Dáil Éireann - Volume 553 - 06 June, 2002
Nomination of Taoiseach.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: The next business is the nomination of Taoiseach. I will now receive motions.
Mr. McCreevy Mr. McCreevy
Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): Tairgim:
Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Bertie Ahern a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Taoiseach.
That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Bertie Ahern for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach.
The Government leaving office today held it longer than any other in peacetime. At the end of five years it also became the first Government in 33 years to receive the people's mandate to continue in office and did so on the basis of increased representation in the House.
Central to these unprecedented achievements has been the steady and clear leadership of Deputy Bertie Ahern. Although he has held high office for a significant period, he continues to be in touch with the people and they continue to have faith in him. Over the past five years they saw a leader who helped deliver an historic breakthrough for peace, helped the largest sustained period of economic growth in our history and ensured economic growth meant real social progress throughout the country. He went before the people with a clear message of wanting to build on this peace, prosperity and progress and they gave him a mandate. It is my great privilege to move the motion.
Mr. R. Bruton Mr. R. Bruton
Mr. R. Bruton: It is an immense honour for me to introduce to the House for the first time the new leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Enda Kenny.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Mr. R. Bruton Mr. R. Bruton
Mr. R. Bruton: Enda's good humour and warm heartedness are recognised throughout the House and the goodwill towards him is evident on all sides. I nominate him for the post of Taoiseach. As a party, we are not so fanciful as to believe that we have yet earned the right to that post. This is, however, a clear statement of our intentions for the future. Enda Kenny would bring immense capabilities to the post that is now vacant. He knows that politics is the art of resolving conflict as he demonstrated in his chairmanship of the world trade talks in Singapore in 1996, talks that have since descended into a difficult and divisive debate. Enda managed those talks with consummate skill and a deft approach.
The strength and character of a leader are demonstrated in adversity. Deputy Kenny has greeted  both the disparagement of defeat and the adulation of success with the same equanimity, showing great strength of character, displaying steadfast good humour and determination in the face of both. Politics demands huge endeavour, but it is not the lonely activity of the solo runner – it requires the capacity to mould a team and motivate people. Enda has galvanised a new Fine Gael around him today after his success yesterday. In the future he will earn the right to occupy the position of Taoiseach. Perhaps it will not be today, but that is what he is determined to do and I am delighted to nominate him today.
Mr. Howlin Mr. Howlin
Mr. Howlin: I begin by congratulating Deputy O'Hanlon on his election as Ceann Comhairle to the 29th Dáil and thank him and the outgoing Ceann Comhairle, the father of the House, our colleague Deputy Séamus Pattison, for the integrity, dedication and understanding both men brought to their offices during the 28th Dáil. I also congratulate and wish well the new leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Enda Kenny, in the new role he has been given by his party.
I propose the leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, for appointment by the President as Taoiseach. Deputy Quinn is eminently qualified for the position of Taoiseach of Ireland having served in the House for 25 years and having shown exceptional ability in several Cabinet portfolios he has held with distinction, including the Department of Labour and Department of Enterprise and Employment. He was one of the most competent and successful Ministers for Finance in the history of the State and the exceptionally healthy financial position he left to his successor is in stark contrast to the position the new Minister for Finance will meet today.
For many in the House and those watching, this whole process may seem like an irrelevant gesture; the outcome of the election of Taoiseach is already a foregone conclusion. The nomination by the Labour Party of Deputy Quinn, our leader, to be Taoiseach is a mark from the outset of this new Dáil of a difference of ideas and policy and an alternative view of politics that is unashamedly of the left. In the coming weeks and months we, in the Labour Party, will place our alternative critique to the House and the State on each policy issue as it arises. There are many new views, new Deputies and new shades of opinion in the House. Each of us in future debates and votes will have to decide where we stand, either in support of the centre-right Government which will be elected today or of developing an alternative. For the Labour Party, the building of that alternative begins here and now.
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): I begin by congratulating all the 54 new Deputies who have been elected to this Dáil. It is a wonderful privilege to be returned by one's constituents to serve them in this Assembly. For all the families,  friends and supporters, it is truly a wonderful day and I genuinely wish them well.
As somebody who has been in national politics for 25 years and a Member of this House for 22 years, I have had my ups and downs. In the last election the Progressive Democrats had a terrible result. We lost seats and good people. We were written off until this election by virtually all the commentators and pundits. I suppose it is a long lonely road that has no turning and I say that today because there may be others feeling the way we felt five years ago. It is important to maintain a fighting spirit.
I pay tribute to the outgoing leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Michael Noonan, for the manner in which he conducted the election campaign and the manner in which he resigned as the leader of his party. He displayed great dignity in the way he handled that particular matter. I wish him and his wife, Florence, every success.
When I telephoned the new leader of Fine Gael yesterday to congratulate him, I welcomed him to what I called the lonely leaders' club. I genuinely wish Deputy Enda Kenny every success. He probably has been one of the most popular figures in this House for many years. I am not so certain he can maintain that popularity and be a successful leader – I just want to tell him that in case he is in any doubt about it – but he is young, energetic and enthusiastic and I genuinely wish him well. In our democracy diversity and choice are very important and in this election the electorate returned a very diverse group of citizens to represent them. Yesterday I had the privilege of launching an exhibition for the Irish Patchwork Society and I said that I was delighted to be there because I was looking forward to looking at the patchwork that was going to make up the Opposition in the 29th Dáil. It is a diverse group of people and the leader of the alternative government in opposition is extremely important in our democracy and has a very onerous role.
The Progressive Democrats went into this election as an independent party with independent policies. We advocated a coalition government as the most appropriate form of government for this country. We sought a mandate to participate in a coalition government and we were prepared to participate and work with like-minded parties to deliver effective and stable government.
It became clear during the general election that there was only one coalition option that had any realistic chance of being elected. I am very honoured and privileged to have served for five years in the outgoing Government. What happened in this election was unique. It was a very decisive result. It is the first Government since 1969 to have been re-elected. It is the first coalition Government ever to have been re-elected and the Taoiseach is the first Taoiseach since 1966 to have been re-elected. I assume he will be re-elected Taoiseach shortly – perhaps I should not be so presumptuous. However, one of the things I liked about Deputy Kenny was that he did not call a vote regarding the election of the Ceann Comh airle when he knew the result was obvious and that augurs well for the 29th Dáil.
The new Government has enormous challenges ahead of it. In particular, how do we remain at the heart of Europe and avoid drifting into isolationism and becoming marginalised? How do we ensure that Ireland has a meaningful role and that we are central in the decision making that will take place? How do we put in place the appropriate infrastructure to enhance the quality of life for all our people and how do we maintain full employment and continue to provide incentives to working people and reward them? These are major challenges and I believe that the programme for Government negotiated between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats over the past few weeks provides the framework to deal with those challenges. These are major challenges but they are not insurmountable and, as leader of the Progressive Democrats, I look forward to participating in that new Government.
I have had the privilege of working for the past five years with Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach. We have had a good and solid working relationship. He is perhaps the most skilful negotiator ever elected to this House. It is not easy to do a second deal or negotiation with somebody like me and the skills he brought to that were remarkable. As the Minister for Finance said, what he achieved in this election was remarkable. Notwithstanding the high office he holds, he is never far removed from the people who have elected him. I think he genuinely has not forgotten those who have elected him to this House and that has been the key to his success.
I am very proud to lead a larger Progressive Democrats Party. There are now 22 female Deputies in the House, an increase of only two, unfortunately, but I am particularly proud to lead the only gender balanced party in this House and I encourage others to see if they can have more gender balanced parties in the future.
Mr. Gormley Mr. Gormley
Mr. Gormley: A Cheann Comhairle, I warmly congratulate you on your election as Ceann Comhairle. There were times in the last Dáil when there were difficult periods. I think on one occasion you saw fit to throw me out of the House because of an argument about tax on plastic bags. I am glad that tax was introduced. I look forward to a very fruitful and harmonious relationship with you.
The Green Party cannot vote for a Taoiseach who supports the political apartheid in this House, a political apartheid which means that small parties and Independents are treated as second class legislators. The Tánaiste talked about diversity. There is diversity in this House but we should respect that diversity by respecting the electoral mandates of those individuals.
Therefore, it is my honour and privilege to propose Deputy Sargent as our nominee for Taoiseach. Deputy Sargent is a man who respects democracy. As a party that has been disenfranchised in this House, we can identify with those  in society who have, effectively, been disenfranchised, the homeless, those with a disability, the poor and those who tonight will have to sleep on trolleys in hospitals in the most demeaning of circumstances. We want to be a voice in this House for future generations. We want to be a voice in this House for the environment.
Mahatma Ghandi once said that the earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not every man's greed. The choice this morning is very stark. We have a choice between the politics of greed and the politics of need, and Deputy Sargent represents the politics of need. It was Deputy Sargent who, in 1993, stood up in Dublin County Council, held up a cheque and asked, “Did anyone else receive one of these?” It was a cheque from a developer. He was physically attacked, verbally abused and told that he had impugned the integrity of the county council, but he has since been proved right.
