Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 728 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  B’áil liom cead a chur in iúl, mar eolas don Dáil, gur chuir mé m’ainmniú mar Thaoiseach in iúl don Uachtarán agus gur cheap sí mé dá réir.

I beg leave to announce, for the information of the Dáil, that I have informed the President that the Dáil has nominated me to be the Taoiseach and that she has appointed me accordingly.

This day marks our new beginning. On Friday, 25 February 2011 the people spoke. The outcome of that election is the selection of the 31st Dáil and the mandate received by Fine Gael and the Labour Party to form a government. It is now my duty to place before the House for its approval a new Fine Gael and Labour Party Government to lead our people into a new era for our country

[41]Tairigim:

I move:

Éamon Mac Giollamoir Eamon Gilmore.

I also propose to nominate him as Tánaiste.

Mícheal Ó Núnáin Michael Noonan.
RuairíÓ Cuinn Ruairí Quinn
Breandán Ó Húilín Brendan Howlin
Risteard de Briotún Richard Bruton
Siobhán de Bhurtúin Joan Burton
Séamus Ó Duibhneacháin Jimmy Deenihan
Pádraic Ó Coinín Pat Rabbitte
Pilib Ó hÓgáin Phil Hogan
Alan Shatter
Síomon Ó Caoibheanaigh Simon Coveney
Proinséas Nic Gearailt Frances Fitzgerald.
Seamus Ó Raghallaigh James Reilly
agus and
Leo Varadkar.

I am reconfiguring the functions of a number of Departments. They will be assigned as follows:

An Roinn Gnóthaí Eachtracha agus Trádála Éamon Mac Giollamoir
An Roinn Airgeadais Mícheal Ó Núnáin
An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna RuairíÓ Cuinn
An Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe Breandán Ó Húilín
An Roinn Fiontar, Post agus Nuálaíochta Risteard de Briotún
An Roinn Coimirce Sóisialaí Siobhán de Bhurtúin
An Roinn Gnóthaí Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta Séamus Ó Duibhneacháin
An Roinn Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha Pádraic Ó Coinín
An Roinn Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil Pilib Ó hÓgáin
An Roinn Dlí agus Cirt agus Comhionannais agus an Roinn Cosanta Alan Shatter
An Roinn Talmhaíochta, Mara agus Bia Síomon Ó Caoibheanaigh
An Roinn Leanaí Proinséas Mhic Gerailt
An Roinn Sláinte Seamus Ó Raghallaigh
An Roinn Iompair, Turasóireachta agus Spóirt Leo Varadkar
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to Eamon Gilmore.
Department of Finance to Michael Noonan.
Department of Education and Skills to Ruairí Quinn.
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to Brendan Howlin.
Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation to Richard Bruton.
Department of Social Protection to Joan Burton.
Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs to Jimmy Deenihan.
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to Pat Rabbitte.
Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to Phil Hogan.
Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Defence to Alan Shatter.
Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food to Simon Coveney.
Department of Children to Frances Fitzgerald.
Department of Health to James O’Reilly.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to Leo Varadkar.

I propose to nominate Maire Whelan SC for appointment by the President to be the Attorney General.

I propose to nominate Deputy Paul Kehoe as Minister of State at Department of the Taoiseach and Chief Whip and Deputy Willie Penrose as Minister of State attending the Government and Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government with special responsibility for housing and planning. Deputy Penrose will attend Cabinet meetings.

Pending completion of the necessary processes for the establishment of the new Departments and for transfers of functions, the existing Departments will be assigned to members of the Government. In putting forward these names for the approval of the House for their appointment by the President, I should like to indicate my thinking about the priorities which my Government will observe.

Today we recreate our proud Republic. Today we think of all the good men and women who have gone before us in this place. We remember especially former taoisigh like John A. Costello, Liam Cosgrave, Eamon de Valera, Seán Lemass, Jack Lynch, Garret FitzGerald, John Bruton and others. Now, a new Government begins the next stage of our Republic’s journey, a Government that will work as hard as the people, applying all the talent and vision and heart we have to the betterment of our people and our country.

No nation in the world has such a history of courage in the face of adversity or resilience in the face of challenge. Our task, however, is more than the rebuilding of an economy or the rescue of a reputation. Our task is to create a new context of confidence and drive, to free up our entrepreneurs to create the next wave of great Irish businesses, to persuade and allow our best and brightest to stay with us through the reconstruction of our country and to empower fresh thinking rooted deep in our old traditions.

We have proven ourselves before, at home and abroad, as warriors and peacemakers, educators and artists, workers and thinkers. Now we are again on the threshold of a new era of achievement, prosperity and potential. It will take time and the road ahead is not easy but out of adversity we can and will create a new Ireland filled with ambition, excitement, energy and drive, where we can hope and dream again and where our people are working again.

The Wright report exposed the ritual, cultural application of ruthless, fly-by economics on us all and of successive Governments ignoring advice and warnings and abdicating responsibility in a move so abject that the IMF arrived at our door, and because it did our Republic is betrayed. People are frightened of losing their homes. Parents are rendered speechless at the sight of their children boarding planes to countries where spring is autumn and our today is their tomorrow. Employers are traumatised by laying off staff and shutting down businesses. Workers pray for invisibility as they queue for the dole. Families worry that the neighbours [43]might see the St. Vincent de Paul calling to their door and dread the postman dropping bills like stealth bombs into the hall.

This truth of the Ireland of 2011 has to be acknowledged and changed and that is the essential challenge facing the new Government and Dáil. Starting today, with an ambitious programme for Government, we will make sure that what was done will most certainly not be done again. We approach the crisis as an opportunity and a chance to reinvent our country and to create a new Ireland that works and is fair and honest.

I said earlier that as Taoiseach I am entering into a covenant with the Irish people to tell them the truth of our situation, however unwelcome. Starting today, I want to close the gap between politics and the people, between Government and the governed. The cynicism, depth of difference, gulf and remoteness of many people in our country from their Government and what it actually means became glaringly obvious during the recent election campaign. I want to renew government in people’s hearts and imaginations as a true reflection of their own standards, conscience and values, such as self-awareness, compassion, integrity, respect, dignity, kindness, courage, generosity, affection, authenticity, hope and, especially, truth and trust.

As a new Government we have to deliver on that and get to work on the people’s behalf quickly. Within the first 100 days of Government, we will introduce a jobs budget that will help keep families together and our young people at home building their future in their own country. We will cut the lower rate of VAT, halve the lower rate of employers’ PRSI and create 15,000 new places in training, work experience and education for people who are currently out of work.

Through NewERA we will revitalise our national infrastructure networks of water, energy and broadband to create thousands of new jobs and increase our competitiveness. We will stop any further transfer of assets to NAMA. We will set up a strategic investment bank and new mechanisms to deliver credit to small businesses. We will start to reduce the deficit by having no increases in income tax and by renegotiating the IMF-EU deal, a deal that is bad for Ireland and Europe.

Critical to all of this is reform of how our country works. That is why we will introduce the most ambitious ever programme for reform since the foundation of the State. We will start at the top with the political system. With the people’s approval, we will abolish Seanad Éireann. We will reduce ministerial salaries and abolish severance pay. We will open up Government, ban corporate donations and establish a constitutional convention to give Ireland a Constitution fit for the 21st century.

Under this programme for Government, there will be a new Department of public sector reform. We will make the system smaller and more efficient by cutting employee numbers without compulsory redundancies. We will give front line staff more power to make decisions and bring in new personnel to strengthen the senior Civil Service. In the vital area of health we will introduce universal health insurance, starting with the gradual introduction of free general practitioner care. When universal health insurance is fully completed Ireland will have, for the first time in its history, a single-tier health system where everyone is equal. The treatment will depend on medical need and not ability to pay.

Yes, this is an ambitious, complex plan but we share a disposition to radically change the way the country works. The next chapter of our history requires a leap of faith, one we have to take together. It requires faith that we can better ourselves, faith that we can renew Government and faith in a confident, shared future for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. Today, as we take the first steps on the next stage of our country’s journey, let us be vigilant, compassionate, courageous, truthful and enterprising and where we can let us find and celebrate reasons to be joyful. I believe we can and must. I commend this motion to the House.

[44]Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his election as Ceann Comhairle. I have had the privilege of serving with him and representing along with him the constituency of Dún Laoghaire over a long period. I warmly congratulate him on achieving the office of Ceann Comhairle. I also congratulate every Member who has been returned to serve in the Dáil, in particular the new Members who have been elected for the first time. It is a great privilege and a happy occasion for all of them, their families and their supporters.

It seems a long time ago, but is only 12 days since the people chose to break with the past and fundamentally change Irish politics. The composition of this Dáil is unlike any since the 1920s and the Labour Party’s strength in the 31st Dáil is greater than at any time in our history. I am deeply proud of the many gains made by the Labour Party and of its newly elected Deputies, but with these gains come responsibilities. In normal times, the natural role for the second largest party in the State, as the Labour Party now is, is that of constructive opposition. However, these are not normal times. More than any other consideration, what our country needs is a strong, stable and balanced Government to confront the crisis facing our country. For the past ten days, as I have worked with the Taoiseach and colleagues from both parties to form a national government, it is that responsibility that has been foremost in our minds. The Labour Party and Fine Gael are different parties with different values and priorities, but we share a common interest and desire to provide strong, stable and fair government for the people. It is in that spirit that we have come together to form this national Government. As we worked, we have been conscious of the hope and goodwill of the people. Many people have stopped me in the street or called out from a passing car to simply say “Good luck”. We are acutely aware that the people want and need us to succeed.

I know how much hope is resting on the shoulders of this Government. In some ways that is daunting, but hope is never a burden. It is only with the goodwill, commitment and hope of the people that we will succeed. We must succeed for the people who are at risk of losing their homes. We must succeed for those who have lost their jobs. We must succeed for the people we met on the doorsteps whose children have left for other shores or who fear that their grandchildren will be strangers. During the past ten days, we have worked to put together a programme for Government that will deliver for those people, that will come up with solutions to make sure that people who make an honest effort to pay their mortgage do not lose their homes, that will ensure we make every possible effort to create jobs and opportunities for those who now have none and that we work to ensure that if people are sick or in fear of being sick, they will have access to affordable and high quality health care.

