"Go gcomhaontoidh Dáil Éireann leis an Taoiseach d'ainmniú na dTeachtaí seo a leanas chun a gceaptha ag an Uachtarán mar comhaltaí den Rialtas:
Appointment of Taoiseach and Nomination of Members of the Government (Resumed).
Atairgeadh an Cheist
I wish the Ministers whose appointments were announced today well in their task. Many of them bring considerable ministerial experience to their work. Some of the new appointees have a proven record of ability which I hope will be of benefit to them, their Departments and the country in the coming months.
It is worth making the point that these Ministers come into office at a time of unprecedented economic growth. For the past three to four years we have had rates of growth which have not been equalled in our history and are not being equalled by any other European nation. This growth has meant there are 120,000 more people at work in Ireland than there were two and a half years ago. Economic growth also means we have choices to make. The availability of money and the options on how to spend it means we are more severely put to the test in a moral sense than we would be in times of straitened circumstances when frequently there is no choice to be made and one has to live within one's means. On the other hand, at a time when money is available there are real choices to be made as to on which desirable object one will spend the money.
I hope the Government will recollect fundamental human values in the way it spends its money. I do not agree with the Government's policy on reducing tax rates. The effect of this will be to help those who are better off more than those who are less well off. Concentrating on reducing tax rates rather than increasing tax allowances and widening tax bands is a fundamental error which the Government has made at its foundation. The effect of that fundamental error will be to make this a more divided society. At every level — the level of political wisdom and normal human respect for other people, that is a fundamental mistake. It is not just a mistake in tax policy but in terms of what is good for the country in forming a united society. By that decision, this Government commits itself to a course which will not ultimately be in its interest or that of the nation. We face a choice as to what sort of Ireland we will have in the years ahead. The choice I have referred to is adverse to our long-term interests.
However, there are many things I hope will be continued in a beneficial light. I have no doubt the new Government will be committed to social partnership, as was the outgoing Government. This means working in conjunction and consultation with trade unions, employers, farming and other organisations in a widened social partnership. That is important because it creates a cement which enables us to cope with problems in a partnership fashion which we might not otherwise be able to do.
It is also important that the House recognises the country faces very significant challenges from outside this island. We live in a truly global economy. As a result of decisions taken recently, all markets are open to all other producers. The Irish market is part of the European Union and will be open to imports of goods and services from all over the world. This will mean the idea that we can protect ourselves, or particular forms of employment or activities from international competition is anachronistic. It is not possible for us to do so. There must, therefore, be a constant process of improvement in our competitiveness in every aspect of life. We must recognise that the public service, our educational system and our health system are as much a part of the Irish competitive economy as are our information technology, pharmaceutical and agriculture industries. Everything we do will impinge on our capacity to rise or fall relative to other countries in terms of production and, through production, to provide a good living for our people. It is important the Government understands that.
We must also recognise that as part of the global community we face fundamental choices. As I pointed out when I congratulated the Taoiseach on his appointment, there are 450 million more people on earth than there were at the time of the 1992 election. By the end of the natural term of a Dáil there will be a similar increase in population. That trend will continue well into the beginning of the next century. Growth in population will be a major challenge in terms of public health and the protection of the environment. We have seen the effects of growth in world population in the number of refugees seeking refuge here, an issue that arose during the general election campaign. In that phenomenon we see evidence of the pressure of the world's population on the limited resources of the earth. It is important this issue is borne in mind. The Government should, in its work in the years ahead, bear in mind that we are just a rich small part of a large poor world, a world which faces many severe challenges that we do not experience in our daily lives. As is the case in the management of our society, it is important we act in a caring way vis-à-vis the wider world and exercise our responsibilities fully.
I will address some of the changes announced by the Taoiseach. A number of matters are not easily explicable. The Taoiseach announced, for example, that the Department of Health will become the Department of Health and Children. He also intends to establish a separate Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. In other words, he intends to separate responsibility for the family from responsibility for children. I cannot understand the concept of separating responsibility for children from responsibility for the family. It does not appear to have been thought out.
That is due to Deputy Harney.
It is foolish to separate responsibility for children from responsibility for the family.
We seem to be engaged in a cosmetic activity, in so far as we are simply adding titles to Departments without including substance in the titles. What additional responsibilities is the Minister for Social Welfare being given to enable him to have responsibility for family affairs in a meaningful way? That has not been outlined. Why is responsibility for children separate?
