Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
Deputy Simon Harris: A Cheann Comhairle, it is a great honour, as the youngest Member of the 31st Dáil, to rise formally today to nominate Deputy Enda Kenny as the next Taoiseach of this country. Deputy Kenny will bring to the office of the Taoiseach integrity, honesty and a work rate which simply cannot be surpassed. He will use his skills as a leader to preside over a government committed to public service, at a time when such commitment is so urgently required. His ability to recognise the talents and skills of others places him in a very strong position to appoint and preside over a government with the capabilities and the determination to work for this nation and its people.
At a time when my generation is faced with the grim prospect of forced emigration and when unemployment blights our society yet again, we need a Taoiseach determined to restore stability, credibility and hope to this country. The people expect, deserve and require a government led by a Taoiseach who will put in place plans that will not just restore our economy, but which will ultimately build a fairer society. I am sure that my predecessors who stood here and nominated a person to be Taoiseach have hoped that at the core of a nominee was an honesty and a decency. I find myself in the enviable position today of not just hoping that about Deputy Enda Kenny, but along with colleagues on these benches and on all sides of the House, knowing that the core of Deputy Kenny is an honesty and a decency.
A Cheann Comhairle, today is a moment in this country’s history where we set about realising the hopes, dreams and aspirations of our people. Today, the period of mourning is over for Ireland. Today, we hang out our brightest colours and together, under Deputy Kenny’s leadership, we move forward yet again as a nation. It is with pride, honour and delight that I propose to Dáil Éireann the election of Deputy Kenny as the next Taoiseach of this country.
Deputy Ciara Conway: It is my privilege, on behalf of the Labour Party, to second the motion that Deputy Enda Kenny be nominated for appointment by the President as Taoiseach. This is an historic moment, the moment when the two largest parties in the State have joined together in the nation’s interest to form a strong and stable Government. It is a government that knows the national interest is best served by putting the people’s interest at the heart of everything it does and every decision it makes.
The 31st Dáil is one of dramatic change. The Government that will be elected here today will have the strongest mandate in the history of our State; a mandate to strive with every fibre of our being for an Ireland we can be proud to hand on to our children. We face the task with humility, with a sense of privilege and with determination. This will be a partnership government, a national government, where the best of both Labour and Fine Gael unites to serve those who look to us for hope, leadership and unity of purpose. That purpose now, as it was in the democratic programme of the first Dáil, will be to ensure that Ireland’s economic strengths are used to benefit all of her people. In the words of that programme, written by Tom Johnson some 92 years ago, our purpose must also be “to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter”, and to provide the “care of the Nation’s aged and infirm, who shall not be regarded as a burden, but rather entitled to the Nation’s gratitude and consideration”. All of this, then as now, in a free and fair Ireland that we can be proud to call our own.
Deputy Micháel Martin: Comhghairdeas leat, a Cheann Comhairle, as ucht bheith tofa mar Cheann Comhairle. I dtús báire, ba mhaith liom aitheantas a thabhairt don obair mhór a rinne na Teachtaí Dála nár éirigh leo san olltoghchán seo. Creidim go bhfuil onóir ag baint leis an bpolaitíocht agus gur bhain siad an-chuid amach nuair a bhí siad anseo. Ba mhaith liom chomh maith fáilte a chur roimh na daoine atá sa Teach seo don chéad uair. Lá an-mhór atá ann dóibh gan dabht.
One of the clearest messages from the people is that they want us to reform the way we do our business in this House. Far too often, contributions here are about seeking attention rather than dealing with the serious issues at hand. The difference between permanent campaigning and daily business is sometimes difficult to discern. That has become the case even on the first day of each new Dáil. There has been a growing tendency for speeches to be delivered which take no real account of the fact that an election is over and the people have just spoken.
Equally, a habit has developed of nominating people for the position of Taoiseach for the sake of doing so rather than in the belief that the person has a right to assume the office. Today, it is my intention to break with that precedent. It is clear that Deputy Enda Kenny has been given a mandate by the people to take up the office of Taoiseach and that he should do so in a coalition government involving the Fine Gael and Labour parties. Fianna Fáil respects Deputy Kenny’s mandate and will, therefore, not oppose his nomination today.
In addition, we will not support the nomination of any other person for the office. Unless there is some unforeseen development in the nature of the members and responsibilities of the Government Deputy Kenny will propose to the House later this afternoon, Fianna Fáil will also not oppose the nomination of the new Government. Clearly, this decision will not affect the outcome of the votes but it is an important signal about changing the way politics is conducted in Dáil Éireann.
There is, of course, a distinction to be drawn between the votes which will be held today and support for the programme for Government. Fine Gael and Labour have agreed to share power but have kicked to touch on most of the major issues to be addressed by this Dáil. They stood in the election as separate parties and have at best only agreed a process for bridging the gaps between them. On fiscal policy, the one concrete agreement is to implement the 2011 budget they voted against a few weeks ago. On financial policy they have agreed to change existing policies but have not agreed on what specifically will replace them.
Given the energy with which some Deputies in Fine Gael and Labour have attacked the past use of policy reviews, the inclusion of over 21 such reviews in their programme for Government is more than a bit ironic. In many ways this is one of the least specific programmes for Government ever published. Flexibility is certainly required to make a coalition government work but the danger contained within this programme is that it leaves so many basic points for later negotiation. The scale of budget changes for the majority of the term of office and the balance between taxation and spending measures should be set out clearly in a government’s programme, and the failure to do this must inevitably lead to concerns about unresolved issues.
This shows itself relating to the likely Cabinet as well. A new set of challenges requires a new approach to setting ministerial tasks. I welcome Deputy Kenny’s intention to restructure Cabinet responsibilities. However, the idea that one Minister will negotiate the detail of budgets while another will have responsibility for implementing these decisions is a recipe for confusion and conflict and is a compromise which appears based mainly on a failure to agree on who should be the Minister for Finance.
