over the course of his political career since 1975, especially since becoming leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach, not only has Deputy Enda Kenny made a significant contribution to political life, he has also undoubtedly made some very significant personal sacrifices. It is important that we all acknowledge this and express our gratitude for it. We must also acknowledge the personal contribution and sacrifices made by the Taoiseach's wife, Fionnuala, and their three children. It is important that we thank them also. I wish the Taoiseach and Fionnuala good health and happiness and the opportunity to spend a lot more time together in their beloved Mayo and to catch up on all of those things they have had to put on hold over the years. Best wishes to you both.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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There was truth in the words expressed earlier by the Taoiseach in respect of the great merits of hard work in a job that is worth doing. The Taoiseach has shown that over the years. Most people who have worked with him would acknowledge that he has great energy and ability for work hard. We commend him on and thank him for that.

The Taoiseach stated that, in terms of politics, we could be more collaborative and that democracy works better when we respect each other. As Deputy Adams and others have already noted, this is true of the Taoiseach.

He has shown such a collaborative and, indeed, courteous approach in the ten or 15 years I have been here.

Everyone has different versions of history, and within families one always gets different tales of something that happened. My version of the history of the past nine years - this crucial period in Ireland's history - is slightly different from that of Deputy Howlin. We started to get into crisis exactly nine years ago, in June 2008, and the Taoiseach has had a central role in what has happened in recent years, whether we have got out of it or not. My recollection of 2011 is the metaphor of a relay race where we needed to hand the baton on. The Taoiseach took the baton and made sure it did not fall. We were all lucky in having a Minister for Finance who saw eye to eye with the previous Minister, Brian Lenihan, on what needed to be done. We do not know whether it was the right thing or the wrong thing and it is impossible to know what would have happened if we had let everything go, but the Taoiseach and his Cabinet colleagues decided, as we had done previously, not to let it go. The Taoiseach showed particular skill in holding everyone together in Government in those very uncertain times. It was not easy and people see leadership in all sorts of different things, but holding everything together and stopping it from falling is very important, as is bringing people together, which is what the Taoiseach did in the two Cabinets he led.

I regret that, while we stabilised the country, we did not reform. We did not do what we needed to do, which is to move to a different economic model, one which is fairer and more about developing communities than about the interests of profit and the market. That may be something we can turn to with the changing of the guard. We also need to change our approach to how we live with nature but that is the start and the heart of every community. We live with and are an integral part of nature and we have to protect it. The economy will be better if we do so. In recent months, when the Taoiseach may have known the finish line was approaching and may have not needed to worry so much, I heard him speak - not in this House but elsewhere - and it seemed to me he had started to get it. He seemed to be thinking in a bigger, longer-term way of what we needed to do. Perhaps, as he heads on to his next task, he will be an ambassador for big thinking along these lines. Maybe this will be led from Mayo, the cutting edge of Europe, a green county in a green country leading us into new and better economic ways. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat ar an slí nua.

2:55 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Finally, on behalf of the Independent Alliance, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross.


Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent)
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I thank the Ceann Comhairle and I thank the House for such a warm welcome. The Taoiseach is doing something unique today. He is not only departing with dignity, he is departing at a high point in his career. I can assure the House that longevity itself is not a great achievement but to have achieved longevity while having achieved so much in his latter years is something the Independent Alliance and others in this House ought to recognise. It is no coincidence that the Taoiseach is widely recognised globally and internationally as a great achiever who has done a fantastically noble job for Ireland at tables in Europe and the United States, and maybe it is a reflection on Irish politics that he is not sometimes recognised with such applause by commentators and others in this country.

I have been very critical of the Taoiseach on many occasions, both in and out of Government, but I salute his achievements today, particularly in recent months in regard to Brexit and the global initiatives he has taken.

As was recognised by speakers from the Opposition, the Taoiseach has taken steps of reform that were difficult for him due to the conservative background from which he emerged. Other speakers have eloquently referred to his speech on the publication of the Cloyne report and to the fact that he took up the issue of gay marriage and was a convert to its promotion. In a long political life, it is essential that people adapt to the conditions and it would be wrong not to recognise that many people in this House have changed their minds on issues of that nature. The Taoiseach has done so unapologetically and with conviction. If there were pressures on him on those particular issues, my guess is that they came from the other side to that to which he so readily changed.

He found himself in a bit of jam after the last general election because he ended up with the Independent Alliance in government. It would be wrong not to say that it presented difficulties for him and for us. The first few months in government together were very hard. Some say the reason for that is that there were cultural differences without any culture, although that may not necessarily be the case. There were differences in approach, which did not happen in the Civil War politics that unfortunately still seem to reign today. However, the Taoiseach has been an extremely helpful colleague on difficult matters. He has been the glue which kept the Government together in recent months because he is prepared to compromise and he leaves a legacy of a Government which is not just mature but is now stable. I hope that those who do not recognise that will do so in the coming month.

The final tribute to him is that, whatever the situation has been over the past six years, during which there have been problems, difficulties and legitimate criticisms of Government, Cabinet and the Taoiseach, it is undoubtedly true that the morale of the country is now higher than it was when he took office. As Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan rightly said, some people did not benefit from the recovery and that is a fair criticism. Overall, however, the nation is in a better place. Those people who are in a bad place are in a better place than they were when he took office. They are not in a perfect place but they are in a better place. Nobody should fail to recognise that. It is true that some have been advantaged more than others but, generally speaking, the Taoiseach and Deputy Noonan leave this country with a morale and confidence it did not have when they took office.

3:00 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Ar mo shon féin, guím sláinte mhaith agus saol fada sonasach ar an Taoiseach tar éis a chuid oibre anseo. To synopsise what most Members have said, we recognise the enormity of the positive contribution the Taoiseach has made to this House and the affairs of State. I call on the Minister of State to propose the adjournment of the House.

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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It is proposed that the House will adjourn until 12 noon on Wednesday, 14 June 2017, upon which the arrangements for that day will be proposed.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Dáil adjourned at 2.55 p.m. until 12 noon on Wednesday, 14 June 2017.