Saturday, 27 June 2020
Taoiseach a Ainmniú (Atógáil) - Nomination of Taoiseach (Resumed)
Is é an chéad gnó atá le déanamh againn ná Taoiseach a ainmniú de bhun Airteagal 13.1.1° den Bhunreacht. Having called on proposers and seconders, I will then call upon parties or groups that have not made a nomination to speak. The Business Committee has agreed that a proposer and seconder shall have five minutes each, and each party or group that has not made a nomination shall have ten minutes each.
I call Deputy Norma Foley whom I believe will nominate Deputy Micheál Martin for the post of Taoiseach.
Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle, as ucht an t-am agus an deis seo a thabhairt dom. Rachaidh mé gan mhoill chuig obair thábhactach an lae. Tairgim:
Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Micheál Martin chun a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Thaoiseach.
That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Micheál Martin for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach.
"Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast." When the great playwright, William Shakespeare, composed these lines some 400 years ago, I imagine he never envisaged the 160 Deputies of the 33rd Dáil taking his advice quite so much to heart, but here we are.
It will soon be five months since each one of us was given a mandate to serve as a Member of Dáil Éireann. When we first met on 20 February, the unprecedented diversity of this Dáil meant that we were unable to elect a Taoiseach. Soon afterwards, our country began and continues to feel the impact of a global pandemic of a scale and magnitude that has not been seen for over 100 years. These have been difficult months, during which every part of our society has experienced an unprecedented strain. The priority has, quite rightly, been on trying to bring the pandemic under control and to limit its impact. Exceptional efforts have also been undertaken to make sure that we have continued to have a functioning Government and Parliament. However, the constitutional and political imperative to form a new Government after a general election has always remained.
The Fianna Fáil Party has worked within its mandate to engage with others, first on core principles and then on the much harder work of agreeing a detailed programme for Government.
We have also engaged with a range of non-party Deputies. The resultant programme for Government sets out a clear roadmap for recovery and renewal in our country. It commits to an investment-led recovery and urgent, proactive action. On housing, health, education, the historic challenge of tackling climate change, and many other areas, it is a comprehensive plan that, without doubt, involves compromise, but at its very core it is true to the democratic mandates we all received on 8 February last. Without question, there have been trying and testing days in recent months but, as always, a hard beginning maketh a good ending. And so it followed yesterday that the memberships of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party voted overwhelmingly and unequivocally to ratify the programme for Government. It is now my very great honour to begin our work together by proposing that Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Micheál Martin for appointment by Uachtarán na hÉireann to the office of Taoiseach.
If one looks through the record of the Dáil, one will find that the debate and nomination of Taoiseach has often been full of angry, partisan speeches. The debate in 1959 when Seán Lemass, our most transformative Taoiseach, was nominated was just such an occasion. In the midst of all, however, Deputy Noël Browne showed a very different and positive side of politics. Without in any way minimising the differences he had with Lemass on policy, Browne said that if one looked back on his ministerial record, one "must give credit to the man". That is the case today. When one looks at the record of Deputy Micheál Martin, one must give credit to the man. By every fair measure he has used his time in high office to deliver vital and sustained progress for the people. He was, without question, a reforming and progressive Minister for Education and Science. He created the first ever programme of support for children with autism and support for special needs in mainstream education. He created the National Educational Psychological Service, the core of the DEIS programme for disadvantaged schools, and many other initiatives. The rapid expansion of multidenominational schools and Gaelscoileanna was begun by him and he implemented the only reform to the primary school curriculum in the past 50 years. In fact, in every part of our education system, Deputy Micheál Martin has left both a lasting and a positive legacy.
As Minister for Health and Children, he faced down many challenges to deliver policies that have, according to every independent study, saved tens of thousands of lives. As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, he continued his radical work in developing the research capacity of our country and reorientating inward investment towards industries that could compete and thrive in the new economy. These are the very sectors that have survived and supported public finances in the face of, first, a global recession and then a global pandemic. At the Department of Foreign Affairs, he led successful negotiations both in Europe and with all parties in Northern Ireland. Internationally, he pushed forward Ireland's work on nuclear non-proliferation and placed Ireland at the centre of the push for action on humanitarian issues such as the Gaza blockade.
For those who see politics only from a cynical or competitive perspective, nothing will ever persuade them, but so be it. As Theodore Roosevelt reminds us, it is not the critic who counts. Deputy Micheál Martin has a proud record of valiantly delivering for the people of this free Republic. Many of the loudest and most angry voices, who fill our debates with attacks on the right of the majority in this democratically elected Parliament to form a Government, will no doubt once again make partisan and perhaps personal comments, but we will not be deterred. The programme for Government agreed by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is a positive programme of change.
It is a progressive programme of change. It is a proactive programme of change.
Deputy Micheál Martin has the record, talent and tenacity we need to lead this new Government and to serve all the people of our country with distinction in the office of Taoiseach. Arís, a Cheann Comhairle, tairgim go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Micheál Martin chun a cheapadh ag an Uachtarán mar Thaoiseach.
I am honoured to second the proposal that Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Micheál Martin to the President for appointment to the office of Taoiseach. During his political career, Micheál has time and again shown himself to be a determined and brave representative of the people. He has shown great strength and resilience and has already built a record of serving the people of which anyone would be proud. It has unfortunately been too often the case that no space has been given in politics to acknowledge the strengths of those one disagrees with. The aggressive abuse we see every day from the keyboard warriors must never be allowed to become a dominant voice in a free democracy.
The Government that is to be formed today will rest on the legitimacy of the democratic support of a majority of those given a mandate to serve in this House. I am proud to use my mandate to support a progressive and ambitious programme of recovery and renewal for our country, and for this to be led for the next two and a half years by Deputy Micheál Martin. As I have said here before, he has demonstrated in every role he has held willingness to work with others who share the same goals and to be inclusive in developing policy, and he has shown real urgency delivering on it. Because of his work, more children were given the opportunity to secure an education which has transformed their lives. Because of his work, more people were able to access vital treatment, and many lived healthier and longer lives. Because of his work, new industries have developed and Ireland has developed scientific expertise, which we have relied on heavily during this terrible pandemic. I have no doubt that, in the office of Taoiseach, he will display the same qualities of leadership and work in the spirit of a democratic republican tradition which has been central to the progress in our country over the past century.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle. Is onóir mhór domsa an Teachta Mary Lou McDonald a mholadh mar Thaoiseach. Déanaim sé seo mar go bhfuil rogha tuillte ag na Teachtaí anseo an rogha chéanna bhí ag an bpobal san olltoghchán i mí Feabhra. Rogha idir an athrú nó níos mó den rud céanna. It is a great honour for me to nominate my party president, Teachta McDonald, for the position of Taoiseach. I am doing so because Teachtaí here deserve a choice, the choice the people had in February's general election, between change and more of the same. We know what Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will do in office; we have only to look at their track record in housing and health and at how they failed to give workers and families a break. Every time, ordinary workers and families were left behind. Instead of moving forward, we will be led backwards but we can do things differently provided the right choices are made. Today, the Dáil has a choice. It can elect a leader who will be a champion for change or it can elect more of the same. I am nominating Deputy McDonald because I want change. I want a Government that breaks from the failures of the past, serves the needs of workers and families and puts ordinary people's interests first and vested interests last. A Government of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael will deliver the very opposite. That type of Government is about trying to delay change but — let me say this very clearly — change cannot be stopped by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael because the people will make sure of that. No one in this Dáil can lead a Government for change other than Teachta McDonald. She has the vision, empathy and courage to spearhead a changed Ireland in which the corridors of power serve the needs of the people, not the privileges or the priorities of the privileged. Is é seo an t-am don athrú. Is é so an t-am do Thaoiseach ar son na ngnáthdhaoine, Taoiseach a chuirfidh leas na ndaoine chun tosaigh roimh leasanna an mbaincéirí, na dtiarnaí talún nó na bhforbróirí. I am appealing to others who want real change to support the nomination of Deputy McDonald for Taoiseach this afternoon.
Is minic ráite sa saol polaitiúil gur mór an onóir do dhuine í labhairt ar son ceannaire ach ar an ócáid seo ba mhaith liom a rá gur chúis bhród dom tacú le hainmniúchán an Teachta McDonald mar Thaoiseach. The results of this year's general election show clearly there is a movement for change that has called time on the political status quo. The political forces that have converged in recent weeks and months to cobble together an agreement on Government formation will claim they are doing so in the national interest.
Let me be very clear. These political forces are acting not in the national interest but in their own political and electoral interests. Fianna Fáil is running scared of an electorate that has rejected its self-serving politics, which all too often has run with the hare and hunted with the hound. Fine Gael is doing everything in its power to reject the political change for which the people voted in February. The Green Party is repeating the same mistake it made 13 years ago, selling out the struggle for social and economic equality for ministerial roles and a few crumbs from the coalition table. I remind the party of the proverb, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me".