We are told the Minister for Social Welfare will be responsible for social, community and family affairs, but the most important contribution the State makes to community development is through the local development scheme which was pioneered by my predecessor and which I continued. Although the Minister for Social Welfare will now also be Minister for community affairs, responsibility for local development has been transferred to the Minister for Tourism. Where is the sense in making the Minister for Social Welfare responsible for community affairs if local development is transferred to a different Minister? This change also does not appear to have been thought out.
The decision to rechristen the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications as the Department of Public Enterprise is equally difficult to understand. The function of the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications is to provide transport and communications for consumers. The orientation of the Department should be on consumers of the services provided and not the legal format of the services. By christening it the Department of Public Enterprise it appears the Government is more concerned with who owns the services rather than their quality or whether they meet their purpose.
The title of the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications was cumbersome but at least it told us what the Department was supposed to do, which was to provide transport, energy and communications. All we will know in the future is that the Department deals with public enterprise. What does that mean to people other than those employed in it?
It does not have a meaning in terms of consumers who are supposed to be the object of its work. The approach adopted to the services under the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications should be to bring them closer to consumers. The rechristening of the Department appears to focus on issues of ownership rather than services to the community.
It is a grave error.
It is a mistake which derives from lack of thought. One might say that is entirely justifiable because the Taoiseach had only two hours between his appointment and the announcement of the Ministries. However, that is not the case because the Taoiseach anticipated his office for the last two and a half years. He had that time to prepare and if he had thought more about the matter, he would have come up with more meaningful allocations of responsibilities.
Trouble in store.
Another matter is serious in terms of the functioning of the Cabinet. The Minister for Defence, who is a full Cabinet member, will be junior to the Minister for Foreign Affairs with regard to European affairs. I am not aware of any case in the past where a full Cabinet member was in effect subordinate to another Minister. The basis of Government by Cabinet has been equality of the Ministers involved. However, the proposal is that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be the boss of another Minister at the Cabinet table with regard to most of his responsibilities. Deputy Burke will be Deputy Andrews' boss with regard to European affairs while supposedly equal to him in other matters of Cabinet deliberations.
As Deputy Andrews would say, "hear, hear".
This is no reflection on the personalities involved. Their positions could be interchangeable and I am not commenting on either individual. Each is capable of being equal or superior to the other; they are both qualified to hold any office. However, the Taoiseach has made a serious mistake by creating such a position within the Cabinet. Given the nature of Cabinet decision making, it should operate by consensus. However, two Ministers will be sitting at the table and one will be superior to the other although they are supposedly equal in terms of Cabinet decision making.
That is a fundamental error in Cabinet construction and it will have serious consequences. It is a grave mistake on the Taoiseach's part and he should not have done it. He has displayed inexperience which he should not have displayed. It is surprising given his background of considerable ministerial experience in the past. It was not a good move but I will not dwell on it in the future. Perhaps it will work but I doubt it. The evidence of that will be more at the Cabinet table than outside. It is not a good idea to have Ministers at Cabinet who are not equal to each other. The Taoiseach's decision has created inequality in the Cabinet between two individuals where one will be the boss of the other for part of his work. That is a mistake.
Having made those points about the make up of the Government, I congratulate all those involved. I wish them well in their work. They will be the subject of vigilant scrutiny from this side and particularly the Fine Gael Party, which has been reinvigorated by a substantial number of new Deputies. Unlike the parties going into office, whose votes either stagnated or fell away the Fine Gael Party's vote rose. Its confidence has also risen and its vigilance and ability will also increase.
The Deputy's party is in Opposition.
Deputy Bruton has changed sides.
We look forward to a return to office when this Government falls.
I congratulate the Taoiseach and his colleagues. I wish the Taoiseach well in office. He fought a brilliant and fair election campaign and led his party well. He played to his strengths throughout the campaign and has also worked very hard for many years since 1977 even though I note he gets credit for having done many things before 1977 also.
I congratulate all the Members who have been returned to this House. I wish all the new Members well for whatever number of months we are together. I pay tribute to some of the Deputies who lost out in the election. Politics is a very difficult business and I have lost a number of very close colleagues and friends. I record my appreciation of their work over the past four years. Many hardworking Deputies were not returned after the election and in some cases Ministers and Ministers of State lost their seats. I record my thanks for their outstanding service. They all work very hard on behalf of the Labour Party and on behalf of the people they represent. I look forward to the day when they will have an opportunity to return to this House. There are many Members here today who have not been here for years and who have been returned by reason of their interest in their communities and their continuing work for them.
