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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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Senator


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Deputy Thomas Byrne

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Deputy Thomas Byrne

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Thomas Byrne

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Snippet Contents:

Go raibh maith agat a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a chur in iúl don Taoiseach nua, an Teachta Leo Varadkar. Tháinig an bheirt againn agus an bheirt Teachtaí Mhic Graith isteach sa Dáil deich mbliana ó shin inniu. Is onóir mhór do Theachta Varadkar agus a chlann gur thogadh ina Thaoiseach é inniu. Táimid lán-sásta leis sin agus táimid ag súil go ndéanfaidh sé gach iarracht an tír seo a chur chun cinn. Má dhéanann sé an iarracht sin tabharfaimid tacaíocht dó, fiú muna tabharfaimid tacaíocht do gach polasaí atá á chur i bhfeidhm aige. I also congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Regina Doherty, from my constituency on her elevation. It is an honour for the constituency, as well as for her and her family.
I want to refer to education. I was briefly heartened with the news that a "super junior" Minister of State was to be appointed with responsibility for higher education. I was very happy with the appointment of the Minister, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, because Fianna Fáil has very much pushed the issue of further education. I thought that finally, at last, the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, is getting to grips with this and realising it is an important issue. I was, however, somewhat confused and there were question marks in my head when the Taoiseach spoke. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, was mentioned as having responsibility for the Technological Universities Bill and third level funding. Media reports are now coming through that what happened, in fact, was a row behind the scenes when the Minister, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, was offered a justice and equality brief, refused it and was given higher education instead. This disappoints me greatly because if this is the way higher education is being treated by the Government - this is being reported by The Irish Times this evening - then my hopes were completely unfounded and all the fears we have about Fine Gael and higher education are absolutely true.
All the fears that have been expressed throughout the university sector and the higher education sector are well founded. They worry about Fine Gael's commitment to higher education and its funding. Now the whole sector has been thrown as a bauble to keep someone who is getting a demotion happy. Higher education should be promoted, not demoted. This is an absolute scandal and an insult to a sector that could be one of the ways of rescuing Ireland from Brexit. It is one of the first bad moves made by the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, and he will have to answer for it. We have said to the Government that the Technological Universities Bill can be brought forward and passed by the summer recess. We urge the Government to do this and we want it, somehow, to finally get the message. Tonight, it does not look as though the Government has got that message. The Minister, Deputy Bruton has a job ahead of him. I do not know who is responsible for the sector; no one knows who is responsible for it. The Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, has demoted not only the Minister, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, but he has also demoted higher education.
Turning to the appointment of Ms Máire Whelan SC as President of the Court of Appeal, I worry for the Government that the appointment will carry with it the stain of original sin for the entire length of the rest of the Taoiseach's term, one for which I wonder if there will be any redemption. This appointment will hang over the Government like a sword of Damocles. It will damage this Administration unless the questions that were raised legitimately by my party leader today are answered fully.