The programme for Government, on which this national Government is based, is a radical and reforming document. It sets out what will be the hallmarks of this Government, delivering on jobs, on reform and on an agenda for fairness. The national Government is determined to break from the failed economic policies of the past — the blank cheque banking policy that brought our country to the edge of ruin and the failure to take action to create growth and employment. We are determined to ensure that economic policy, while recognising the need for difficult decisions, has growth and job creation at its core. As I have said on countless occasions, neither the fiscal crisis nor the banking crisis can be fixed without growth and jobs.

We can and will work our way out of this crisis. This is a great country, with a great future, but it is up to each of us to make that happen. It is up to us to come together to draw on all of the talent, commitment, hard work and graft we know we are capable of to rebuild Ireland’s economy — not in its old image, but to forge a new, sustainable, enterprise economy defined by its readiness for new challenges, new markets and new opportunities. At the heart of that enterprise economy is innovation not just in our universities, laboratories or high-tech companies, but right across our economy — in the agrifood sector, tourism and renewable energy sector — because innovation is the bridge between what is and what can be. Together with [45]fostering innovation, the Government will put the commercialisation of new research and ideas at the top of its agenda. We are a country with no shortage of ideas. What we need now are the mechanisms to turn those ideas into jobs. As well as developing new goods and services through research and innovation, we must develop new markets in which to sell them. Ireland is open for business. That is the message we will be bringing to the emerging economies in every corner of the world. This will be a core purpose of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but it will also be the proud duty of every Minister and every representative of the Irish people to repair Ireland’s reputation abroad and to ensure that Ireland never again finds herself friendless and without allies when storms gather on the international horizon.

This will be a reforming Government. The programme we have drawn up contains a radical reform agenda, covering our Constitution, the political system and the public service. This crisis marks the third time since the Second World War that our country has been beset by a profound economic crisis. We cannot continue to lurch from one disaster to the next. We must reform our system of politics and administration to provide the Irish people with the stable and forward-looking Government they deserve. We must change our politics and make them more open, less susceptible to special pleading and more accountable. We need a Parliament that works and that holds the Executive to account and we need to break down the huge gap that has opened up between the political system and the people it is supposed to serve. There is no place in this Government for golden circles. This will be a fair Government. We know that there are difficult decisions to make, but in that process we also have an opportunity to build a fairer Ireland. We must restore our economy and in doing so leave a legacy for the future. Nowhere will that be more obvious than in how we treat our children.

I am proud that the programme for Government makes literacy a national cause, just as I believe it is right that the Minister with responsibility for children should have full Cabinet rank. The programme for Government contains within it an historic commitment by both parties to end the apartheid that has bedevilled our health service for decades. It is a commitment that both parties made in Opposition to end the two-tier system. That is reflected in the programme as a core priority for the next five years. Anyone who reads the programme for Government will see that it contains ideas and proposals from both parties, many of which we had in common at the outset of our discussions. It is a pragmatic document that focuses on what will work and is an ambitious document, because it has to be. The scale of the task is so great, the crisis so deep and the urgency so pressing that only an ambitious programme will meet the need of the times. Labour Ministers will approach their task in the same spirit. They are, all of them, men and women who have given distinguished service to the cause of Labour and the cause of Ireland. They are, each of them, people of judgment and integrity. They are infused with Labour’s values and will be champions of those values in everything they do, because that is who they are. They are people too who have always put the national interest first and who will work in a spirit of partnership to pursue that interest. I am deeply proud that the Labour Party has today nominated the first woman to hold the position of Attorney General.

No one in the Labour Party is under any illusions about the scale of the task ahead. No one in the Labour Party doubts that there will be dark and difficult days ahead. No one in the Labour Party believes that we have anything ahead of us except hard work and hard choices. However, we believe that we can govern in a new and different way and that if we are open, honest and transparent and that if we stay in touch with and true to the people who elected us, we can channel their goodwill and good wishes in the days ahead.

I want to say a particular word of congratulations to the Taoiseach on what is a great day for him and his family. We have worked to form a new Government based on partnership and [46]trust. We are resolved to work together to confront the crisis in our country but also to restore trust in politics itself.

The Government has the largest parliamentary majority in living memory. It has a huge mandate from the people who voted for Fine Gael or for the Labour Party, but we should also be profoundly conscious that others did not. There is only one Government, which will act in the interests of the people as a whole. That is why this Government will be open to hearing the proposals and the ideas not just of the Members of the Government parties, but of every Member elected to this House. All of us are here as equals and all of us represent a free people who voted as equals. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom or on solutions. The Government, in which my party and I will play our part, has much to do but all of us in this House have a constructive role to play in making sure we make this a better country for everyone.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Comhghairdeachas ó chroí do na Teachtaí uile atá roghnaithe mar Airí. Guím gach rath orthu san obair rí-thábhachtach atá le déanamh acu. Seo lá bróduil dóibh siúd agus dá gclann. Táim cinnte de go dtabharfaidh said seirbhís fiúntach don tír seo.

I congratulate the Deputies who have been nominated to become Ministers. It is a great honour to have the opportunity to serve one’s country as a member of Government. It is a mark of their achievements to date and a belief in the contributions they can make in the future. They have every reason to be proud, something which will be justifiably shared by their families and the legions of supporters whose work lies behind every successful Deputy. I wish them all well in their work.

Many Deputies opposite will no doubt be disappointed by the tough choices the Taoiseach and Deputy Gilmore had to make in recent days. Given the Taoiseach’s previous commitment to limit the number of Ministers of State to 12, only a handful of positions remain. However, the work to be done during this Dáil will be more than enough to provide opportunities for every Member to make a serious contribution, no matter what position he or she holds.

The political journey Deputy Gilmore has taken up to this point has certainly been eventful and has involved a considerable evolution in his thinking. He has led the Labour Party into government and he was correct in stating that the public did not want single party government. I wish him well in his portfolio. In taking office in the Department of Foreign Affairs, he is assuming a challenging role in addition to his party political responsibilities. Our relationships with our European partners are much stronger than outlined in much of the self-serving rhetoric we heard from candidates during the election campaign and again in recent days. He will find many ready allies who are informed on Irish issues and who are supportive of our goals. Clearly, he will have to change his tone and rhetoric from that which he employed during the election campaign. He will quickly discover that it is not “Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way” and he will learn that Mr. Trichet is more than a “mere civil servant”.

Deputy Gilmore will also find that preparations are well under way for Ireland’s chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe next year. This is the largest regional security group in the world and the only place key issues are discussed by many of the states involved. Given the high esteem in which we are held in diplomatic circles, we were asked to assume the chairmanship of this body in 2012. Large and small states alike were anxious that we should do so. This exposes the rhetoric we have heard in the past few days as disingenuous and inaccurate. We will be fully supportive of an ambitious approach to our chairmanship next year.

[47]I welcome the transfer of trade responsibilities to the Department of Foreign Affairs, a move I have advocated for some time and one which was included in our manifesto. After becoming leader of Fianna Fáil, I appointed a spokesperson on foreign affairs and trade to my Front Bench. Deputy Gilmore will, therefore, have in one place all the necessary policy functions as well as an embassy network, which is vital to maximising our trade opportunities. Our diplomatic missions are strong and they are of a high calibre. The Deputy should be mindful of those who will snipe at them from time to time and who will seek to undermine them in terms of costs and so on. We have had an effective diplomatic network over the years and it will continue to be so. We need to protect and enhance it in terms of our global footprint in the months and years ahead. Given the scale of trade issues that will be addressed in the next few years, this part of his responsibilities will take up quite an amount of his time.

The new Tánaiste will also find a Department as active as ever in pushing forward our deep engagement with the cause of reconciliation on this island. Much of this work never appears in the media, but it is vital. The achievements of recent years in securing sustained progress were hard won and could easily be lost. It is the fundamental role of our Minister for Foreign Affairs to make sure that we never take our eye off the ball and that we always fulfil the unique role our Government has of representing the views of the majority of the people of this island in favour of peaceful politics, active reconciliation and, ultimately, unity. I commend to Deputy Gilmore the work under way to reach out to marginalised communities on both sides and to groups who would not in previous times have seen the Dublin Government as worthy of talking to.

The economy and reform of the public sector will rightly be the central focus of both the Government and the Dáil during this term. The sheer number of key decisions that have been parked rather than addressed in the programme for Government is striking. We welcome the agreement by the parties to abandon their election proposals for this and next year and to accept the fiscal aggregates set out in our national plan for recovery. However, what happens beyond next year is not some distant issue. Many of the key decisions required to hit targets in 2013 must be taken this year. Equally, the issue of giving greater certainty about the recovery of the public finances is essential to the recovery of confidence in the wider economy. The active assertion of Labour Party representatives that everything after 2012 remains to be negotiated may comfort their members but it is ominous for a government that has showered itself with praise even before taking office.

Uncertainty about fiscal policy is matched by a financial policy which is getting less clear by the day. A decision of some sort on NAMA and bank recapitalisation will be taken in the months ahead. However, it has not been stated how it will be reached. The programme for Government appears to combine a commitment to implement agreed plans and a commitment not to implement them. The hybrid proposals include the Labour Party’s pet idea of a strategic investment bank which would, as proposed, require €20 billion in funding from some unknown source. There are many questions about this proposal. It is completely lacking in detail. The people will wonder at the wisdom of the State acquiring yet another bank, especially since the programme for Government commits to a “smaller banking system”.

The proposal to split the Department of Finance’s expenditure functions between two Cabinet Ministers is difficult to understand or accept. The notion that one Minister will be responsible for setting public expenditure figures and another for implementing them appears to come primarily from a failure to agree who should get the Department of Finance. The practical issues that could emerge are enormous and the accountability issues need to be addressed by the Taoiseach without delay. It is easy to set an overall budget target but meeting [48]that target requires hundreds of individual decisions. Basic planning of budgets requires drawing on the expertise of people who oversee spending in the different areas. These officials work on both the formulation of budgets and their oversight. There is no proposal in the programme for Government to completely remove the requirement for a “Finance sanction” before specific spending programmes can proceed and, therefore, this work will go on.