I offer my genuine congratulations to each Member of the new Cabinet. I am pleased to see there are three women in it and I applaud that decision. I wish each of them every success. The new Members of Cabinet are people of high calibre who are taking on an enormous challenge at an interesting time. I am sure they will all bring their considerable talents to bear on the jobs they have been given. The Labour Party intends to provide strong and effective opposition as that is our function. It is the oldest democratic party in the State and it has a proud and independent tradition. There have been times in the history of the House when the Labour Party provided Opposition on its own — and I am not talking about recent years.
The cracks are beginning to appear.
The Labour Party has never seen any shame or disgrace in performing the work of Opposition and we look forward to marking the Government day in and day out. I promise the Taoiseach that our opposition will be vigilant, total and constructive and that it will be based on policy and principle not on personalities or name calling. We will harry and pursue the Government over economic and social policy and we will demand and expect the highest standards of accountability from it. We intend to ensure the Government keeps its promises and carries on the work of building an inclusive and tolerant society. We will attack lip-service but we will frankly acknowledge achievement.
The composition of the Cabinet is lacking in thought and imagination. As Deputy Bruton said, the Taoiseach had quite some time to prepare for this but he has, by and large, selected people who gave many hostages to fortune when in Opposition. They will come back to haunt them. They will require careful and detailed scrutiny in the light of their explicit record and everything they said over the past two and a half years.
I do not know whether it is deliberate or otherwise but in the composition of the Cabinet the Taoiseach has ignored many parts of the country such as the south-east of Ireland; north and south County Tipperary and Limerick city and county have been completely neglected. The entire North West is hardly represented at all in the Cabinet.
Deputy McDaid is so far north and west one would almost miss him but I congratulate him on his appointment. The programme for Government places a heavy emphasis on inclusion and social disadvantage and that is proper. I am disappointed there will not be a Department of Equality and Law Reform. I acknowledge what the Taoiseach said about former Minister, Mervyn Taylor, but neither fine words nor cosmetic exercises can disguise the fact that the cause of people with disability is being regressed. I regret this decision. Many groups on the margins of society who received recognition over the past four years will see this as a set back. The Government will regret the decision to abolish the Department and I do not know how it will reassure people with disability. I have great respect for Deputy John O'Donoghue, a colleague from the same county, but I do not see how issues of equality fit in with his priorities in the Department of Justice. It is a fundamental mistake that should be reconsidered. We have given those on the margins of society a voice over the past number of years and that is now being taken away. People with disabilities are not sick and do not need to be represented by a Minister of State at the Department of Health. They have been discriminated against in the past and will never be adequately represented by the Department of Justice in its present format. I ask the Taoiseach to reconsider this matter.
Society has built barriers against those with disabilities. Much work has been done in empowering them to tear down those barriers and most Members are genuine supporters of our efforts over the past number of years. However, that empowerment has now been weakened and I regret one more barrier has been created. The Taoiseach's silence on the equal status and employment equality legislation is an indication that those who have suffered discrimination in the past must now wait a long time for redress.
I congratulate Deputy de Valera on her elevation to high office. The Taoiseach has graciously acknowledged the success of my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins. However, I am worried that the cultural industries to which we have given much stimulus in recent years, will lose out in the proposed format. Perhaps the Taoiseach will have an opportunity to explain the change in that Department. For example, where will responsibility for broadcasting lie?
One decision, referred to by Deputy Bruton, astounds me. My comments on it do not reflect on Deputies Burke or Andrews, both strong willed and able politicians. Will the Taoiseach inform us whether he intends introducing legislation, because I do not believe it is constitutionally possible to have one Minister subordinate to another? This will not work. I do not have access to the ministers and secretaries legislation of 1924 but I will have before the first Question Time. The proposed structure poses a legislative problem and it will be necessary to introduce legislation if Deputy Andrews as Minister for Defence is to operate within the Department of Foreign Affairs in a subordinate role to Deputy Burke as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I think it is illegal under the present legislative framework and will require an amendment to the ministers and secretaries legislation. Perhaps the Taoiseach will inform the House if this is what he has in mind. Members of Cabinet are collectively responsible. Departments of State are given special functions in law which are vested in the Minister as head of the Department. When the row takes place in that gracious building on St. Stephen's Green, I hope the Minister for Defence does not decide to bring all his tanks with him to convince the Minister for Foreign Affairs of a point. This will pose a serious constitutional problem if proceeded with because functions given under the ministers and secretaries legislation cannot be carried out under the direction of two different Ministers.