Deputy Sargent is someone who will always do the right thing. I will conclude by quoting E. F. Schumacher who wrote Small is Beautiful, a book that has proved inspirational to the Green Party. Schumacher said we must do what we conceive to be the right thing and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we will be successful because if we do not do the right thing, we will be doing the wrong thing and we will become part of the disease and not part of the cure. We, in the Green Party, want to become part of the cure. We want to do the right thing. This Government is part of the disease and that is why I oppose Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach and I propose Deputy Sargent of the Green Party as Taoiseach.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Ba mhaith liom ar dtús buíochas a ghabháil leis an phobal i gContae an Chabháin agus Contae Mhuineacháin, i gContae Lú, i gCiarraí Thuaidh agus i mBaile Átha Cliath a thogh cúigear Teachta Dála de chuid Sinn Féin. Is onóir dom seasamh anseo le mo chomrádaithe Seán Crowe, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan agus Aengus Ó Snodaigh.
Tá Sinn Féin anseo anois mar pháirtí níos láidre, páirtí atá ag fás ar fud na tíre, páirtí uile-Éireann. Tá sé mar chuspóir againn an t-ionadaíocht is fearr a thabhairt don bpobal agus clár polaitiúl Sinn Féin a chur chun cinn taobh istigh den Dáil agus sa tír. Ar bharr an chláir sin tá próiséas na síochána, athaontú ár dtíre agus cothromas dár bpobal uile.
I wish to thank all those people who voted and worked for our party in the election. I especially want to thank the people of Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, North Kerry and Dublin who elected five Sinn Féin Deputies. After five years as the lone voice of Sinn Féin in this Chamber, I am joined by my colleagues Deputies Seán  Crowe, Martin Ferris, Arthur Morgan and Aengus Ó Snodaigh. I welcome and congratulate them and all new Deputies. I regard it as a special honour and responsibility to have been selected by Sinn Féin to lead our group in the Oireachtas. I look forward to the challenge of working with my colleagues in effective and constructive opposition in this Dáil.
The Sinn Féin group represents the only all-Ireland party in this Dáil and in the country. Some 300,000 people now vote for our party throughout the 32 Counties. Last night, Councillor Alex Maskey became the first Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast, Ireland's second city. When I took my seat for the first time in 1997, my two colleague MPs, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, were here in Leinster House. Today, our party of five Sinn Féin Deputies is joined by our MPs, Gerry Adams of West Belfast, Pat Doherty of West Tyrone and Michelle Gildernew of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Due to executive commitments, the Minister for Education in the Six Counties, Martin McGuinness and the Minister for Health, Bairbre de Brún, cannot be with us. In 1997, I said that I looked forward to the day when Sinn Féin MPs would take their place in a Dáil with full representation from the 32 Counties. I believe we are moving closer to that day and we in Sinn Féin are determined to make it happen.
Advancing the peace process and the cause of Irish unity and sovereignty will be a priority for us in the new Dáil. It should be the priority of other parties also. We look forward to working with others of all parties to create a new political dynamic on this island. Four years ago the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed in referenda. The Agreement involved difficult compromises for all concerned but it provided the basis for political progress. It has yet to be fully implemented and Deputies in the new Dáil should focus on this need. The Agreement and the Constitution as amended provide for the reunification of Ireland on the basis of “the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions on the island”. Common efforts are necessary to pro-actively seek and achieve this consent and to prepare for the future unity of our people and our country. That task should begin now and a Green Paper on Irish unity would be just one element of such a programme. This should be undertaken with urgency.
It is true to say of the general election that the people did not change the Government, they changed the Opposition. The Opposition benches in the Dáil have been transformed. Part of that transformation was the historic election of five Sinn Féin Deputies. A new reality in a new Dáil must be recognised in the procedures of this House. In common with the Green Party which made its position clear earlier, my view is that  Dáil Standing Orders must be changed if the mandate of the electorate is to be respected. Current Standing Orders severely restrict the ability of smaller parties and Independents to fully represent their voters. This is totally undemocratic and must not be allowed to continue. The Government should take the lead in having Standing Orders amended. I urge whoever is elected Taoiseach today to give a commitment to move forward with such a project with speed. With a renewed mandate, Sinn Féin is determined that the rights of our electorate will be fully vindicated.
There needs to be an effective and constructive opposition in the Dáil. There should also be co-operation among all parties in advancing progressive legislation on which they can agree. This is often forgotten in the heat of inter-party rivalry. The Dáil as a whole is elected to legislate for the people as a whole. Government should be open to accepting legislation brought forward by Opposition parties.
What shape will opposition take in this new Dáil? The Deputies of the Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Féin now outnumber the Deputies of Fine Gael. There are also more Independents elected on manifestos of equity and equality on a range of issues. The incoming Government, if what is presented is to succeed, will be conservative and right-wing in character, especially given the increased representation of the Progressive Democrats. A real alternative of the left is, therefore, both necessary and possible. Fine Gael cannot provide such an alternative. While I join in congratulating Deputy Kenny on his selection as leader of Fine Gael, it is my view that that party offers only a choice between shades of conservatism.
A new challenge for all Deputies, regardless of their party affiliation, is whether they will stand for equality for all our people or whether they will stand against equality. Sinn Féin's commitment is to equality and we are ready to work with others who share that commitment. Of course, each party must take its own counsel and pursue its own agenda. As an independent political party, Sinn Féin is committed to both the social and national principles of James Connolly; we are for political freedom as well as social and economic equality.
When I took my seat five years ago I recalled the pledge of the democratic programme of the first Dáil Éireann to provide all citizens with an adequate share of the produce of the nation's labour. One of the themes of the past five years has been the demand to share the wealth, to ensure the equitable redistribution of the prosperity generated during that period.
The outgoing Government had unprecedented resources at its disposal. It had opportunities never available to any previous Government. Regrettably, it failed to use those opportunities to create a more equal society. It had five years to begin the transformation of the health service and end the shameful two-tier system, but it  failed miserably. It had five years to address the housing crisis, but it failed even to recognise that there was a crisis while it presided over record local authority waiting lists. It failed to develop effective strategies for the regeneration of rural Ireland. It brought this State into NATO's so-called Partnership for Peace without the referendum promised by the leader of Fianna Fáil and has failed to implement the decision of the electorate on the Treaty of Nice. It failed to ensure the wealth was shared and presided over a widening gap between the privileged and the poor.
The programme for Government is for the continuation of these policies. That is not acceptable. For that reason, my party and I will not be supporting the nomination of the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, Deputy Bertie Ahern, as Taoiseach.
I fully acknowledge the major contribution made by Deputy Bertie Ahern to the peace process and the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement, the implementation of which remains the single biggest task facing us all. There is still a lot of work to be done. Regardless of whether this relates to policing, demilitarisation, equality, human rights, the all-Ireland institutions and the ongoing need to take all the guns out of Irish politics, the peace process must remain our single overall priority. I look forward to working with the new Taoiseach and his Government and with all parties in advancing the peace process in what may be difficult days ahead.
In 1997 I pledged that I would speak and vote on each issue on its merits. On most key questions over the past five years I strongly opposed the course taken by the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government. That Government is returning in greater numbers and, as its programme for Government shows, set to continue the legacy of inequality of the past five years. My role and that of my colleagues, therefore, is as a party of constructive opposition inside and outside the House.
Mr. Gregory Mr. Gregory
Mr. Gregory: Ba mhaith liom i dtosach mo chomhghairdeas phearsanta a chur in iúl don Cheann Chomhairle as ucht an phoist thábhactaigh atá bainte amach aige. Tá súil agam go leanfaidh sé le traidisiún an neamhspleáchais sa Teach seo mar baineann an neamhspleáchas go speisialta leis an stádas atá aige anois. I gcónaí nuair a bhí sé ina Leas-Cheann Comhairle thug sé cothrom na Féinne domsa agus níl dabht orm ná gur mar sin a leanfaidh sé sa Dáil nua seo.
I wish to refer briefly to my position on this vote on the nominations for Taoiseach. Before doing so, I take the opportunity to express my thanks to all those who voted for me in my eighth successive general election campaign. I am particularly thankful to those who worked tirelessly with me during the course of the election campaign. Without their efforts, I would not be here today. I also welcome the growing number of fellow Independents elected to the 29th Dáil and wish them well in the work ahead. All the Inde pendents trust that Standing Orders will be changed to reflect and respect our numbers and those of the Green Party, Sinn Féin and, not forgetting my comrade, Deputy Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party, and the mandate we have received.