  6 o’clock

To whom will the officials dealing with both formulating budgets and sanctioning spending report? Given the major staffing reductions being proposed, there will be no room for duplication. Which Minister will be responsible to this House for the Estimates — the one who announces the figures or the one who oversees them? How can it be a step towards greater accountability if a Minister is to cease to be responsible for the administering of his or her own policy? How will the clear statutory obligation for Cabinet Ministers to be independent in their responsibilities be met? The need for a greater political focus on the planning and implementation of public spending would have been better dealt with by the adoption of a model similar to Britain’s where the Chief Secretary to the Treasury fulfils this role but is clearly under the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Making this person a “super-junior” Minister would have given it the appropriate Cabinet presence.

The decision to have a full Cabinet Minister in charge of public sector reform is more understandable and more easily achieved.

Many serious proposals will fall to Deputy Howlin as we move forward. He will no doubt understand the potential limitations on the role which were evident in the period up to the abolition of the previous Department of the Public Service in 1987.

I welcome many of the public sector reform proposals contained in the programme for Government. In particular, I welcome the support of Fine Gael and Labour for the Croke Park process which we put in place. The proposed figure for reducing public sector numbers appears to be based purely on the fact that it falls half way between Fine Gael’s election promise and a figure which is based in reality. I do not believe that the extra thousands of jobs to be cut will not impact on front line services. If these figures are to be realised they will impact on such services.

The election rhetoric referred to 145 quangos being quashed. The programme for Government does not tell us in specific detail which ones will be abolished. People were promised a bonfire of the quangos and now we are being presented with 16 new bodies in the programme for Government. I know the Government will bring these plans before the House for proper scrutiny before proceeding with them.

I wish Deputy Bruton well in taking on the role of Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation. The Deputy will be taking over a Department which has been responsible for that part of the economy which has been the most robust during the recession. The nature of enterprise is that it is dynamic — many of the enterprises which will create the most jobs in five years time may not even exist today. I welcome the new Government’s decision to accept the innovation strategy which we prepared and also the individual initiatives which have been proposed.

One of the biggest changes in the Department since Deputy Bruton held the post in 1997 is that it has become a driving force in science and technology. A majority of inward investment projects are now research-based, and the potential for many thousands of new direct and indirect jobs to flow from the science and technology area is clear.

I add a note of caution. I am concerned by the fact that the new programme for Government makes no clear statement of support for the basic research work which makes every other part of the system possible. Any attempt to redirect to other areas the basic research funding which has been earmarked for the next four years would be reckless — akin to removing the found[49]ations of a building but expecting it to remain standing. It is clear that people are fearful given the text of the programme in that regard. It is fair to say that in the previous decade there has been a complete transformation of the research landscape in this country. The Government should continue not just to protect but enhance the area as a fundamental pillar of economic growth and job creation in the future.

Deputy Reilly will today become the first former head of the Irish Medical Organisation to become Minister for Health. While the Dutch model appears to have been quietly dropped, the proposal which has been agreed between Labour and Fine Gael represents the hybrid he railed against recently. In describing the model, Deputy Reilly said, “I can’t think of a worse nightmare”. I have said all along to the Deputies opposite about this proposal that they have been talking about it for ten years but it is still uncosted, lacking in detail and, if pursued, will undo much of the significant progress that has been made in recent years in cardiovascular and cancer care treatment and the development of tertiary services. I look forward to us having an early opportunity to debate the health plans in this House.

Given the amount of specific proposals for reform of Dáil proceedings which were put forward by all parties during the election, as well as the many that are in the programme for Government, the incoming Chief Whip will have an even more busy time than normal. He will be the chief daily link between Government and the Dáil. I wish him well and look forward to a constructive relationship.

It would be a good start to implementing Dáil reform if we could quickly agree a process by which proposals can be finalised. We will not accept any proposals which would limit the opportunities of Opposition spokespersons to table and ask multiple questions or to marginalise Private Members’ business by having it on Fridays. Given the explicit commitment of the incoming Government to respecting the role of the Opposition, we assume that Fine Gael and Labour remain open to discussions about alternative proposals for reform.

We personally wish the newly appointed members of the Cabinet every success. As I said this morning, we will be both assertive and constructive in 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 put the economic renewal of the country first. We will be vigilant, and will hold the new Government to account to ensure that it continues the process of change and recovery which we began.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams  Zoom on Gerry Adams  Comhghairdeas leis na hAirí nua and to the recycled ones as well. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leo. Mar a dúirt mé níos luaithe, is onóir mór é dóibh agus dá gclanna. Tá mé fíor bródúil bheith anseo inniu mar Theachta do Lú agus oirthear na Mí agus mar cheannaire ar Shinn Féin. Is mór an onóir dom guth a thabhairt dóibh siúd nach bhfuil ionadaíocht acu sa Dáil. Ar feadh níos mó ná 30 bliana, bhí mé mar ionadaí ar son pobal iarthar Bhéal Feirste. Go dtí seo, áfach, ní raibh duine as an taobh sin den tír tofa anseo.

I am very proud to stand here as an Ulsterman, as an Irish republican from County Antrim. It is a great honour to represent Sinn Féin in any capacity but it is especially gratifying to receive a mandate from one’s peers.

Ba mhaith liom ár mbuíochas a ghabháil le gach aon duine a thug vóta do Shinn Féin agus a d’oibrigh ar son Shinn Féin. I especially commend our candidates, including the republican Deputies present today, and our families. For almost 30 years I represented the people of West Belfast. I am humbled and appreciative of the heroism, generosity and courage of that community. I am equally honoured to represent the citizens of Louth and east Meath and alongside our councillors there I will continue the pioneering work of my predecessor, Arthur Morgan, [50]in that dáilcheantar. It is also a great honour to be part of the Sinn Féin team in the Oireachtas. We will build upon the project started in this House by Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin in 1997.

Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. Our primary political goal is a united Ireland. Our focus in the new Dáil will be to advance that goal and to deliver on our manifesto to the very best of our ability and to hold the Government to account. Ní mise an chéad duine ó Bhéal Feirste a thoghadh mar Theachta Dála. Thirty years ago this June my friend Kieran Doherty, a political prisoner on hunger strike in the H Blocks of Long Kesh, was elected as Deputy for Cavan-Monaghan. Another prisoner, Paddy Agnew, was elected for Louth. Others, including Kevin Lynch, Martin Hurson and Joe McDonnell received sizeable votes in other constituencies. Cara eile liom, Mairead Farrell, whose anniversary is this week, stood in Cork North Central. Bobby Sands was returned as MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

Sinn Féin is part of a proud continuum of struggle for a real republic, for freedom and equality, and against oppression which goes back to 1916 and beyond. That oppression visited upon our people by a foreign government in past times was unacceptable and the economic oppression suffered by citizens under a native Government in these times is just as unacceptable. Caithfear stad a chur leis. Níl mórán de dhifríocht idir pholasaithe Fine Gael agus polasaithe Fianna Fáil. An bhliain seo caite, tugadh cibé cuid de ardcheannas an Stát seo a bhí fágtha don EU agus don IMF.

In the election for the 31st Dáil the people voted against corruption, sell-out and economic oppression. They voted for change. The Fine Gael Party in particular benefited from that desire for change but the reality is that Fine Gael and Labour’s programme for Government implements Fianna Fáil’s policy. Despite their promise of “new ways, new approaches and new thinking”, the Government offers little of that. The Fine Gael and Labour programme is a far cry from the democratic programme of the first Dáil. That document declared that sovereignty extends “not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation”. Our natural resources, especially our oil and gas, which are worth billions of euro, have been given away.

It was Luke Kelly who asked:

The First Dáil was committed to a programme to improve the “conditions under which the working classes live and labour”. There is no whisper of this in the 2011 programme for Government.

The reality today is that more than 100,000 children in this State live in poverty, some 450,000 people are unemployed and 1,000 citizens are forced to emigrate every week. Families who [51]cannot afford their mortgage repayments fear eviction. Sinn Féin, and I call on every Deputy in this House to join us, will oppose the eviction of any family from their home. Social protections have been slashed to satisfy the diktats of our new international masters. The universal social charge, welfare cuts and stealth taxes mean people cannot pay their weekly bills. The ghost estates that litter our countryside stand as monuments to corruption and greed. The programme for Government does not tackle any of this. It is a right-wing programme driven by a resurgent, right-wing Fine Gael Party. It commits the Government to implementing Fianna Fáil’s austerity programme and to the absolute lunacy of pouring public money into toxic banks. Access to vital public services such as health care, child care and education is determined by ability to pay rather than social need.

There is no meaningful jobs stimulus to push the economy out of recession. Instead there are increased charges on low and middle-income families in the form of water and property taxes. There will be a sell-off of strategic State assets to multinational companies whose sole interest will be profit. Irish citizens will pay the price. The Government is determined to cut 25,000 public sector jobs and to undermine further our public services and our small and medium native businesses. In short, this is a Fine Gael programme for Government supported by the Labour Party.

Voters were told during the election campaign that they should vote “Gilmore for Taoiseach”. Sinn Féin warned that anybody voting for the Labour Party would get Fine Gael. That is what happened. Mar shampla, feicfidh teaghlaigh atá ar mheán ioncaim agus ar ioncaim íseal íocaíocht i bhfoirm cánacha ar uisce. Ach tá bealach níos fearr ann. Is é sin, seasamh suas ar son mhuintir na hÉireann agus ar son na hÉireann. Caithfear saoirse eacnamaíochta a bhaint amach don tír. Tá saoránaigh ag lorg polaitíochta nua.

Every Deputy who has spoken agreed that citizens want new politics. There is an alternative. There is the possibility of politics which empower and include citizens, politics which do not pander to the elites and to the greedy but which seek to build a new kind of Ireland. That means making a stand for Ireland, standing up for our country and our people. If politics are reduced to this Chamber then we will have the old politics. Sinn Féin will campaign on all these issues in and out of this Parliament and across this island. I am calling on citizens to make a stand for themselves, for their neighbours, for their communities, for the vulnerable, and for the disadvantaged.