I want to reiterate that Fianna Fáil’s approach in this Dáil will be to provide constructive Opposition. When we agree with a policy, we will support it. When we do not, we will oppose it and will set out a credible alternative. We will not follow the example seen in recent years of manoeuvring to oppose everything for the sake of popularity. The self-serving and partisan narrative which others have offered about the last decade may have been helpful for campaigning purposes but it will not help in the much tougher business of governing.
It is my intention that Fianna Fáil will provide an Opposition which is both assertive and constructive. Equally, I want it to be absolutely clear that we will defer to no one in our right to represent the nearly 400,000 people who voted for us 12 days ago. I am leader of our political party but I am first and foremost an Irish republican. This means that I want my country to do well no matter who is in charge. I have serious concerns about Deputy Kenny’s policies and I sincerely do not believe that we have seen a programme for Government which is capable of addressing the serious issues facing our country. However, I wish him well and I sincerely hope that he will be successful as Taoiseach.
Deputy Joe Higgins: I oppose the nomination of Deputy Enda Kenny as Taoiseach of a Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition Government. The very first sentence of the programme for Government states that a democratic revolution took place in Ireland on 25 February. The Oxford dictionary defines “revolution” as the overthrow of a government or social order in favour of a new system. That being the case, the programme presented by Deputy Kenny is a grotesque betrayal of that revolution because it proposes, almost to the letter, to continue the reactionary programme of the old order of the late and unlamented regime of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, a regime that was rightly reviled, rejected and sent to oblivion by the Irish people for its economic and political crimes. Given the day that is in it, I am surprised that the remnants of that Government did not return with their brows heavily stained with penitential ash to recognise the role it played.
Deputy Joe Higgins: ——and grasping bankers, imprisoning a generation of young working people in monstrous mortgages and negative equity. When that greedfest inevitably choked on its own excess, it treacherously connived with the EU, IMF and ECB to save the skins of the major European banks that had their snouts deep in the feeding trough that was the Irish property market where they slurped as frenetically as any Fianna Fáil developer or big Irish banker.
For this, and the crash that inevitably resulted, we see the savage attacks on the living standards of our people, which this nominee for Government intends to continue. They attack public services and steal from the disabled and the poor. A revolution would overturn and reverse all that. However, this nominee for Taoiseach proposes to confirm and reinstate the discredited programme of a discredited Government. The poisonous cocktail of austerity, concocted by the witch doctors in Brussels and Frankfurt because of the sickness of the European financial system, is to continue to be force-fed to the Irish people by this new proposed Government. Therefore, a vote for Deputy Kenny for Taoiseach is a vote not for revolution or change, but for counter-revolution and more of the same. It is a vote for monstrous cuts in the living standards of workers and the unemployed, including the hated universal social charge which should be labelled universal anti-social charge, for wholesale privatisation of public assets, notwithstanding the disastrous consequences of previous privatisations such as Team Aer Lingus and Telecom Éireann, for blatant new tax burdens on ordinary people, including a water tax and home tax, and for a health service held to ransom by profit-seeking private insurance companies.
The first paragraph of the first chapter of a proposal for Government that would be honest would try to answer the question: “Why should the Irish people have their economic life-blood drained to salvage the tens of billions of euro gambled and lost by private speculators in private deals for private profit in Irish property? By what moral code does a Government justify placing that millstone on our people?” We will put that question to them again and again until it is answered.
This is not the first time an Irish political establishment responded to an Irish and Europe-wide crisis by sacrificing its people. Nearly 100 years ago, the forebears of today’s speculating European financiers and their political clients plunged into war in a vicious competition for markets, raw materials and profits. The Irish Parliamentary Party of the day will forever be remembered in infamy for its campaign to dragoon a generation of youth to feed the insatiable appetite of the imperial war makers. Today, by sacrificing our people, our services and our youth to feed the equally insatiable appetite of the wolves in the European and world financial markets — faceless, unelected and unaccountable — first Fianna Fáil and the Greens, then Fine Gael and Labour play an equally shameful role as the Irish Parliamentary Party. It was a great Irish socialist, James Connolly, who, in opposition to that conflict, called for a torch to be lit in Ireland that would, “not burn out until the last throne and the last capitalist bond and debenture” was burned. How deeply ashamed James Connolly would be today that the Labour Party he founded marches into Dáil Éireann to become part of a Government that will burn not the bondholders, the speculators or the grasping big bankers but the Irish people, the working class, the unemployed, the poor and the low and middle-income workers.
The Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance rejects the right-wing programme proposed by Deputy Kenny. We reject the rule of the financial markets, which is causing such crisis and suffering among our people. We demand instead that they be brought to heel and brought into public ownership and democratic control in Ireland and Europe to be used instead as vehicles of major public investment to create projects that would quickly see tens of thousands of people returning to work from the tragedy of standing in the dole queue. The incoming Government will have a crushing majority in this Dáil. It should not think from this that its economic programme of savage austerity will go unchallenged. It certainly will be challenged in this Chamber and it should be remembered that we in the united left will facilitate the mobilisation of worker power, people power and community power to defend the living standards of the vast majority of people, who are attacked by this programme, to defend their livelihood and to oppose new and unjust stealth taxes.
Tá mé glan in aghaidh an rúin go dtoghfaí an Teachta Kenny mar Thaoiseach. Is náireach an láé nuair a thagann iarrthóir d’oifig an Taoisigh os comhair na Dála agus mar chlár oibre aige caighdeán maireachtála lucht oibre na tíre a bhascadh chun fiacha ollmhóra príobháideacha lucht speiciléireachta agus na bainc a íoc. Is feall uafásach é seo ar mhuintir na tíre. Tá sé mímhórálta, mícheart agus míchóir; agus déanfaidh sé an ghéarchéim eacnamaíochta níos measa. Má bristear caighdeán maireachtála oibritheoirí ar pháíseal agus ar mheán phá, nó má tógtar airgead as liúntais daoine bochta, is amhlaidh go rachaidh an líon daoine dífhostaithe i méid. Ar bhonn eacnamaíochta agus ar bhonn mhóralta, tabharfaidh an Páirtí Sóisialach agus an Comhaontas Chlé síordúshlán don Rialtas seo. Beimid ag táirgeadh mar mhalairt forbairt ar cúrsaí eacnamaíochta ar bhonn infheistíochta phoiblí, seachas bheith ag brath ar lucht an rachmais. Beimid ag glaoch ar ghnáth daoine a gcumhacht fhéin a úsáid.
