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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 Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty] He makes this grand gesture that nobody should pay a marginal rate of 50% or more, knowing that every single person earning under €70,000 pays less than 50%. What he is talking about is a tax cut that is worth over €500 million to people who at least earn twice the average income. This is at a time when we have countless homeless families. This is a time when we have children with life-limiting conditions whose parents want them to enjoy the last number of years that they will have and to be allowed to die with dignity in their own homes not being supported by the HSE. This is a time when there are hundreds of thousands of patients on hospital waiting lists and hundreds of people on trolleys in hospital corridors.

The new Taoiseach speaks about there being no left or right and that he wants to appeal to the centre. It cannot be denied that if one argues for tax cuts for the wealthiest, it will come at a cost to health, education, rural areas or infrastructure. This money cannot be conjured up. I am asking him to prioritise the needs of the country. We are almost ten years into the economic crisis and yet 80,000 families are in mortgage arrears. Is this new Government going to stand up for the banks? I doubt it. We have not seen anything yet. We will have a new Minister with responsibility for community and rural affairs, yet 100 bank branches across rural Ireland and elsewhere are becoming cashless, shutting customers out from across-the-counter services.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed They are afraid they will be robbed.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The outgoing Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, said a year and a half ago that it was unacceptable. Will the new Government stand up to the banks or just dish out more of this type of cheap shot?

The new Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht is going back to his old position. I wish him well. He is a constituency colleague of mine. Let us be clear. There are fewer people speaking the Irish language now than ever before. Sa Ghaeltacht agus taobh amuigh de. Tharla sin i ndiadh sé bliana de Rialtas Fhine Gael. Tá sé iontach maith go bhfuil Gaeilge mhaith agus líofa ag an Taoiseach - cuirim fáilte roimh sin agus beidh go leor díospoireachtaí ansin - agus tá sé iontach maith gur fhoghlaim an Teachta Joe McHugh Gaeilge nuair a rinneadh Aire Stáit dó. Caithfidh sé bheith níos mó ná siombalachas. Caithfimid cinnte a dhéanamh go bhfuil an infheistíocht á cur isteach sa Ghaeilge, sna pobail Ghaeilge agus sa Ghaeltacht sa dóigh is go dtig linn borradh a chur ar an teanga. Caithfidh sé bheith i bhfad níos doimhne ná mar a dúirt an Taoiseach inniu.

There are great challenges facing this country, one of which is Brexit. I want to welcome the appointment of Deputy Coveney as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Hopefully, Sinn Féin can work with him on that issue. However, this Parliament voted for special status for the North and that it remain within the European Union. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, has a mandate to make that the central negotiating position during the forthcoming talks. I remind the new Taoiseach of the commitment he gave to the effect that, as Taoiseach, he would negotiate for the North to remain within the customs union and the Single Market. There is no doubt that there will be toing and froing over the next number of weeks and months until this Government eventually collapses.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin 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.

Deputy Willie Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose I congratulate the Taoiseach and his new Cabinet. I wish to focus on issues relating to rural Ireland and the need for the Government to focus on the regions. I particularly compliment the new Minister with responsibility for community and rural affairs, Deputy Ring. I have no doubt that he has earned his spurs, and he will make sure that rural Ireland's problems are addressed and not forgotten.

There are many challenges facing rural Ireland, with Brexit being the main one. Farming organisations have said today that farming and the food and drinks industry must be one of the Taoiseach's top priorities in the Brexit negotiations. They are not wrong. We have already seen the mushroom industry decimated by the impact of Brexit and we cannot afford to have any other industry suffer in the same way.

The new Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Fitzgerald, should note that the midlands has the lowest number of IDA Ireland-supported jobs of any region, followed closely by the north west and mid-east.


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