On this occasion five years ago I stated that against a background of a booming economy, the then incoming Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, would have the greatest ever opportunity to concentrate resources in areas of most need and make a genuine attempt to end social exclusion and create a more equal society. I pointed out that the record of the Progressive Democrats Party and the Fianna Fáil Party did not inspire confidence in me that this would happen. Nonetheless, I expressed the hope that Deputy Ahern would not preside over the continuation of an unequal society and would not allow the great opportunity presented by the then booming economy to be squandered. Regrettably, that unprecedented, perhaps not to be repeated opportunity, was wasted and misused for the most part in the interests of the affluent in our society resulting, as recent reports have pointed out, in one of the most unequal and divided societies in the developed world with an ever widening gap between rich and poor.
During the past five years, under the tutelage of the nominee of the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats parties, Deputy Ahern, successive budgets directed the bulk of the benefits of the so-called Celtic tiger to the wealthiest sections of our people, those least in need. As the CORI justice commission pointed out, “Despite the unprecedented prosperity of recent years, poverty and social exclusion have not been tackled on anything like the scale that was possible given the available resources”. Government budgetary strategy was most certainly not aimed at the redistribution of wealth and did not seek to create a more fair or just society. Quite the opposite; it was a calculated strategy which has resulted in even greater social divisions and, as a consequence, deeper alienation among many of our people.
I refer, for example, to those unfortunate enough to experience the torturous queues and inequities of the two-tier health service in which access is based on affluence rather than need. Are any of those who seek high office today obliged to experience the chaos of the public hospital emergency wards? I think not. If they were, the two-tier system would not last very long.
In some parts of the constituency which I and Deputy Bertie Ahern represent, a scandalously low 1% to 5% of young people reach third level education while in Dublin 4 the figure can be ten to 20 times greater. The same alienation, therefore, pervades the education system. Despite this scandal, the request of concerned community groups to set up an education task force was ignored. At a time of huge budgetary surpluses the response to appeals from parents, teachers  and management in the disadvantaged primary schools was inadequate. Had the resources been given to them, a significant step would have been taken to counter many of the ills in our society.
In the area of housing, the ability to obtain one's own home is increasingly beyond the reach of many of our people. The unattainable cost of buying a house is yet another feature of this divided society. Homelessness, in particular among young people, has never been more widespread. The blanket and the cardboard box in the doorways of our shops and offices presents us with the darker side of the Celtic tiger.
The drugs crisis continues to escalate. Heroin is once more beginning to be sold openly, even across the street from the monument in Buckingham Street in Dublin's north inner city erected to commemorate the many young victims of drugs in the 1990s.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: I am reluctant to intervene, but this debate is about the suitability of a person to be Taoiseach. While passing references to political considerations are appropriate, detailed debate to the exclusion of the main point is not in order.
Mr. Gregory Mr. Gregory
Mr. Gregory: With respect, a Cheann Comhairle, what I am saying is as relevant as what many of the other speakers have said. I am referring to the record of the nominee for the position of Taoiseach, which is most relevant. As I do not have much more to add, I ask you allow me to complete what I have to say.
Drug users, their families and communities on the ground still live with the same devastation every day of their lives. In recent weeks, a frightening increase in the number of young men taking their own lives has shocked the north inner city community. Against this background people on the margins in community employment schemes have become the target of cutbacks. Very valued community based projects organising crèches, youth activities, homework clubs, care for the elderly and even meals for vulnerable schoolchildren are all under threat. These communities need increased investment, not cutbacks.
While the people of the docklands have had to find the means to defend themselves against the richest and most powerful of property syndicates, the Government's response has been to remove the representative of the people of North Wall from his position on the Dublin Dockland Authority's council. I call on the incoming Government to reinstate Mr. Gerry Fay on the authority.
Another semi-State body, CIE, refused to recognise the rights of the North Strand area forcing them for weeks to maintain a round the clock vigil at their homes. It is high time the very reasonable concerns of these citizens were properly addressed and legally protected. All of this is hardly evidence of social partnership or a fair, just or inclusive society. It fails to recognise that we are a republic of equal citizens with rights as  well as responsibilities. This is the legacy of the partnership of the Progressive Democrats Party and the Fianna Fáil Party which had the opportunity and the resources during the past five years to address many of these issues. I will oppose their nominee, Deputy Ahern, in the vote today.
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
Mr. G. Mitchell: A Cheann Comhairle, I congratulate you on your election and thank the outgoing Ceann Comhairle for the service he has done to the House. I join the Tánaiste in welcoming new Members of the House and I hope we will all get to know each other in a proper way. I would like also to remember all those who lost their seats and are not with us this morning. They made the ultimate public service by allowing their names to go forward, on this occasion without success.
I was very surprised to hear Deputy Gregory get through such an eloquent speech without once mentioning Mick Rafferty and the great work he does in the inner city. However, since I usually take up the flag for Mick, I will mention him here this morning.
In speaking in support of the nomination of Deputy Kenny, I want to mention a few concerns I have about the re-nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern for Taoiseach. From what I have seen of the programme for Government, the indications are that there is no plan whatsoever to end the apartheid in the health services. That apartheid was deliberately and wilfully extended by the Minister for Health and Children from secondary care hospitals into primary care last summer when people on €138 per week, living alone, were left without medical cards while wealthy people were provided with them. Nobody in the press gallery has taken up this issue – the wilful extension of apartheid in the health services – which would not have been tolerated in Alabama in the time of George Wallace. We have allowed it to occur here practically without comment.
I have misgivings about the re-nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach given the housing problem that we have, not just that a married nurse and garda cannot afford to purchase a house, but the fact that when prime sites become available in this city, such as the Clancy Barracks site or the Office of Public Works site in Inchicore, they are not offered to the local authority for house building – not at all, they are offered to anybody and everybody because the Government has no sense of the housing crisis that this city and country face. If it did have a sense of that, every site coming up would first be made available to the local authority to alleviate pressure in the housing market. Instead, we have local authorities chasing houses and forcing young people into ever-increasing upward bids which they cannot afford. Homelessness in this city and country is at an unprecedented level. Has there been any attempt, in a time of unprecedented wealth, to deal with that? It is one of the greatest shames the outgoing Government faces.
 There is talk of a new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who will make great progress on the issue of justice and equality, but one cannot go to Mass in many parts of my constituency and put one's hand in the holy water fonts because they are sealed over to stop people cleaning their drug needles in them. That has gone on for some considerable time. One cannot go upstairs on a number of buses in this city because people are openly smoking drugs. That is a fact.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Gay Mitchell, I would again draw the attention of the House to the fact that this motion on the nomination of Taoiseach—
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
Mr. G. Mitchell: Thank you a Cheann Comhairle. I have just a couple of other—
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: The debate in which the Deputy is indulging would be more appropriate to the debate on the nomination of Ministers. I ask Deputies to take that into account.
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
Mr. G. Mitchell: I am making the point that Deputy Bertie Ahern's re-nomination is neither satisfactory nor acceptable to me in the circumstances.
The programme for Government, which this Taoiseach intends to introduce, does not mention prison reform anywhere. Nowhere does it address the fact that 75% of the prison population come from five identifiable areas of Dublin nor does it outline any plan to deal with that issue or tackle its causes.
We have a tradition of missionary and NGO work abroad. We have had the very sad history of a famine. Who do we leave to lead the cause of world hunger? We leave it to Bono, not a Minister or Minister of State with responsibility in this area. We leave it to Bono. Why are we not leading the cause? This country, with its history of famine, should lead the cause of world hunger and the debt burden that has been imposed on people instead of leaving it to rock stars who have made great progress on the issue.
Mr. N. Dempsey Mr. N. Dempsey
Mr. N. Dempsey: One of the three highest countries—
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
Mr. G. Mitchell: We all know that the promises made during the general election will not be kept. We no longer see references to ending the waiting lists within the next two years.
I have just one thing to ask the Taoiseach and the incoming Government. We know that the deal between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats is based on the fact that they know the real state of the public finances. Fianna Fáil could not leave the Progressive Democrats outside because those on the Independent benches would not have the stomach for the sort of things that are coming our way. I ask the Government not to ask poor people to take any more of the burden in any fiscal management it has to under take. I ask it not to ask people on €138 per week to do without a medical card. Please give those who are least well off a break and do not ask them to carry an unfair burden.
Ms Lynch Ms Lynch
Ms Lynch: I will genuinely be very brief. I rise to second the nomination of my party leader, Deputy Quinn. The Labour Party enters the 29th Dáil with a renewed sense of vigour and ambition. It is our task, in the first instance, to provide strong opposition and ensure that the incoming Administration will be held accountable to the people of Ireland. We will do this without fear or favour. However, the Labour Party's goals go well beyond this. The Labour Party has a unique vision of Ireland. Our challenge is to communicate this vision in a clear and distinctive voice. The Labour Party, as re-elected, is well capable of this task.
We wish in the Labour Party to harness the talent and energy that is clearly in abundance in this country. However, we wish to use that talent, which we have seen in recent years, to the benefit of all, not just the privileged few. It is a goal which is well worth fighting for and it is that task that the Labour Party has set itself over the coming months and years.