As Members meet today, they also should remember the magnificent movement of opposition and the sacrifices of ordinary people throughout the Arab world against their horrific dictatorships. Irish working people will wish to support them and Members will return to further discussions in this regard in the days ahead.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Comhghairdeas arís leat, a Cheann Chomhairle, agus le do chlann. Ní féidir le Sinn Féin tacú leis an moladh, an Teachta Kenny a ainmniú mar Thaoiseach. Níl iontas ar an Teachta faoi sin. Ní rud pearsanta é. Tá meas mór agam ar an mandáid a fuair Fine Gael.
Sinn Féin set out a number of key priorities during the election campaign. These included the need to reverse budget cuts to public services and social welfare, the need to abolish the universal social charge and to put an end to putting public money into the bad banks. It is hardly surprising that Fianna Fáil does not oppose this nomination given its members put together the programme for Government the new Government will administer. Sinn Féin also set out its view of the need to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society, namely, the poor, the unemployed and those on the margins, as well as those who never would have seen themselves as being economically vulnerable but who now are on the edge of deprivation, suffering and real distress. Sinn Féin also set out its clear opposition to plans by Fine Gael to downgrade the Irish language and has a long-standing view of the need to continue to foster the peace process, to build towards Irish unity and to continue to work with our Unionist neighbours in the North.
Níl clár Rialtais Fhine Gael agus an Lucht Oibre ag cloí leis an obair seo. Ní féidir le Sinn Féin tacaíocht a thabhairt d’ainmniú an Teachta Kenny mar Thaoiseach, os rud é go bhfuil sé ag seasamh le clár Rialtais a chuirfidh géarphlean ceithre bliana Fianna Fáil i gcrích. Tá sé ar intinn aige níos mó d’airgead an phobail a chur isteach sa chóras baincéireachta.
We cannot support a Taoiseach who is prepared to sell important State assets and introduce water charges and property taxes for ordinary households. It is appropriate that we gather here at the beginning of Lent, given what is coming for the citizens of the State. As I said at the outset, this is not a personal issue. I respect the mandate which Fine Gael received and wish the Taoiseach and Government well. It is a huge honour for all of those who will take office and their families. Gabhaim comhghairdeas leo go léir agus guím ádh mór orthu.
The House should be assured that we will not oppose the Government for the sake of it. If, by fluke, positive proposals are brought forward, we will support them. I would also like to address some remarks to the Labour Party and Deputy Gilmore. They had the opportunity to work for a Government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Is botún agus meancóg mhór é tacaíocht a thabairt do Fhine Gael sa Rialtas agus an Teachta Kenny a ainmniú mar Thaoiseach.
By ruling out all other options for coalition, including with those of us on the left, it undermined its stated aspiration for a Labour Party-led government and limited the choice presented to the public. Tá slí níos fearr ann. Tá bealach níos fearr ann.
In wishing the incoming Taoiseach and Tánaiste well I wish to make clear that Sinn Féin will provide robust and constructive opposition to the Government and hold it to account for the decisions it takes. Ar an lá seo, tús maith leath na hoibre. Guím ádh mór oraibh uilig.
Deputy Shane Ross: I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his election to the high office which he has achieved. It is a particularly great achievement considering that he retired from this House eight years ago and will be automatically re-elected at the next election. I say that with great sincerity and I know he will be a very fine Ceann Comhairle.
I rise to announce the first split in the Technical Group which was formed yesterday. I agree with many of the directions of Deputy Higgins. One of the great virtues of the group is that there is diversity and difference of opinion and we intend to express those diverse opinions in many ways in the weeks and years to come.
An avalanche of public goodwill is moving in the direction of the Government and I hope and pray that it will capitalise on it and fulfil the faith which has been put in it by the Irish electorate. I fully accept that Deputy Kenny has a mandate which he achieved ten days ago.
Having said that, I am somewhat dispirited after reading the programme for Government. I understand why Fianna Fáil will support Deputy Kenny for Taoiseach, namely, because the new Government, according to its programme, will implement the policies that Fianna Fáil imposed upon the country. That is something which I find difficult to accept, barely ten days after it had opposed it so vehemently. We see exactly the same parameters on the economy and the same austerity measures about to be imposed by the new Government. I agree with Deputy Higgins on that. I was deeply discouraged when I read the programme for Government that there was no vision in it and so little in it that was specific. As Deputy Martin said, there were so many reviews and fudges that we do not know exactly what is being promised at all, except that the Labour Party and Fine Gael will be the Government over the next few years and will stick together come hell or high water. That is not good enough. We needed a programme for Government which fulfilled the programme of electoral policies which were made on that side of the House, but we did not get that. We did not get a vision. Take, for example, the EU-IMF deal. We were promised renegotiation and an end to what was called, so euphemistically, burden sharing. However, even before the ink was dry on the programme for Government, burden sharing was dropped last Friday in Helsinki and we have to share the burden with those banks which lent so irresponsibly to Anglo Irish Bank and Allied Irish Banks so many years ago over such a long period. Renegotiation means “renegotiation”. It does not mean going into Europe and negotiating a cut in the interest rate, which we already know has been conceded. That is not good enough. We need a Government which is prepared to send people out to Brussels or Strasbourg or anywhere else armed with a referendum given to them by the people saying the deal is not acceptable. We are not getting that, but getting a Government that will go in with the same deal and mandate as the previous Government.
Second, the programme for Government is silent on the promises which were made about putting an end to cronyism. Instead, we have a vague and diluted promise that there will be a substantive reduction in the number of quangos. Where is the promise to reduce or abolish 145 quangos? The suggestion that the Government will make a substantive reduction in quangos is not good enough. Furthermore, we no longer see any pledge to change the appointments to State and semi-State bodies and agencies as promised before the election. Perhaps this is just an omission from the programme. However, I fear that whereas the new Government is an amazing and welcome relief in terms of its honesty and integrity and of being an end to a dark period of political rule here, the promises of change are empty and are already disappearing. I want to be certain that the Fianna Fáil version of cronyism is not replaced by a Fine Gael-Labour version of cronyism. They did pretty well in the 1994-97 period in putting their pals in power. It is important that we see a system established so that ugly aspect of Irish political life is ended.