Make no mistake about it, change is coming. This coalition of inequality may delay change but it will not stop it. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald gives voice to those who have been marginalised and who have never had a seat at the decision-making table. She articulates the views of workers and families the length and breadth of this country. I truly mean the length and breadth of this country, from my county of Galway in the west of Ireland to the city of Dublin, and from the proud cities of Derry and Belfast to rebel Cork.
Níor dhearmadar an phobail ariamh agus má ghlactar inniu le hainmniúchán an Teachta McDonald mar Thaoiseach, beidh duine misniúil, ionraic, croíúil ina cheannaire againn a mbeidh sé de mhisneach aici todhchaí níos fearr a thógáil don tír seo.
I thank my colleagues, na Teachtaí Pearse Doherty and Mairéad Farrell, for nominating me for the office of An Taoiseach. It is, of course, a huge honour to be elected to that highest of offices and it seems today that the honour will fall to Deputy Micheál Martin. I wish him well in that.
February was the month of an election of change, when in unprecedented numbers people voted for fairness, progress and a new direction in Irish politics. Sinn Féin won more votes than any other party and, undeniably, this was a mandate for Sinn Féin to enter into government and a mandate for a Government for change. Faced with the prospect of losing their grip on power, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have circled the wagons. They excluded Sinn Féin and the voices of more than 500,000 people from Government formation talks. Chaith daoine vóta ar son athraithe. Tá athrú ag teastáil agus tá sé thar am.
Today's marriage of convenience is borne of necessity and not ambition; it is to buy time and to keep others out and in their place. For the political establishment, it is their way or no way. I have to tell those people they will no longer get it all their own way; that day is over.
The inescapable truth is that the future belongs to those of us who believe in change. The measure and mettle of the Irish people is reflected in how they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. It is evident in the daily acts of kindness, the spirit of community and the commitment to the belief that none of us is safe unless all of us are safe. The Covid-19 crisis has not dampened the desire; if anything it has strengthened it. People have had time to reflect on their lives and what really matters. Many people now realise the price of having Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together in government is too high.
The people were very clear in the election and they told us what the foundation of a good life means to them.
They said it was affordable housing, healthcare when they need it, childcare that does not break the bank, a fair economy that delivers for workers where one can retire with dignity at the age of 65 with a State pension, and a greener, cleaner Ireland built on climate justice and social justice too. The people also told us in large numbers that Irish unity matters.
This was not a protest vote. It was a vote driven by kindness, goodwill and compassion and one rooted in common sense, yet those very issues, which dominated the election, are the issues that have been dodged in the programme for Government. As Leader of Sinn Féin, let me set out our stall. Ordinary people will not shoulder the burden of this economic crisis. They will not be told to stand at the back of the queue while the banks and the vulture capitalists have their fill. They will not go down the black hole of slash and burn austerity again. We will champion investment, stimulus and policies that grow our economy and strengthen our society. We will stand up for those families who work so hard to make a good life for themselves but see their efforts cancelled out because of a sky-high cost of living and a failure to invest in public services. We will give those who go unheard by Government - people living with disabilities, carers, young people and our senior citizens - a voice. We will work to transform all of Ireland for the better because fairness, equality, decency and real solutions are the issues that matter to families and workers and they are the issues that will shape Sinn Féin's determination to deliver what will be the most effective Opposition ever seen in this State.
No longer is a better, fairer, united Ireland the dream of the idealistic few. It is now the achievable goal of the many. It is an ambition shared by people from all walks of life. Change pulses through the veins of our nation, fuelled by positivity, hope, solidarity and the promise of a better tomorrow. Those of us who believe in change are resolute. We are determined and together. It is the parties of the political establishment, hunkered behind their high walls, with their jaded ideas desperately clutching to yesterday, that are out of step. The people of Ireland are entitled to a future that is the measure of their hopes and ambition.
To those who believe in change, to all those who voted for change, to those who refuse to let go of change, dóibh siúd a chaith a vóta ar son athrú, impím oraibh gan thabhairt suas. Ná caill croí. Our time is coming because change cannot be stopped. To every person we met on the election trail who confided in us their hardships and deepest fears, who inspired us with their bright optimism and hope for the future, who entrusted us with the task of standing up for them, we are here because of you and for you. This is not the end. This is just the beginning.
Fine Gael will not make a nomination on this occasion but will support the nomination of Deputy Micheál Martin as Taoiseach. I will speak at greater length when the Dáil reconvenes later but I want to briefly make three points. The first is that this is an historic occasion. I believe Civil War politics ended a long time ago in our country but, today, Civil War politics ends in our Parliament. Two great parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, are coming together with another great party, the Green Party, to offer what this country needs - a stable Government for the betterment of our country and our world. I look forward to the privilege of serving in government with those two parties, as does my party.
For my own party, Fine Gael, this is an opportunity. A third term in government, three consecutive terms, is something we have never been able to do before. This is a chance to protect what has been achieved and secured over the past nine years. It is also a second chance, an opportunity to get right some of the things we did not get right in the years gone by. I am up for that challenge. It is a Government with a real democratic mandate. The three parties combined won more than 51% of the vote in the general election in February.
Some people may think that 24.5% is a majority. Some people may think 3% or 1% is a majority. It is not. A majority is more than 50% and these three parties have that majority. They won it in the previous election and have a very strong mandate to govern and to serve over the next five years.
I will make one last point. In the course of the debate over the next few hours we are going to hear a lot of rhetoric and spin about change, as though the press officers and the spin doctors have told Members to say "change" as many times as they can in their speeches and to keep saying "change" when they record their videos for social media. We all know what change means for Sinn Féin. For Sinn Féin, change means Sinn Féin Ministers in ministerial offices and Sinn Féin Ministers in the back seats of ministerial cars. They are willing to go into power with Fianna Fáil. They are willing to go into power with Fine Gael. They are probably willing to get into power with both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. That is what change means to Sinn Féin, but of course when the Green Party does that, it is a betrayal. What a load of spin and nonsense.
An Comhaontas Glas will be supporting the nomination of Deputy Micheál Martin for Taoiseach today. The Irish people may well ask why it has taken us almost five months to get to this point. We should first reassure them that for most of that period we stepped back collectively as a Parliament to support the caretaker Government in the management of the unique health crisis that we faced. I would like to pay tribute to the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, his Ministers, the public servants and above all the Irish people for the way we have done that. We have shown our strength as a country, as terrible as the loss has been - the loss of life and the loss of so many different kinds. We see the virus continue to flare in the rest of the world and we have to prepare for its return here, but as a country we have come together and taken a lot of the steps needed to minimise the terrible loss.
We now have a critical job to do as a Parliament to help our country in the next phase of managing this crisis, the economic recovery. The loss of economic activity has been beyond compare. I believe that Deputy Micheál Martin is perfectly qualified to lead the Government in trying to take on that task. I believe that because of his experience as Minister in a range of different Departments, including Foreign Affairs, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Education and Science and others as set out in some of the earlier speeches. I know from direct experience that he is calm in a crisis. He is good-humoured and the value of social justice is at his very core. As a man, he is forward-looking. Any time I have heard him speak over the years he has been thinking ahead, not closed to new ideas and new ways of doing things. That qualifies him for the difficult task that he and the rest of the incoming Government face.
I believe we have a good plan to address this huge challenge. The programme for Government may not include everything one might want. It is subject to criticism and it will certainly be subject to change. The real test will be in its delivery rather than its writing. However, it provides a good plan and an immediate stimulus. We will get down to work the first thing on Monday morning. We have to start preparing a plan to get people's jobs back straight away. We will borrow for that on our good name internationally and we will continue borrowing to invest in the future for our people and our country. We must invest first and foremost in homes for our people: homes that are bright, warm and affordable; homes that allow people to walk to school, the shops or work; homes that give people the secure knowledge that they can raise families. That is what we have to build for our people. That is the message from our election. We also have to build up our public health system. We must build on the good work that has been done, particularly in recent months. We must be clever, efficient, flexible and fast in delivering services for our people. This is about public health. Our health is guaranteed when everyone else's health and security is provided for.
It is a programme for Government which will invest in climate action, because that is what we need to do as a people.
It is what the world needs to do because our security will be absolutely ruined if the natural world is rent apart, which is the course we are currently set upon. We have to use everything we can to prevent that happening. It is action stations time if we are to avoid it and play our part in trying to avoid it. Here at home, we must work to restore nature and our local environment. We are connected to nature, not separate from it, just as we are connected to one another.