This is a time for active citizenship, for democratically and peacefully asserting our rights as citizens. It cannot be left only to this Parliament. There is no more important time, no more relevant time than this, for republican politics and core republican values. The people of this island are no mean people. We live in a great country. There is a genius, a brilliance, a wisdom and culture, history and tradition in our communities. We need to build on those. Caithfear tógáil ar na buanna iontacha seo. Agus déanfaimid teaghlaigh tuaithe agus cathrach a gcosaint.

Sinn Féin will also oppose Fine Gael’s efforts to downgrade the Irish language. We will defend working families, both urban and rural. We will demand that this new Government holds a referendum on the banking bailout. If the Government expects the people to pay then it must give the people their say. We will campaign for the abolition of the universal social charge and will hold the Government to its promise to reverse the cut to the minimum wage. We will oppose, tooth and nail, the introduction of household water charges and property tax on family homes. We will also oppose attempts to sell off or privatise State assets or public services, including the health service. Sinn Féin will continue to put forward constructive costed proposals for the creation of jobs. Getting Ireland back to work is the only way out of this recession. It is vital that politicians lead by example. In this regard, Sinn Féin will introduce legislation within 100 days to cut Ministers’ salaries by 40% and Deputies’ salaries by 20%.

[52]Ireland is greater than the Twenty-six Counties. As such, we will also raise issues of importance to people in the North and will expose the economic and political damage being done by partition in both states on this island. Partition makes no political or economic sense whatsoever. It is a barrier to prosperity. On the other hand, a united Ireland makes sense. A single-island economy makes sense, economically and politically. Above this Chamber flies the flag of this nation — all Thirty-two Counties — the flag of green, white and orange. The future unity of our people is represented in those colours. Sinn Féin is proud of the leadership work of the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and our team in the Northern Ireland Assembly. This Government must actively support the peace process and the historic mission to make friends with our Unionist neighbours on the basis of equality.

Our commitment, as the oldest political party represented in this House, as we seek to repair the damage done by a bad Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government and to confront the poor policies this new Government will seek to implement, is to make progress on all of these fronts. The Taoiseach talks about recreating our proud Republic. That means giving expression to the words of the Proclamation — Forógra na Cásca — and the democratic programme of an Chéad Dáil which demands freedom, demands sovereignty and demands the empowerment of citizens across all Thirty-two Counties. It means moving beyond rhetoric. Change never comes easily. Politics and life are a matter of choices. Those of us — I am sure there are others outside our party — who stand by the Republic, the real Republic, a new truly national Republic, will have our work cut out in this institution. However, despite the distress, there is a vitality which cannot be extinguished. The Irish people may be bruised but we are not beaten. We are not broken. We are unbowed. There is hope, and because of that everything is possible.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  I propose to share time with Deputies Joan Collins, Thomas Pringle and Clare Daly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  That is agreed.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  Ar dtús, comhghairde leat, a Cheann Comhairle, agus leis an Taoiseach agus leis na hAirí uile. Tá súil agam go n-eireoidh leo sna poist nua atá acu. There are undoubtedly major challenges for the country, for the Government and for this House. Earlier, the Taoiseach made the point about making our nation respected but the first challenge is to regain the respect and trust of the people. In his last speech as Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen made the point about politics being an honourable profession. However, in recent years we have seen the opposite, to the point where politics had become dishonourable. This dishonour came from the cronyism, cartelism and the downright lies told to the people, for example, that the banks only had a liquidity problem, that Anglo Irish Bank was fundamentally sound and the lie from the Merrill Lynch report that Irish banks were profitable and well capitalised. This House, the Government and the political system must regain the respect and trust of ordinary families, the young, the disabled, those on social welfare and those on the margins who have been badly served and are paying heavily.

Action not rhetoric is needed. I call on the new Ministers for action and meaningful political reform to eliminate quangos, an end to appointments based on political friendships and action on ending the culture of expenses, bonuses and excessive salaries. I am keen for us to retain our natural resources for the good of the people. I am keen to see action on implementing A Vision for Change’s proposal for mental health, to maintain our commitment to overseas aid, action on social inclusion and putting the good of the community at the heart of plans and policies and, finally, action on ár teanga, ár cultúr agus ár n-oidhreacht a chosaint.

[53]Like the late Tony Gregory, whose seat I took, I stood on the principles of social justice and fairness. Those terms have become so bandied around they are almost like clichés. However, there are many places in the constituency of Dublin Central and throughout the country where there are examples of social injustice, unfairness and significant social inequality. I am conscious of the phrase that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It is a real challenge for the House to bring about real, significant change which is meaningful and not simply rhetoric.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins  Zoom on Joan Collins  It is official: the grand coalition of cuts has presented itself to the nation today. The election was a referendum on the cronyism, corruption and economic policies of Fianna Fáil. I support the call for a referendum on the IMF-EU deal. This austerity package has been carried on by Fine Gael and the Labour Party. It has hit the majority of people, especially women. It is important to put this point on the agenda today because women have faced cutbacks in health, public services, education, pay packets and their work. It was not surprising that the first group of workers attacked in respect of the change in the minimum wage were non-national women in the Davenport Hotel. They had to go outside that hotel to demand back the previous minimum wage. They have done so successfully and they won to the degree that the incoming Government gave an indication that it would reverse the decision to cut the minimum wage by €1. I put it to the Labour Party that we must see more of this. This is why the Labour Party should be over here with us calling for such changes, including the reversal of the universal social charge.

People have no wish for a change of faces, a point made time and again. People seek policies to put the needs of the people before the greed of developers and bankers. They seek policies that do not cut into their livelihoods. Instead we have stealth taxes while there are no wealth taxes. People seek policies that can give hope to communities but I do not believe the national recovery plan gives such hope to communities.

The United Left Alliance seeks a radical change in the direction that puts people before profit. Ministers may be assured that as they go about their business in the Dáil they will face real, principled opposition from the United Left Alliance Deputies. I put it to the Minister and leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Gilmore, that he can be assured that he will face placards in the streets because that is what is needed to stop the austerity programme that is coming down on the ordinary people. The Labour Party has betrayed the desire of the people for change and it will pay heavily for so doing. The people are out there, they will not go away and the Labour Party must face them again.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle  Zoom on Thomas Pringle  Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Taoiseach agus an Tánaiste ar a bheith tofa agus leis na Members of the Government. I listened with great interest to the Taoiseach’s speech earlier today in the House and at the start of this session. I also listened to the Tánaiste’s speech. Unfortunately, I do not see the same rhetoric, wishes and desires as represented by their contributions today in the programme for Government, which is remarkably disappointing. The programme for Government, if implemented, will be directly at odds with the words of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the House today, to the detriment of the ordinary people of Donegal South-West and the entire country. As other speakers stated, the programme sets out the introduction of new quangos of which we were informed we would see the abolition. There will be 14 new quangos created under the programme for Government and this will entail more political appointments for the Government side of the House. This side of the House will work to ensure the abolition of the universal social charge takes place.

Fine Gael gave a commitment during the election campaign that within the first 100 days of office it would restore full cancer services to Sligo General Hospital. I intend to work to ensure this takes place and to hold the Government to this promise.

[54]Along the west coast, in particular in Donegal South-West, our fishing communities have suffered greatly at the hands of the European Union. I welcome the statement in the programme for Government that the Government will go to Europe and fight on behalf of our fishing communities. I sincerely hope the new Government will fight a good deal harder than the previous Government with regard to the IMF-EU bailout. If the Government gives in as easily as the previous Government in the renegotiations, it does not auger well and may herald the death-knell for our fishing communities. We can revitalise the west and south coasts of the country and that of Donegal South-West in particular by achieving a fair deal for our fishing communities and ensuring these communities can grow and play their part in the revitalisation of the country.

Unfortunately, the programme for Government lays out the privatisation of our health services and sets up the privatisation of our water services through the creation of a single water utility for the country. This is the first step along the road of handing over control of these vital resources, which are for the good of the entire community, to private interests. This would be to the detriment of everyone in our communities and I call on the Government to ensure this does not take place. Privatisation of health services and water and the sale of State assets would be to the detriment of every man, woman and child working in the country and, ultimately, would lead to greater costs, inequality and inequity in our society.

We must all work to achieve a country that benefits everyone, where everyone has a safety net and where everyone can rely on the State to provide a minimum standard of living. The programme for Government does not set out such aims, which is unfortunate. I will be working with my colleagues on the Opposition benches to ensure we hold the Government to account and to realise a country in which we can be proud to see our children grow and live.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly  Zoom on Clare Daly  The Taoiseach is being remarkably understated when he refers to a leap of faith being necessary to convince us that the programme he has outlined somehow heralds a new dawn. The reality is that it would require blind faith and a leap of such epic proportions that Cú Chulainn himself would not be able to manage it. The reason we can state as much with confidence is that the programme the Taoiseach has outlined, woolly as it may be in parts, is virtually identical to that implemented by his predecessors, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, for which they paid such a heavy and justifiable price at the ballot box.

I put the Government on notice that when it attempts to implement the measures outlined it will face a battle royal in communities and workplaces. It is okay in here today in that there is something of a party atmosphere which is understandable and, perhaps, somewhat deserved. However, we cannot forget the real world. The Chamber must not be divorced from the real world in which so many people are smarting from the harsh economic consequences of the decisions of the previous Government, which put the interests of bankers and speculators ahead of those of ordinary people. I do not see too many people outside Leinster House partying today. Those honest mortgage holders in their modest homes, who felt their solution was in this Government, will find themselves foisted with a home tax and water charges on top of their existing debt burdens. We do not see too many public sector workers celebrating the fact that 25,000 of them will lose their jobs. Neither are there celebrations among the 300,000 workers covered by employment regulation orders, such as those in the catering industry, some of whom greeted us on our way into Leinster House this morning. Their employment terms and conditions are now up for review as a result of the Government’s recommitment to the structural reform programme outlined by its predecessor.

As colleagues stated earlier, many in the semi-State sector, from which I came, are not happy and are fearful the only concrete figures for revenue generation proposed in the programme [55]for Government will come from the sell-off of what the Government parties deem to be non-strategic State assets. The Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance believe all State assets are strategic and important. It is economic lunacy to attempt to dispose of these assets. I assure the Government that its efforts in this regard will be met with vigorous opposition by those of us on this side of the Chamber, by our colleagues in the workplace and the communities which we represent.

