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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 Thomas P. Broughan

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Snippet Contents:

I called repeatedly for a dedicated Brexit Minister over the past year and I welcome that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, has been given that task as part of the foreign affairs and trade portfolio. It is very disappointing and regrettable that the Minister, Deputy Coveney, has chosen to walk away from the Department of Community, Housing, Planning and Local Government. The most telling judgment on his tenure in the Department is that the new Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is to carry out a three-month review of Rebuilding Ireland, with a brief mention of further housing policy solutions. It is testament to the failure of the Minister, Deputy Coveney.
All of those who warned against merging the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform were correct. One of the few good initiatives of the 2011-16 Government was the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The change is happening just as the budgetary oversight office is being appointed to invigilate State spending and report to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. Any committed, serious Government would keep all aspects of expenditure under close scrutiny. Proper attention was just beginning to be given at last to the very high cost of tax expenditures such as the research and development tax credit which we were informed today costs us three quarters of a billion every year.
My colleague, Deputy Clare Daly, has addressed some aspects of the justice portfolio. It was being mooted that the only way of changing the culture of the Department of Justice and Equality was to separate the security and home affairs function from the justice and reform function. It is something the Government has chosen not to do. Once again, Fianna Fáil is the anchor of this Fine Gael Administration. The conservative dead hand of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil together has resolutely refused to implement a housing emergency programme to house the tens of thousands of families on housing lists and in hotels and guest houses. On this day, the day the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, was elected, many of us got calls from mothers of families in desperate situations facing eviction in the next few weeks. The HAP programme is not working in the Dublin region and we have had no hope in this area.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together have refused to address the urgent needs of 660,000 citizens on health waiting lists or to finally implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Together, they have starved the education sector of resources and opposed pay equality for young teachers. From 2008, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together, because of their joint and continuing support of the blanket bank guarantee, have allowed public investment to fall below minimum depreciation levels and allowed our infrastructure to wither and fall into decay. I noticed the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, did not have a word to say today in his introductory speech on the Government about our infrastructure. I was no admirer of the Deputies Kenny and Noonan Administrations which carried on the programmes of the former Deputy Cowen and also the late Deputy Lenihan of needless steep cuts and austerity which seriously damaged many of our people. It was laughable yesterday listening to journalists and some Members of this House waxing lyrical about the so-called achievements of Deputies Kenny and Noonan. Their performance at EU level was pitiful and their cowardice in not standing up to Chancellor Merkel and the EU Commission has left Ireland with an incredible and dangerously high national debt. We very rarely see our journalists writing about that.
This afternoon, the chief economist in the Department of Finance told us at the Committee on Budgetary Oversight that the national debt still stands at just over 100% of modified gross national income, GNI*. Irish citizens per capita have one of the highest national debts on the planet and there are continuing grave worries about the necessary refinancing of those huge stacks of our debt in 2018 and 2020. The Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, knows a little bit about that. That is the true legacy of Deputies Kenny and Noonan. The Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, was always at the heart of this policy failure. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in a health debate with the Minister, Deputy Harris, the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, managed to ghost his way through three major Departments since 2011 without having any discernible positive impact on public policy. I am aware from my own work that he did at least take a small interest in road safety issues at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport but there was very little legislative change to make our roads safer until he had long departed that Department.
It is fair to judge; I do not agree with my colleague, Deputy Clare Daly, on that score. It would also be fair to judge that the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, made no impact whatsoever in the health sector either in terms of budgetary expansion for additional resources or in implementing the totally misconceived Fine Gael health insurance plan. What happened to that plan? The Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar's tenure in the Department of Health had only the one consolation that he was not the former Minister, Senator James Reilly. It was striking this morning that Deputy Kenny picked out a policy initiated by Deputy Shortall during her tenure as the only thing that could be shown from the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar's tenure.