To achieve change, we have to invest in a completely new energy system. That is where the new economic opportunity will lie and where we will be able to invest and create jobs. It is how we will create a secure economic future, because we will be relying on our own resources. That ambition goes back to the core founding principles of this State of managing our own resources for the benefit of our wealth and security into the future. The energy system we are going to create in this low-carbon world will do exactly that. It will mean changing completely how we run our agricultural system, forestry and fisheries. How we look after our land will be central to meeting the challenge we face, and that will create an opportunity for young Irish families to play the front-line role in their own homes in protecting nature. That is something the next Government will have to set us upon.
More than anything else, the challenge we face needs a new economy. It will be a circular economy that is hyper-efficient and very productive and that uses new digital systems in really clever and innovative ways, which are ethically founded around our owning the data they generate. This a constitutional, democratic Republic, not a corporation, and it is the people who are sovereign. If we can create an economy that is ethically based on that principle, then we will thrive. It must be innovative, as I said, but more than anything else, it has to recognise that there is a change coming in economics, that the old thinking that the market knows and it is all about the money and economic growth is outdated. Increasingly, economics is changing. The new doughnut economics is about looking at both social protection and environmental protection as core measures of success and about measuring success in terms of the quality of our lives, our well-being and health, including our mental health. Let that be the test and the measure of progress for this Government as it sets out on its course.
We are at a time of change in the world. It is a difficult time, when technology is changing so fast that it is hard to keep up. It is a time when the global order seems to be torn apart, where the great power blocs of old are again threatening each other. It is a time of uncertainty to our east and to our west, where the political system is full of division and derision, which is something we seek to avoid. We have an opportunity as a Parliament and as a country to provide, we hope, a small beacon of light in these dark and difficult times. We do that when we stand up for the smaller nations of this world. We do that when we stand up for the rights of those in Palestine. We do that when we stand up in the United Nations, where we helped to negotiate the sustainable development goals. We do that when we reflect the same principles at home by being welcoming to all visitors and showing that this is a safe country of refuge and one where we do not tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind. We can, in these difficult times, be an island that tries to show a bit of integrity. We are not perfect and we all know it, but we are not the worst country in the world and it is our duty to stand up and provide the best political system we can for our people and, if we can, provide a light in the world in these dark and difficult times. That sounds a bit big, bold and ambitious but why should we not, as we try to form a new Government, set ourselves a big task?
I thank the two parties who have negotiated with us and who have done so a fair and honest way. We look forward to working with them as best we can. We look forward to working with the Opposition. We do not believe in a politics of division and we will start by co-operating in every way we can, being as open as we can in government, trying to answer every question in as truthful a way as possible and engaging with the Opposition. Let us use our committee system in a constructive way. The outgoing Dáil showed a lot of real strengths. Its minority made it difficult for the governing party to govern but we should keep some of the good things that happened during that time, such as the collaboration we saw in committees like the Sláintecare committee and the climate committee. I could go on. Let us keep that engagement and work collectively for our people.
The Labour Party will oppose both nominees for Taoiseach before the House today. The nomination of Deputy McDonald comes before this House without, unfortunately, a scintilla of evidence of a rational, thought-out programme for Government that could seek to attract the votes of a majority in this House. Sinn Féin is simply going through the motions of appearing to be interested in government. The truth is that today's nomination is not backed up by a real attempt to negotiate a programme for Government. Sinn Féin's election manifesto was like a giveaway from "The Late Late Show", with something for everyone in the audience. However, bills must be paid and the books must be balanced. Politicians treat taxpayers with contempt when they tell them they can have everything for nothing in a utopian world. I accept Sinn Féin got a mandate from the public, and I respect that, but with a mandate comes serious responsibility, including a responsibility to seek to govern with others with an agreed policy framework. That has never existed in the case of Sinn Féin, which yearns for opposition. That is why the nomination of Deputy McDonald is unworthy of support today. For the record, nobody has a monopoly on political change.
The nomination of Deputy Micheál Martin as Taoiseach comes on the back of an agreed programme for Government between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party. The programme for Government has proposals that are to be welcomed and we, in the Labour Party, very much welcome some of them. The sad reality, however, is that this is a lost opportunity to transform our country and society, particularly given the Covid crisis. Parts of the document are being trumpeted as game-changers when they are not. Let us be honest; the financials behind this programme for Government are comical, so comical that they were not put down on paper and do not exist in reality.
Over and over, the programme lacks ambition. We heard at length in recent weeks about the hours and hours of torturous negotiations to set a target of a 7% annual reduction in carbon emissions. The Green Party claimed this as a victory, despite the truth being that it was the minimum required to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement on climate change. I should know because I signed that agreement on behalf of the State. The saddest indictment of the outgoing Government is how little has been achieved in setting about meeting out commitments in the intervening four years. The programme for Government promises much. However, without timelines and costings, many of the proposals will be kicked further and further down the road, that is, if Deputy Ryan allows any more roads to be built.
Most disappointingly though, there is little evidence in the programme for Government of any concerns for workers' rights, equality of opportunity or access to education and training to change. This is deeply worrying to the Labour Party. In January 2020, Deputy Micheál Martin said that Fianna Fáil was the party of the working classes. How can a party that claims to be of the working classes not seek to improve the lot of workers? The Deputy's claim is demonstrably void in this document. There is no radical thinking on workers' rights and no meaningful plan to introduce the living wage or extend free health care to all. There is no radical plan to provide homes at an affordable price point for ordinary workers or affordable childcare so that parents do not have to make the choice between staying out of the workplace for a prolonged period or paying a second mortgage in childcare fees. When Fianna Fáil claims to be of the working class it is simply a smokescreen. Nothing in this pick and mix programme for Government will completely transform the lives of ordinary working people. We know from their previous Government alliance that Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have no problem taking away from the most vulnerable in our workforce. Who can ever forget that in its dying days that Government cut the minimum wage by €1?
We are about to enter another financial disaster. I say loudly and clearly to everybody in this House, particularly the new Government that is about to be formed, that low-paid workers cannot and should not suffer as a result of the decisions that will be taken in the coming years.
Fine Gael just does not get industrial relations and is completely inept with them. We need only look at its latest stint in government when transport workers, teachers and our nurses, who saved this country in the past months, were on strike. We all know the outgoing Taoiseach loves his films. In the 2016 general election, Deputy Leo Varadkar said that Deputy Micheál Martin was a good debater and an even better deceiver, that he could not be trusted and that his record as a Minister was a disaster. Sorry for pointing that out. The then Minister for Health compared the Fianna Fáil leader with Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Total Recall" with alternative memories planted in his brain and created a fairytale about his record in the Departments of Health and Foreign Affairs. Here we are four years later and it would seem the outgoing Taoiseach has had his memory absolutely wiped in the pursuit of office, and has constructed his own fairytale today. I believe he must have taken some tips from Matt Damon when he was here during the lockdown as Leo, our current Taoiseach, has woken up, akin to Jason Bourne, with no actual memory of what he said about Fianna Fáil or Deputy Micheál Martin four years ago, or indeed numerous times over the past ten years.
We have been here with the Green Party before too. On 6 May 2016, the leader of the Green Party announced that he would not vote for the election of the Taoiseach, then Enda Kenny, and would not aim for government, stating, "I said we would not join the Government because we come from a left-of-centre perspective and we did not see that reflected in the document." Four years on, I can tell Deputy Ryan that I come from a left-of-centre party and it is certainly not reflected in the current programme for Government which he has so eagerly signed up to. Having said that, the Labour Party genuinely wishes the Green Party well. It shares many of our party's goals and ideals and I look forward to seeing it implement them as part of this Government.
A Government will be formed this evening and we in the Labour Party sincerely wish it the best. I personally wish Deputy Micheál Martin the best as the Taoiseach-elect. I wish him well and I wish this future Government well. I also want to put it on notice that the Labour Party will hold it to account.
The Irish public, in the middle of the Covid experience, is a different public with different priorities and emotions compared with those of a few months ago. They want and deserve a new social contract. Covid has acted as a disruptor across all political and economic thought, and the new Government would do well to remember that from the get-go.
The Labour Party will hold this Government to account based on the following principles. A cleaner future for all depends first and foremost on building a fairer future for all, for those who work, for those who are looking for work and for those who cannot work. The opportunities presented by the crisis must not be allowed to pass. We had a taste of telemedicine and free general practitioner care. Most of all, the people have a had a glimpse of a single tier health system, where private hospitals were taken over by the State. We know that real change can happen in how healthcare, childcare and other services are now delivered in Ireland. The provision of a sustainable, affordable roof over the heads of all families and individuals will be the key measure upon which we judge this Government.
