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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín] The best of this nation has burned most brightly in the most difficult times, from the United Irishmen right up to 1916. If we were able to remove the largest empire the world had ever seen from this country 100 years ago, we in this generation can build a prosperous, united, fair Ireland based on liberty, equality and fraternity, but it is clear this will not be done by a political class built on career politics and personal ambition.

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart We will move on to the rural Independents, beginning with Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am sharing time with Deputies Michael Healy-Rae and Richard O’Donoghue.

From the outset, my colleagues and I in the Rural Independent Group made ourselves available for talks with all parties to try to form a Government. We met Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin but sadly there was no follow-up. I said at the outset that the wish of the electorate was for change and that its wish should be respected, but Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael refused to engage with Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin failed to come back with an alternative despite promises of further meetings, partly with our group. I consulted my constituents widely in recent days on this Government and noted there were other opportunities and possibilities. A national Government could have been formed. We had the perfect scenario with Covid and the co-operation that existed in that regard.

The focus in the document on urban centres and the uneven focus on agricultural development are crazy. Consider the number of Ministers we now have from Dublin and Cork. From Cork and Dublin, and out as far as Greystones, I believe I counted ten. What about the rest of Ireland? Deputy Tóibín mentioned the stretch from Donegal to Clare but he can continue right down to Limerick and from there to Tipperary on the N24 and indeed down to Waterford, Contae Phort Láirge in the south east. The south east has been abandoned. The east has not been; it is all about Dublin and there is nothing about the country. I am very disappointed in the Taoiseach over that: so rural Ireland does not need development because it is the right thing to do. I refer to the fact that the Government wants to give us crumbs and put some little things out to us because it wants everything in Dublin.

Rural affairs is now mixed up with social protection. That is a crazy scenario. It tells us how little the Government thinks of rural Ireland.

The position on disabilities is even worse because responsibility has been transferred to the Department responsible for children. Deputy Micheál Martin was Minister for Health and Children. I remind him that disabilities are not confined to children. Unfortunately, they go from the cradle to the grave. It is a shocking indictment of the Taoiseach's judgment.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen the great advantages of living in rural Ireland. The Taoiseach drives through it every day going to Dublin. Maybe he did not see it in the past 12 weeks. We experienced a wonderful rejuvenation by our people, not by the Government. All we need is our fair share of Government supports. I feel that the programme for Government will not deliver for rural Ireland. As Deputy Tóibín implied, there are 102 actions, or inactions, and talking shops – in other words, fudges.

I worry about some other points in the programme. Incidentally, I do not believe they were in the document that went to Fianna Fáil. The Taoiseach said today he is delighted to be the Prime Minister of a free nation, yet he is going to have an exclusion zone around places where abortions are carried out. Where is the freedom there? Where are the freedom to protest and the freedom of speech?

The Taoiseach states he is going to deal with legislation on hate crime. Who is going to decide what hate crime is? What elite group? Where is the free Ireland in this regard? We have not been free since we kowtowed to Europe and the banks. The banks are our masters along with our European masters and those further afield. This all happened when Fianna Fáil joined up with ALDE in Europe. It sold its soul and everything else with it. We have the result of it here today.

On the last occasion, we spent six weeks engaging in the negotiations on the programme Government. This time, we had no consultation. I accept the Government parties did not need us but they may need us yet.

I wish all the Ministers well in their roles but I am concerned about agriculture. One of the Ministries includes culture, the arts, media, tourism, sport and the Gaeltacht and I am sure whatever you are having yourself when the pubs open on Monday. My God, such a portfolio. Who has it only a Deputy from An Comhaontas Glas? It covers greyhound racing, coursing and indeed horse racing, huge industries that are important to my county. Deputy Catherine Martin and others have expressed a wish to see the demise of these sports. These are sports but they are also industries in rural Ireland that are of the people and run by the people. I say "Hands off" because the people will not tolerate this. We have lost enough.

I wish the Taoiseach and Ministers well in their roles but I am very concerned about the programme for Government. There is no costing for any action. It is a matter of kicking the can down the road and saying, "Live horse and you will get grass." The people are not eejits. They are very smart and intelligent-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I have to call the next speaker.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath A free country, how are you, Taoiseach Martin, when you are going to bring in legislation on hate speech for an elite group and challenge the right of people to protest peacefully to save lives.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I congratulate all the Ministers. I am especially delighted that the county I represent, County Kerry, has an excellent representative at the Cabinet in Deputy Norma Foley. I know her late Dad, Denis, is looking down privately today, and rightly so. I wish her nothing but success in her role. I remind her, starting today, that many of the schools in my county are in danger of losing teachers or are desperately trying to hold on to them. I remind her of Gaelscoil Mhic Easmainn, schools in Glenbeigh, Aghatubrid and the Black Valley, and other schools like them around County Kerry and the rest of the country. There is a massive job of work to be done. With regard to SUSI grants, the whole system will have to be overhauled to make education more accessible and affordable. That is desperately important.

Why has rural affairs been lumped in with social protection? I have every confidence in Deputy Heather Humphreys, whom I know is excellent, but I just do not agree with treating rural affairs in this way. I do not believe it is right.

I challenge the Green Party and ask it to prove me wrong. The people of rural Ireland are afraid of the Green Party and of what its policies are going to cost and they are afraid they will be adversely affected. I ask the party to prove me wrong, if it can. I do not want it to attack our family farms or live exports. I do not want it to make it impossible for family farms to keep going.

I thank the outgoing Ministers who are no longer Ministers in the new Government. I sincerely look forward to working with the new Ministers.

I ask Deputy Catherine Martin, in particular, to consider the VAT rate in the tourism sector, which is desperately trying to get back up on its feet. She should remember County Kerry is the tourism capital not of Ireland but of the world.

I congratulate the new Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly. I ask him not to forget the name of the young man I named here earlier today. I ask the Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, to remember Ronan Foley, Dungeel, Killorglin, who has a 90-degree curve in his spine and who is in agony as we speak. He has been waiting for 20 months for an operation that he should have had within four months. I say respectfully to the new Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, that if he can start off by looking into that case and trying to get the young man his operation, I will be forever indebted to him.

I am not a negative person. On a day like today, I wish the Government and each of its Ministers success. I will do my job diligently in opposition, keeping each and every one of the Ministers and their Departments on their toes in the best and most workperson-like way possible for the betterment of the people of Kerry and the rest of the country.

Deputy Richard O'Donoghue: Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue I acknowledge the work of the outgoing Taoiseach and the former Minister for Health during the pandemic. I congratulate the new Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, and the new Ministers.

I have listened today to Members in this Chamber talk out of both sides of their mouths. We met Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party and Sinn Féin but the only parties that wanted to talk about government were Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, even though they limited the amount of talk with us. Sinn Féin Members were talking out of both sides of their mouths. People Before Profit and all the parties could have made a programme for Government and come to the Rural Independents but they did not; it is easier for them to stand on the fence and to be critical of everyone else.

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