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Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government

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Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government

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Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government

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Deputy Brendan Howlin

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Brendan Howlin

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Snippet Contents:

I propose to share time with Deputies Penrose, Sherlock and Jan O'Sullivan.
On my own behalf and that of the Labour Party, I offer my congratulations to each of the new appointees. Some have had the honour of serving in government and others are experiencing that honour for the first time. I call it an honour because that is what it is. Collectively, they are now required to act according to the requirements of the common good. They are the highest office holders of our sovereign, independent and democratic State. Each holds within his or her grasp the ability to shape our collective future. They have the power to better the lives of our people. I hope that power will be used judiciously.
Approximately one week ago I flagged my concern that Deputy Varadkar as Taoiseach would seek to appoint one Minister to lead two Departments, namely, the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. I put on record my reasons for saying what I did. The scale of the jobs to be done in those Departments requires, in my view and experience, a dedicated Minister for each. The job of public sector reform is far from done, and I was concerned that this would be the issue that would be abandoned on the desk of an exceptionally busy Minister. The legal complexities around a Minister being required under law to consult with himself is significant. It was my mistaken view that the chatter around the possibility was simply that and that our new Taoiseach would have the wisdom not to make this mistake, but it seems I was wrong. While the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, is a good and capable Minister, the decision taken by the Taoiseach is a mistake - the first mistake on his first day in office.
People may say that I have a vested interest in this area, and I suppose I do. I do not raise this issue to score points but to bring attention to a very real issue. It might be suggested that Minister of State can have issues delegated to them and that would prevent any conflict between the new Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe. That suggestion would run counter to the law. Under the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment No. 2) Act 1977, a delegated statutory power is exercisable by a Minister of State subject to the general superintendence and control of a senior Minister and it remains vested concurrently with the senior Minister. In other words, neither version of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, can delegate a matter to a Minister of State and he does not actually retain control over himself. For the new arrangement to operate, a full Cabinet Minister would regularly have to step in a play one or other of the roles assigned to the Minister, Deputy Donohoe. That, I am afraid, has already been determined by our courts. The House should be informed as to which other Minister is going to periodically be asked to bear that task.
The leader of Fianna Fáil was critical of the Labour Party for taking the spending Ministry in the previous Government. I remind him that what we did in government was negotiate an open and public collective agreement with 26 public sector unions, unlike the decision by Fianna Fáil while in government to impose wage cuts on public sector workers without even discussion, much less agreement. That is one of the reasons that we took that office.
My colleagues will address a range of issues that now stand before the Taoiseach and his Ministers. Each of those deserves attention. I want to briefly mention some issues. Brexit remains the greatest challenge our country faces. My party has published a set of tangible actions that Government should take on immediately. I hope that we can have discussions with the new Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, to advance those. I also hope that we can begin to deal with a matter of greater substance, which is the future of this island. My party, among many others, has floated ideas about this in recent weeks and months. It is time that we got past individual statements and started to engage meaningfully on how to create an agreed island. Perhaps the Taoiseach might invite party leaders to discuss an appropriate forum or convention that might allow this discussion to become tangible.
The Taoiseach and his Ministers have reading to do. I hope that will be done in detail. I hope that they enjoy some celebrations tonight and tomorrow, and that when we come back next Tuesday that we will all get down to the real job of work that faces us all.