This is a momentous week and an historic occasion. The memberships of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have voted overwhelmingly to enter government today. Both Deputy Micheál Martin and I are former students of the great history department of University College Cork, and neither of us could ever have envisaged this occurring today, but it has. There is one final step to be taken by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which is a full and final merger of the two parties because, let us face it, there is now not a scintilla of difference left between the two parties. We are finally on the cusp of an historic realignment of Irish politics.
I welcome an alignment on a traditional left-right divide and one the Labour Party would cherish. I assure everyone that in the coming weeks, months and years, we in the Labour Party will not be found wanting when it comes to standing up and advocating on behalf of the people of Ireland. It is not just a new Government that is being formed today, it is also a new dawn in Irish politics for each and every one of us.
This is truly an historic day, not least because we are convened in this modern building, that is Dáil Éireann for today, to vote on the election of a Taoiseach. While this is an historical occasion, there is nothing normal about it. We know the election of a Taoiseach is not just about electing an individual, it is also about a programme for Government and the beliefs, ideologies, passions and views that deliver for those of us honoured to have been elected.
Across this House, we hold different beliefs and views. We are a reflection of the choices made by the more than 2.2 million people who turned out on 8 February for the general election. Despite some of the political commentary since, often by people who have never knocked on a single door, let alone thousands of doors, the majority of the doors that I and my party colleagues knocked on could not have been clearer: they simply did not want more of the same. This is a changing Ireland and a broken record has to change too.
I and my party, and everyone else here today, therefore, have to ask ourselves what it is we want to see happen in Ireland over the next five years. Is this programme for Government the prescription needed to ensure a fair society that is underpinned by good public services and to ensure a strong economy that is rebuilt and works for all, and are the measures included sufficient to tackle the urgent climate challenges of this pivotal decade? Not to be clichéd, but democracy matters. How many times have we heard a politician say that the only poll that matters is the poll on election day? Well, we had that poll on 8 February and we all knocked on doors the length and breadth of the country. We heard the same message over and over, that there was a desire for fundamental change. Indeed, that message was acknowledged by the Taoiseach when he said that he intended to lead his party into opposition.
It was not about protest. This was a very determined message. Covid-19 has intervened in all our lives since the election, with tragic consequences for some who have lost their lives. We again remember them and sympathise with their families, and we remember those who worked - and work - on the front lines and again say "Thank you". If anything, the Covid-19 crisis has amplified many of the issues where there are chronic failures, in housing, health, childcare, disability services and so many more.
We in the Social Democrats have been criticised from various sides regarding our decision not to participate in this coalition. However, we can and we will robustly defend our position. We were not given a mandate to deliver more of the same and we were not given a mandate to make up the numbers. We put ourselves in front of the electorate based on a social democratic manifesto, which is about delivering a new approach, including much-improved public services that are available to all, and a more equal and just society. Then the Covid-19 crisis hit and further exposed the significant weaknesses in our society and economy, and if any more underlining were required, it further underlined our belief that a social democratic approach to public policy is the best way to create the type of Ireland desired by the people we spoke to at their doors.
While it is fair to say that details of all our general election manifestos are not valid today because of Covid-19, what is valid is the general approach to how we are governed and the underpinning ideologies. One approach intervenes to ensure the State delivers public services to all and a floor below which no one is permitted to fall.
The opposite approach relies heavily on the market to deliver public services and at the same time, that market determines workers' income levels and a less equal society is delivered. That is why, when it came to coalition negotiations, we focused on the economic foundations underpinning the framework document and the subsequent programme for Government. Many of the promises made in the 2016 programme for Government were not delivered and that document was written by many of the same protagonists responsible for today's programme. That is why the financial underpinning is important.
There is shame in the growing rates of homelessness, including thousands of children, and a health service where hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are on waiting lists for treatment, with emergency rooms that are full of sick people on trolleys who are being cared for by exhausted medics. These outcomes were not accidents but are the products of policy. Policy is about ideology and that is why the message on so many doorsteps during the election was about change. "Ideology" is not a dirty word but that is how it was perceived by the last Government, particularly around the critical issue of housing. How could ideas and ideals underpinning decisions that affect all of our lives be considered as such?
Social democracy is about collectivism and universalism. People pay taxes and get the services that they pay for. While markets exist for trading goods and services, public services are public goods. Health, education and childcare are examples of services that should be publicly provided to a high standard and accessible to all.
As we said during the election, one never gets all that one wants when one is negotiating a programme for Government but the very least that one should ensure is that the front and back of the train are not pulling in opposite directions, ideologically speaking. The economic and societal recovery from the Covid-19 crisis must be fair and there must be a constructive rebuilding. In doing that, it must also address the challenges of key areas where crises predated Covid. More of the same will not achieve that.
The right to free collective bargaining in the workplace, for example, is not a part of the programme for Government, yet is an essential part of delivering fairer incomes. Without it, there will be high levels of low income and poverty and the public purse will be called upon to subsidise low pay. It is not just a question of namechecking in the programme for Government. I acknowledge there are things in this programme that are good, progressive and should be supported. Those things must be delivered and holding the Government to account will be a means of ensuring that.
Ultimately, the question my party colleagues and I had to satisfy ourselves of the answer to was whether, in five years' time, we could honestly knock on doors in an Ireland that continues to have a crisis in housing and homelessness, a two-tier health service, an entire generation locked out of ordinary life choices like access to an affordable home, secure employment and childcare that will not bankrupt them, and where the work-life balance is such that it negatively impacts on their quality of lives. Could we look people in the eye and say that we had presided over a programme for Government that we believed was ideologically the wrong approach or was simply never economically sound to begin with?
The Social Democrats will continue to work, as we did in the last Dáil, to be constructive and practical but not afraid to ask the hard questions and hold the Government to account. We will support the Government in every measure that we believe will deliver a social democratic solution to problems and will be forceful in rejecting any measures that are regressive or seek to impose an uneven recovery or austerity on ordinary households as we emerge from this Covid crisis.
The acceptance by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party of the programme for Government is an indication of the outcome of the vote that will be taken shortly. I fully expect that Deputy Micheál Martin will be elected Taoiseach and while it is not the Government that we want, on a personal level I congratulate the Deputy in advance because there will not be an opportunity for me to do so afterwards.
Those of us in politics understand what it takes, both personally and professionally, to sustain a decades-long career, to lead a party and eventually end up in the office of Taoiseach. We recognise that this is a momentous day for Deputy Micheál Martin and his family, and we wish him and his family plenty of joy on this occasion.
I am sharing time with Deputies Barry and Paul Murphy. People Before Profit will not be supporting the nomination of Deputy Micheál Martin for Taoiseach. That has got nothing to do with him personally. It has to do with our understanding of what people voted for in the general election of 8 February. The Taoiseach derides the use of the word "change" by some of us. If it was just used for its own sake, he might have a point. However, there was a clear, unequivocal sentiment among the majority of people who voted in the general election to break the cycle of two-party rule by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which have controlled the machinery of Government for more than 100 years. That was the majority sentiment in the election and we believe that the return to power of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael facilitated by the Green Party represents a betrayal and abandonment of that sentiment and demand for change. It is not just about the political parties. People wanted to break the cycle of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for very specific reasons. The policies and politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael produced the worst housing crisis in the history of the State, an absolutely disastrous situation in our public health system and an utter failure to tackle the climate emergency that is hurtling towards us. They failed to give a fair deal for working people in terms of security of pay and employment or a manageable cost of living with things like affordable childcare and bills.
This programme for Government has done nothing to address any of those issues. It is a rehash and reheating of the same failed policies that led to those problems in the first place. The housing policy is, in effect, the same one we have pursued for the past five years. It recommits to the Land Development Agency, which is a vehicle for the privatisation of public land, the very reason we have a housing crisis in the first place. Incredibly, on the issue of health, when more than ever we need a single-tier, properly resourced national health system, this programme for Government actually commits to going back to private healthcare and the two-tier system. On climate, the commitments are so vague and aspirational they can be pushed back to the end of the decade and can still potentially allow liquid natural gas terminals to be built to import liquid natural gas off the south west of the country. When it comes to workers, there is nothing but vague commitments to a living wage some time, undefined. There is no plan for a national childcare system that will make affordable childcare available to everybody.
Most of all, there is nothing for workers. Our guest of honour today in the convention centre is Jane Crowe, the shop steward for Debenhams, who has led an heroic battle for 2,000 workers who were dumped on the scrapheap by a cynical company using the Covid-19 crisis as the pretext to dump those who had served them loyally for decades. The three parties now entering government have not said a word or made any commitment to address the plight of those workers over the last three months. When they could have intervened, they washed their hands and that does not bode well for how this Government is going to prioritise supporting workers.
