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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 Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald] The appointment of the Cabinet, which is the first decision of the Taoiseach, shows caution and conservatism. Far from a team preparing to meet the challenges of our time, he now captains a team of procrastinators, excuse-makers and responsibility evaders.

The Minister, Deputy Harris, has survived the trauma of recent weeks and remains in his post, which is no doubt a great relief to him. He may know that as Cabinet members were wiping their fevered brows and perhaps even wiping away some tears of disappointment today, in the real world, 405 Irish citizens were on hospital trolleys. That is the reality of our health service. Members of the Cabinet have had many chances to remedy that, but have failed. People looking on expect them to fail once again. Let us hope that we will be proven wrong.

I welcome that the Taoiseach has prioritised a 2018 referendum on the repeal of the eighth amendment. He must make it clear that that will take place early in 2018 because Ireland is rightly and roundly internationally condemned for failing women and for acts of cruelty through commission and omission by the State. That cannot continue. If the Taoiseach’s courageous new world and commitment to equality is to mean anything, it must translate into improvements in real time and real terms for women.

Simon the elder now assumes the portfolio of foreign affairs. The partition of Ireland and the Irish peace process are not foreign affairs. They are core domestic policies. I put it to the Taoiseach and the Minister, Deputy Coveney, that the commitment to Irish unity which they both vigorously proclaimed in the course of their leadership campaign must now find real life through the preparation of a Government White Paper on Irish reunification.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Hear hear.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Now is the time to plan for that new Ireland. The Taoiseach has invoked the memory of Michael Collins more than once in recent times. The Taoiseach will recall Michael Collins’s thinking, which was not uncontroversial at the time, about the freedom to achieve freedom. The Government now has the opportunity to chart a course-----

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Deputy is a belated convert to that.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald -----to achieve that freedom. I hope it grasps that opportunity. I hope that the Taoiseach, the new Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, and the Government are familiar with the Good Friday Agreement and the fact the Government is currently in default of that agreement, among others, which dubious honour it shares with the Tories in Great Britain. The institutions in the North came down not because of belligerence on the part of Sinn Féin, as some people would have others believe, but because of corruption within those institutions. If political experience in this jurisdiction has taught us anything for the future, it is that there is a cost to tolerating or acquiescing in political corruption. Sinn Féin and the late Martin McGuinness were not prepared to look the other way when the renewable heating initiative, RHI, scandal broke. The institutions also came down because of the default that I have mentioned in respect of agreements.

Tomorrow, the Sinn Féin leadership will travel to London to meet with Theresa May. On Friday next, it will meet with the Taoiseach.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan But it will not go to Westminster.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I hope that will mark the beginning of a process whereby outstanding issues can be resolved. As the Taoiseach knows, those issues include matters concerning Acht na Gaeilge.

  The Taoiseach should understand that Sinn Féin is not the biggest threat to democracy. Some Members of Sinn Féin smiled when he said that. For the Taoiseach’s purposes, Sinn Féin is more a threat to the status quo. If that hurts the feelings of any members of the Government, that is too bad, because Sinn Féin makes no apologies for the political stances it takes.

  The Minister, Deputy Flanagan assumes the justice portfolio. He should be clear that the position of the Garda Commissioner is no longer tenable and has not been so for a significant period of time. He should be clear that he cannot credibly allow the culture of impunity within the most senior ranks of the Garda Síochána to go unchecked. He now carries a responsibility for morale within the force and also for public confidence in the administration of justice.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Deputy should know by now that I do not take lectures from Sinn Féin.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald As for the housing portfolio, same old, same old. Members have listened to that rhetoric for as long as Governments of which the Taoiseach has been a member have been in office.

In terms of the portfolio of employment and social protection, the Taoiseach has set out the objective of income equalisation. I say bravo to that. I note that the issue of welfare fraud has been dropped. Is it not very odd, in the context of the Taoiseach thinking only a short time ago that it was suitable to spend €200,000 on a campaign to stamp out all this fraudulent activity, that it now does not feature as a matter of priority? That raises a question about the manner in which the Taoiseach assumed his office. It seems that he very deliberately thought it politically smart to target people who he believed to be powerless or at least very, very vulnerable. If he proposes to govern, design policy and carry himself politically on the basis of cheap shots or targeting people on the margins or anywhere else who he believes to be vulnerable, Sinn Féin, which he believes to be a threat to democracy, will stand toe-to-toe against that.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Taoiseach úr, an Teachta Varadkar, as an éacht atá déanta aige agus é tofa anseo inniu ar 57 vóta le tacaíocht Fhianna Fáil. Déanaim comhghairdeas lena theaghlach, lena pháirtnéir, Matt agus lena mhuintir go léir. Déanaim comhghairdeas fosta leis na hAirí uilig atá ainmnithe go dtí an Binse Tosaigh anseo. Tá cuid mhór acu anseo le tamall fada anois. Bhí an pobal mór amuigh ansin ag fanacht leis an lá seo. Bhí muid ag cluinstin sna meáin le tamall fada go raibh ré úr agus ré órga ag teacht isteach le Taoiseach úr agus le Binse Tosaigh úr a cheapfadh an Taoiseach úr. Caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil cuma iontach sean ar an Bhinse Tosaigh seo agus ar an Rialtas seo.

There has been much hype about this day and the election of a new Taoiseach, along with much hope that this would be a new era led by the youngest ever Taoiseach and that there would be energy and excitement about the new Government. The Cabinet was appointed 20 minutes ago and the picture speaks volumes. Its members look quite old, stale and lacking a bit of insight and ambition. The reason I say that-----


Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Deputy is looking very beautiful.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan That is the same script the Deputy used last year.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The reason I say that is because one can easily get caught up in the bubble of everybody wanting to find out which Minister will occupy which Department minutes or seconds before the announcements are made. However, it is not about personality politics. It is about politics of substance. Members, Ministers and the Taoiseach need to recognise that this country faces substantial and serious issues.

I wish the new Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, well in his role. That role will be very challenging for him but will be more challenging for the people of this country if he follows the script that the new Taoiseach outlined in debates with the Minister, Deputy Coveney, during the Fine Gael leadership campaign. The Taoiseach made it clear that he wants the limited fiscal space of less than €400 million that the Minister will have available in the 2018 budget to be used for tax cuts for the wealthiest in society.

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