If the Taoiseach wishes to create a Department of European Affairs, then responsibility must be assigned to the Minister in charge of that Department. Perhaps Deputies Andrews and Burke will work this out between themselves in their inimitable style.
I doubt it.
In analysing the promises made by the Government, I am struck by the vagueness of most of them as expressed in its programme. I am particularly struck by the section purporting to outline the seven key concerns of the people. Jobs and employment do not merit a separate heading and are hardly mentioned throughout the document. One has to wonder about a Government which regards reductions in the top rate of tax as being of more importance than the continuing crisis of unemployment which affects far too many families in our community.
I wondered whether the vagueness in many parts of the document was designed to conceal a more fundamental intention. I will mention one example which the Taoiseach may like to explain. The programme for government makes the following, innocuously expressed commitment: "the utilisation of the tax system, including capital taxes, to encourage entrepreneurship". What does this mean? The Taoiseach will be well aware — although I am not sure Deputy Harney is — that a small group of wealthy individuals, one of whom is the proprietor of a near-monopoly of the media industry, has in the past used its political access to try to secure a cash ceiling on the amount of capital acquisitions tax payable by an individual. A case was made to me that such an idea would attract wealthy foreign entrepreneurs to live in Ireland and encourage home-grown entrepreneurs to spend their declining years here, with untold and unspecified advantages for the Irish economy.
Ever since I rejected that proposal I have had the uneasy feeling that I may have lost friends in a section of the media. Perhaps the Taoiseach may wish to elaborate but I can find no parallel references to this commitment in the election manifestos of either Fianna Fáil or the Progressive Democrats and there is no explanation of what it might be intended to mean. No doubt we can return to this subject during Question Time if the Taoiseach does not want to clarify it before the end of the debate.
The Government will be judged on the degree to which it has protected and embellished the fabric it has been given. I do not say that in a grudging way but it is necessary to speak briefly about some of the crucial issues which lie ahead and for which the Government has inherited a sound foundation on which to build.
In Northern Ireland the previous Government carried through the work of peace building in every way possible — Deputy Harney was kind enough to pay a tribute this afternoon — but it remains a task unfinished. Only one organisation is to blame for any lack of progress, the IRA. When the new Government takes office it will find a team of public servants, the best in the world, ready to assist in the work of peace building; a set of documents containing the outline of a fair and lasting settlement of the problem; ground rules laid down and broadly agreed for the conduct of negotiations; solutions already broadly agreed for the intractable problem of decommissioning; strong and supportive international relationships; an Anglo-Irish relationship which is as good as it could possibly be, with a British Government committed to progress, and an IRA which still lacks the vision and foresight to allow its political wing to join the negotiations.
As one who, throughout my political career, has worked for the most inclusive process possible, I urge the Government not to give up on inclusion but never to allow a veto to the IRA. It can never be allowed to bomb its way to the negotiating table. It is the IRA and no one else who prevents Sinn Féin and the people it represents from taking part in negotiations. Having regard to the broad support given to us, I confidently call on the Government never to give in to the bomb and bullet or the threat of violence in the peace process. It must immediately get involved in the work of peace building and do so without fear or favour. It may well find, as some of us have, that its efforts are not appreciated by some on the Unionist side of the debate. That ought not to matter; no one has a veto on reasonable progress and no one will if the Government is sufficiently resolute and its actions are dictated by established principles. One of those principles is that no settlement can last if the process excludes any significant element of the community. For that reason I hope the Government will be given the opportunity of an IRA ceasefire, which will enable Sinn Féin to enter the process for good. If there is any assistance which I, my party and other colleagues in the former Government can give, it will be given and it will be constructive.