I fear that because of the parameters and restrictions of the economy, the Government will almost inevitably yield to the temptation to be a Government so similar to the previous one, perhaps not in its style or methods but in what it does, that it will be indistinguishable from it.
Deputy Seamus Healy: I oppose the nomination of Deputy Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. The programme for Government is a deep betrayal of working people, the poor and families on low and middle incomes. We see no serious change in the programme, which is a continuation of the Fianna Fáil-Green Party policies in what is now a more unfavourable environment for the public. The continuation of the universal social charge, the regressive tax changes of the past budgets and austerity measures are set to continue. This takes place against a background of a 7% rise in the price of staple foods over the past eight months, increases in mortgage rates, with more to come, and rocketing fuel prices which will cause further rises in food prices. This will further depress the economy and lead to a further increase in unemployment and emigration.
The commitment in the programme for Government to eliminate 25,000 jobs in the public service is obscene. Any excess posts that exist in the higher echelons, in Ministers’ offices or in the offices of secretaries general, must be transferred to necessary services at the front line, where teachers, nurses, clerical and maintenance staff attempt to maintain public services in the face of significant cuts which the programme for Government plans to continue. The Labour Party should hang its head in shame. The programme for Government does not propose to take a red cent in tax from the assets of the super rich. The 6% who own €250 billion of assets will not pay a halfpenny, while ordinary people are being fleeced to pay for a recession they had no hand, act or part in creating.
James Connolly wrote about the reconquest of Ireland. The current leader of the Labour Party has endorsed the humiliation of Ireland under the EU-IMF deal. The excuse he gave on radio was that there is a necessity to repair relations with our European partners. That is a form of national grovelling. The French, German and British banks practised reckless lending to Irish and other banks, causing problems for the Irish, Greek, Portuguese and Spanish. The Labour Party policy is one of grovelling to these powerful banks in the hope we will get a few crumbs from them. James Connolly said: “The great only appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise.” We must rise up and tell the EU and IMF that we will not pay the debts of the Irish banks. We must tell them that the combination of these debts and the imminent mortgage crisis will cause a disastrous default that will make current problems appear minor and leave Ireland in a much weaker position to remedy the situation.
That is very important for the public, for the patients and their families and for the community in south Tipperary. The “save our acute hospital services” committee in south Tipperary, of which I am chairman, received election commitments from Fine Gael and the Labour Party confirming that they will retain all existing acute hospital services in South Tipperary General Hospital. I will relentlessly pursue those commitments and I call on the incoming Government and the incoming Minister for Health and Children to immediately instruct the HSE to halt the reconfiguration process.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: On behalf of the People Before Profit Alliance, and along with my colleagues in the ULA, I will not vote in favour of Deputy Kenny’s nomination as Taoiseach. The reason for that relates to a comment Deputy Martin made about the need to break from certain bad traditions in Irish politics.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: One of the worst traditions in politics, which we seem to have a particular capacity for in this country, is saying one thing during an election campaign when one is looking for votes and then doing something very different as soon as the votes are in the ballot box. That is precisely what has happened with the new programme for Government.
Deputy Kenny said that the EU-IMF deal was a bad deal for Ireland and it was a bad deal for Europe. There was a clear implication that something would be done about that and that we would stand up to those institutions which were trying to unload the cost of a financial crisis created by bankers and speculators on to the backs of ordinary people. This deal will cause immense suffering for them and it will cripple our economy for years to come. The rhetoric about standing up and doing something about the IMF-EU deal has disappeared in the programme for Government, which sets out clearly the intention to continue the programme of austerity and cuts implemented by the previous Government in the interests of paying off the bankers and bondholders at the behest of the EU and the IMF.
Another promise emblazoned on almost every Fine Gael poster was to get Ireland working, yet the plan to get Ireland working is reflected in one of the few specific commitments in the programme for Government, which is to slash 25,000 public sector jobs. One does not have to be an economic expert to realise one will not get Ireland working by axing 25,000 jobs. That will mean an additional 25,000 people unemployed, less money being spent in the economy and more suffering.
It is particularly depressing that the Labour Party will support Deputy Kenny, the incoming Government and the programme for Government. Labour Party members should be ashamed of themselves for signing up to a programme that will axe the jobs of 25,000 of the people who very particularly voted for them in the hope and expectation that their jobs would be safe. They should be ashamed that when asked about the issue of water charges on national television and in the national media, they made solemn promises that they would not introduce such charges and now they have signed up to a programme for Government that sets out to implement such charges. They should be ashamed to sign up to a programme that talks about selling off State assets to pay off the bankers, bondholders and speculators. It is shameful to sell the family silver and to strip the assets of this country in the name of paying off bankers and bondholders.
What about the promise to do something about the universal social charge, which has savaged the incomes of low and middle income families who have lost hundreds of euros, as a result of which many cannot meet their mortgage repayments or pay other bills? What about the promise that the Labour Party would recalibrate the taxation system so that those earning more than €100,000 per year would be subject to increases? That has also been abandoned and all we have been told is that there will be a review.
For all those reasons, it is impossible to support the incoming Government which has abandoned all its promises related to the desperate cry for change which the people expressed during the election campaign for a programme for Government, which is simply a plan to do more of the same and cause suffering to ordinary people and which will cripple our economy for years to come.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: ——is to support those groups in society which through no fault of their own are being targeted with job losses, brutal pay cuts that will put families under, and savage cuts to the public services on which they depend. We will facilitate, support and encourage people to take up their placards and to democratically resist this counterproductive, unjust and economically unsustainable programme for Government that will do nothing to realise the hopes for change people expressed in the election campaign. That is the pledge of the ULA over the coming period.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have been a little liberal regarding those who are making their maiden speeches. However, I remind Deputies that Government policy does not arise at this point. The debate is on a motion for the nomination of Taoiseach and I ask Members, particularly those making their maiden speeches, to confine their remarks to the motion.
