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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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  8 o’clock

Acting Chairman (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler We will now move to the Regional Independent Group.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick I am sharing time with Deputy Tóibín. I wish the incoming Government the very best of luck in what will be a very challenging time for our country over the coming years. The programme for Government is ambitious, and while I do not agree with everything in it, I will support it as long as it means our country is on the road to recovery. In recent Dáil terms, my constituency of Louth and east Meath has been neglected at ministerial level. As a result, we have lost out on valuable resources and supports. As an Independent Deputy, I will always put my constituency of Louth and east Meath first and fight to ensure we receive our fair share of resources.

I wish the incoming Minister for Health the very best of luck in his new role. My commitment to the restoration of full services to Louth County Hospital will continue in this Dáil. Unless the Minister can give me his full support in returning services to Louth County Hospital, I cannot guarantee my ongoing support for the Government. I gave this commitment to the people of Louth and east Meath during my time in the House and I intend to keep up this fight. To this end I look forward to working with the incoming Minister to ensure that Louth hospital will be supported in terms of both resources and services during this Dáil.

Our country has suffered greatly in recent months as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Everybody has been affected in some form or another. Many have lost loved ones or their livelihood or face a very uncertain future. Every sector has been badly affected, none more so than that of tourism. Coming from the north east, I know more than most the importance of tourism to the local economy and the livelihood of local people. I congratulate the incoming Minister with responsibility for tourism and look forward to working with her as we try to rebuild the tourism sector. Areas of great natural beauty such as the Cooley peninsula and the Boyne Valley rely heavily on tourism, and we must ensure we support businesses in order for them to open again. Such businesses employ thousands of people, not only directly but also indirectly. They are vital to their local areas and must be supported.

I take the opportunity to highlight the importance of sport to this country. We have seen during the lockdown how important sport is. In this regard, I want to work closely with the incoming Minister with responsibility for sport to ensure the level of supports required to bring back the sporting organisations. As chairman of Louth GAA, I know personally how important the GAA is to local communities. The extent of voluntary work carried out by members of local GAA clubs needs to be acknowledged and praised. We in Louth GAA are fighting hard to get our own county grounds in Dundalk, and all the clubs and their members are putting their shoulders to the wheel to bring this dream to a reality. I make no apologies for stating I look forward to working with the incoming Government and the GAA to ensure that this badly needed stadium is completed.

Coming from the Border area, I understand the devastating effect that Brexit will have if we do not put in place the measures necessary to deal with it. There are still so many unanswered questions. I am deeply concerned that the effects could be disastrous for Border towns such as my town of Dundalk. I am also very concerned about the lack of clarity on many issues, such as the information available to businesses. We still do not have a roadmap. We have constantly been told there will be no hard border, no issues for cross-Border workers and no checks at the Border. The people of the Border counties - Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Leitrim and Donegal - need answers now so they can prepare properly for Brexit.

I again wish the incoming Government the very best of luck in this Dáil term. I have supported it today, and voted for Deputy Micheál Martin as Taoiseach, because I believe that the country needs a strong and stable Government at this crucial time. The country does not need another election, just a stable Government. My support, however, is not unconditional. I will vote against the Government if I do not agree with it. The people of Louth and east Meath elected me as an Independent Deputy. I will support the Government when I believe that it is doing what is right but, equally, will vote against it if I consider that the right thing to do.

Finally, I congratulate the new Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, and all his Cabinet colleagues. I look forward to both working with them and holding them to account throughout the lifetime of this Dáil. I commend the outgoing Government on its work in the face of Covid-19. The then Taoiseach, the then Minister for Health, Dr. Tony Holohan, all the front-line staff and everybody else involved made a team effort and the golden word was "communication". If the new Government communicates to the people in the same way that was done for the past three or four months, it will have a good chance of going the whole way.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Taoiseach nua, an Teachta Micheál Martin. Is onóir ollmhór é a bheith tofa mar Thaoiseach ar an tír. Is lá iontach é seo don Teachta agus dá chlann agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh siad taitneamh as. I also congratulate the newly minted Ministers. The role they have been given is a massive opportunity for them, but if it is used properly, it will also be a massive opportunity for the country. My advice to them is not to be passengers on the bus they are on. They should drive their Departments in the direction they need to go. Nevertheless, I am amazed that, from what I can work out from the list of Ministers, there will be no Minister from counties Donegal to Clare on the west coast of Ireland. It is quite clear that the centre of gravity of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is moving eastward all the time. There was a saying when I was growing up: the west is awake. It is clear the west is not awake in either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael at the moment.

People have said this is an historic day, but the parties that have ruled Ireland since the foundation of the State are still ruling the State. What we are witnessing today is the creation of a Government that nobody wanted. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party did not want this Government. We in Aontú have been saying since January that if one votes for Fianna Fáil, one will get Fine Gael, and we were hammered by those in Fianna Fáil for saying so, but we were right. Deputy Micheál Martin has become Taoiseach, but at the cost of deleting the core principles of Fianna Fáil's founding fathers, of Irish unity and economic justice. Many of the thousands of people within Fianna Fáil who voted against this will see it for what it is, namely, a swap of power for principle. It is also noteworthy that this building, in which Deputy Micheál Martin was elected Taoiseach today, was bailed out by the National Asset Management Agency as a result of decisions made by Deputy Micheál Martin's previous Cabinet. The big wheel keeps on turning in this country.

Ireland finds itself again on the verge of a very significant crisis. The programme for Government is completely oblivious to the economic tidal wave currently hitting this country. The State is likely to have a budget deficit of €30 billion this year, yet that mountainous debt, which casts a radical shadow over everything the incoming Government will do over the next five years, has hardly been mentioned in this Chamber. Not only does the programme for Government, the founding document of this Administration, not deal with that fact, but it hardly recognises its existence.

When we in Aontú sat down with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to test whether they were really about change in this proposed Government, it became blindingly clear to us that only vague generalities about finance would be discussed. It also became clear to us that signing up to the programme for Government would be akin to signing a blank cheque. It also struck us how promises made before the general election by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies throughout the country have disappeared like snow off a ditch from the programme for Government. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael candidates just five months ago made serious promises on housing, health, fair income for farmers, protection for workers and regional development and, in my constituency, the undergrounding of a North-South interconnector and the Navan to Dublin railway line. These promises are impossible to find within this programme for Government. As one political cynic said, it is not about what one does in election campaigns anyway.

I have heard Fianna Fáil representatives being questioned about the lack of Fianna Fáil influence in the programme for Government but I disagree. Fianna Fáil's fingerprints are all over it. The proposed coalition Government has pledged to establish no fewer than three citizens' assemblies, two working groups, four committees, at least four task forces, an expert group, at least two councils, two forums, seven commissions and at least 73 reviews. This is the hallmark of a can-kicking Government. It is a manifesto for indecision. We, the people of Ireland, are better than this. The will, the skills and the passion of the people of Ireland are better than this.

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