The next issue is the economy and the various promises made by the incoming Government. It cannot do what it has promised over recent months and it must have known that when drawing up the programme for government. It will have choices to make and they will not be easy. It has an obligation to this House to say as soon as possible whether it will choose greed or inclusion and in what areas of public spending it will make cuts to meet the targets set by Deputy McCreevy in his radio interview last Sunday. If I see the slightest sign of a return to the days when education, health and housing services bore the brunt of all cutbacks, we will fight the Government every step of the way in this House. There is no doubt that the Government will have to make these choices if it is to honour the excessive tax promises it has made, and it will meet stern opposition. If the Government implements the tax package it has agreed it will skew almost all benefits towards the better off and widen the gap between families on low and moderate incomes and those on higher incomes. There is simply no case for going as far and as fast as the Government proposes and even less a case for making those who depend on State services bear the cost of those promises.
The programme for Government talks about making an all out assault on disadvantage. I do not doubt the sincerity of those intentions. However, many of the elements in that programme will have the opposite effect. I urge a major rethink before the budget in the autumn.
One could talk for a long time on an occasion such as this about issues and personalities. I do not intend to do so because this is, by and large, an occasion of congratulations. The Government has won the election and the honour is its. On behalf of everybody I again congratulate them, their families and those who support and work with them.
The Labour Party has to rebuild and regain its strength but we will provide vigilant and strong opposition. We will dedicate ourselves to those tasks. I look forward to fighting the next election on a modern, independent platform.
The interests of our community and economy depend on stable Government. They also depend on a Government which has clear priorities and genuinely places the interests of people before politics — now is the time for this Government to prove that was more than an election slogan. I wish the Taoiseach and his Cabinet well. I look forward to getting answers in the days and weeks ahead.
I join with my colleagues in congratulating the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, and in acknowledging that his success is well earned. In the interests of the country, I wish him every success. I also congratulate each Minister in the new Cabinet, even if they are members of a fairly rickety coalition. Nonetheless, each of them deserves our congratulations and best wishes.
I wish to speak about the structural changes which the Taoiseach has announced he intends to implement. It makes sense to bring trade back into the Department of Enterprise and Employment. Trade was always intended to be part of that Department and it makes much more coherent sense to include it there. However, I have much greater difficulties with the other proposed structural changes.
The removal of science and technology to the Department of Education is a regressive step. There was a Department of Education and Science across the water for many years but it was found that, since science and technology is the driving force of any modern economy at the leading edge of industrial development, it ought to be connected to the Department of Enterprise and Employment rather than the Department of Education.
It would make much more sense to transfer the old Department of Labour into the Department of Equality and Law Reform. The Taoiseach has made a great mistake in effectively downgrading and abolishing the Department of Equality and Law Reform. It is not the case, as he stated in his speech, that law reform is driven by law enforcement and that that Department should be part of the Department of Justice. With the ultimate respect to the Department of Justice, I do not think it has been characterised over the years by a wish to modernise the law.
There is an affinity between the Department of Equality and Law Reform and the old Department of Labour. It would have made a great deal more sense to amalgamate those Departments rather than rhetorically promising to upgrade the value of science and technology but, in effect, having it play the poor relation to the Department of Education, which I have no doubt will be the case. The Taoiseach advocates closer contact between the Department of Enterprise and Employment and the Department of Education for this purpose but I do not believe that will happen in practice. I note that responsibility for industrial research carried out by Forbairt has been left with the Department of Enterprise and Employment. That has not been well thought out and ought to be reconsidered.
I notice the same conflict Deputy John Bruton has identified between the new Department for Social, Community and Family Affairs and the Department of Health regarding responsibility for children. I commend the Taoiseach on his choice of somebody with the sensitive touch of Deputy Cowen to bear responsibility for the children of the nation. With his deft touch, no doubt they will be in safe hands but it does not make sense and cannot be reconciled with the role of the Department for which Deputy Dermot Ahern will be responsible.
If it is not churlish of me to say so, I notice there was no mention in the Taoiseach's announcement of ministerial appointments of the role promised for Deputy Albert Reynolds. Deputy Reynolds himself appeared to be of the impression that that role would be included in the Cabinet, but obviously we shall have to await another day before hearing that announcement.
I am also disappointed that the Taoiseach has opted to combine agriculture and food within the one portfolio. Following all the debates on food controversies, on the health and safety of consumers, I had hoped there would be a commitment by this Government to examine the question of restoring food, one of our most significant industries, to the Department of Enterprise and Employment. Why should the food industry be different from any other? It is very significant and, I submit, proper to the Department of Enterprise and Employment rather than to the Department of Agriculture. The farming organisations now acknowledge that, while we may produce the best quality food product in Europe, if consumers vote with their feet, that is a matter of considerable concern to producers. The appropriate way to deal with that is to remove food from the Department of Agriculture and relocate it in the Department of Enterprise and Employment. That would ensure the continuation of the moves initiated by the outgoing Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, in terms of the statutory Food Safety Authority and go a very long way to restoring confidence in a major industry and the safety of its produce.