When they voted for this Government, people hoped they were voting for change. What they got, however, was more of the same. The Taoiseach should be aware the people will not wait five years to give him the same medicine they gave his predecessor. His programme for Government will be met with active opposition in the real world, the one in which people are not partying today. I give him our pledge that we will be to the forefront in raising these issues in the Chamber and taking the battles in here outside to communities.

I sincerely hope the Taoiseach enjoyed today because his honeymoon will be incredibly short-lived.

Deputy John Lyons: Information on John Lyons  Zoom on John Lyons  I wish to share time with Deputy Arthur Spring.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy John Lyons: Information on John Lyons  Zoom on John Lyons  It is an honour to stand in this Chamber today as a public representative for the people of the Dublin North-West constituency. I feel extremely proud that my family and friends are also here to witness it. I congratulate all Members on their success in being elected to this House to represent the people at this important time, our new Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore. I also endorse their selection of new Ministers who have no lack of experience, competency or vision and who, I am sure, will bring a new energy and focus to their respective portfolios.

From knocking on doors during the election, all Members will know of the fear, heartbreak and betrayal that exists across the country. We are here because we listened to those concerns and vowed to do everything we could, if given the endorsement, to chart a new course in politics and rebuild the economy in a fair and just way. In this time of great uncertainty, the public now looks to us for the leadership which was lacking in recent years. That absence of leadership reinforced a feeling that politicians were detached from the lives of ordinary people whose voices were not heard.

I have lived all my life in the Dublin North-West constituency. I sought election because I know of the impact of decisions made in this House on communities such as mine. I come from Ballymun, a community often marginalised and stigmatised. It is one in which young people are more likely to drop out of school, work in low-paid jobs and live in social housing. I understand the real consequences of the decisions made in this House on such communities. As a teacher I worked with young people in Finglas and Ballymun for 11 years. Over that time, I have seen the hopes and expectations of our young people change considerably. During the boom times, the students I taught had high expectations of a secure and prosperous future after leaving school. Today, young people face an uncertain future in a society blighted by unemployment and emigration.

What has not changed, however, is the potential of our young people, a fact which must not be forgotten. I am an example of what belief and investment in our young people can achieve. As a Member of the Government side, I want to ensure a similar belief and investment is shown to all our young people again.

[56]As has been said many times, we are a society as well as an economy. The focus on our economy in recent years has been to the exclusion of any discussion on the vision for our society. That, in turn, has created an impression in communities in north-west Dublin that their concerns are secondary in importance to the banking and fiscal crisis. The people in these communities know the gravity of this situation and that difficult decisions will have to be taken to ensure our future economic security. They are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel, however, if they see the burden shared fairly. Members of this House must play their role by leading the people they represent and seeking an equitable approach to our fiscal problems.

I am proud the programme for Government prioritises a fair approach to these economic challenges. As the US President, Mr. Obama, stated when calling for consensus, “no party has a monopoly on wisdom”. An approach based on the combined abilities of Labour and Fine Gael reflects a balanced and fair move towards renewing our civic society and economy. The promise this new Government gives is for a collective approach based on fairness and hope.

Our challenges are great. However, we must remember it is not the challenge that defines us but rather the way in which we respond to it. Over the coming years, we must never lose sight of what we were asked to do on the doorsteps during the recent election — to ensure Ireland is a prosperous and secure place in which to grow up, live and grow old. To achieve this, we, who now have the privilege to sit in this House, must serve with humility, compassion and a commitment to seeking the best future for all those we represent.

I am happy to support this motion. I look forward to supporting the Government in its efforts to bring change and recovery to the country.

Deputy Arthur Spring: Information on Arthur Spring  Zoom on Arthur Spring  Last Tuesday I entered Leinster House for the first time, feeling energetic and enthusiastic. I also felt very privileged to have been empowered by the people of north Kerry and west Limerick to undertake what is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges the Dáil and this country has ever seen. Prior to becoming an independent State, we endured the Famine and its effects. Since then, we have put war and terrorism in this country to rest. I have no doubt the new challenges will be faced by politics to the fore.

The Labour Party and Fine Gael speak on behalf of the people. When we called at people’s doors during the recent election, we understood the levels of anger, fear and hardship experienced across the country. All that, however, is energy which must be harnessed. By doing so and using our core competencies, we will be able to achieve a great deal more in this country.

Passion is needed as well as pride of place with an understanding of what we can do and have achieved in the past. Collective action is required within this House and outside of it. Every citizen has a role to play in correcting what has gone wrong. Historically, the International Monetary Fund has only entered countries in which conflict occurred or which declared themselves bankrupt. For Ireland to regain its confidence, a frame of mind similar to that found during times of war must be adopted. We also need goodwill from the press and the Opposition. Ireland is faced with enormous challenges. When one hears people speaking lightly of default, one must remember Ireland is a modern trading country not a commodity-trading one like some in Africa or South America. It does not have autonomy in respect of its currency but it has friends in Europe in respect of which it can exert leverage. The Tánaiste designate, Deputy Gilmore, visited Europe last weekend and made a number of friends there. We will have allies again. The new Taoiseach visited Helsinki and gained allies and rebuilt bridges.

Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland are experiencing some form of economic difficulty at present. Our country is in trouble and some 130,000 people have emigrated. I wish to convey [57]a message to the latter. The individuals to whom I refer engaged in politics like never before and they are educated, informed and passionate. However, they became frivolous in their outlook because politics became inconsequential to many of their lives over a period. Now, they see that a particular form of leadership is required in order to restore the country to the position it should occupy.

Some 130,000 people are looking to this Government and stating that they want to return to Ireland because it is they who have the potential to drive the economy. There is no doubt that when people leave the country now, it is not as if they are going abroad for one year in order to travel and work. Those who are leaving are selling that which they own. Some of them are looking at returning in the distant future when their grandchildren have been born. I say to these individuals that they should go abroad, up-skill and return because we are going to provide them with a platform from which they can move forward by encouraging development in the areas of tourism, energy, agribusiness and micro-enterprise.

It must be remembered that above all else our people have passion. Leadership is what is required and I am happy to endorse the new Government in that regard. Those who will serve in it possess experience. However, they also have behind them the many young people who are sitting on these benches today who have ideas and who have access to those with ideas. We are going to make this country a better place but people must recognise that we are starting from a point that is below zero. There is no doubt that when we return Ireland to a position of parity, we have the talents to make it a better country. The young Deputies to whom I refer will work with those in government and vice versa. As a result, this country will be a better place. I commend the motion to the House.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Well done.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I sincerely congratulate the new Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Barrett, on his election. As a man of integrity, I am sure he will jealously guard the independence and integrity of the high office to which he has been elected in our parliamentary democracy at a time of national crisis. I also sincerely congratulate each member of the new Government. On a personal level, I wish them very well. I particularly wish to congratulate my constituency colleague, Deputy Noonan, who, deservedly, is being appointed Minister for Finance. There are supposed to be two Ministers with responsibility for finance but henceforth Deputy Noonan will become known in Limerick as the real Minister for Finance in the same way the late Jack Lynch was known in Cork as the real Taoiseach.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is it Deputy O’Dea’s intention to share time?

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I intend to give a minute or two to Deputy Niall Collins.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Business as usual.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I wish to commiserate with my other constituency colleague, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, who did not make the cut. I want to make a special plea to the Tánaiste designate on the Deputy’s behalf. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan would make an outstanding Minister of State and the more important the Department to which she is appointed the better. I hope my recommendation will not damage her chances in any way.

I congratulate my colleague from the Sunday Independent, Deputy Ross, who made an outstanding contribution during the debate on the motion relating to the election of the Taoiseach. The Deputy is one of the few unkind individuals who work for the Sunday Independent and who are determined not to grant the new Government any honeymoon period whatsoever. In an article by Mr. Jody Corcoran in last Sunday’s edition of the newspaper, Deputy Ross is [58]quoted as saying in respect of Fine Gael and Labour that “their 14 years in the political wilderness of opposition have united them in one common mission: power. To hell with policy, it is time to divide the spoils. Spoils first, policy later”. As someone from the less cynical wing of the Sunday Independent, I hope that is not true. It would be a bad day for Ireland if it were.

It was also stated that in the article to which I refer that an unnamed senior Fine Gael Deputy is quoted as stating that “If we hand over the public sector to Labour the game is up, we will be finished before we start”. Another senior Fine Gael Deputy is quoted as saying, “If Fine Gael lets Labour have the public sector, it’s over for us, game, set and match”. We can conclude from this that at least two senior Fine Gael Deputies and, I suspect, many of their supporters are going to be extremely unhappy this evening because what they feared has come to pass.

While I wish the new Administration well and while I welcome some of the recommendations contained in its programme for Government, it is only right that I should seek elucidation in respect of a number of matters. The first of these relates to the target of reducing the deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014 in Fine Gael’s case and by 2016 in the case of Labour. The difference between the two dates has now been split. On the surface, this might appear logical. However, the Minister for Finance designate, Deputy Noonan, for whose judgment I have the highest regard, previously stated — in quite unequivocal terms — that a two-year extension in respect of reaching this target would add €5 billion to the national debt and approximately €300 million per year to the interest repayments relating to that debt. The timeframe has been extended by one year and this appears to indicate that Deputy Noonan has accepted — as the price of forming a partnership — that we should add between €2.5 billion and €3 billion to the national debt. The resulting interest payments would enable us to purchase three or four sets of electronic voting machines per annum. Everyone will recall the great furore which accompanied the initial purchase of such machines.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Deputy O’Dea should not mention the war.

Deputy Willie O’Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  I agree with the criticism levelled at a former Fianna Fáil colleague who stated that €50 million was not a large amount of money. It is a large amount but it certainly pales into insignificance beside the additional €3 billion those opposite are prepared to oblige taxpayers to pay in order that Fine Gael and Labour can form a Government based on cosy consensus.