We make no apologies in saying we are going to continue the fight for change. We believe the only way to fight for change on housing and health, for a decent standard of living and support for working people and for addressing the climate emergency is by having a left Government. Furthermore, we make no apologies for our commitment to people power. The Debenhams workers outside are doing more for workers' rights than any of the three parties which are entering Government. Change has not come from shoddy political deals but from movements outside Parliament - the movements for marriage equality, repeal of the eighth amendment, getting rid of water charges and affordable childcare. Our commitment is to fight for that kind of change as that is what people voted for on 8 February.
Will there be a youth revolt in the lifetime of this Dáil? The country voted for change in February. The Green Party benefited from that vote but today it betrayed it by putting Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael back in the saddle. The vote for change may not have been sufficiently decisive this time, but no such argument can be made about the votes cast by young people. Young people did not vote for a Government led by conservative parties and they most certainly did not vote for a party which won the votes of fewer than one in seven voters under the age of 25 years. As news of our vote breaks from this Convention Centre, will young people look at their phones, shake their heads and think, "This is not my Taoiseach"? More than any reason, young people voted for change because of the way the housing crisis impacts their lives. They now have a powerful new reason to raise their voices, namely, mass youth unemployment. More than half of those aged between 15 and 24 are unemployed. The Government will fail to tackle this issue at its peril. Through the years, mass emigration of young people served as a vital safety valve for Irish capitalism. Emigration did not just happen but was actively encouraged by conservative Governments. To where will the youth emigrate now? If anything, rather than leave, young people will be coming back home. The implications for politics are enormous.
On the way here, I saw a banner held by Debenhams workers, some of whom are from Cork, which read, "Micheál - what have you done for us lately?" I have no faith in a capitalist Government delivering for working people, not least in a world recession, but this Government will be under pressure from working people from day one. Aer Lingus workers will want to know what the Government intends to do about a company which has its wage bill subsidised by the State but which simultaneously declares war on its workers. Some 300,000 public sector workers will want to know whether the Government will honour in October the commitments made on pay. Last but not least, more than 1 million workers will want to see a plan for jobs and will insist that the Government deliver for them and their families. The socialist left will be a voice in this Dáil for all those workers and more and will strive to build a strong left opposition both inside and outside the gates of Dáil Éireann.
Today, the new Taoiseach and Ministers will celebrate their elevation to high office. Tomorrow, and in the weeks and months ahead, the Government will become known for eco-austerity, a two-tier healthcare system and a worsening housing crisis, and as a Government which represents the rich, landlords and big business. It will be a hated Government. Remember what issues dominated the election, namely, healthcare, housing and the pension age. Since the election, a pandemic has shown us the weakness of our public health system and the possibility of incorporating in it the private system. Instead of a commitment to build a one-tier quality national health service, the programme for Government contained a positive reference to maintaining private healthcare, a continuation of two-tier health care with better healthcare for the better-off and worse healthcare for the rest.
On housing, the programme continues the reliance on the private sector. It is a continuation of Rebuilding Ireland. It contains commitments for less building of public housing than were in the Green Party and Fianna Fáil manifestos and even in the Fine Gael manifesto. In the words of one of those who negotiated the programme, it will make the homeless crisis worse.
On the pension age, the Government is kicking the increase to 67 years down the road but it is clear that it will not reduce it to 65 years and Fine Gael will continue to push for it to increase to 67 and then 68 years. RISE and the socialist left will not only make speeches of opposition in the Dáil. We will build movements of opposition on the streets and in communities and workplaces to defeat the incoming Government's plans for a massively hiked carbon tax and to demand the building of public housing and construction of an Irish NHS.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael entering Government together is not a sign of strength but one of extreme weakness. It is a last ditch attempt by the political establishment to hang on to power. In 2007, before the last crisis, the combined vote of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was almost 70%. As this crisis opens, it is less than 45%. There is an enormous space in Irish politics for the building of a mass socialist movement. We will fight for a left Government to implement a socialist green new deal, one based on public ownership and democratic control of the key sections of the economy to transform people's lives for the better and avoid climate catastrophe.
I will share time with Deputy Grealish. The year 2020 will never be forgotten. It will be remembered as a year that has turned the lives of people across the globe into a living nightmare. The world remains gripped by fear, sadness, grief and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. The virus that swept from continent to continent has robbed us of a sense of security. It took from us many of our cherished citizens and left broken hearts and many empty chairs around our tables. It left loneliness, fear, change and deep worry in thousands of hearts. However, it also made us a better people. It has shown us endless examples of people loving and caring for others, from those who were active on the front line to those who stayed at home to help prevent the spread of the virus. I acknowledge the Trojan work done by the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, his Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, and the entire Government, together with the National Public Health Emergency Team. We express our gratitude and appreciation for the excellent leadership provided and the unflinching resolve to keep us as safe as possible.
The people of Tipperary have given me the privilege of representing them in Dáil Éireann for 33 consecutive years. Since 1987, I have seen many Governments. I have seen the great triumph of the Good Friday Agreement, the terrible fall into austerity and the grim climb out of bankruptcy. I have observed political drama, party infighting, revolts, crises, nerve-jangling moments and political despair. I have watched the ebb and flow and changing fortunes of political parties. I thought I had seen it all but, on 14 April, with the announcement of an eventful new departure, agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to form an equal partnership, we witnessed two of the greatest rival political parties putting their differences aside to find common working ground for the good of the country. Both parties deserve credit for that initiative. That agreement recognises a new reality, a new chapter and a new dawn. This political alliance should not come as a surprise to anyone. The shift in political opinion and a decline in support for the twin pillars in Irish politics, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, has been gradual and progressive. The loosening of their vice-like grip on support and fading loyalty has led to this marriage. The singular monopoly days are long over and future glory days will have to be shared. Both parties have taken the correct option to embrace the will of the people and work together. Party supporters on both sides will worry whether they have married into the wrong family. I believe time will prove that they are an ideal match with common policies.
The public's approach and attitude to politics has changed and evolved in recent years.
It has developed to the extent that, on election day, voters made a fragmented choice which nevertheless gave a variety of options in respect of the formation of a Government. Through the ballot box, the people have advised this Dáil to choose a new partnership. This expectation has been driven in particular by young voters who want to live in the present not the past. They want to look to the future, not to look back.
Today is a time when history is just that and we focus on the future. When the results from the three parties were announced last night there were various reactions. Some were jubilant, some were disappointed, some were relieved, and many, like me, were happy to see that the members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had acted in the national interest. This is the start of a big adventure for the Green Party. I hope it has the temperament and resilience to stay the distance. Together, these three parties can give the Irish people the strength and stability of a Government at a critical time. It has seldom been needed more. We face a rocky road to recovery. Now there is consolation in knowing that decisions can and will be made, legislation can and will be passed and some of the uncertainty of recent months can and will be put to rest. The road is hard but we are strong.
For my part, I share the interests of the people of rural Ireland. I share their passions, pastimes, traditions and way of life. As a Member of this Dáil, I will work to ensure these unique values and principles will be protected. Since election day, I have consistently highlighted the need for a stable, strong Government at a time of great peril for our economy and country. In line with that sentiment and my conversations with Deputy Micheál Martin, I have decided to make my contribution to stability by supporting his nomination for Taoiseach and also supporting the appointment of Ministers to a new Government. Deputy Micheál Martin has the credentials to be an excellent Taoiseach and leader of our country. I wish him well and I know he will lead in a spirit of consensus and collaboration. To use the words of Deputy Martin’s fellow Corkman, Tom McSweeney, "fair sailing".
Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach. I offer my deepest sympathy to the family, friends and members of An Garda Síochána on the recent tragic death of Detective Garda Colm Horkan. I also pay tribute to all the front-line staff who have done so much for this country in recent months during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is 140 days today since the general election took place. This has been a record length of time without a Government, during which Ireland and the world have changed completely. Since the election on 8 February, the country has been operating with a caretaker Government, which has done an exceptional job in managing this unprecedented health crisis. I compliment the outgoing Taoiseach, his Ministers and all involved.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on our society and economy. We have many challenges in the weeks and months ahead to get people back to work and the economy back on track as soon as possible. In recent weeks, I have repeatedly raised my concerns for small and medium enterprises, SMEs, especially those in the tourism and hospitality sector. Businesses need short-term and direct financial support as well as longer term access to low-cost capital. Getting these small businesses back up and running is the key to getting our economy back on track. The SME sector employs almost 1 million people and the hospitality sector employs almost 260,000 people, of whom 27,000 of these are employed in Galway alone. The SME sector is the backbone of the economy and requires cash grants rather than loans to help businesses reopen and deal with reduced capacity and additional requirements to meet social distancing rules. I have met many business owners in recent months who want to protect staff and customers in every way possible to prevent the spread of Covid-19. However, they cannot do this without Government support. Tourism and hospitality will be the slowest sectors to recover. A well thought-out rescue plan must be delivered by the incoming Government in the coming weeks. Galway, like many other cities across Ireland, suffered a great deal during this pandemic. The loss of the Galway International Arts Festival and the Galway Races and the cancellation of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture events will result in lost revenue of tens of millions of euro in this year alone.