In seconding Deputy Quinn for the position of Taoiseach, I do not believe there is any Member of this House or any person in Ireland who would question his credentials. Throughout his political career, Deputy Quinn has dedicated himself to public service, social justice and progressive politics. In this instance, he has been second to none. He is undoubtedly one of the leading politicians of his generation. It is an honour and privilege for me, on this very special day, to second his nomination to be Taoiseach. He would carry out that role in an honourable and forthright fashion.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
Mr. F. McGrath: First, I welcome the formation and coming together of the 29th Dáil. It is another important day in our history and it is a particular honour for me to address this House today. We may all have our political differences and may disagree with the way the country is being run, but the bottom line is that the Dáil is the result of our democratic process and we are all eternally grateful for the opportunity to work and live in a democracy. There is nothing wrong in reminding ourselves about this now and again, particularly when one sees so many other countries without this choice. The PR system is fair, equitable and, above all, democratic. The election of our Taoiseach is a very important part of this day. It is a great honour to be elected Taoiseach and despite some strong and differing political views, I wish him and his family well.
Over the past five years we have seen many changes in our country and economy and I welcome the progressive developments in the areas of the economy, education system, health services, investment in poor areas and the momentum of the peace process. However, we have all  seen the downside of the Celtic tiger too – the greed and the mé féinism that has developed in our society. This is where I feel we have to draw a line in the sand and ask ourselves some serious questions. Have we spent the extra finances and resources in a meaningful way? Have we really shared the wealth with the vast majority of ordinary people, particularly the huge numbers of people that feel excluded from our society? For example, is it correct for the State to spend €1.8 million in legal costs fighting families of children with disabilities in the courts while the same services for those children would cost in the region for €420,000? When will all this madness end? What about the waste of public funds and the trauma caused to all families of children with disabilities? Is it correct to spend €313 million on consultancy fees while a small, but very efficient, hospital in Clontarf is being denied an additional €2 million for an extension to its building?
It is time to get real in this House and call a spade a spade. This not the way to run a country or a society. Sadly, Ireland now seems to be like a company or economic unit, not a society. This is a wake-up call for all our people. Every day we see antisocial behaviour, violence, abuse of our elderly and a developing cynicism amongst sections of our society. What kind of a country do we have when we see elderly people locking and barricading their doors each evening at 7 o'clock in the months of May and June simply because they are afraid? What kind of society do we have when young men and women can no longer walk home without being attacked? Most of these attacks are unprovoked and appear to be carried out without logical reason.
We now have a mé féin first society where people put themselves before the common good or the good of the local community or country. It is a throw-back to the Thatcherism of the 1980s, and we all know how that affected people here and in England. We cannot let that happen again. That is one of the reasons the people of Dublin North-Central gave me a democratic mandate, for which I thank them. They voted for change, equality and justice, not charity, and for a more caring and compassionate society. The people want to work for the country, but they want their leaders to work for them. That may be simple, but it is the only way forward.
We cannot allow carers to work for a maximum of ten hours and to get €7 per hour to look after three elderly disabled people. That is not a compassionate health service or a response to the needs of our elderly. It is not right or good enough. We are aware of the crisis in our health service. Our system is sick and we must make it better. Successive Governments, including the parties in opposition, have failed to provide the necessary infrastructure for our most vulnerable citizens. The recent Disabilities Bill did not include rights for those with a disability. We need to eradicate waiting lists for residential care and to provide improved services through better funding. We also need an approach based on  rights. We need support for elderly carers in the family and a comprehensive plan must be devised to deal with waiting lists.
We also need accountability from our decision-makers. The Independent group will look for that in the next few years. Extra money must be provided and tough decisions will have to be made. I challenge Deputy Gay Mitchell who spoke about the Independents. The Independents will not be afraid to make tough decisions in the interests of the people and the poor.
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
Mr. G. Mitchell: That will be a change.
Mr. F. McGrath Mr. F. McGrath
Mr. F. McGrath: During the election my team worked hard. I thank them for all the work they did, particularly those who work in the voluntary sector in Dublin North-Central. They came together to work in the community on issues such as disability and health.
San am chéanna tá orainn go léir obair ar son na ndaoine bochta, daoine nach bhfuil a ndóthain airgid nó a ndóthain tithíochta acu. Tá saibhreas sa tír seo agus tá dualgas ar gach duine an saibhreas sin a leathnú amach. Tá orainn troid ar son chothrom na Féinne agus gan bac le lucht mé féin. Tá orainn smaoineamh ar dhaoine ins na hospidéil agus ar na daoine nach bhfuil seirbhísí acu. Ná déanaimís dearmad ar mhuintir an Tuaiscirt. Tá ar gach duine obair go crua ar son síocháin sa tír.
We all have a responsibility to work for peace, equality and justice in our country. It is not good enough to think that the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement will solve all our problems. We must always be on our guard and we must constantly develop conflict resolution strategies. The peace process is bigger than all the political parties. It belongs to the people and it must be nurtured and developed every day. I thank the Taoiseach and all the participants in the process. I call on the minority of people on the outside to become more actively involved. We accept that a divided Ireland is a weakened Ireland economically, socially and politically. We have a national duty to do our best to ensure the peace process is developed and progressed each day. Let us learn from the mistakes of the Middle East.
As regards the environment, we should not forget the people of Marino, Fairview and Santry and their genuine concerns about the Dublin Port tunnel. It is an important issue and one of national public safety. It is also an issue for Dublin City Council and for successive Governments. It is not good enough for the major political parties to dismiss people's views and to offer people the unrealistic figure of €500 or €600 if the tunnel goes under their homes. I challenge the Opposition parties and the Government to do something about that. I will continue to fight on this issue in the interests of the people of Marino, Fairview and Santry. As regards Dublin Bay, I hope to continue the tradition of Seán Dublin Bay Loftus and to oppose the Dublin infill.
 I welcome developments in education, such as the Breaking the Cycle project which gives funding to disadvantaged areas. I want to see such projects developed in the coming years. I will do my best to contribute to the House and to continue the tradition of Tone and Connolly.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: As there are a number of Deputies offering and there is a time limit on the debate, I appeal to Deputies to deal with the motion before the House. Much of the debate so far is more appropriate to a different motion.
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
Mr. J. Higgins: As regards your appointment, a Cheann Comhairle, as you fairly interpreted the rules of the Dáil as Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I hope you will join us in advocating a change of the rules in the 29th Dáil to give full recognition to the small parties which are represented here and to those Independents who have been returned to represent the genuine views and grievances of their constituents. I warmly thank the people of Dublin West who have given me the privilege to represent them again in the 29th Dáil.
The first motion is that Deputy Bertie Ahern, leader of Fianna Fáil, be elected as Taoiseach. I oppose the motion. For the past five years Deputy Ahern has presided over unprecedented growth in the economy, but the Government widened the gap between the wealthiest 20% and the poorest 20% in society. The Government saw the speculator reap obscene profits, while countless young workers saw the price of a house move beyond their means. The Government did not lift a finger to protect those in rented accommodation from the outrageous rack-renting of private landlords, despite almost monthly pleadings by me to the nominee Taoiseach.
The Government copperfastened the robbery of the fabulous resources in the Corrib gas field off the west coast. The people did not get one penny in royalties as it all went to a multinational corporation. As regards the waste management crisis, the Government singularly failed under Deputy Bertie Ahern's leadership to tackle the vested interests of large scale agricultural, construction and industrial groups. Instead it pushed on communities the environmentally reprehensible policy of incineration and it pushed on PAYE workers and pensioners a parallel tier of local taxation in the form of refuse charges.
In recent days the candidate for Taoiseach did not raise one word of objection as the management of Aer Lingus emulated the tactics of the hated William Martin Murphy, one of the despised figures in our history, in its drive to push down the working conditions of its workforce. Management sought to lock out its workforce with the objective of ensuring that our crucial national asset would be privatised to its profit but to the detriment of the taxpayer and the Aer Lingus workforce. I must also mention the silence and shameless hypocrisy of the media, which did  not raise a whimper. One can only imagine the hysteria if a group of workers had caused the airline to close for five days. It is consistent for the nominee Taoiseach to wave on such privatisations since his party presided over the calculated robbery of the tens of thousands of people who were dupes in the process of transferring Telecom Éireann, a crucial national asset, from public ownership to a multinational corporation.
Deputy Bertie Ahern has again taken the Progressive Democrats to his bosom. They wish to see every vestige of public ownership extinguished and every public asset transferred to the ownership of faceless multinationals in Bonn, Berlin, New York or Tokyo. It is not as if these multinationals are not taking enough out of the country. Approximately €20 billion was repatriated in profits last year alone by these multinationals.
Although it seems likely that Deputy Bertie Ahern will be returned as Taoiseach today to preside over another Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government, there are a number of other motions to be dealt with which purport to give us alternative Taoisigh. As regards the Fine Gael nominee, unfortunately, Fine Gael is neither alternative nor radical in its opposition to Fianna Fáil. Its stated commitment to root out sleaze in the State by banning corporate donations lasted only a few months.