It is strange — even inexplicable — that the size of the adjustment that is going to be required is missing from the programme for Government. The Labour Party previously stated that an adjustment of €7 billion would be required, while Fine Gael indicated that it would be of the order of €9 billion. There is a significant difference between these two amounts. Why the silence? Will the scale of the adjustment be €7 billion or €9 billion? Will the person who will be replying to the debate on the Government’s behalf indicate what will be the exact amount?

Fine Gael has worked out a very complicated system of weighting with regard to tax increases and public expenditure cuts. The proposed split in this regard is of the order of 72-28. The Labour Party previously stated that the split absolutely had to be 50-50. Inexplicably, the programme for Government is also silent on this matter. What will be the actual split? This matter goes to the heart of economic policy and we are entitled — on behalf of the people — to seek an answer to the question I have posed.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to the effect that current social welfare rates will be retained. This appears to be a simple enough proposition. However, another section of the programme commits the new Administration to implementing recom[59]mendations relating to the elimination of disincentives to employment that are to be put forward by a commission on tax and social welfare which it is proposed to establish. If the commission recommends a reduction in social welfare rates in order to create incentives which will, in turn, generate employment, what will happen to the commitment contained in the programme for Government? Is the Government in a position to provide an unequivocal commitment to the effect that — regardless of the recommendations put forward by the commission to which I refer — it will adhere to its promise to retain current social welfare rates?

One can argue the point regarding the minimum wage both ways. I take Deputy Noonan’s point that only 4% of workers are in receipt of the minimum wage. However, he conveniently ignores the fact that the level of this wage has a significant impact on higher wage rates. The change to the minimum wage is not the only labour market reform proposed in the programme for Government. There is also a commitment in respect of joint labour committees, JLCs. Will the opinion of the European Commission be sought in respect of the proposed changes to JLCs? The necessity to seek the Commission’s opinion is part of the so-called bailout deal but there is no reference to it in the programme for Government.

The programme contains another rather messy compromise in respect of public sector reform. I recall Deputy Burton stating, with great vehemence, that reducing public service numbers by anything above 18,000 would involve cuts to front line services. According to the programme for Government, it appears those opposite are accepting that the numbers in the public service will have to be cut by at least a further 7,000. This will undoubtedly lead to cuts to front line services. An overall reduction in numbers of 25,000 will require redeployment on a fairly significant scale. The Croke Park agreement makes provision for the Government to force redeployment on people, in other words, to oblige them to move from one branch of the public sector to another. Is it the Government’s intention to use this power?

As a result of the time constraints which apply, I am not permitted to refer to the promise which resonated from one end of the country to the other in respect of reducing the membership of this House by 12% or 20 Members. That promise has disappeared into the Bermuda triangle. What we have been presented with is a promise that the matter will be reconsidered when the forthcoming census has been completed. That is fair enough but does not reflect what those opposite were saying last week.

Fine Gael previously argued vehemently to the effect that the number of Ministers of State should be reduced to 12. However, it appears that its stance in this regard was relaxed even before the Government was formed. That was another strong opinion weakly held.

I will not even comment on the proposed bonfire of the quangos. The proposal to abolish or merge 145 quangos strangely and mysteriously disappeared in a puff of smoke when the time came to draft the programme for Government. Instead, 26 new quangos are to be established. A programme for Government that resiles from a promise to abolish 145 quangos and proposes the establishment of 26 new ones hardly leaves one bursting with enthusiasm.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  It is hoped Deputy Niall Collins can improve on Deputy O’Dea’s contribution.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  He is lucky to get a word in.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I congratulate Deputy Seán Barrett on his election as Ceann Comhairle and wish him well. Also, I wish everybody elected to this House well given the serious job of work we have to do. I thank the people who gave me a renewed mandate to represent the people of County Limerick in Dáil Éireann. I am greatly appreciative of the opportunity afforded to me.

[60]On Limerick and the mid-west region, I congratulate and wish well, as did the previous speaker, the new Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan. It is important the mid-west region is represented at Cabinet level.

We have heard much about the programme for Government. It has been hailed as a national Government approach, which I find ironic given that the backbone of it is the four year plan. There was no talk of a national Government prior to the election. The NewERA policy document fanfared by Fine Gael and laterally described as a public relations add-on contained no mention of Limerick or the mid-west region and neither does the programme for Government.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  It deals with regeneration. The Deputy should read it.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  We will be looking to the new Ministers from the mid-west region to deliver for the mid-west and Limerick.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I wish to share time with Deputy James Reilly.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  I congratulate the Taoiseach and Tánaiste on their nominations and, in particular, the Taoiseach on his appointment by the President to the office of Taoiseach. It is extraordinary and unprecedented, in historic terms, for a Taoiseach to be elected in this House with a majority of 90 votes. I do not believe it has ever happened before. Whatever can be questioned in terms of Government policy no one can question the mandate of this Government as we set out on the long road ahead.

I thank the Taoiseach for nominating me to the position of Minister for Finance, in which office I hope to do my best and to succeed. I also thank Deputies O’Dea and Niall Collins for their complimentary remarks. The new Independent Deputies who have entered this brave new world should take note that they will not have it all their own way when Deputy O’Dea lets loose. He can be as entertaining and colourful as any of the new Members.

I always learn from elections. I have been through ten general elections and three local elections. I am always refreshed following an election. On this occasion, the country was reduced to two constituencies, those people who primarily were concerned about the future of the country, whether we will survive, if there will be work here for their children, whether they will be able to pay their bills and wondering if the Irish story has finished for a generation in penury. These people spoke about the bondholders, the disaster in the banks, the 450,000 people who are unemployed, and the 50,000 young Irish people emigrating every year and wondered whether anyone could get us out of the mess created by the outgoing Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government. The second constituency is even more interesting. For them the election was totally personal. All Members will have been approached by people wondering if their loved ones in wheelchairs would continue to have carers, whether, as a result of pension cuts, they would be able to continue to pay their bills and others who purchased a house at the height of the market and now have unsustainable mortgages because a spouse has become unemployed and they are living on only one income.

For me, the lesson of the recent election is that there are two constituencies to which the programme for Government must respond. That was the driver behind the programme for Government. As well as restoring the economic health of the country and having proposals to ensure growth and jobs in the economy, we must protect the most vulnerable in society and ensure that the correction is not made on the backs of the people who are so weak they cannot [61]bear it. It is not easy. Members will have heard from the contributions made by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste that a programme for Government has been put together, a programme which provides hope and optimism and points a clear way to the future. As leaders of their respective parties the Taoiseach and Tánaiste received a mandate from the people, which mandate was reflected today when the Taoiseach was elected by a majority of 90 votes. It is not going to be easy going forward.

When one contrasts the speeches made by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste with the negativity of the Opposition it is clear why Members on this side of the House got the mandate and those on the Opposition side did not. Fianna Fáil bears all the appearance of survivors of a ship wreck who have swum to a rock and are looking around for other survivors. There are few survivors. Analysis from the Independents, whom I congratulate and welcome to the House, is all about the pain, suffering and difficulties brought about by the economic recession. However, I have not yet heard a single idea from them in regard to how anything could be changed for the better. They have cited dozens of ways they are going to stop us taking action but have not put forward a single statement which suggests an alternative way forward. This also applies to Sinn Féin who historically polish up the old grievance, afraid that it will go away because it is the raison d’être of their existence. They bring the patriot dead such as Emmet and Wolfe Tone as witnesses——

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis  Zoom on Dessie Ellis  Fine Gael has forgotten them.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  And Frank Stagg.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  ——and then go down the road of negativity, always looking back rather than forward. Sinn Féin can only tell us what it is going to block, stop or prevent us from doing and how it will do so here and in the communities but it has not put forward a single idea. Perhaps they might read Jonathan Swift who said that the true measure of a person who sought leadership was if he or she could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  The Deputy’s time has concluded.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  That is the problem on that side of the House. I appeal to——

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Gulliver’s travels.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  ——Members on that side to be more positive and to join us——

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Hear, hear.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  The Deputy’s time is up.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  ——in the task of rescuing this country.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  The biggest conversion since Saul.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  I congratulate Deputy Kenny on his appointment as Taoiseach. I believe he has proven himself as a leader and will prove to be a great Taoiseach for this country and all the people in it. I also congratulate Deputy Gilmore on his appointment as Tánaiste.

I would like to comment briefly on some of the contributions made to date. Deputy Martin alluded to my quotation that “I cannot think of a worse nightmare”. Sadly, it is to be politics as ever as he spins on an issue. That quotation related to the HSE as second insurer along with the VHI to the exclusion of all others. One will not see that in our health care document, which [62]is true to what we have been promoting around the country. It is a proposal which I believe the bulk of Irish people support. I am pleased to say it also mirrors the Labour Party document and as such is now the coalition document.

  7 o’clock

This is a new beginning for our nation. This will be the most reforming Government since the foundation of the State. We will reform the economy and the way it operates. We will reform the public sector so it can deliver the excellence which it and the people in it are so capable of delivering. We will reform politics and the way it works, and make it relevant and answerable to the people. We will create the jobs that are necessary to get our people back working, and reform the health service so it can deliver timely, safe and equitable care to all our citizens. No more will one’s health outcome depend on where one lives or what one can afford. I assure the Irish people that this Government will implement our health policy as it has been mandated by them to do. No group, regardless of how powerful it perceives itself to be, will be allowed to frustrate the will of the Irish people. That said, I look forward to a co-operative approach with all those involved in the delivery of health care in this country. We have excellent people and we have the resources. This Government will bring the leadership necessary to achieve the reorganisation and management required to deliver the service the taxpayer has paid for and which our citizens deserve.

I am honoured to have been chosen by the people to serve and I am eager to serve them. We will give the people the Government they deserve, a Government that will serve their needs and no other.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I wish to share time with Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Ar dtús, ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil le gach duine a vótáil ar son Shinn Féin ar fud na tíre. Is mór an onóir domsa a bheith tofa do Bhaile Átha Cliath Láir agus is mór an onóir do gach Teachta i bhfoireann nua Shinn Féin sa Dáil seo a bheith tofa ag an bpobal.