It is mentioned in page 9.
The relocation of responsibility for the industry about which I speak is not included in any script.
I congratulate my constituency colleague, Deputy Harney. On a personal basis and on behalf of my constituents, I am very pleased at her elevation to a very significant economic ministry.
Of course, I am also delighted for Deputy Molloy who ranted and railed until the cows came home about the very post he now holds when it was established some three years ago.
I am not suggesting that Deputy Molloy can adequately fill the seat he now occupies but I will give him my full support in endeavouring to do the best he can with it.
No incoming Government in the history of this State has inherited from its immediate predecessor a country or economy in the condition of that being handed over today. There has been and continues to be unprecedented economic growth and historically low interest rates that have attracted investment and led to very low mortgage repayments. Forced emigration is a thing of the past. Annually an additional 50,000 of our people are at work and paying tax. That is a legacy no other Government has inherited. Notwithstanding the propitious economic circumstances about which I have spoken, I do not know whether this particularly rickety coalition Government will, as the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, prophesied, lead this country into the new millennium. I do not believe it will.
The two parties that set out as an alliance of convenience — there was no other alliance available prior to the general election — an alliance between the largest party in the State and a party of a very different political character, have ended up as an alliance of grossly unequals. It seems the Progressive Democrat Party is the wren on the tail of the Fianna Fáil eagle, an eagle that is soaring high on a wind of transfers that were unreciprocated in the recent general election. For parties that lectured the people about how unstable would be an arrangement whereby the outgoing rainbow coalition Government was dependent on a gaggle of Independents, they have ended up in precisely that arrangement. Why would such an arrangement be unstable for the outgoing coalition Government but stable for this combination of parties? Considering the cohesive and stable reputation of the outgoing Government as distinct from the very unhappy history of the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil, and their inability to coexist, this is a very tentative arrangement indeed.
I suggest that Kilgarvan and Kilcoole will have more influence in this Government than will the Progressive Democrats, and in the interests of the country one must ask whether that is healthy. I am very pleased the people of Kilcoole will get their second level school, and if I am sceptical about the Taoiseach's capacity to deliver longer summers in Kilgarvan and South Kerry, one can imagine the discomfiture of the Progressive Democrats. The ability of the Taoiseach to deliver longer evenings in Kerry is certainly not a recipe for stable, strong Government committed to fiscal rectitude, as promised by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats during the election campaign.
This is a most unlikely coalition comprising Fianna Fáil and a faction of Fianna Fáil that broke away in disgust and frustration with the party some years ago on fundamental issues of low standards in high places and playing politics with Northern Ireland. The new Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, assures us that all has changed, and perhaps it has, but what is the raison d'e tre of the Progressive Democrats? If there are no real policy distinctions with Fianna Fáil, why remain outside the fold? The departure of Michael McDowell, one of the most able Deputies ever elected to this House, has deprived the party of the ideological drive and cutting edge that was the Progressive Democrats. The ground is probably being assiduously prepared to monitor the reentry of the Progressive Democrats to Fianna Fáil and to join with those who would in other circumstances stand by the Republic.
There is no sign in the new Government's programme of fundamental Progressive Democrats policy positions. For example, none of the fundamental issues of difference enunciated during the election campaign, such as EMU privatisation, cuts in the public service and Northern Ireland, appears in the programme. Nor is there any trace of a commitment to implement the anti-poverty strategy devised by the former Minister of Social Welfare, Deputy Proinsias De Rossa. There are many omissions and several contradictions in the programme. As Deputy Bruton and Deputy Spring said, how is it possible to reconcile tax cuts for the best off in society with a rhetorical commitment to an inclusive society? It appears social equity will be abandoned in favour of pay back time for the better off. It is unfortunate the direction of the major programme of equitable integrated tax and social welfare system reform initiated by the outgoing Government is to be abandoned and replaced with a set of promises that will benefit only the better off. Nor is it possible to reconcile the new Administration's commitment to zero tolerance with its parallel pledge in respect of drug courts. The two policies are again opposites, one illiberal and the other liberal. One must ask which approach will win through? I suspect that neither will do so.
