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Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of Government (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 953 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] The outcome of the UK election poses an opportunity to moderate the hard Brexit for which the previous Tory Government was pushing. This is a matter Fianna Fáil has been talking about in detail for some years and our greatest frustration has been the refusal to engage in substantive, rather than symbolic, discussions. It is our hope that today will mark a departure from this.

I congratulate my constituency colleague, the Minister, Deputy Coveney, on his transfer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is an excellent Department which had no obvious need for a change of leadership. Over the course of his pitch for the leadership of his party, he toured the country constantly and emphasised that he believes in finishing a job once it is taken on. He criticised his new boss for running out of the Department of Health after a year and a half, but today he is choosing to leave the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government after little more than a year. There is nothing in the housing agenda which is anywhere near to being implemented. A year and a half after the general election, in which the scandal of homelessness was a defining issue, the problem is demonstrably worse. For a shocking illustration of how desperate the crisis is, one need look no further than the Capuchin Day Centre which is accessed by at least 8,500 children for emergency meal services on an annual basis. After the endless stream of announcements and initiatives from the former Minister, Deputy Kelly, we have had a new stream of announcements and initiatives, each one heralding the final conquering of the problem. There are clear commitments in place on social housing and every element of the housing crisis but it is long past time to put a sustained focus on delivering the unequivocal commitments of Government on housing.

The separation of the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform originated directly from the Labour Party demand for a share of the finance portfolio in 2011. With that party's usual genius for negotiation, it got the responsibility for the cutbacks while Fine Gael got to claim credit for an economy which retained the core strengths that drove the recovery. This was matched only by the later decision of the Labour Party to swap education for water. The decision to unify the Departments again is not an unreasonable one but the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, will find himself in the unique position of being a Minister required, by law, to consult and seek approval from himself before taking most decisions.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath He is good at that.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin In recent days, it has been widely trailed that the Taoiseach intends to abandon the rainy day fund and spend it on infrastructure. However, the fund is not yet in place and its creation is part of the deal which allows this Government to exist. He has no freedom to unilaterally change this policy and any attempt to manoeuvre on the ground for the next election by playing with overall budgetary limits will not be tolerated.

Few areas have been more disastrously managed by Fine Gael than health. A series of damaging decisions and an obsession with managing headlines rather than services have led to real deterioration and hardship. Its record is a lot worse than merely unfinished business. It is a sad reflection on the recent Fine Gael leadership contest that health is seen as a place to keep a Minister to be punished, rather than a challenge to be tackled head on. We have run out of patience over the implementation of agreements on the funding and provision of mental health services and no more delays will be tolerated. The National Treatment Purchase Fund is a proven way to immediately tackle waiting lists and waiting times. Its abolition caused real harm and its proper restoration is required immediately to reduce waiting times for patients. There are now 666,000 people waiting for inpatient and outpatient appointments.

On its first day in office, Fine Gael abolished the place of community development at Cabinet. This has caused hardship in urban and rural communities and the damage is obvious to anyone who cares to look. We regret that this damaging policy will continue. We also regret the fact that no significant effort is planned to address the rising crisis in many rural communities. There is no better demonstration of this than in the massive cuts to and underspending in respect of the Leader programmes. At a time when rural communities are literally terrified of the implications of Brexit, the failure to give their concerns any serious attention to date is an important omission. Investment in education and research is the most effective way to underpin the economic and social development of this country in the future. It will fireproof us against Brexit and other external threats. The Cassells report is a key policy intervention in this regard that needs to be advanced. Investment in and reform of preschool, primary and second level education are also essential. Education should be at the heart of a strategic approach to our people's future and we are prepared to engage constructively with the Minister for Education and Skills, as well as the new Minister of State with responsibility for higher education, in pursuing and advancing that agenda.

The ongoing crisis of confidence in key parts of the justice system has been the hallmark of recent years and was the most important impulse in the decision of Fine Gael to have a leadership contest. This is a topic which requires much fuller discussion. However, we have not yet heard anything that goes beyond the empty promises of reform of which we have been hearing since the days of the former Minister, Alan Shatter. The manner of the appointment of the former Attorney General to the Court of Appeal stinks. This can not be overcome by comments such as, "Ah sure, we'll do better next time". The silence from the Labour Party on this issue is deafening. Why has 23 years of precedent been abandoned for no real reason?

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Stepaside Garda station.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Why was no specific open advertisement issued in recent months for the job?

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Stepaside Garda station.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath It is beautiful - the Deputy would want to see it.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Why was the job held open for nearly three months and then filled in this manner?

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Stepaside Garda station.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Why did a Minister, once staunchly opposed to any political involvement in judicial appointments, quietly wave this appointment through?

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Stepaside Garda station.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Was it anything to do with a decision to seek an interim report on facilitating the reopening of Stepaside Garda station, even though the full report is due in weeks? It has been said to me today that it was a good, old-fashioned trade between a judicial appointment and the opening of a police station.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Jealousy is no good.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There was a decision to cherry-pick one part of an interim report for announcement by means of a political banner in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and every member of Cabinet who agreed these measures on Tuesday will carry the cloud of a squalid piece of low horse trading until they fully explain what went on.

Each Minister in the Government is obliged to serve the public interest and implement the basic agreements which helped him or her secure office. A record of growing division and unfairness has been replaced by inaction and drift in the past year. What our country needs is concerted action, not a more effective media policy or political operation. The Taoiseach has every right to enjoy his moment but there will be no honeymoon and no more excuses. He has been given a great opportunity to serve the people of this country and we all hope he uses it in an effective and productive manner.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Beidh mé ag roinnt mo chuid ama leis an Teachta Pearse Doherty.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Ceart go leor.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Taoiseach, an Teachta Varadkar. I congratulate him on presenting himself to Uachtarán na hÉireann and returning to us as Taoiseach. We live in historic times. It is interesting to hear Deputy Micheál Martin, Uachtarán of Fianna Fáil, talk tough while, for the second time, ushering into office a Fine Gael Taoiseach. There has been lots of talk in recent times about abstentionist politics and the evils of abstentionism from the Westminster Parliament but the true abstentionists of Irish politics are, in fact, those in Fianna Fáil.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald They sit on the fence and look the other way, giving the new Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, a honeymoon of indefinite duration.

  I am underwhelmed by the Cabinet, save for hearing of a Minister by the name of Seán de Rossa. I liked the restyling, the makeover in the new Cabinet to give a bit of Gaeilge glamour.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Up Tipp.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Up Tipp, Mattie. The Taoiseach talked about courage and cited it as the prime virtue of any person but his first decision reflects caution.


Last Updated: 11/09/2018 13:26:19 First Page Previous Page Page of 44 Next Page Last Page