I am pleased to make my first contribution in the House as an elected Deputy. Although new to this Chamber, I have a sense of déjà vu. We have heard all the rhetoric about openness, transparency, honesty and feeling the pain of the little people previously. In fact, we had long exposure to such talk during the recent general election campaign. I take the Taoiseach at his word that he wishes to deal with the people in a spirit of honesty. I believe he is sincere in that. Therefore, let us start today as we mean to proceed.

Let us honestly state that the salaries of the Taoiseach and his colleagues in the Cabinet are too high and must be cut, and that the vicious cutbacks in social welfare and the imposition of the universal social charge are crippling families. A review of the universal social charge is vastly insufficient; it must be abolished. Let us also be honest enough to say that the current programme for Government, regardless of how it is dressed up, is essentially Fianna Fáil-lite. It is essentially the four year plan. The Government’s plans to reduce the structural deficit to 3% by 2015 will mean further crushing blows to the working class and working families throughout the State. If that is what the Government plans to do, and it appears to be so from its document, in that spirit of honesty it should be up front from the first day of its Administration.

The Government says it will not cut social welfare rates but in the next breath it says it will not raise taxes. It shares the neuralgia and paranoia of its predecessors about saying quite openly that those who have more must pay more, and that the reservoirs of wealth in the hands [63]of a minority in the State must be tapped at this critical time. I have a problem with the Government’s honesty agenda because I cannot take it seriously when it speaks about supporting and assisting people on low incomes. It is its clear intention to walk the path laid down by its Fianna Fáil and Green Party predecessors. It is deeply frustrating that the Taoiseach will not, in his spirit of honesty, at least be upfront in that regard.

The Taoiseach met Chancellor Angela Merkel and is due to meet other leaders on the European scene in the coming weeks and months. Some of his colleagues in government appear to have a deep sensitivity about staying friends with our European partners. It is far more important that all Members here and particularly the Government understand their absolute obligation to represent the needs and interests of the citizens of this State first. That is the job. The cosy relationship the Taoiseach might have with Angela, Nicolas or Mr. Barroso is very much a secondary concern.

All of us are agreed that this is a great country, there is very heavy lifting to be done and anybody who holds ministerial office at this time will have their work cut out for them. However, it is the contention of Sinn Féin that the policy programme of the previous Administration and the one outlined by the current Government in recent days is wrong. It will deepen the hardship and the recession. It will not reduce the dole queues. For that reason alone, we will argue against tough austerity measures that target low and middle income people. We believe it to be not only unfair and unjust, but also economically counterproductive.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ar dtús ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a rá le gach Teachta ar bheith tofa ag an bpobal san olltoghchán. Déanaim comhghairdeas ach go h-áirithe leis na Teachtaí nua-thofa i ngach páirtí.

The real focus today should not be on the personalities of the Government but on the programme for Government. One can say with regard to the programme agreed by Fine Gael and the Labour Party that the bus has a new driver and even, perhaps, a new coat of paint but it is still travelling in the same direction, which is the wrong direction. The roadmap was drawn up by Fianna Fáil, the IMF and the ECB. If Fine Gael and the Labour Party continue in this direction they will assuredly drive us all over the cliff, just as if Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had remained at the helm. What was the timeframe of the Fine Gael and Labour Party drafters when they drew up this programme for Government? It was definitely not the next generation, let alone the next five years. It was clearly 6 March 2011, as they had to have the document carried by the Labour Party conference.

Behind all the fudges and ambiguities in the text, this programme for Government is a dolled up version of the Fianna Fáil and Green Party four year plan. It is as much the work of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Deputy Brian Lenihan as it is of the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny and Deputy Eamon Gilmore. It is based on continuing with the IMF-EU sell-out deal and continuing to pour public money into zombie banks. Instead of rejecting out of hand the IMF-ECB deal and the four year plan of further savage cuts and agreeing to make the senior bank bondholders pay, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have signed up to the Fianna Fáil and Green Party consensus for cuts. That consensus was already in place last November when the Green Party announced it would pull out of Government. What followed was a travesty of democracy, when a doomed Government with no political mandate proceeded with its four year plan, the IMF-ECB deal and the savage budget of 7 December 2010. All this was put in place before the general election.

There can be no doubt that the people voted for change, but Fine Gael and the Labour Party were at one with the outgoing Government on its basic flawed economic strategy. That [64]flawed strategy remains intact in its programme for Government. It is far from the claim in the opening paragraph of the so-called programme of a democratic revolution having occurred. This is utter nonsense. Fine Gael fought the election on the slogan “Let’s get Ireland working”, but wanted to axe 30,000 public service jobs. The programme for Government seeks to axe 25,000 jobs. That sums up the balance of power in this Fine Gael dominated Government. I wish the new Tánaiste well, but what has the Labour Party done? It is pure fantasy to pretend that 25,000 posts can be axed without damaging front line public services. In our health system, we already have a staffing crisis in our public hospitals. It is true that the number of administrators, especially senior managers in the HSE, needs to be reduced, but for those who provide health care to the public and vital backup to front line health care providers, the current recruitment embargo needs to be lifted. There is no sign of such a commitment in this programme. It is committed to introducing universal health insurance. Sinn Féin is strongly in favour of universal single tier public health care, not based on the insurance model but based on fair taxation, and calls for an end to the State subsidisation of the private health care industry. The insurance based system in this programme will lead to the further privatisation of health care and to insurance companies being given an undue role in determining the level of care received by citizens.

What happens to health care in the meantime? Will the Government reverse the cuts to acute hospital services at a raft of hospital sites across the State? These are issues which Deputy Reilly raised in opposition. Will he guarantee to reverse them now that he is at the helm of health in the new Administration?

How much time have I left?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  The Deputy’s time has concluded.

Deputy Caoimghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  I will conclude and I thank Deputy Kathleen Lynch for her tolerance. I hope it is an indication that she may well be wearing the robes yet as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

I welcome the appointment of Deputy Frances Fitzgerald to the new Department of Children. This is an innovative and important development and I welcome the commitment in the programme to hold a referendum on children’s rights, based on the wording agreed by the all-party committee in the last Oireachtas. I thank Deputy Howlin for his nod of assent in that regard. The referendum should proceed this year and it is a major challenge, not only for the Government, but for all parties to give a clear commitment to seeing it on the Statute Book.

We need full and detailed debate on this programme for Government. What has been promised next week, in respect of the various committees and so on, is not enough. I wish Deputy Kenny well as Taoiseach, but we need to hit the ground running. One of the first things we need to highlight is the number of failures in this so-called programme for Government, which is only taking from the leaf of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. They have dropped the fig leaf; the Government should not do the same.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  I wish to share time with Deputies Finian McGrath and Mattie McGrath.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  Today is a day of optimism. At the end of the day, we will have a new Taoiseach and a new Government. That optimism is not so much about the personalities [65]that make up the Government, although that is important. It is about what the new Government will do. That is not the measurement by which we will judge the Government, but by which the citizens will judge the Government. The first thing the Government is asking us to do is to trust it. The first two years of the programme negotiated by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party will largely remain intact. This will impose much more pain on those who are already hard pressed and the discussion earlier about the reaction on the doorstep is something we all understand. It is a leap of faith and is basically a vote of confidence in European institutions such as the Party of European Socialists, the Christian Democrats and the European Central Bank.

This new Government does not propose to separate the bank debt from sovereign debt. It proposes to review the situation in two years. I hope I am proved wrong, but I believe it will be too late at that stage. I can foresee a situation whereby much of the bank debt is paid and so will be included in the gigantic national debt. That debt will impact on the ability to fund adequate public services, to pay pensions and social welfare. It will necessitate a reduction in the living standards through further taxation measures, either direct taxes or stealth taxes. This will impact on ordinary households.

There is a simple issue of justice that has been overlooked. If one causes a problem, one should expect to be punished for causing it. If one was not part of causing the problem, it is difficult to understand why one is being punished. I am sure that was raised with Government Deputies on the doorsteps. It was certainly raised with me on the doorsteps.

I am a democrat, and while I sometimes do not like the result of elections, I always accept the verdict of the people. I wish the new Government well. I think it needs to be very lucky. The make-up of the new Dáil is very different, but it needs to act differently. I intend to support those measures I believe are in the interests of the country and in the interests of those who elected me. I want to be constructive. I also believe there is a new opportunity to carve new political options. This large and diverse technical group, of which I am a member, might find it tempting to do just that. It is essential not only for the Opposition to be constructive, but it will also be essential for the Government to be generous and constructive. I note some of the comments made earlier in that respect.

I thank those who elected me. I wish the Ceann Comhairle well. I also wish the Taoiseach and especially the Tánaiste, with whom I started my career as a comrade all those years ago,well.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  I thank the Acting Chairman for allowing me to speak on this important debate about the Taoiseach’s appointment of new Ministers to the Cabinet. I congratulate them on getting these major posts and I wish them well in the future. In particular, I congratulate my constituency colleague Deputy Richard Bruton, and I wish him well in his role as Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation. It is an important day for the Ministers and their families, and I hope to see them delivering on their promises to the people. As an Independent Deputy, I will mark them on their work. I will also put forward solutions to many of the problems facing this country. The areas to which I will pay particular attention are jobs, health, disability, cystic fibrosis, mental health issues, education, small business, the public sector and foreign policy issues. I will also focus on developing the peace process, which will end the division of our people in this country and I will work with all Deputies on this important matter.

People are crying out for hope, change and solutions to our many problems. Members of the technical group have tremendous energy, passion and commitment to their job. They will chal[66]lenge these new Ministers. As we have seen already today, the Independent Members have ideas, solutions and a great sense of compassion and social justice. I will also judge the performance of these Ministers and how they deal with the jobs crisis, how they deal with the horrific problems of people on trolleys in accident and emergency departments in our hospitals, how they treat people with cystic fibrosis and disability, and how they treat the weaker sections of society. I will also challenge them on how to implement political and Dáil reform. People are crying out for reform, hard work and honest politics. They want us to build a new country based on equality, respect for difference and diversity, and an island built on social justice for all.

