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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
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard O'Donoghue: Information on Richard O'Donoghue Zoom on Richard O'Donoghue] Your country elected you to form a Government but you did not even contact the Rural Independent Group. There was a reward offered for Sinn Féin after four weeks for information on where the party was with its mandate. There is a mandate for Independents to stand up here today but Sinn Féin ran and its Deputies were missing for four to five weeks. I understand Deputy Mary Lou McDonald was sick but where was the rest of the party? They ran and left the country by itself.

The Rural Independent Group did not lose out because we stood our ground and every one of us has an independent vote. I voted for the Taoiseach today and the rest of the Rural Independent Group did not; it is their choice. I am not happy the Green Party is in power but it was the only party to stand up. I hope it is responsible and listens to the Independents when we raise concerns about rural affairs. There is no infrastructure in rural Ireland. People are talking about building houses but we have no foundations. Fix the foundations first and then come back to build the country.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Tá mé ag roinnt mo chuid ama. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Taoiseach nua, an Teachta Micheál Martin, agus leis na hAirí nua. Guím gach rath orthu go léir. Is onóir iontach í dóibh a bheith mar Airí agus mar Thaoiseach ar an tír álainn seo. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an iar-Thaoiseach, an Teachta Varadkar, freisin. Go pearsanta, cheap mé go raibh sé díreach agus go ndearna sé iarracht ar leibhéal pearsanta ó thaobh na Gaeilge de ach tá i bhfad níos mó i gceist ná iarracht pearsanta a dhéanamh agus b'fhéidir go dtiocfaidh mé ar ais go dtí sin.

I could make the same speech today as I made in May 2016. I and my colleagues in Independents 4 Change have since that time consistently asked for a change. We asked the Government to declare a housing emergency almost five years ago and we asked it to look at public health. We asked the Government to declare a climate emergency and speak in an honest and open fashion to the people of Ireland, as that is what they have asked of us.

Deputies today have spoken about messages from the electorate and the people are ahead of us in almost everything. They were ahead of us in demanding change in Galway with respect to an integrated public transport system and 24,000 people asked, at the very least, for a feasibility study for a light rail project. The people are ahead of us in their demands for public health but the theme has been that they do not want spin. The language should mean something.

Since that time, the housing crisis has deepened and the health crisis has worsened. The Covid-19 crisis, if it has done nothing else, exposed how badly we had run down our public health service. In March, when we first began to speak about the Covid-19 crisis, I read aloud some of a letter that we had all received from Fórsa pointing out that prior to Covid-19 an emergency had existed in our primary care services.

We will agree with the new Cabinet on some matters and not on others but let us make language mean something. When we look at mental health, as a mark of the Government's bona fides, it should immediately establish an independent review panel. It sat previously for two three-year periods and it was extremely successful. It should be re-established immediately as a matter of urgency. As a mark of the Government's bona fides in tackling domestic violence, it should immediately roll out a sufficient number of refuges for women so they can have a safe place to go.

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I have five minutes. Perhaps I should have a few seconds more given the interruption to my train of thought.

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I apologise. I will be generous.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Let us roll out a public childcare system. People have spoken about learning from the Covid-19 crisis and not going back. I look at the programme for Government and there are some very good elements in it, including a commitment to ending direct provision. It would be nice to have a timescale attached to that.

There are nonetheless many internal contradictions in the programme. There is mention of a public health system but there is also a commitment to private medicine. There is mention of climate change but the document fails to acknowledge we will fail to meet our progressive targets; we will fail abysmally to meet them in 2020.

Deputy Eamon Ryan spoke about an ethical basis of doing business and I suggest the Government begins with a discussion on the ethics of where battery materials for electric vehicles come from. Where does cobalt come from? It would be a good start to an ethical discussion. Let us have a date for the publication of the policy being promised on the islands and the enactment of the legislation relating to the Irish language.

We cannot sort out the housing crisis without the commitment to public housing on public land. It is simply not possible. We must give a message to the market. If there is a serious interest in this, it must be done. Finally, bhí Fianna Fáil agus Fine Gael ag siúl amach le chéile le fada. Faoi dheireadh tá deireadh leis an gcúirtéireacht agus atá an pósadh ann, tá siad pósta anois. The courtship is over and the parties are now married. It is an open question as to how the Green Party will fit into that marriage. I look forward to it and I will certainly be monitoring it very carefully.

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice: Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice I congratulate the new Taoiseach, Deputy Micheál Martin, and I wish him and all the new Ministers well. I wish the Minister with responsibility for agriculture, Deputy Barry Cowen, well and there are a few pressing matters for him to address straight away, especially with regard to farmers under the new farm to fork initiative in Europe. The Minister comes from a fairly peaty area and there is an effort to block farmers from farming areas like that. The Minister will need to put the foot in straight away. I know him well as I have worked with him through the years. I wish him the best of luck in that.

We must also ensure the beef and sheep sectors are looked after. They have gone through turmoil and we must ensure these matters are sorted out immediately. I wish every new Minister the best of luck.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien is the new Minister with responsibility for housing. We have often discussed how €100 million was cut from the Irish Water budget. If we do not have the roads, the water network or sewers, we cannot build anything else. I hope the new Minister will get a grip on that straight away. Cutting funds, as the previous Government did, will not solve anything.

It is really disappointing to see that a Department that was fought for in 2016 is being changed. I compliment the former Minister, Deputy Michael Ring. It is the Department of Rural and Community Development. I am not referring to the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and I wish her well in her new position. With Covid-19, social protection is one of the busiest parts of governance, and lumping rural affairs in on top is neither fair to the Minister nor the people in rural Ireland.

I have a map of Ireland with a significant area marked in red. The Taoiseach did not deem it fitting to have one senior Minister from the top of Donegal to the bottom of Limerick. I am baffled that the west and north west will not have a senior Minister. I am throwing down the gauntlet to the Taoiseach. It is his job to have equality in all parts of the country, ensure regional development takes place and see that people are treated equally no matter where they are. There are 1.2 million people in the area I have marked in red, which is the same as the number of people in the city of Dublin, which has eight senior Ministers. The gauntlet has been thrown down for the Taoiseach to treat those people in the red area properly when they do not have a senior Minister representing them.

Deputy Marian Harkin: Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin Earlier I stated I would work constructively with this Government and hold it to account. To be honest, I did not believe I would have reservations quite so soon.

I will start by wishing all the Ministers well as they face significant challenges. I look forward to working with them for the good of the country. Like many others, however, I am extremely disappointed there are no senior Ministers appointed from Connacht, Donegal or Clare.


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