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

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 994 No. 3

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  7 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] Equality will have a strong voice in this new Government.

A free, independent and professional media is vital for our democracy. We have set out our commitment to helping not just our public service media, but our professional media as a whole to be able to have a sustainable future. Deputy Catherine Martin will lead our work on this as a matter of urgency. She will also lead the critical work of helping to restart and strengthen key elements of what makes us unique as a nation – our arts, teanga náisiúnta, sports and tourism. Beidh an Teachta Martin freagrach as an Roinn sin agus tabharfar suntasacht nua sa Rialtas d’fheidhmniú an stráitéis fad-téarmach do úsáid an teanga agus spreagadh eolais.

At this moment more than ever, we have been reminded of the central role the State must play in supporting people at key moments of their lives and providing them with security, including during their retirement. The social vision of the new Government includes giving a new impetus to community development. This is a major reconfiguration of central elements of how Government is structured and it will be accompanied by a new approach to how Government works. Ministers and their officials will work more closely together in a series of Cabinet committees which will be established. The challenges our country is facing cannot be placed within the walls of individual Departments. They cut across Government and we must work across normal boundaries to overcome these challenges, including decisive and rapid action on recovery; immediate and ongoing work to address the central challenges of housing, health, education, Brexit and climate change; and a positive and outward-looking engagement with Europe and the international community. These are the principles which will underpin our work. Our country has achieved many incredible things in the past and I have no doubt we can and will do so again.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I take it the arrangements set out by the Government Chief Whip are acceptable to the House. Are they agreed? Agreed.

  I call the spokesperson for Fine Gael to address the House.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Today, we broke with tradition by electing a new Taoiseach and Government in this centre rather than Leinster House. We found a new way of doing things, without sacrificing any of the things that really matter. Let this symbolise the mission of this new Government, putting aside the divisions of the past to find new ways of doing things, a new approach that is in the best interests of our country and a break with the past for the dream of a better future.

I offer my sincere congratulations to Deputy Micheál Martin on his election as Taoiseach. This is a special day for him, his family and the Fianna Fáil Party and a day that will be celebrated my many people, not least by the banks of the lovely Lee. I especially want to mention one person, Deputy Martin's wife, Mary, who has been alongside him for all his political career, through the worst and the best of times. Today is her day as much as it is the Taoiseach's, and I hope she and her family enjoy it.

The unique circumstances of today's meeting in the Dáil mean that, unfortunately, there is not the usual gathering of family, friends and supporters, but they are here in spirit for this occasion. I offer my warm words of congratulations not simply because my party, Fine Gael, supported this election. It is right that we wish a new Taoiseach well when he or she starts out, whatever his or her political persuasion, because when a new Taoiseach does well, our country does well too. Today is not a day for rancour or point-scoring but one to mark a new beginning.

When I first became a Teachta Dála back in 2007, I was my party's spokesperson for a Department called Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and I enjoyed many robust exchanges with the Minister of the day. These exchanges continued over the years across the different positions we held and in recent years that was twice a week during Leaders' Questions. From today, we will be working together in Government. We are very different people but we have some crucial things in common. One of them is a determination to do what we can to better the lives of the people of our country. I look forward to working together with the Taoiseach in partnership over the next five years.

I also congratulate the incoming Minister for Climate Action, Communications Networks and Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan and the Green Party on their return to Government. What an extraordinary comeback. Like the Taoiseach, in 2011, Deputy Ryan became the leader of a party that was on its knees. It had no Teachtaí Dála, little public support and questions were being asked about its future. Today, the Green Party is helping to shape our future for the better and I know from the negotiations that this is definitely a party that knows how to play senior hurling. During the debate on ratifying the programme for Government, I was impressed by the passion, vision and determination of the members of the Green Party. The intensity of its internal debate reflected a seriousness about the issues and did credit to everyone on all sides. I congratulate the new Ministers on their appointment and look forward to working with the Green Party to deliver real and lasting change for the benefit of our country and our world.

For my own party, this is an historic day as we enter our third consecutive Government, something we are doing for the first time. On a personal level, it is of course tinged with real sadness to see so many friends and colleagues leave office. When we met before travelling over to the Convention Centre, we numbered just seven. It seemed like the room was empty. I know the Fine Gael Ministers appointed today will serve our country to the very best of their ability, working to build a better future in the best traditions of our party. I also pay tribute to those who are no longer Ministers and served our country faithfully and courageously over the past few years. I also pay tribute to their staff. People often forget that behind every politician and Minister, there are advisers and support staff, many of whom will be made redundant in the next few days. I am honoured to be appointed the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and I look forward to taking up a new role with new responsibilities. Today is not, however, a day for celebration for Fine Gael, far from it. We are doing what is right for the country but it comes at a cost.

Ag obair in éineacht le Fianna Fáil agus an Páirtí Glas beidh muid in an ann téarnamh geilleagrach ár dtíre a stiúradh, poist agus rathúnas a thabhairt ar ais, dul i ngleic le torthaí na paindéime agus gníomhú ar athrú aeráide atá riachtanach chun ár dtír agus ár bpláinéad a chaomhnú. Our country has been through a terrible emergency in which many people have lost their lives and more have had to live with illness and fear of illness. Jobs have been lost, businesses destroyed and our economy upended. Across the world, countries have been badly affected by Covid-19 and are being affected by the consequences of climate breakdown. This Government will take the transformative action required to rebuild what has been swept away, repair what has been damaged and renew what has been lost. The mission of this new Government is, therefore, a simple one. We seek to be a Government of action that will deliver the kind of change that people demanded in the last election, a change not defined by one party but rather by the policies, priorities and actions we take as a new Government.

We seek to be a Government of enterprise, creating jobs and preparing for the jobs and workplaces of the future, driving our economic recovery and improving quality of life for all our people. We seek to be a Government of engagement, engaging with our citizens and countries around the world, at the heart of the European Union and offering leadership in the United Nations. Our parties have very different histories and temperaments but we are united by a determination to help Ireland to recover and thrive. We have respect for each other's policies, beliefs and values and we will work through any differences that arise for the greater good.

This Government must hit the ground running, starting today. We must get places reopened and people back to work and repair what has been damaged. Next month, we will unveil the July stimulus to kick-start our economy. Its recovery fund will be targeted to increase domestic demand and employment and deliver balanced regional growth. I believe we have the opportunity to drive strategic change through our small and medium enterprises, accelerate job creation, decarbonise the economy, ensure Ireland is at the forefront of the digital future and bring about a more equal economy for all.

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