Deputy John Halligan: I welcome Deputy Barrett to his new position. I wish him well. I also wish Deputy Kenny well and I genuinely mean that. The seconder to the motion referred to a national government. My interpretation of a national government is that everybody is included and, therefore, I thought for a moment that the Technical Group had missed a telephone call from Deputy Kenny. However, it is not possible for me to support him as Taoiseach.
The previous Government was put out of office primarily because of the pain, hurt and distress inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people in various constituencies throughout this country. This manifested itself in severe cuts to the living standards of middle class income groups and low paid workers. People voted for change and a reversal of these cuts, not the programme for Government put forward by the incoming Government.
I have good time for Deputy Gilmore but it is regrettable that on this occasion when there was no discernible difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that the Labour Party did not attempt to ensure an alternative left-right divide in this Parliament, as there is in many other parliaments across Europe. Promises were made on placards and posters and in statements issued all over the country to reverse the cuts in child benefit, the dreadful cut in the carer’s allowance and, most important, the universal social charge, which I describe as a super tax that has inflicted untold hardship on hundreds of thousands of families.
However, it is my position, as an Independent Member, that I will do what I think is right for my country and for my constituency. If the Government puts forward policies I can support, I will support them. I will try to be as positive as I can. However, I told the people who voted for me — the middle income groups, those less well-off in society and those suffering dreadful hardship — that when I got to the Dáil, if all of the cuts were not reversed, I could not support the Government and I will not do so.
Deputy Tom Fleming: Comhghairdeas, a Cheann Comhairle. I wish you well in your term in office. As the outcome of this motion is clear, I wish Deputy Kenny, Deputy Gilmore and their team every success in tackling the enormous social and economic issues facing the country. Although, as an Independent, I will abstain on the motion, on reading the programme for Government I broadly agree with many of the proposals and initiatives contained in the document. Such measures should have been implemented in recent years.
We need ethical and compassionate leadership. In that regard I seek the Government’s support in reversing some of the penal cuts in the previous budget. I refer, for example to cuts to the blind, the disabled, widows and carers, the proposed elimination of payments to fourth year student nurses, the imposition of a universal social charge at low levels of income, the increase in annual third level student registration fees to €2,000 and the abolition of tax relief for union subscriptions. In that regard the importance of association, in terms of representing various sections of society, cannot be underestimated. The point was driven home to me as recently as last night when I received an alarming telephone call from a constituent, an employee of the Aetna company in Castleisland, County Kerry, to let me know that the workforce of 116 had been informed yesterday that the company was entering into a 30-day consultation process——
Deputy Tom Fleming: The demise of the company would be a disaster for the entire area, for County Kerry, for the workforce and the local economy. I seek that the new Minister for enterprise and employment who will be appointed today would intervene——
Deputy Mick Wallace: I will keep it short. I will not be voting for Deputy Kenny for Taoiseach but I honestly wish him well. I would prefer to see this country get back on its feet and return to a healthy state rather than the reverse. I will support anything the Government does that I consider to be positive and in the best interests of the people. Likewise, I will not be afraid to criticise anything I consider does not do that.
The Government has a huge majority in the House and it would be very easy for it to ignore the Opposition. However, most would agree that Parliament should function in a much better way than it has for a long time. It would be positive if the Government were to facilitate the healthy working of Parliament. Every Member present is representing the people of Ireland and we should all be facilitated in playing a positive role.
I might not have campaigned for long in Wexford but it would be disingenuous of me not to mention that when I did I was conscious of a huge anger among people. They find it difficult to understand why the taxpayer should carry the burden of mistakes made by the banking system. It would be wonderful if the Government had the courage to hold a referendum and get the decision of the people. That would give the Government much more strength to go to Europe and deal with the issue, which probably constitutes one of the biggest decisions ever made in the history of the State.
I learned many things in speaking to people. One of the reasons I decided to stand for election was that I also felt that people have not been well served by the political process. They do not feel there is a real connect between their representatives and the people who elected them. We can change that. We can all play a part in that regard. We must get to a stage where decisions made at Dáil level are made in the best interests of the people and not just in the interests of big business. It would be great if the new Government had the courage to work in the best interests of the people at all times. At the end of the Government’s term it would be wonderful if it could be proud to be measured by how well it looked after the most vulnerable in society rather than the strength of our GDP. Surely, how a state looks after those who most need its help is the true test of democracy.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: I wish you, a Cheann Comhairle, the best of luck in your new position. It is an amazing honour to be even standing here today representing the people of Roscommon-South Leitrim and the people of the Republic of Ireland. What is good for the people of Roscommon-South Leitrim will be good for the people of the Republic of Ireland and vice versa. One will not be able to work without the other.
It is unfortunate that as a west of Ireland man I will be opposing the nomination of Deputy Enda Kenny as Taoiseach not because I have anything against him personally, but because I do not believe he is the best person for the job. Before the election it was clear that everyone who was running for the Labour Party thought that Deputy Gilmore would be the best person for the job. A short time before the election it was clear that a majority of people within Fine Gael did not think Deputy Kenny was the best person for the job, but there is nothing I, Deputy Gilmore or those people in Fine Gael can do about that now. The situation is a fait accompli as Deputy Enda Kenny will become Taoiseach.
I wish him the best of luck on behalf of my two children because if he has good luck and he does well, they will not have to take the boat or the aeroplane to London like 19 out of 20 members of my family and my wife’s family. I am terrified of the prospect that they will have to take the same road. I am conscious of the fact that parents in Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and other countries do not have to tell their sons or daughters when they turn 18 that the best thing they can do is leave their country.
I dream and hope that after five years the Government will have solved the problem of emigration once and for all. I hope the Government will stem that tide as quickly as possible. Not only that, I also hope that those people who have had to emigrate in recent years, many of my friends and neighbours among them, will be able to come back to a country that can sustain them, just as other modern European countries can.