As I stated in the Dáil Chamber two weeks ago, when the banking crisis hit in 2009 the Government of the time bailed out banks to the tune of more than €100 billion at huge cost to taxpayers. The current crisis is even greater. It is time to support small businesses to help keep them viable and trading in the medium to long term. At the end of the day, there will be a return on this investment through employment, tax and VAT returns, thus resulting in a stronger economy to the benefit of everyone.
The need to extend the Offences Against the State Act and renew the mandate of the Special Criminal Court makes the election of a Government today a vital necessity.
We are also still in the Brexit transition period and a final agreement on the future relationship between Britain and the European Union has yet to be agreed. As the UK’s biggest trading partner, Ireland has most at stake if things go wrong. We must, therefore, have a strong Government in place during this critical negotiating period.
When the Dáil met on 20 February I voted for Deputy Micheál Martin as Taoiseach and it is my intention to do so again today. We need a Government to address the many challenges that face the nation over the coming months. Major challenges will face the incoming Government in many areas, including funding for childcare, health and the disability sector, and the reform of business insurance. I will seek vital support for the SME sector. Parents are also anxious that children will return to school in September. The availability of affordable housing and home care for the elderly remain vital concerns for many people. The crisis facing agriculture, particularly in the dairy and beef industry, must also be addressed by the incoming Government.
Another issue of concern is the major roads infrastructure projects, which include the N6 Galway city ring road, and uncertainty created by the Green Party regarding funding for vital projects. It is crucial that the roads programme and other major infrastructure projects are given clarity as a matter of urgency by the incoming Government.
I will be a constructive Member of Dáil Éireann but I will also hold the incoming Government to account. I am prepared to support good policy and legislation but only where they are in the best interests of the Irish people.
On this historic day, with the end of Civil War politics, I congratulate Deputy Micheál Martin on his nomination for Taoiseach. This is a great honour for him and his family and I wish him and the incoming Government the best in the months and years ahead.
Yes, I am sharing time with Deputies Michael Collins, Michael Healy-Rae and Danny Healy-Rae.
Ar an gcéad dul síos ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an gCeann Comhairle agus le Cléireach na Dála, Peter Finnegan, and all of his team for their organisation today. I also thank the Ceann Comhairle for his stewardship during the interregnum since the election when we did not have a real Government in place.
On 8 February, 140 days ago, I was privileged to be elected by the people of Tipperary. While I accept that the general election did not produce a clear and decisive result, I do not believe a Government made up of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party will offer much in the way of progress for my constituents in County Tipperary and, indeed, everyone in Ireland. Since the election, I have made myself available, as have other Deputies in the Rural Independent Group, to meet Deputies from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin was not serious in continuing those negotiations and did not show any real intent of forming a Government.
I am worried about the proposals before us. I suggested on the day I was elected in Tipperary that we should have a national Government. Arising from the Covid crisis, we had a kind of national Government with a consensus agreement under which we all worked together. Ní neart go cur le chéile. We could have had a national Government because we had every reason to have one but we did not have one.
For the past four years, I have opposed the Fine Gael Government supported by Fianna Fáil under the confidence and supply agreement because of the way it treated the families of rural Ireland and working people - na daoine beaga, óga agus aosta. Fine Gael did not get it and showed no empathy with ordinary people. We also had the way people were treated by the banks, insurance companies and sectors across the board. Unfortunately, I do not have faith in the programme for Government. It has been published with no costings whatever and with not a shilling or euro accounted for. I am also very concerned about the 101 commissions, reports, investigations and reviews that are to be set up. These will all cost money. I detest all of the quangos that we have set up, yet we are now about to set up many more of them.
My independent colleagues and I made ourselves available to meet and discuss how we could make an input into creating greater fairness for rural Ireland but we were not given an opportunity or asked to do so. Two and a half weeks ago, three of the party leaders, the Taoiseach and Deputies Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan, promised they would meet us immediately after the programme for Government was agreed but that did not happen. That is their choice.
I understand the primary function of the Dáil is to elect the Taoiseach and a Government and that is set to happen today. I hope it does, because the country needs a Government. I wish an Teachta Martin as Taoiseach-elect, his wife, Mary, and his clann go léir, and the Ministers he will appoint the very best for the future.
I will also outline today, a Chathaoirligh, that I will be constructive in opposition. I will support issues that are good for the country and for the people, but as I have said, I will not support the attack on families, on the elderly, on rural Ireland, and on SMEs. I will not undermine workers. Working people deserve to be paid a decent wage. Above all, our elderly have been left behind and have been punished right though the Covid-19 crisis. Over-66s did not get a ha'penny. They were forgotten about, and God help us we know what happened in the nursing homes. They way those people and their families were treated was unbelievable.
I look forward to representing the people of Tipperary to the best of my ability, and to support what is good and oppose what is not. I am worried about a Green Party Minister with responsibility for transport. I am worried about roads projects, such as a ring road for Tipperary town and a bypass and relief road for Thurles, Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel. I am worried about these necessary programmes for rural Ireland, so I will hold the Government to account. While I wish everyone in the Government well on a personal basis, I will be constructive in opposition
Today the majority of the Dáil will vote for Deputy Micheál Martin as Taoiseach of our country. I congratulate Micheál on his appointment. He is an extremely experienced parliamentarian and a Cork man. The joining together of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the formation of a Government, which I said for many years would happen as there is simply no difference between each party, has come to pass, and now they are joined at the hip for years to come and maybe forever.
Today, I make a clear decision for the people I represent and this was in full consultation with the people throughout west Cork. While everyone I spoke to saw the urgency with which a Government needed to be formed, they pleaded with me, having looked at the programme for Government, because the constituency I represent, Cork South-West, is once again going to suffer even more, if this is possible, than it already has.
The one request I had in any negotiations, and there were a few in recent months, was a cast-iron written guarantee that the future of Bantry General Hospital accident and emergency department would be safeguarded in the lifetime of this Government. While the safeguarding of other hospitals throughout the country is embedded in the programme for Government, and while I congratulate the Deputies from these areas for having delivered for their constituencies, it showed that west Cork and Bantry General Hospital were not on the agenda. I made a promise to the people of west Cork that if any incoming Government would not show support for Bantry General Hospital, I would not support it, and this promise I will keep.
The measures of this Government will be measured, in my view, if we see no senior Ministry for fisheries. It is time the politicians stood up. The time of treating fishermen and fisherwomen of this country as second-class citizens is over. It is time that a vision is shown for agriculture so that people can survive on the family farm and not be forced to stand outside the meat factory gates for their right to survive. Again, our tourism sector is going through a serious crisis, and today a senior Ministry is a must. West Cork has been a forgotten constituency. Promises for bypasses for Innishannon and Bandon have lain idle for years. The promised extension to St. Brogan's College has lain idle. It has been just promises after promises. The security of Bantry General Hospital now lies as a promise, as does the beginning of work at Clonakilty Community Hospital.
In the next five years in the Dáil I promise I will be a strong voice of opposition for the people of Cork South-West. The time for promises is over. We want delivery.
First, I sincerely sympathise with the family and with every member of the force with regard to the tragic loss of Detective Garda Colm Horkan.
What I want from the incoming Government is that I do not want it to leave people behind. I will give an example of what it is to leave people behind, and with the permission of himself and his family, I will raise the case of young Ronan Foley from Dungeel in Killorglin. He is 15 years of age and I want each and every Member of this Dáil, the new Minister for Health, and the new Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, to remember this case. He is lying today in pain with a 90° curve on his spine. He has been waiting more than 20 months for an operation the outgoing Minister for Health said no child should wait any more than four months for. This is a tragedy and a travesty, and I do not want this Government to leave people like Ronan Foley from Killorglin behind. I want people like him to have an operation when they need it.
I cannot support the programme for Government for a number of reasons. First, the outgoing Taoiseach and the new incoming Taoiseach both, for instance, promised the people in Kerry that Shannon LNG would go ahead. They made that promise as late as February, and then made a U-turn and abandoned the people of Kerry.
I am grateful to the people of Kerry for supporting and electing me to this Dáil, and I must support them by standing up for them here today. I want to think of the present generation and of the pressures that are on them. We are promised a farmers' rural environment protection scheme, REPS. We are promised a retirement scheme. There are no costing of these whatsoever. Kerry is the tourism capital of the world. I want the businesses there to be supported.