In the face of the first sign of a financial crisis, Fine Gael is found again with its hands abjectly outstretched to big business seeking donations as if the planning corruption, the revolving cheques and the horror of what happened on the interface between business and politics in this country had not happened. The Labour nominee is also posing as an alternative but Labour has long since abdicated responsibility for constructing a radical alternative politics, and that will be the case so long as it opts instead to seek to prop up one or other of the main conservative parties in government.
The peace process in Northern Ireland, which Deputy Bertie Ahern and other political leaders have taken credit for, is now showing all the limitations of an agreement among political leaders based on the institutionalisation of sectarianism rather than the unity of people on the ground. The sectarian fighting of recent days, with clear paramilitary involvement on both sides, shows that a real peace process is urgently needed. The possibility of that was seen on 18 January last when 100,000 workers in Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, demonstrated together in revulsion at the sectarian murder of a young worker. That is the peace process that must be pushed forward, with working class people, Protestant and Catholic, coming together and addressing the crucial issues that fuel sectarian divisions at present, rampant unemployment in many areas, appalling housing conditions and serious social problems.
 Deputy Bertie Ahern has said that he will put the Nice treaty in front of the people again despite its rejection. Apart from institutionalising a two-tier Europe, the Nice treaty copperfastens a drive towards militarisation within the EU and underwrites the monstrous situation where €70 billion is spent each year within the EU on the creation of weapons of mass destruction. A little sentence coming from Seville in a few weeks, saying that this country will be happy to stand aside while the militarisation process goes ahead and the armament industry drives on, will not satisfy the aspiration of a majority of our people which is to see a complete end to militarisation.
In this Dáil, I narrowly failed to be joined by my colleague in Dublin North, Councillor Clare Daly, and am the sole representative of the Socialist Party. I will join those Independents and small parties genuinely representing an anti-establishment view in this Dáil. I caution Deputy Ahern, if he is elected today as Taoiseach, not to think that he will have a smooth five-year period of power. That period may be far more like that of his predecessor, Jack Lynch, who was elected Taoiseach in 1977 with a 20-seat majority, yet within two years was in dire trouble due to a huge movement of organised working people. Based on the programme for Government, which proposes to privatise and slash areas of the public sector, Deputy Ahern may well find himself in the same position.
I particularly want to see the abolition of bin taxes, the reversal of the privatisation of local authority refuse collection and real measures to compel a reduction of waste at source as well as major projects on reuse and recycling.
Dá bhrí sin beidh mé ag cur in aghaidh na n-iarrthóirí atá ainmnithe ag na príomh pairtithe. Is é atá i gceist ag na pairtithe úd ná leanúint ar aghaidh le polasaithe a thugann omós, thar aon ní eile, don margadh caipitleach agus a leathnaíonn an bearna idir lucht an rachmais agus na gnáth daoine. Tá sé i gceist ag an Rialtas leanúint ar aghaidh le príobháideadh chomhluchtaí Stáit agus úinéireacht ár n-achmhainní riachtanacha a thabhairt do chaipitligh móra idirnáisiúnta. Malairt polaitíochta atá ag teastáil anois agus socrú ina n-eagrófar rachmas na tíre ar mhaithe le tromlach na ndaoine seachas brabús an mhionlaigh.
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
Mr. Ring: I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his appointment. He did a great job as Leas-Cheann Comhairle. He was the only man to put me out of the Dáil and I hope he will not put me out this time.
I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Kenny, the new leader of Fine Gael. I assure him of my support and let him know that I will look after the constituency while he is busy around the country.
I congratulate the incoming Taoiseach and Tánaiste. The election has been fought and the people have spoken. However, I warn the incoming Taoiseach and Tánaiste that they will have a different Opposition in this Dáil. Today  we elect a new Taoiseach and Tánaiste but there are many problems to be faced. Many people felt let down by the last Government and did not even turn out to vote on this occasion because they felt that nobody was representing them. I assure the people that they will see a more vibrant Opposition. The Government will have a difficult job over the coming years – I will not say five years although everybody says that this Government will last five years. If the Government lasts two years it will be doing well.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate Mick McCarthy and the Irish team. We wish them well—
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Mr. O'Donoghue: We are back to basics.
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
Mr. Ring: The team has created a bit of spirit in this country and I wish them well. We might all be out at Dublin Airport in a few weeks' time when they bring back the World Cup.
We have been sent here today by the people. My colleague, Deputy Kenny, has been proposed as Taoiseach. I make a plea to all Deputies from the west and the Independents. This is their opportunity. Those in the west have been giving out for 50 years that they have been controlled by Dublin 3, Dublin 4 and Dublin 5. Deputies have an opportunity today if they want a Fine Gael Taoiseach, a west of Ireland Taoiseach and a Mayo Taoiseach. I call on all those sent up from the west to march into the division lobbies today and vote for a west of Ireland Taoiseach. We have been sent here to make sure that we do the best we can for the west. There are many defects in the west such as infrastructure, roads and, as Deputy Joe Higgins mentioned, gas. The gas is coming out of north Mayo but the people of Mayo are not getting a lot from it, as the people of Ireland are not getting a lot from it. If Members elect Deputy Kenny as Taoiseach, we will reverse that.
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: Is it Deputy Ring's contention that, like him, we should all vote for Deputy Kenny for the first time?
Mr. Ring Mr. Ring
Mr. Ring: The Deputy was always a nasty piece of work and he has proved it again today. He spends more time in the air than Aer Lingus.
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: Like the Mayo forward line.
Mr. Blaney Mr. Blaney
Mr. Blaney: I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his appointment to his new position. I am sure it will come easy to him over the next five years. As one of the new Members, it is a historic day for me and my family. In the interests of the best governance of this country and of my county, the peace process, the unity of our country some day down the road and a just conclusion to the 1970 Arms Trial, I will be voting for the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, to be elected today as Taoiseach.
Mr. Healy Mr. Healy
 Mr. Healy: Gabhaim comhgairdeas leat, a Cheann Comhairle, as ucht do phost nua a bhaint amach. I ask the Ceann Comhairle as a priority issue to ensure that the election result is represented in the House. There is a totally new political scenario with a large number of Independents and an increased Green Party and Sinn Féin presence. Standing Orders of this House should be amended to ensure that all Members have additional and proper speaking rights. I thank the people of Tipperary South who have re-elected me to Dáil Éireann. When one is elected in a by-election, one has a sense of unfinished business until one has been returned in a general election and I thank the people of south Tipperary for doing that.
The Taoiseach has chosen Boston rather than Berlin. Fianna Fáil has 81 seats in this Dáil, the same number held by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats at the inception of the last Dáil. The Taoiseach also has the support of the three independent Deputies who supported the outgoing Government for five years. As this gives the Taoiseach an overall majority without the Progressive Democrats, the decision to include the Progressive Democrats in Government is a deliberate political choice by the Taoiseach. He has decided to form a Government of the right rather than the centre. This choice bodes ill for working people, the poor and the deprived and for the provision of well-funded public services, including health and education. I will be voting against Deputy Ahern's nomination.
I ask Fianna Fáil Deputies and supporters to consider the implications of Deputy Ahern's choice. He has given over the direction of Government policy to eight Progressive Democrat Deputies out of 166. These Deputies were elected in some of the wealthiest constituencies in the State. It would be possible for Fianna Fáil Deputies to remove the Progressive Democrats from office without bringing down the Government. For this reason Fianna Fáil Deputies must take full responsibility for the policies of this new Government.
At present, there is no economic crisis and growth rates are healthy by international standards. However, there is a crisis of Government finances. The outgoing Government has undermined the tax base. This is not due to an error or miscalculation. It is part of deliberate policy plan espoused by the Progressive Democrats and the McCreevy wing of Fianna Fáil. In this plan, tax reductions are handed out to the super rich under cover of an unprecedented boom. The extent of the boom ensures that revenue continues to increase for a time but when growth rates shrink to a still healthy 5%, a gaping hole opens in the public finances. This hole is then used to justify more right wing policies. State companies must be sold off, service charges increased, public servants penalised in their pay packets and pensions and much needed improvements in health, education and welfare delayed. When the temporary injection of privatisation proceeds is exhausted,  charges and cuts must be increased further. Development of infrastructure through public private partnerships gives the wealthy risk-free profits guaranteed by the taxpayer and the gap between rich and poor widens further. We are in the poorer areas of Boston rather than on the streets of Berlin. Market forces are unleashed on the delivery of health and education while human co-operation, community solidarity and collegiality are devalued. Greed is king. This is the policy the Taoiseach has chosen.