I am honoured and privileged to be re-elected again for a third time by the people of Dublin North-Central. I give a commitment tonight to fight hard for their interests and to ensure that the independent tradition of Noel Browne, Seán Dublin Bay Loftus and Tony Gregory continues, bringing new and independent ideas on policies to the House.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  Go raibh maith agat, a Chathaoirligh. I congratulate you on your re-election. I also congratulate the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, agus na h-Airí go léir. I wish them well, and I hope and pray that this new Government will be able to give the fullest possible resourceful understanding and implementation of the people’s hopes, aspirations and entitlements as expressed in the ballot box on 25 February.

I have been very disappointed already that the new Government is back-tracking regarding the renegotiation of the so-called EU-IMF bailout. That must be renegotiated and put to the people by way of referendum. We are already hearing sounds about a reduction in the interest rate, which was too high from the outset. I believe we must go all the way in that regard, and the people must have their say if they are expected to pay. We must renegotiate that rate because it is an albatross around our neck.

There has been a vague commitment to weed out and abolish the scandalous waste associated with the system of governance that has mushroomed in recent decades. I refer to the quangos, State boards and legions of inspectors enforcing legislation and regulation up and down the country. I will be looking for a change to a supporting role for those inspectors to support small business and assist people who are unemployed get back into the workforce and take the initiative to set up their own business. If we are to realise our full potential we must tackle the toxic baggage associated with that.

Where are the commitments in the programme for Government promised recently and during the election? I refer to the cuts imposed on the blind, those with disabilities and carers. The cut in the minimum wage must be reversed, and also the savage cuts at all levels of education. There has been no attempt to change legislation to introduce a maximum wage, which was announced in the last budget but got lost in the Finance Bill. I hope that will be introduced in the interest of fairness, showing leadership and expressing affinity with those people who have no wage or meagre incomes.

I hope the Government keeps its promise to abolish the Health Service Executive and the National Roads Authority. Both bodies were unaccountable to past Governments, elected representatives and anybody else. I hope the reconfiguration process throughout the country, which is the fancy word put on it, will be stopped in its tracks and hospitals like South Tipperary General Hospital will be maintained, enhanced and strengthened.

I will be supporting the Government, and I wish it well, provided it implements sensible, honest and decent policies. I also want to see relief introduced for people who are financially [67]stretched with mortgage difficulties. They must be helped out. We have NAMA for the rich and for the big developers. We must have some kind of NAMA for the ordinary people. I refer to the people who cannot get credit or are in negative equity. Meaningful efforts must be made to introduce fairness and to have those issues dealt with in the interests of the people.

We must also fast-track personal bankruptcy reform, which is needed to bring us into line with best international standards, and a flexible discharge period for honest, hard-working people who become bankrupt, through no fault of their own, and end up in default. They can be defined as people who are half compliant in terms of tax, NAMA and the Companies Acts, among others.

I will be holding the Government to account. I wish it well but it must live up to its commitments because, above all, the people need hope and inspiration but we also need to have optimism. Go n-éirí go geal libh go léir.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  You will find it hard to compete with that, Finian. You are out-flanked on the populist——

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews  Zoom on Peter Mathews  I congratulate and give my warmest good wishes to our Taoiseach, our Tánaiste, the designate Ministers, the designate Attorney General and Minister of State. My first day here in Dáil Éireann has been a wonderful experience. The day was blessed, first, with an ecumenical service and, second, with blue skies and sunshine. That is a significant blessing for the work that is ahead of us all.

It is clear from the contributions of everybody here to the debate that there is great goodwill from all sides. That is a great beginning. We have been given a mandate from the electorate to do our best. It is a very big mandate on this side of the House in the partnership between Fine Gael and Labour. It is a surplus of 30 seats, and as Deputy Noonan pointed out, the mandate to the Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, is a surplus of 90 votes.

We have heard talk of a referendum to address one of the two big messages that came from the doorsteps — the bank crisis and bank debt. However, we have that mandate because of the ancien régime or the former state of play in the Dáil, only 20 representatives remain. A total of 166 Members of this Dáil minus the 20 from the ancien régime equals the colossal referendum mandate by the people of Ireland. It should be doable and achievable, therefore, to reopen and represent the true state of Ireland to our colleagues and counter-parties in Europe and in the IMF, and to the ECB, who are the main creditors of our banking system. Of that I am confident. If we present the story truthfully and in its true scale, it will be understood better and more fairly by those counter parties in Europe. Of that I am certain.

I would like to remind Members of what Deputy Enda Kenny said about truth and honesty. He said it behoves us all, no matter whether we are in the Government parties, Opposition parties or as Independents, to bring that reality into all the debates and all the Executive actions that follow from those debates in this Chamber. That should be our commitment. In the words and thoughts of Edmund Burke, we are not just delegates for the people who elected us here. We are trustees for them, and as trustees we have to take responsibility and think new ideas, formulate new plans and put them into action.

There is great enthusiasm and energy among all the people here. It was striking and wonderful that the youngest Member of the Chamber proposed the election of the Taoiseach. That in itself is significant. With that enthusiasm and energy, and with the hope that has been expressed here today, I am certain that we have set out on a five year journey with a new beginning and that we will bring our country back to vigour, health and to a place of enjoyment by young, [68]old and the emigrants who will be able to come back, please God, at the end of this five year term.

I commend the motion to the House. I wish every Member great success in their respective roles as Members of the House. In particular, I wish every good fortune to the members of Government, and especially to our Taoiseach and our Tánaiste.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  That brings the debate to a conclusion. I will therefore put the question on the motion: “That Dáil Éireann approves the nominations by the Taoiseach for the appointment by the President to be members of the Government.”

Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 115; Níl, 26.

Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James. Information on Tom Barry  Zoom on Tom Barry  Barry, Tom.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Ray Butler  Zoom on Ray Butler  Butler, Ray. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  Byrne, Eric.
Information on Ciaran Cannon  Zoom on Ciaran Cannon  Cannon, Ciarán. Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe.
Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie. Information on Áine Collins  Zoom on Áine Collins  Collins, Áine.
Information on Michael Conaghan  Zoom on Michael Conaghan  Conaghan, Michael. Information on Sean Conlan  Zoom on Sean Conlan  Conlan, Seán.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul J. Information on Ciara Conway  Zoom on Ciara Conway  Conway, Ciara.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel. Information on Marcella MarcellaCorcoran Kennedy  Zoom on Marcella MarcellaCorcoran Kennedy  Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe. Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon.
Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda.
Information on Jim Daly  Zoom on Jim Daly  Daly, Jim. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Patrick Deering  Zoom on Patrick Deering  Deering, Pat.
Information on Regina Doherty  Zoom on Regina Doherty  Doherty, Regina. Information on Stephen Donnelly  Zoom on Stephen Donnelly  Donnelly, Stephen.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Robert Dowds  Zoom on Robert Dowds  Dowds, Robert.
Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Alan Farrell  Zoom on Alan Farrell  Farrell, Alan.
Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank. Information on Anne Ferris  Zoom on Anne Ferris  Ferris, Anne.
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Peter Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Peter.
Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles. Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence.
Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon. Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  Griffin, Brendan.
Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic. Information on Noel Harrington  Zoom on Noel Harrington  Harrington, Noel.
Information on Simon Harris  Zoom on Simon Harris  Harris, Simon. Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian.
Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom. Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Michael.
Information on Martin Heydon  Zoom on Martin Heydon  Heydon, Martin. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Heather Humphreys  Zoom on Heather Humphreys  Humphreys, Heather.
Information on Kevin Humphreys  Zoom on Kevin Humphreys  Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Derek Keating  Zoom on Derek Keating  Keating, Derek.
Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Keaveney, Colm. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Alan Kelly  Zoom on Alan Kelly  Kelly, Alan. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Seán Kenny  Zoom on Seán Kenny  Kenny, Seán. Information on Seán Kyne  Zoom on Seán Kyne  Kyne, Seán.
Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on John Lyons  Zoom on John Lyons  Lyons, John.
Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  McCarthy, Michael. Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Tony McLoughlin  Zoom on Tony McLoughlin  McLoughlin, Tony. Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  McNamara, Michael.
Information on Eamonn Maloney  Zoom on Eamonn Maloney  Maloney, Eamonn. Information on Peter Mathews  Zoom on Peter Mathews  Mathews, Peter.
Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor  Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor  Mitchell O’Connor, Mary. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Michelle Mulherin  Zoom on Michelle Mulherin  Mulherin, Michelle. Information on Dara Murphy  Zoom on Dara Murphy  Murphy, Dara.
Information on Eoghan Murphy  Zoom on Eoghan Murphy  Murphy, Eoghan. Information on Gerald Nash  Zoom on Gerald Nash  Nash, Gerald.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Derek Nolan  Zoom on Derek Nolan  Nolan, Derek. Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  Noonan, Michael.
Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán. Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Patrick O'Donovan  Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Patrick. Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Ann Phelan  Zoom on Ann Phelan  Phelan, Ann.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Sean.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Arthur Spring  Zoom on Arthur Spring  Spring, Arthur.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy. Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam. Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo.
Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack. Information on Brian Walsh  Zoom on Brian Walsh  Walsh, Brian.
Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.  


Níl
Information on Gerry Adams  Zoom on Gerry Adams  Adams, Gerry. Information on Joan Collins  Zoom on Joan Collins  Collins, Joan.
Information on Michael Colreavy  Zoom on Michael Colreavy  Colreavy, Michael. Information on Sean Crowe  Zoom on Sean Crowe  Crowe, Seán.
Information on Clare Daly  Zoom on Clare Daly  Daly, Clare. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Dessie Ellis  Zoom on Dessie Ellis  Ellis, Dessie. Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin.
Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan  Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan  Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’. Information on John Halligan  Zoom on John Halligan  Halligan, John.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe.
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig. Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  McDonald, Mary Lou.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Sandra McLellan  Zoom on Sandra McLellan  McLellan, Sandra.
Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  Murphy, Catherine. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Jonathan O'Brien  Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien  O’Brien, Jonathan.
Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Maureen. Information on Thomas Pringle  Zoom on Thomas Pringle  Pringle, Thomas.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brian Stanley  Zoom on Brian Stanley  Stanley, Brian.
Information on Peadar Tóibín  Zoom on Peadar Tóibín  Tóibín, Peadar. Information on Mick Wallace  Zoom on Mick Wallace  Wallace, Mick.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Catherine Murphy.

Question declared carried.


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