I hope Deputy Enda Kenny will be brave when dealing with our European partners. I have nothing against Europe. I have lived in Holland, Spain, Germany and Great Britain. All I know is that if I fall on hard times——
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: The people of Roscommon-South Leitrim would like to be shown a bit of respect and that Members would keep quiet while I am talking. I will do exactly the same thing. I am conscious that we need to do many things immediately and as quickly as possible to get ourselves out of the hole we are in. We need to do them right because otherwise we are sentencing the people in this country to a life of hell. I am confident that if it is done right, then things can go very well for people. When it comes to the agrifood sector and the tourism sector there is massive potential for jobs. If Deputy Kenny, his colleagues in Fine Gael and the Labour Party do it right then we will live in a wonderful country.
The first thing that needs to be done — it is what I do when, for example, I am buying a car — is to talk to the experts. When I buy a car, I talk to my friend, the mechanic. When I was buying my house, I spoke to an engineer and I listened to his expertise. I am begging Deputy Kenny to listen to the experts, people like Constantin Gurdgiev, David McWilliams and that man across the Chamber, Deputy Ross. He must listen to their view that we have no choice but to default on this bank debt. However, to those who use what is now being described as the “D word”, the question is immediately thrown back as to what we will do for money if that is done The reality is — the experts cannot all be wrong on this — that we will have to default anyway down the line. It is better to do it of our own accord than to wait for that tonne of bricks to fall on our heads. If we do that we have some chance of getting out of the hole we are in.
There are many things in the programme for Government with which I agree. I agree with reforming our health system, although I would like to see more detail on that. I agree with reform to deal with the fact that government does not work in this country. There are several other issues with which I agree. I hope, above all, that the Government that will be elected today also agrees with these aims, that its members mean it when they say they will go for political reform. Unless they do we will not get out of this hole.
I especially hope they want to reform the health system. I am not any sort of expert in health care from the point of view of being a doctor, but I am an expert from the point of view of being a patient. My children, my wife, my late mother, my father and I have all had to use the health system. It is totally and utterly inadequate. It was embarrassing and nothing short of a disgrace to watch what my mother went through. If the Government does one thing, I hope it gets this right. If it cannot do so, it will have failed.
I wish Deputies Kenny and Gilmore the best of luck in the next five years. If I agree with what they are doing, I will vote with them. If I disagree, I will oppose them hammer and tongs on the floor of Dáil Éireann, and if I do not get my spake in here I will do it through the media. I hope the new Government will see sense. We all have one thing in common, namely, our wish to make Ireland great again. That great Irish man, Seán Lemass, once said that Irish people are capable of doing things just as well as anywhere else in the world — if not better, then equally well. I believe that and I hope the new Government believes it. If we follow through on it Ireland will become great again.
I offer my support to Deputy Kenny on his proposed election as Taoiseach. I am in no doubt as to the difficulties facing him on the economic front. I shall offer constructive views and support all reasonable measures that may be necessary to get this country on the right track. This must be the new Government’s priority if it is to have the possibility of securing existing employment, maintaining the living standards of workers and retaining the freedom to promote the expansion of the economy and the creation of jobs. We must work cohesively to maintain an environment where the creation of employment is a priority. We must eliminate all obstacles that hinder the creation of employment.
I am glad and profoundly grateful to have the opportunity to serve the people of south Kerry to the best of my ability. I remind the other 165 Deputies in this House that, regardless of whatever position they may hold, we are all servants of the people. We are in difficult times and harsh and severe decisions will have to be made by this House. I remind the incoming Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny, of the document published by the late Declan Costello in the 1960s, Towards a Just Society. Now more than ever there is a need to adhere to the principles of social justice and equality set out therein. We must legislate in a fair and transparent way with the common goal of fairness and equality for all.
It is of paramount importance to restore the trust of the Irish people in the way this House conducts its affairs and how legislation is passed through the Oireachtas. We must work together to achieve this aim. Bills will have to be teased out and discussed in detail. One way of achieving this is to enhance the powers of all-party committees. Let they be the first stop for Bills and let there be open and frank discussion on all aspects of legislation. Committees should have powers to propose amendments before legislation is brought to the House for further debate. There should be provision for all Oireachtas committees to include non-elected persons by invitation where a particular expertise is required. The closer to the people that decisions are made the more effective they will be. I do not label myself as an Opposition Deputy nor do I presume to be a Government Deputy. I am a servant of the people. With that in mind I shall facilitate the passage of all measures that are required in the national interest.
Both Deputy Kenny and I are rural-based Deputies. We have both faced our begrudgers in the past. Today Deputy Kenny will be elected Taoiseach of the country and I stand elected as a Deputy for my constituency. They said Deputy Kenny would never make it and they called me and others gombeen politicians. However, the people have spoken and here we are. Now is our chance to work together to get this country back on its feet.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: Mar atá ráite ag ceannaire mo pháirtí, ní bheidh Sinn Féin ag tabhairt tacaíochta do Enda Kenny mar Thaoiseach inniu. Ní rud pearsanta é seo. Tá an tír ag cros-bhealach agus tá an treo a ghlacfaimid san am atá amach romhainn íontach tábhachtach, ní dúinne atá inár suí anseo ach do na daoine sa bhaile atá ag brath ar thús úr le todhchaí na tíre. Tá eagla ormsa go bhfuil siad ag dul a bheith ligthe síos go mór ag an chlár oibre atá curtha le chéile ag an Rialtas úr.
We are at an important point in our history. People marched to the ballot stations in their hundreds of thousands, in numbers never seen before, and gave a resounding vote of confidence to Fine Gael and to other political parties in their different measures. More so than who they voted for, it is clear that what people voted for is change. Each of the political parties argued on a platform of change. One of the most disappointing things we will see in the coming period is that this hope will be snatched away from people. As bad as the dark period under the Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government was, where we had a programme of austerity measures that impacted on the lives of everybody, what is to come may be even worse. When the vision of hope is dangled in front of our eyes, when people see there is a way out only to have it snatched away in a couple of hours in the formation of a programme for Government, that is worse than what has gone on in the past.