A political means must be found to resist and defeat these trends. In previous Governments the Labour Party helped the rich down this road and tax amnesties for criminals and budgets for the rich were the order of the day. Nevertheless, the people found ways of expressing their dissent. Left wing independents, health independents, regional independents, Sinn Féin and Green candidates were elected in significant numbers. Fine Gael is now in a minority in the Opposition. Independents, Sinn Féin and Greens are more numerous than Labour Party Deputies. The political landscape has changed. Those of us who have been elected as representatives of the discontented have an obligation to show a new way forward which attacks poverty, protects pay and workers' rights, defends and enhances health and education services and protects the principles of human solidarity and cultural values against principles based on greed. Neither the dollar nor the euro must be king in Ireland.
There is a widespread lack of confidence in all the main political parties on health issues. This has resulted in the election of several health independents and the excellent performance of Ms Kathy Sinnott. This Dáil must address the deficiencies in the health service as a matter of urgency. I appeal for an immediate doubling of the financial threshold for eligibility for medical cards to enable people of modest means to attend a doctor. There are major gaps in health provision in the regions and I call on the Government to announce a radiotherapy service for the south-east, based in Waterford, without delay and the extension of BreastCheck to the regions.
The Dublin media and certain politicians have taken to describing independent candidates elected in protest at the neglect of their constituencies as mere parish pump politicians. The privileged will always find voices to justify their privileges. The election of several regional independent candidates is simply a public response to the failure of all recent Governments to address the extreme imbalance between the regions and within regions. We demand the decentralisation of Government jobs and Departments to the regions. In south Tipperary we have been omitted from two previous rounds of decentralisation. We want our fair share, which amounts to 750 decentralised jobs for County Tipperary. It now appears that central Government is about to impose a monopoly local radio service on my county and to bring about the  demise of Tipp Midwest radio. This is a community based, non-profit making local radio service. Why can two successful radio services not continue? Surely big brother should not have the power to impose such decisions? Any attempt to downgrade either of the two stations will be resisted. I will be co-operating with the regional Independents and other Deputies to end the complacency which exists in the main political parties on regional issues. The real parish pump politicians are those who keep the bulk of the public service in Dublin and send the balance to ministerial constituencies. The fake decentralisation of 300 civil servants to Celbridge by the previous Government shows the cynicism that exists in the Government parties on this issue.
Mr. Crawford Mr. Crawford
Mr. Crawford: I add my support to the nomination of Deputy Kenny as Taoiseach. The last speaker referred to the number of independent candidates elected in the recent general election. One of these was elected in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan and I welcome Deputy Paudge Connolly to the House. The people of Cavan-Monaghan elected Deputy Connolly because the Government refused to give the necessary help to Monaghan General Hospital. In the knowledge that he will be appointed in spite of Fine Gael's nomination, I use this opportunity to beg Deputy Bertie Ahern to ensure that the needs of this hospital, which is situated in a Border region, are looked after and the rightful services provided for the people of the region. More than 7,000 people have spoken out on this issue and I ask Deputy Ahern to ensure that their rights are addressed.
I question the Taoiseach's leadership of the past five years, during which time five agricultural colleges closed. I worry about what will happen to the six remaining colleges in the next five years. Little has been said in the new Government's programme about agriculture and, given the make-up of the team which drew up this programme, I find this surprising. Unless aid is given to young farmers to encourage them to attend agricultural colleges the future of agriculture is in grave danger.
I question the Taoiseach's lack of commitment to the peace process in the Border region, given the plans for the dispersal of funds on infrastructure in the region between now and 2006. Three bypasses were promised on the N2 and N3 in counties Cavan and Monaghan but no money has been provided for these projects in the past 12 months. We must use the EU BMW funds between now and 2006 and the Taoiseach will be judged by the way he deals with these funds in the next five years.
Mr. Gogarty Mr. Gogarty
Mr. Gogarty: I congratulate you, Sir, on your appointment as Ceann Comhairle and Deputy Pattison on his nomination as Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
I second the nomination of Deputy Sargent to the position of Taoiseach. We know he will not be elected but it is important that he be nominated. I  take the opportunity to speak now because I may not have the chance to represent my constituents properly if the Green Party continues to be gagged by the Government. We made our point earlier and we hope it will be considered carefully.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: The Standing Orders of the House are a matter for the sub-committee on Dáil reform.
Mr. Gogarty Mr. Gogarty
Mr. Gogarty: Well pointed out, Sir. Before I list Deputy Sargent's evident qualities I will state some of the reasons I will not be supporting the other nominees for Taoiseach. While I congratulate Deputy Kenny on his election as leader of Fine Gael, I could never support his nomination as Taoiseach. Given the fact that Fine Gael does not know where it is going, how could that party know where the country will go?
If Deputy Ahern was a brave man, he would refuse to accept this nomination. He made promises he did not keep. Five years ago he promised a referendum on Partnership for Peace, but this did not happen. We are now being asked to elect a Taoiseach, who has failed to live up to his promises, for another five years. That is one reason I will not be supporting Deputy Ahern.
Another reason for not supporting his nomination is the privatisation of Eircom. The Green Party believes privatisation should be examined on its merits and should not be an issue of principle. I will not offer concessions to the people who lost money because they were encouraged to be greedy. However, any chance this country has of unbundling a proper local loop throughout the country has been severely diminished. If we want to keep a young well-educated workforce and a country that can attract proper foreign investment, we need to be able to offer the best that IT can provide. We cannot do that if it is in the hands of a company which does not even belong to anyone in this country.
I am happy that Deputy Sargent has appointed me as spokesperson on education and science. The gap between primary and secondary education is widening. There is more money spent on infrastructure at second level than at primary level. Even the most basic infrastructure, that of school places, has not been provided. In my constituency of Dublin Mid-West there is an example of Griffeen Educate Together which seeks temporary approval from the Department of Education and Science without which it cannot proceed with a planning application to build a school in Lucan. There will be a shortage of about 150 places in Lucan next September. There is no point in having a so-called decentralised Department of Education and Science outside Dublin when what is needed is proper decentralisation in order that people can see what is happening on the ground. I will not speak about sport because I have already stated the original Sports Campus Ireland was a monumental testament to vanity rather than what is needed for the country.
 My last reason for not supporting Deputy Ahern for Taoiseach is based on the policies pursued by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in coalition. They bewildered the electorate with their betrayal of voodoo economics. They take every opportunity to ridicule the Green Party's economic policies without even knowing what is contained in our party's economic policies, yet they profess economic policies that rob from tomorrow to pay for today.
Without a quality of life indicator, how can the well-being of society be measured? It cannot be done. When I studied economics for my leaving certificate, I was told that if I mowed my neighbour's lawn and my neighbour cut my hedge, no GNP is created, but if we charge each other €5, there is €10 of GNP. That stands for nothing if our well-being and quality of life have diminished. Unless we take into account the environmental and social consequences of any economic activity, we are playing voodoo with people's minds. It is sheer voodoo economics. Robin Hood robbed from the rich to give to the poor, the Government has robbed and intends to continue to rob from the poor children of tomorrow to pay for the rich parents of today.
In the past five years the gap between rich and poor has widened. In seconding Deputy Gormley's nomination of Deputy Sargent as Taoiseach I point out that the first speech that had any element of vision or policy was that of Deputy Gormley. The Green Party is one which knows where it stands, what vision it wants to portray and has increased its mandate in Dáil Éireann based on that vision. We want to be part of the cure, not part of the disease. We want to see measures that increase people's quality of life, rather that just increasing the money in the pockets of an elite few. Unless the gap between rich and poor can be diminished and the quality of life of people living in disadvantaged areas can be visibly improved, the next five years will be another failure.
Mr. Connolly Mr. Connolly
Mr. Connolly: The people of Cavan and Monaghan have honoured me by choosing me in the recent general election to represent their views and concerns on a number of issues, in particular the battle for the retention and upgrading of a fully equipped, fully staffed and properly funded hospital in Monaghan. I thank the people of Cavan and Monaghan who voted for me. It is obvious that Monaghan General Hospital is top of the agenda in Monaghan. I thank my election team, headed by my friend and colleague, Brendan Casey, for the vast work they did in having me elected to Dáil Éireann.
My support for the election of Taoiseach is contingent on a number of factors, including the retention of Monaghan General Hospital's accident and emergency department beyond the previously announced deadline of 4 July. Major trauma cases are currently forced to bypass Monaghan General Hospital and must be brought to Navan, Drogheda or Dublin. I want to see the  provision of a CAT scanner in an enhanced accident and emergency general hospital in Monaghan. In relation to CAWT, I welcome the development of the co-operation between Craigavon Hospital and Monaghan General Hospital. I would like to see an increase in this type of cross-Border co-operation to serve the people of the Border region.
Incineration or, as it is euphemistically known, thermal treatment is another of my major concerns. The emphasis should be placed on recycling in the interests of the preservation of the environment. In relation to third level education, I would like to see outreach facilities provided in Monaghan. This works in other parts of the country and I would like to see Monaghan or Cavan town being given the opportunity of providing them. It would make it much easier for the students and their parents who are at a disadvantage in rural Ireland to continue their education.