I will say finally to the new incoming Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, that I have known him personally for more than 30 years. I know that he will be extremely diligent and hard-working. I wish him nothing but success, but I want him and his new Government to think of the Ronan Foleys of this country and leave no one behind, especially when it comes to health.
It is clear to me that Deputy Micheál Martin, leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, is going to be elected Taoiseach in a short while. I wish him well and wish his wife and family all the very best. I wish Deirdre Gillane, his special adviser, all the very best in her role as adviser to the Taoiseach.
Even though we started out in the same party, I cannot support Deputy Martin today, because I believe our party, the Healy-Rae party, has remained close to the people who elect and who voted for us. Fianna Fáil has distanced itself from the people of rural Ireland, and that was seen again in the programme for Government Deputy Martin signed up to when he signed the death knell for Shannon LNG. That is one of the reasons I cannot vote for him today. Shannon LNG was providing its own funding and had spent up to €70 million already. It would have created 300 jobs in construction and up to perhaps 100 jobs every year after that. These people have been let down.
I, too, was asked about Ronan Foley. I call on the new Taoiseach, the new Government, and the new Minister for Health to see after Ronan Foley, who was promised in January that his operation would take place in March. That has not happened. We have been waiting for 140 days for a Government, but he has been waiting in pain and suffering agony in the garden for the past 120 days since the operation was supposed to take place, and even much longer than that. I am appealing to them to let that be the end of that and to assist all the other people who have been waiting for operations and have been held up by the coronavirus. I appeal to them on that.
I wish Deputy Martin all the best with his new Government. I wish the Ministers, Fine Gael, and the Green Party well. I wish them all the very best for the sake of the people of Ireland, and indeed, Kerry.
I promise to provide constructive Opposition where it is needed, and I will support the Government where it provides supports for the people whom I represent. As a Member of the Thirty-third Dáil elected by the people of Kerry, I am proud to represent and I will represent them, whether it is in this new auditorium, Dáil Éireann or wherever it may be. While I am elected as a Deputy for Kerry, I promise the people of Kerry to give and do my level best and to ensure support is given to the Government where it is needed, and criticism is given where it is needed.
Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for the role you have played over the past four years and again in recent months, and for the impeccable manner in which you have dealt with your office.
Thank you, Deputy. It is interesting to note, Deputy, that we are not just getting a new Government but we apparently now have a new party.
I now call on members of the independent Independent group.
This is the real Independent group.
I will not support Deputy Micheál Martin for Taoiseach because we know what kind of Government we will get from the proposal. It is a Government of the establishment and a Government committed to the establishment. In the programme for Government, there are 127 reviews, 68 examinations and 44 considerations of policy, but little else. It lacks actions, vision and the change that citizens voted for. Based on the programme, people will be worse off at the end of the Government's tenure. It is a Government of inaction on the issues hurting our people most, namely, housing, health, climate, equality and discrimination, the issues that matter for people. The Prime Minister of a small country, Jacinda Ardern, summed up what the programme for Government will be. She stated:
Economic growth accompanied by worsening social outcomes is not success. It is failure.
For that reason, I will not support the programme for Government. I wish the incoming Government well personally but I hold little hope for the people of Donegal or of Ireland during its tenure.
There is also a nomination for Deputy McDonald as Taoiseach but I will not support that either at this time. Unfortunately, Sinn Féin is preparing itself for government and has rowed back on a lot of stuff n recent times. We will see more of that over the current Dáil and, for that reason, we will need to keep watch. That is what I will be doing. I will be watching the Government and Opposition to ensure they serve the people well.
I welcome the Debenhams shop steward here today. I have said many times about past Governments, and particularly about the Labour Party, that when it came to propping up Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party wrestled with its conscience and its conscience never won. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael could have been forced into this position a long time ago if the Labour Party had not propped them up, as they have done.
The Green Party, in endorsing this programme for Government, is betraying all those who voted for fundamental change. It was an anti-establishment vote on 8 February. I heard that on the doorsteps and I am not an alien, so I am sure everybody else heard it on the doorsteps too. The Green Party is also betraying those who voted for radical, serious action on climate change. Much has been made of the commitment to a yearly 7% reduction in carbon emissions, but achieving that has been pushed back to the period 2025 to 2030, which is after the incoming Government will have left office. This is in line with the more than 100 issues that have been kicked into the long grass, with reviews, task force reporting, citizens' conventions and special commissions.
As for what serious, radical action on climate change would look like, take public transport. Dublin has the lowest public transport subsidy of all reasonably sized cities in Europe. Free public transport would be radical. The horrible Covid-19 lockdown showed that it is possible to dramatically reduce emissions. What about a four-day working week with no loss of pay, again a radical solution?
On the two key issues that dominated the February election, housing and health, absolutely nothing would change with this programme for Government. Housing will be developer led, while the rental market will be dominated by vulture funds. Any reference to Sláintecare by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is a joke. Sláintecare was buried years ago and there is no intention to implement it.
I will not vote for Deputies Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar as rotating taoisigh.
I thank the outgoing Taoiseach for his work in recent months and during the Covid-19 crisis. In fairness, for all politicians, much of the bickering went out the window and we rallied together. I also thank the people for the effort they have made.
Today is an historic day. I wish Deputy Micheál Martin the best of luck. It is probably inevitable that he will be Taoiseach and, for the course of the next few years or however long it lasts, I wish him good luck in his journey ahead.
Our group put together documents. We met representatives of the incoming Government a few times and have been constructive but, unfortunately, after a few text messages to say meetings would be held, they never prevailed. That is politics, however, and that is the way it goes.
I will oppose the nomination, although the reason is not personal. It is because I have read the programme for Government, which will destroy agriculture and the fabric of rural Ireland and which, once again, will not deliver despite many promises. It will destroy the likes of planning. I smiled earlier when Deputy Eamon Ryan, whom I wish the best in his new portfolio, stated people will be able to walk to work. He should tell that to the Bord na Móna workers who live beside the bog and have no job today, or to the people of rural Ireland who have to drive 20, 30 or 40 miles to the cities. If anything is to be learned from the Covid crisis, it should surely be a testament to the people living in rural Ireland, given the level of infection in the large cities, that outbreaks were not as severe in rural areas.
The road ahead will be bumpy but we have to represent the people who have put their faith in us. I do not know how anybody from a rural area could vote for this programme for Government, with the imprint of the Green Party and this 7% per year emissions reduction pledge. Another issue is planning. I listened to Deputy Ó Cuív the other day, a person I recognise and admire, saying that if someone wishes to build a house in a rural area, he or she will have to check whether there is a house in the local town or the next town down the road. Those are the problems we have to face and the crosses we have to bear.
I will leave Deputy Micheál Martin with an old saying from rural Ireland: may the road rise to you. Unfortunately, however, the Green Party has stated there will be no new roads.
Today, history is being made. We see the two old enemies come together with the Green Party to form a Government. For some this is strange but for me, having spent 15 years in the European Parliament, it is not strange to see parties and groups with different perspectives come together to find compromises. After 140 days it is time we had a Government. We are in the teeth of a possible hard Brexit and businesses in all sectors are on their knees looking for support. We are in the trough of a Covid-19 outbreak, people are anxious that another peak may lie ahead and we need to get people back to work.
I have some serious reservations about the programme for Government. It is very vague about how it will deliver a balance to the regions, about managing Brexit, about specific supports for agriculture and about how we will pay for it all. The three parties forming a Government, however, have a majority in the House and, collectively, the highest percentage of the vote. I wish Deputy Micheál Martin and his Government well. The people deserve good government; let us see whether it is delivered. For today, I will lend my vote to Deputy Micheál Martin in the interests of forming what is the only viable option for government right now, and I will play a constructive role in holding that Government to account.
I concur with the previous speaker. The constituency I represent needs a Government to deal with the issues we face. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Minister for Health told the House that greater and better use has to be made of Ennis hospital and other tier-two hospitals throughout the mid-west to avoid a catastrophe next winter at University Hospital Limerick. Shannon Airport and Shannon Development, which were founded to drive economic development throughout the mid-west, are not in a good place. Shannon Airport is on its knees. Shannon heritage sites, the legacy of Shannon Development, are closed, and some of them are not even scheduled to open this year. Those sites are not the heritage of those of us from the mid-west. They are the heritage of every Deputy in the House and everybody he or she represents in the House. I will vote for Deputy Micheál Martin and his Government to face those challenges and I will hold them to account in how they do so.