We have not heard much of the famous catchphrase that was used throughout the election campaign, namely, the five-point plan. The first point was the provision of 100,000 jobs and a stimulus package of €7 billion. This does not appear in the programme for Government.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: It is clear that in the week that was spent discussing the programme for Government — this is why the incoming Taoiseach does not deserve the support of the House — there was greater concern about how to give a finance portfolio to the Labour Party than about how the promised 100,000 jobs would be created. There are no details in terms of the greatest issue facing the country, that is, how to get people back to work. However, there is no lack of detail and timeframes for how many people this Government will sack. There is no lack of detail on where it will spend taxpayers’ money putting water meters into every house so it can fleece the people more. There is no lack of detail about how the bondholders, the gamblers who are not guaranteed by this State, will get paid back. For these reasons I believe the nominee for Taoiseach does not deserve the support of the House.
|Bannon, James.||Barry, Tom.|
|Breen, Pat.||Broughan, Thomas P.|
|Bruton, Richard.||Burton, Joan.|
|Butler, Ray.||Buttimer, Jerry.|
|Byrne, Catherine.||Byrne, Eric.|
|Cannon, Ciarán.||Carey, Joe.|
|Coffey, Paudie.||Collins, Áine.|
|Conaghan, Michael.||Conlan, Seán.|
|Connaughton, Paul J.||Conway, Ciara.|
|Coonan, Noel.||Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.|
|Costello, Joe.||Coveney, Simon.|
|Creed, Michael.||Creighton, Lucinda.|
|Daly, Jim.||Deasy, John.|
|Deenihan, Jimmy.||Deering, Pat.|
|Doherty, Regina.||Donnelly, Stephen.|
|Donohoe, Paschal.||Dowds, Robert.|
|Doyle, Andrew.||Durkan, Bernard J.|
|English, Damien.||Farrell, Alan.|
|Feighan, Frank.||Ferris, Anne.|
|Fitzgerald, Frances.||Fitzpatrick, Peter.|
|Flanagan, Charles.||Flanagan, Terence.|
|Gilmore, Eamon.||Grealish, Noel.|
|Griffin, Brendan.||Hannigan, Dominic.|
|Harrington, Noel.||Harris, Simon.|
|Hayes, Brian.||Hayes, Tom.|
|Healy-Rae, Michael.||Heydon, Martin.|
|Hogan, Phil.||Howlin, Brendan.|
|Humphreys, Heather.||Humphreys, Kevin.|
|Keating, Derek.||Keaveney, Colm.|
|Kehoe, Paul.||Kelly, Alan.|
|Kenny, Enda.||Kenny, Seán.|
|Kyne, Seán.||Lawlor, Anthony.|
|Lowry, Michael.||Lynch, Ciarán.|
|Lynch, Kathleen.||Lyons, John.|
|McCarthy, Michael.||McEntee, Shane.|
|McFadden, Nicky.||McGinley, Dinny.|
|McGrath, Mattie.||McHugh, Joe.|
|McLoughlin, Tony.||McNamara, Michael.|
|Maloney, Eamonn.||Mathews, Peter.|
|Mitchell O’Connor, Mary.||Mitchell, Olivia.|
|Mulherin, Michelle.||Murphy, Dara.|
|Murphy, Eoghan.||Nash, Gerald.|
|Naughten, Denis.||Neville, Dan.|
|Nolan, Derek.||Noonan, Michael.|
|Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.||O’Donnell, Kieran.|
|O’Donovan, Patrick.||O’Dowd, Fergus.|
|O’Mahony, John.||O’Reilly, Joe.|
|O’Sullivan, Jan.||Penrose, Willie.|
|Perry, John.||Phelan, Ann.|
|Phelan, John Paul.||Quinn, Ruairí.|
|Rabbitte, Pat.||Reilly, James.|
|Ring, Michael.||Ryan, Brendan.|
|Shatter, Alan.||Sherlock, Sean.|
|Shortall, Róisín.||Spring, Arthur.|
|Stagg, Emmet.||Stanton, David.|
|Timmins, Billy.||Tuffy, Joanna.|
|Twomey, Liam.||Varadkar, Leo.|
|Wall, Jack.||Walsh, Brian.|
|Adams, Gerry.||Boyd Barrett, Richard.|
|Collins, Joan.||Colreavy, Michael.|
|Crowe, Seán.||Daly, Clare.|
|Doherty, Pearse.||Ellis, Dessie.|
|Ferris, Martin.||Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’.|
|Halligan, John.||Healy, Seamus.|
|Higgins, Joe.||Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.|
|McDonald, Mary Lou.||McGrath, Finian.|
|McLellan, Sandra.||Murphy, Catherine.|
|Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.||Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.|
|O’Brien, Jonathan.||O’Sullivan, Maureen.|
|Pringle, Thomas.||Ross, Shane.|
|Stanley, Brian.||Tóibín, Peadar.|
An Ceann Comhairle: Before I ask the Taoiseach to move the suspension of the sitting, I wish to inform the House that, in accordance with precedent, when the Dáil resumes Members on my left shall take their seats on my right and those on my right shall take their seats on my left.
I wish Deputy Kenny every success in his role as Taoiseach. During the long period he has spent as a Member of the House he has witnessed many changes and considerable progress. He has always been motivated by the highest public spirit and commitment in office and I am sure that will continue to be the case. I wish health and happiness to the Taoiseach’s family, particularly his wife, Fionnuala, who has been at his side and who has given him tremendous strength. Those of us on this side of the House who are members of Fianna Fáil remember her fondly because some years ago she was our party’s press officer. We wish both the Taoiseach and his wife well.
On a personal level, the Taoiseach and I have always enjoyed a good relationship. I aim to continue that strong personal relationship, particularly as all of us involved in politics share a common desire to show a better and good face to the people.
Deputy Gerry Adams: Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Taoiseach agus guím ádh mór air, ar a pháirtí agus ar a bhean chéile, Fionnuala, agus a chlann. Is mór an onóir dóibh seo. Mar a dúirt mé cheana, ní aontaím le gach aon rud, ach ní rud pearsanta sin. Is ár dtír é an t-oileán seo. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leis an Taoiseach agus comhghairdeas leis arís.