While I wish the new Government a fair wind and the Opposition a constructive and fulfilling role, I shall remain eternally vigilant in the interests of the preservation of services at Monaghan General Hospital. I will be supporting the motion and hope my support will benefit the people of Cavan and Monaghan who elected me to Dáil Éireann.
Mr. J. Breen Mr. J. Breen
Mr. J. Breen: A Cheann Comhairle, I congratulate you on you election this morning. It is a great privilege and honour for me to stand in this House today and give voice to the mandate given to me by the people of Clare. This mandate is one not to be ignored or dismissed by the incoming Government. I, as an Independent candidate, without the support of a party organisation, in the traditional heartland of Fianna Fáil, Dev's own county, was the first person elected with nearly 10,000 votes leaving two of the sitting Fianna Fáil Deputies to be elected without reaching the quota. My mandate from the people of Clare is loud and clear and the incoming Government will ignore it at its peril.
After a period of enormous economic prosperity, what has been delivered to Clare is a damning indictment of the last Government. Ireland has been “Dublinised” and “easternised” and the Pale reinstated. The Ennis bypass project has been postponed even though the road is a vital infrastructural link for Clare and the west. The future viability of Shannon Airport has not been guaranteed. Shannon Airport is the key to economic development in Clare and the west. It must be maintained as an international airport and the negotiation of the bilateral agreement with the United States kept in the hands of the Government. It is not and never will be on the table for the European Union to meddle with.
 Without improvements in rail and road infrastructure the future for tourism and industry in the region looks bleak. The health service in Clare is in a shambles. The future for tourism and industry in the region looks bleak. The health service in Clare is in a shambles.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy's time has concluded.
Mr. J. Breen Mr. J. Breen
Mr. J. Breen: In a modern, prosperous European society, it is not acceptable for patients to be ferried from Ennis to Limerick on life-support machines, held together with screwdrivers and the prayers of the ambulance crew. Babies are being born on the side of the road because parts of west Clare are over 70 miles from Limerick, and there is no dedicated ambulance service in Kilrush. County Clare needs a CAT scanner and qualified technicians to operate it. It is scandalous that we have no senior clinical psychologist, no speech therapist and only a temporary radiology service in the county.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: I would ask the Deputy to conclude as it is now 12.30 p.m.
Mr. J. Breen Mr. J. Breen
Mr. J. Breen: I have nearly finished.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: There is an Order of the House before us and I would ask the Deputy to resume his seat.
Mr. J. Breen Mr. J. Breen
Mr. J. Breen: These issues are incorporated in the national development plan. They were promised to the people of Clare, but that promise has not been honoured. Due to the reasons I have outlined and many more which you have not allowed me time to outline, a Cheann Comhairle, I will abstain on the vote for the nomination of Taoiseach.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: Before I put the question, for the information of the House, Deputy Callely has now signed the roll.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
Mr. Durkan: He must have got a taxi.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: As it is now 12.30 p.m., in accordance with an Order of the House of this day, I will put the motions in the order in which they were proposed.
Cuireadh an cheist: “Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Bertie Ahern chun a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Thaoiseach.”
Question put: “That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Bertie Ahern for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach.”
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brennan and S. Power; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Coveney.
Question declared carried.
An Ceann Comhairle An Ceann Comhairle
An Ceann Comhairle: The other motions before the House fall. I call on the Taoiseach.
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: Is cúis mhór áthais domsa seasamh anseo inniu os comhair na Dála mar Thaoiseach ainmnithe ar phoblacht na hÉireann. Is mór an onóir, an phribhléid agus an dualgas atá orm an cheart a dhéanamh ar son mhuintir na hÉireann agus luífidh an Rialtas nua seo chun oibre le fuinneamh. We have been sent here by the people as their Deputies to this, the 29th Dáil. In being elected by the people to public office, we have been accorded the highest honour possible in this republic.
Politics is a noble calling. It is, first and last, about public service. Public life is something of which we, our families and the organisations who support us can be proud. We can take pride in the fact that we have been given the trust of our neighbours and communities to represent them here in Dáil Éireann. However, the justifiable pride we all feel here today must be matched by a sense of duty and by the determination to earn our place by hard work and with integrity.
We began our business today, Sir, by electing you Ceann Comhairle. We have entrusted to you the ordering of our parliamentary affairs and I know that we can do so with great confidence. I offer my congratulations on your election and I assure you of the respectful co-operation of my colleagues and I in the discharge of your important duties.
The people have been well served by the many Members of the last Dáil who are not here today. Some retired from public life after long years of fine public service while others endured the heartbreak of losing their seats in the general election. On behalf of the people whom they all served, I thank them for their contribution to politics and wish them well for the future. It is appropriate that we think not only of former Deputies but of their families and supporters.
Every Deputy elected to this House comes here not only because they have worked hard for the people but because, in turn, so many others have worked hard for them. It is the people who put themselves forward for election, as well as their family members, supporters and party workers, who are the stalwarts of our democracy. I take this opportunity, on behalf of us all, to pay tribute to them.
This is a day of great achievement and pride for the many Deputies who take their seats in the House for the first time. I congratulate them, their families and supporters, many of whom are with them in the Visitors Gallery. Many more, who are disappointed that they could not get tickets for the Gallery, are in the precincts of Leinster House. Among them are future Taoisigh and Ministers and upon them lie the hopes and expectations of the rising generation. I know the trust and hope put in them will not be misplaced. My only advice to them is to remain true to themselves and close to the people who elected them.
I owe a special debt of gratitude to the people of Dublin Central, who have elected me to this House nine times in the past 25 years, and to the local party members who have worked so hard for them. I pledge to continue to work hard for the people with whom I grew up, the community in which I have lived all my life and the neighbours who have rewarded me with their trust.
With your permission, Sir, I wish to address some remarks to Deputy Noonan. It is my first opportunity to do so since he announced his decision to resign as the leader of the Fine Gael Party and the Opposition. The Deputy and I have been political adversaries for a long time. He has served in the front rank of Irish politics for 20 years and with distinction in a number of important Departments. He marked my cards when I was Minister for Finance a decade ago and, again, in my period as Taoiseach I learnt to respect his abilities as a Minister and his forensic capacity as an Opposition spokesperson. The general election campaign he fought has deepened my respect for the man and the politician. He never gave up and, not even for a moment, did he give the slightest comfort to his opponents. He campaigned to the end with great dignity and composure in the face of increasingly adverse odds. I take this opportunity in Dáil Éireann to pay him tribute and to wish him, his wife, Florence, and their family every happiness in the future.
I also salute the other Deputies who served as party leaders in the 28th Dáil. Deputy Quinn and Deputy Sargent continue to lead their parties. Deputy John Bruton and former Deputies Spring and De Rossa served their parties with distinction. Political leadership is difficult. Not only is it a great honour but it is also a great and sometimes lonely responsibility.
 Today Deputy Kenny takes his place in Dáil Éireann as leader of the Fine Gael Party. I congratulate him on his election and I look forward to a constructive exchange of views with him and the representatives of the other parties in the House. Deputy Kenny has been a Member of the House for a longer period of time than me and he has worked hard in many offices and responsibilities. Today is a great day for him.
I am deeply honoured that, in accordance with the Constitution, Dáil Éireann has nominated me to the office of Taoiseach. It is a great honour and I know from personal experience that it is also a great responsibility. It is a responsibility to all the people of Ireland, in every community and in every part of the country. It is a responsibility to reach out and to listen, to be available and to take account of the people's concerns. It is a responsibility to remain close to the people and rooted among them. This is a responsibility I set for myself and my Government.
High office does not, however, confer upon its holder either the monopoly of wisdom or the benefit of hindsight. The office of Taoiseach brings with it not just political responsibilities but personal challenges as well. It is a challenge to remain calm in the face of political turmoil and to remain humble in the midst of public honour. We must never forget, and I in particular must never forget, that we were sent here by the people for a limited time and we are here on their account alone. It is my duty and it will be the duty of those Deputies whom later today I will nominate to serve in the Government to lead this republic by example.
Inevitably in the most human of professions, mistakes are made. They are made in the public eye in Government in a way that is unparalleled in any other walk of life. The humility to recognise a mistake has been made and the wisdom to learn from it make real political leadership. That is what I myself aspire to and that is what I ask of my colleagues in Government.
I thank the Tánaiste for the support and partnership she has offered over the past five years. I believe, and the people showed by their support, that we did a good job for Ireland. I believe that our political partnership and good personal relationship have provided good government for this country. I look forward to working with her and her colleagues in the Progressive Democrats over the next five years.