I am aware that Deputy Micheál Martin is justifiably proud of Cork, its heritage and its political traditions. Notwithstanding what is in the programme for Government and what is not, I ask that he govern in the republican tradition, pursue the prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts and, especially, cherish all the children of the nation equally, especially those whose special needs have been relegated and who have been left to their own devices in recent weeks.
Leis sin, tá gach rud ráite. The bells will ring for six minutes and the doors will be closed after a further four minutes.
The Clerk will proceed to conduct the division by roll call. When each Member's name is called, the Member is requested to stand in his or her place to cast the vote. The microphone switching is controlled centrally and Members are therefore asked to wait until the light on the microphone is on before casting a vote.
Cathal Berry, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Colm Burke, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Thomas Byrne, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Jack Chambers, Niall Collins, Patrick Costello, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, Cathal Crowe, Cormac Devlin, Alan Dillon, Stephen Donnelly, Paschal Donohoe, Francis Noel Duffy, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Peter Fitzpatrick, Joe Flaherty, Charles Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Norma Foley, Noel Grealish, Brendan Griffin, Marian Harkin, Simon Harris, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Emer Higgins, Neasa Hourigan, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, John Lahart, James Lawless, Brian Leddin, Michael Lowry, Marc MacSharry, Josepha Madigan, Catherine Martin, Micheál Martin, Steven Matthews, Paul McAuliffe, Charlie McConalogue, Helen McEntee, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Joe McHugh, Michael McNamara, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Eoghan Murphy, Verona Murphy, Hildegarde Naughton, Malcolm Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Joe O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, James O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Kieran O'Donnell, Richard O'Donoghue, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, Roderic O'Gorman, Christopher O'Sullivan, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Éamon Ó Cuív, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Matt Shanahan, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Ossian Smyth, David Stanton, Robert Troy, Leo Varadkar.
Chris Andrews, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Martin Browne, Pat Buckley, Holly Cairns, Seán Canney, Matt Carthy, Sorca Clarke, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Catherine Connolly, Rose Conway-Walsh, Réada Cronin, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pa Daly, Pearse Doherty, Paul Donnelly, Dessie Ellis, Mairead Farrell, Michael Fitzmaurice, Kathleen Funchion, Gary Gannon, Thomas Gould, Johnny Guirke, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael Healy-Rae, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Claire Kerrane, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mary Lou McDonald, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Johnny Mythen, Gerald Nash, Cian O'Callaghan, Louise O'Reilly, Darren O'Rourke, Eoin Ó Broin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Thomas Pringle, Maurice Quinlivan, Patricia Ryan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Duncan Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Pauline Tully, Mark Ward, Jennifer Whitmore, Violet Wynne.
I declare Deputy Micheál Martin to have been nominated by Dáil Éireann for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach.
Before calling on Deputy Martin to address the House, on behalf of the entire Oireachtas community I want to thank the outgoing Taoiseach, his Government and his team for the enormity of the service they have given to the country since 2016. They have had many successes, not least concerning Brexit and Covid-19.
We acknowledge the fact that today is a momentous event and occasion for Deputy Martin and for his wife, Mary, his family, his dedicated personal team and his political party. Everybody here wishes him success in providing this country with the wise leadership it will need in the future.
I dtosach báire, gabhaim buíochas ó chroí le Baill Dháil Éireann as an onóir mhór seo a bhronnadh orm inniu. Nuair a bhí iar-Thaoisigh Seán Lemass agus Jack Lynch san áit ina bhfuilim anois, dúirt siad gur chóir do dhuine ag dul isteach in oifig an Taoisigh agus ag glacadh le ról chomh tábhachtach le ról an Taoisigh amhras agus buarthaí a bhreith leis nó léi. Aontaím go hiomlán leis na tuairimí sin. Seo oifig gur chóir do dhuine glacadh léi ar an gcoinníoll amháin seo - ar mhaithe le leas an phobail agus an mhaith choiteann. Seo an rud a dhéanaim inniu. Tá a fhios agam go rí-mhaith na héachtaí agus an obair shuntasach atá déanta ag mórchuid romham a rinne seirbhís ar son na tíre mar Thaoisigh, go háirithe an ghlúin cheannairí ó mo pháirtí a spreag mé nuair a thosaigh mé amach ar dtús ag cur spéise sa pholaitíocht.
Those leaders believed in a practical republicanism, a republicanism which was determined to show that Ireland could overcome any barriers to its progress. That spirit is as important today as it ever has been, and it is the spirit I intend to work within. There were many things said during this debate and I thank all for their contributions. Those contributions should normally be replied to, but I think it is more important right now to move forward. There is no question as to what our most urgent work is. We are meeting away from our permanent Chamber because of a historic pandemic which has struck Ireland and the rest of the world. As of today, 2,278 people on this island have lost their lives. Many thousands more fought a long struggle to recover. There is no community, no part of our country, that has escaped untouched.
In the past three and a half months, enormous progress has been made in controlling the spread of the virus and treating those who have become sick. For this and much more, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to staff working in our health system, in other front-line roles and within our public services. As part of this, I acknowledge the work of the outgoing Government, especially the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, and the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, for their leadership. While there is no doubt that we have achieved progress since March, the struggle against the virus is not over. We must continue to contain its spread, we must be ready to tackle any new wave and we must move forward rapidly to secure a recovery to benefit all our people. As we meet here, there are nearly 9,000 of our people wholly or partly relying on special pandemic payments. This is the fastest-moving recession ever to hit our country. To overcome it, we must act with urgency and ambition. There are restrictions which will remain in place for some time and no one can say today when we will return to something close to normality. However, there is much more that we can and must do to help our society and our economy to recover. Starting today, this work will be at the very centre of everything the new Government will do.
At the same time, we know there are other great challenges we faced before the pandemic and which remain to be overcome. Too many of our people cannot find a decent and affordable place to live. Waiting times for urgent treatments are far too long. Our communities, our families and our young people need support to be able to thrive in a rapidly changing, modern economy. We must tackle the existential crisis posed by climate change. Recovery and renewal are the themes which underpin everything in the programme for Government that has been agreed between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party and ratified by our members with overwhelming majorities. When three parties come from very different traditions, we do not and could not be expected to agree on everything. However, we have been able to agree on core democratic principles and a balanced and comprehensive programme. We are conscious of the fact that we must work hard to build trust with each other and with the people we have a duty and privilege to serve.
To be elected to serve as Taoiseach of a free republic is one of the greatest honours anyone can receive. I thank the Deputies of my party for their support, those of Fine Gael and the Green Party and those Independent Deputies who voted for me. Most of all, I thank my family and my community. Without them, I could have achieved nothing. My wife, Mary, has been a pillar of support and a partner for me since our days in college. Our children have tolerated my many absences over the years. As they have grown, studied and experienced the world, they have not just supported me but have given Mary and me the benefit of their views of the Ireland they have grown up with. I was blessed to be born into the home which my late parents created for me and my brothers and sisters in the heart of the close-knit, working-class community which I have the enormous privilege of representing in Dáil Éireann. Every day, my parents showed us the importance of supporting each other, of tough but fair competition and of the spirit of community. From my late father we learned not just of the great sporting achievements he saw but of the characters and values of the heroes who were and remain immortal to us. We learned the importance of persistence, of optimism and of always understanding that Cork will soon win anther double.
Most of all, we learned of the struggles of the members of our country's great founding generation and of their republicanism. It was a republicanism which always sought to evolve and to respond to the needs of today and the future. They were warm, generous, visionary and brave, not just physically but, far more importantly, in their willingness to question themselves and embrace change. It is this republicanism, a tradition which does not wear and never has worn a party label, to which we all owe so much. It is the reason that Dáil Éireann is the only parliament established in the aftermath of the First Word War which has been democratic for the entire century since. This week 100 years ago, the First Dáil was obliged to leave its normal Chamber to be able to meet in full session. The minutes of that sitting show that in the face of dramatic events and repression, the Members of the Dáil continued their work of building Irish democracy. They voted to establish independent courts, reviewed and questioned the work of every Department, and looked at ways of funding housing in Dublin. They set themselves the challenge of not just talking about the problems of our country but developing solutions. Our country has shown time and time again that we can overcome the toughest of challenges and we will do so again. It is in this spirit of deep belief in the role of democratic government, with a commitment to delivering the recovery and renewal embodied in our programme and the determination to work tirelessly to serve the people, that I proudly accept the House's nomination. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Go raibh maith agat, a Thaoisigh. It is proposed that the sitting be suspended until 6 p.m. Is that agreed? Agreed. I ask Members to remain in their seats while the Taoiseach is escorted from the auditorium. After he has left, Members may then vacate the auditorium block by block, as directed by the parliamentary ushers. I ask them to keep their social distance as they do so.