Deputy Finian McGrath: I congratulate Deputy Kenny on being elected Taoiseach and I wish him well. It is a great honour for him, his family and his party. In the context of the general election, he obtained a mandate through the combination of the two parties. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I will challenge many of the policies that will be put forward. However, this is the Taoiseach’s day and I wish him well.
The Taoiseach: Ba mhaith liom comhgairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Cheann Comhairle as a bheith tofa mar Cheann Comhairle. Mar duine atá ag freastal anseo le blianta anuas agus mar dhuine a bhfuil eolas aige faoi chúrsaí polaitíochta, tá a fhios agam go ndéanfaidh sé sár obair ar son cúrsaí polaitíochta sa Teach seo agus thar ceann na Baill anseo.
I thank Deputy Martin, as leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, for his words, in particular those in regard to Fionnuala. Were she still with Fianna Fáil, it might be in a much stronger position today. Bhí mé ag éisteacht leis an Teachta Joe Higgins. Ní aontaím leis ar chor ar bith gur feall é seo ar mhuintir na hÉireann. Beidh mé i dteagmháil leis an Teachta as seo amach. Tá a fhios agam nach rud pearsanta a bhí i gceist ag an Teachta Gerry Adams agus é ag caint ar son Shinn Féin. Beimid ag díospóireacht faoi chúrsaí polaitíochta anseo as seo amach. Tá mé buíoch dóibh siúd uilig a labhair ar son na dTeachtaí Neamhspleácha as ucht a bhfuil ráite acu. Lá mór é seo do na daoine atá tofa don chéad uair, dá gclanna agus dá lucht leanúna. Guím rath Dé ar a gcuid oibre. Tá súil agam go mbeidh neart acu ag freastal ar an dTeach seo leis na blianta romhainn.
The Ceann Comhairle’s experience, coupled with his exemplary commitment to politics and what it stands for, is an outstanding example of what is required of the person who holds the honourable position he now holds in terms of the upkeep of the good reputation of politics and the proper conduct and effectiveness of what we say in this House.
I thank all Members, including those who spoke either for or against my nomination, for the honour bestowed on me today. I stand here with a deep sense of gratitude and humility. I am mindful of the task we begin, that of rescuing our economy, resuscitating our reputation and restoring our society. Also, because we stand on the threshold of fundamental change, there is equally another task, namely, that of renewal of what political leadership in Ireland should be about, leadership that cherishes responsibility over privilege, public duty over personal entitlement and conscience over convenience. I must begin all of this in what are some of the most economically difficult days since Ireland’s independence. I do not say this to be negative or excusing but to be real and true, to tell the truth of the Ireland of today.
From this seat and that which Deputy Martin now occupies people like W. T. Cosgrave, John A. Costello, Liam Cosgrave, Eamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, Jack Lynch, Garret FitzGerald, John Bruton and others bore good and honourable witness to the state of our country and people. I include in their proud company my late father, Henry Kenny, and my mother who is watching these proceedings today. They walk with me every step of this heart stopping journey. For me, and for Fionnuala and the children, they represent the nobility, decency and very soul of the Irish people and because they do, their spirit is with us on this important day, signifying that we are one people, ancient and new, on a journey, a single journey of continuous transformation. Philosophers say our horizons are not fixed but travel with us as we go, distance in time being filled with the continuity of custom and tradition in whose light all that is handed down presents itself to us. It is said that the tomorrow imprinted on our ancestral retina is our today. So, when our children look into our eyes, I want them to see a future where kindness, goodness, dreams and imaginings, strength and belief passed silently and unobtrusively from mother to daughter and father to son over the millennia, merge to create a life of authenticity, honesty, dignity, compassion, brilliance, creativity, purpose, confidence, generosity, affection, laughter and heart, a life where they can plan, hope, dream and live their dreams in their own country.
That our lives and futures are predicated on one thing is true. That is why today I enter into a covenant with the Irish people. In these times of crisis, full of many unknowns, honesty is not alone our best policy but our only policy. The new Government will tell the people the truth regardless of how unwelcome or difficult that might be. We will tell it constantly and unreservedly. It is the only way because the people always have a right to know. I use the word “covenant” over “pledge” and “promise” because I believe the old ways of politics damaged us not alone financially, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. The word “covenant” restores a sense of heart, soul and spirit to leadership and our shared national life.
The new Government, a partnership between Fine Gael and the Labour Party, will have at its heart all of those qualities as it begins the task of getting our country working. Our programme for Government is ambitious, fair and truly radical. The Government and the people, working hard and side by side in each other’s interests, will achieve their objectives and because no party has a monopoly on good ideas, we will, in the spirit of inclusiveness and generosity which we want to bring to this Dáil and our Republic, collaborate and work wherever and whenever possible with Members of the Opposition in the interests of our country and people.
This is our country. This is our journey. Yes, we are in times without precedent but I believe that for Ireland this current crisis is the darkest hour before the dawn, that we have a generational lightness of soul, that in the long Hibernian nights on the western edge of Europe we remembered the light that went before, imagined the light to come. We are a people looking always and ever to the possibilities of a new day. That new day is here, a bright new day where there is no gap, where the people and its Government are one again, a day when our people are united in cause. Seamus Heaney said: “You have to try to make sense of what comes, remember everything and keep your head.” We will. Together and for our country let us believe in our future. For Ireland and each other, let us lift up our heads, turn our faces to the sun and, as has been already said, hang out our brightest colours. This is the first day of a journey to a better future. That future will be achievable when Ireland can again take charge of its own destiny, when by the centenary of the 1916 Rising we can prove to be the best small country in the world in which to do business, to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect.
The Taoiseach: Our people deserve no less. That challenge is truly Ireland’s call. The Government and I intend to answer that call and to make our nation proud, prosperous and respected again. That works starts today.
A Cheann Comhairle, it is now necessary to inform the President of my nomination so that she may appoint me as Taoiseach. I thank Members for their contributions and for the honour bestowed upon me as a citizen and public representative. It is my honour to lead a Government that will rise to the challenge of changing the direction of our country and into the better future of which I have spoken. I thank Members for their contributions in that regard.
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