As Deputy McCreevy said this morning, for the first time since 1969 a Government has been re-elected, and with an increased mandate, and I am conscious that for the Tánaiste and me it is the first time since 1966 that two people have the honour that we have today. The Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat Government I will nominate later today comes into office at a time of unprecedented opportunity to build a fair society of equal opportunity and sustained prosperity on an island at peace with itself. That is our ambition for our country and our mandate from the people. No one in this House does not believe  that it is for the people who are less well off and face difficulties, for health and for education, that we are here. I have never met a Deputy who has not had working for the people as the foremost of his intentions. Sometimes we talk about right, left and centre, but on the ground Members of the House might work with different philosophies but they all work for the people because it is the people who support them and elect them. The Irish people have a great sense of justice and while people want to see their own area or sector helped, everyone wants to see justice and equality.
The Irish people can be proud of the achievements of peace, prosperity and progress of the past five years. The challenge now is to sustain these achievements and ensure they are lasting. Too often in our history we have seen the promise of peace, only to see it wither away again. Too often we have enjoyed the beginning of economic progress only to see it disappear. It is the historic challenge of the Government that takes office today to ensure the Good Friday Agreement is not a false dawn and that our economic development does not prove to be fool's gold.
It is not enough to sustain what we have; much more remains to be done. In Northern Ireland there are those in both communities who remain to be assured of their place in an inclusive settlement as well as those who have yet to fulfil their commitments to that. Building a lasting and just peace on this island is my great political goal, the priority that I have and will continue to put above all else.
We also have the great task of not only extending prosperity in time but expanding it in scope to reach all our people. We must manage the economy prudently not only to meet the needs of today but to safeguard our welfare for many years to come. We must build up our infrastructure and public services so that our economic growth is matched by our quality of life.
These are the social and economic goals of this partnership Government and, through the elected representatives in Dáil Éireann, the Irish people have conferred upon me again the highest political responsibility in the land. I will repay the trust of the people with all my energy and all my commitment. I pledge to work ceaselessly in their interest and never to give less than my very best.
With great pride and a sense of great responsibility, I accept the nomination of Dáil Éireann for the office of Taoiseach.
Mr. Kenny Mr. Kenny
Mr. Kenny: On behalf of Fine Gael, and on my own behalf, I warmly congratulate Deputy Bertie Ahern on his re-appointment as Taoiseach to lead the first Government to be re-elected since 1969. While the Taoiseach's re-election and the appointment of his Government will be uppermost in his mind, he should be aware of the enormous tasks that lie ahead. The public finances are facing a period of major difficulty and concern. The jobs of thousands of people are far from secure in the current uncertain economic climate.  Many people, including those with disabilities and their carers, feel voiceless and excluded. The concept of the dignity of public service has been annihilated in many cases.
This will not be a golden age for the Taoiseach and the incoming Government. I promise him that Fine Gael will offer vigorous and energetic opposition. We will be constructive in the national interest and will support when it is right to do so. We will oppose when the needs of these people and all Irish citizens are not being met.
I thank the Taoiseach for the sentiments expressed about Members who are not here, about their families, about my own appointment as leader of this party and, in particular, his sentiments in respect of my immediate predecessor, Deputy Michael Noonan. In a recent public opinion poll, the Taoiseach was rated around 75%. Someone remarked to me that it was a pity he was not at 95%. When I asked why he replied that if he slipped three points, people would say he was on his way down.
I wish the Taoiseach luck. We will oppose him when we should do so and will support him in the national interest when that is necessary.
Mr. Quinn Mr. Quinn
Mr. Quinn: I congratulate the Taoiseach on a remarkable political achievement. The scale of the vote the Taoiseach received and the fact that this is the first time an outgoing Government has been re-elected since 1969 is a testimony to his extraordinary popularity and the dedication he has given to politics and public life since we first served together on Dublin City Council back in 1971. This is the Taoiseach's moment and that of his party in Government. It would be ungenerous for any of us not to recognise that and not to salute the victory he has achieved. The fact that we disagree with the victory and the fact that we failed to carry the people on this occasion is not something upon which we will dwell today. There will be many other days on which we can return to that matter and to the other issues that will arise.
On behalf of the Labour Party I congratulate the Taoiseach and, indeed, his partner, Celia Larkin, who has worked so closely with him all these political years. I wish the Taoiseach happiness in the five difficult years ahead. As Deputy Kenny has said, there will be difficult years ahead.
I pay tribute to Deputy Noonan for the work he did as leader of the Fine Gael party, and prior to that, to Deputy John Bruton. In particular I salute my former party leader, Dick Spring, who sadly left this House in a manner that would not be of the choosing of any of us. His dedication to public life, his commitment to the peace process and his commitment to the people of north Kerry, in particular, were quite extraordinary. He has set a standard that will be very difficult for those who follow him to emulate.
In that context, I also extend my sympathy to the former deputy leader of the Taoiseach's party, Mary O'Rourke. To lose a seat in the con text in which her party was being re-elected to Government is a double twist and a double injury, and this cannot be easy. Any one of us who has been elected to this House, and, more importantly, those of us who have had the experience of losing a seat only to regain it, know just how difficult on a personal level that is, not only for the individuals involved but also for the families who surround them.
I now want to talk to the Lazarus party of Irish politics. I want to talk, in particular, to the incoming Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, and her colleagues in the Progressive Democrats who have performed a feat that defied all our expectations. In particular, I pay tribute to my constituency colleague, Deputy Michael McDowell, who has finally got the timing right and managed to get into Leinster House at the same time as his party gets into Government. It took him three times to do it, but I wish him well in respect of it.
For my part, the Labour Party will provide a critique of the politics of choice, this centre-right Government which has pursued a deliberate political ideological agenda masked in the cosy populism of a very popular man, who sincerely believes what he says but allowed his Minister for Finance to contradict him at every twist and turn in terms of the policy that was implemented. We will provide that critique and analysis as we did in the past. It is my sincere hope our critique will be sufficiently convincing to enable the public at large to support our alternative view of Irish society.
I say to all of the new Deputies elected to the House that I wish them well. I wish them happiness, contentment and fulfilment. I share with the Taoiseach the view that politics is about public service. It is about doing the people's business publicly, transparently and honestly in this Republic. I salute all our predecessors who have made this democratic Assembly a reality.
We will provide vigorous left opposition during the next five years. We will do what we have been elected to the House to do, that is, provide vigorous, sustained and honest opposition to this right of centre Government.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
Mr. Sargent: Ar dtús báire, ba mhaith liom comhgairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Uasal Ahern as téarma eile mar Thaoiseach a bhaint amach. Déanaim comhgairdeas freisin leis an Teachta Enda Kenny mar cheannaire Fhine Gael agus guím “Gach rath agus go n-éirí leat”, ar an Teachta Noonan tar éis an méid oibre a rinne sé.
Is lá sásúil é do Fhianna Fáil agus don Pháirtí Daonlathach ach, dar liomsa, is lá dainséarach é don tír seo agus go mór mhór do dhaoine bochta na tíre agus don domhain ar fad. This Government is going to claim, when it returns after a sumptuous lunch, that the people are adequately housed and adequately fed, but the facts, to anybody who examines them, are that homelessness and malnutrition make Ireland one of the worst performers in the European Union. The level of homelessness in Dublin alone is greater than in a  number of British cities put together. Poor diets and high alcohol intake are creating the kind of health crisis which would not respond to even twice or three times the amount of money being invested in the hospital system. The Government, under the Taoiseach, by its policy in the last Dáil has created a sick and divided society.
The Green Party of Deputy Gormley, Deputy Boyle, Deputy Gogarty, Deputy Ryan, Deputy Cuffe and I will apply logic, force of argument and the voices of experience to pressing the case for building sustainable communities. The first step on that road is to ensure the Government – I urge the Taoiseach to take this on board – measures more than financial capital. Ireland needs measures of social capital, natural capital, physical capital and human capital, without which the Taoiseach's claims of peace, progress and prosperity are little more than a rubber stamp on a brown or, indeed, white envelope issued by An Post. In spite of our differences I wish the Taoiseach well because he has certainly earned the mandate of the people, but I urge him to reflect on and reform the undemocratic and disproportionate nature of this Assembly which is in sharp contrast to the parity of esteem shown in Stormont for which all of us have called and worked through the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. I hope he can accept the points we make, as they are made, not out of a yearning for personal gain, but for the sake of satisfying need, not greed. I urge him to work in that spirit of co-operation in this Dáil.
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Ba mhaith liom comhgairdeas a ghabháil leis an Teachta Ahern as ucht teacht ar ais don phost mar Thaoiseach. I offer him my personal congratulations on his election as Taoiseach and the congratulations of my Sinn Féin colleagues in the House. I assure him of our intent to provide constructive opposition throughout the course of the 29th Dáil and reaffirm what I said earlier in my contribution to the debate on the nominations for the position of Taoiseach, that my colleagues and I look forward, both inside and outside the House, to working with him in pursuit of the realisation of the promise and hope of the Good Friday Agreement. I wish him and all those committed to that realisation well in that pursuit.
Sitting suspended at 1.20 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.
Dáil Éireann 553 Nomination of Taoiseach.