I am delighted that Deputy O'Donoghue has been appointed as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is not often that someone from, as Deputy Healy-Rae stated, a constituency as neglected as Kerry South obtains a senior Cabinet ministry. There must be other reasons that the Taoiseach recognised Deputy O'Donoghue's inherent qualities to appoint him to that position. However, the Deputy has left a terrible legacy in Kerry South. I listened in amazement earlier as Deputy Healy-Rae listed the defects and handicaps under which people in that constituency have laboured for so long. I have no doubt that, following Deputy Healy-Rae's election to the House, we will see tremendous improvements in Kerry South. I am happy about that and I propose to visit the area in the near future.
The Deputy is beginning to exceed the time available to him.
The evenings are getting longer.
If I am, all I will do on this occasion is promise that it will be the first of many times I will attempt to do so.
I wish the Taoiseach well in his new role. I know he has anticipated entering office for some time. To anyone who is working towards a goal, one cannot but say that he has gained his just deserts. I wish the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, every success. For the good of this country, their respective parties must form a co-operative Government that will listen to the people and introduce long overdue measures, some of which are contained in the Government's programme but others are sadly lacking. I thank the outgoing Government and I wish Deputy John Bruton well.
The Cabinet revealed to the House contains Members with a track record in different ministries in addition to some new faces. Noting what was said by previous speakers, it is certain that there must be clarification with regard to the intentions of the new Government in areas of great concern to the House and the party I represent, the Green Party. It is good that the Department of Social Welfare will have a role in community affairs. However, it displays a rather shallow view of community development when community affairs are seen as primarily a matter for the Department of Social Welfare. The Green Party would argue that a Department should be established to deal solely with community affairs because the role of community life here has been relegated for a long period. The Department of the Environment, to which the Taoiseach sought to make particular reference in respect of the Green Party, if it were to be given its proper name should be called the Department of Local Government.
There is a need to clarify the role of An Roinn Ealaíon, Cultúir agus Gaeltachta maidir leis na hoileáin. Does the Taoiseach expect that the Irish language will recede further into the Atlantic ocean? Is that why na hoileáin are being singled out as areas where the language will remain? I remind him that many areas in Dublin are as vibrant, if not more so, than many of the Gaeltacht areas and na hoileáin. The people of na hoileáin would acknowledge that.
After all the scandals related to food and despite the often repeated advice about the mistake of giving the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry responsibility for food matters, it is unfortunate that the arrangement is to continue. There was an opportunity to place responsibility for food matters with a Department which does not have its agenda dictated by the vested interests of the producers, whether that was good or bad in terms of public confidence which has repercussions for all given the importance of the food industry. I hope this matter will be addressed because public confidence in food products and public health will not be served in the long term by maintaining the status quo.
I am glad that two Deputies from north Dublin have been nominated as Ministers. I offer good wishes to Deputy Burke on his nomination as Minister for Foreign Affairs. The task ahead of him is difficult and I look forward to his efforts with regard to Northern Ireland being fruitful. Satisfactory results in that regard have eluded many former Ministers for Foreign Affairs. I offer support in the search for an end to violence. We often talk of the terrorism, bombs and the heart-break of bereavement which results from the tragic circumstances in the North, but in the matter of non-violence we often overlook the traditional manner by which we make decisions and take action. It has a bearing on reaching a solution based on non-violence.
The culture of majority rule has been played out in this House with a skill learned over many years of parliamentary life. However, it has failed to produce the result needed for a divided society. There is a large minority on this side of the House which will be excluded from decision-making during the term of this Dáil. It is a sad reminder of the ineffectiveness and dangers of the politics of majority rule. We should examine this matter if we are not to be considered hypocritical in lecturing others on managing their affairs in a non-violent fashion.
The last few weeks have been stressful and frustrating for the Green Party — I do not just refer to the long count in Dublin South-East, on the result of which Deputies have different views. I understand Deputy Harney's disappointment but that is the system under which we operate and, as she said, it is one which has provided good results for small parties. The most frustrating experience, however is other parties' belief that they understand what the Green Party stands for. The Taoiseach referred to the Department of the Environment and the environment policy of Fianna Fáil. We have read and studied it carefully. It is a document which is unfortunately very short on the integrated policies needed in areas that will ultimately deliver a sustainable economy. Over the past five years since the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro in which most parties had a role in Government, there have been many sad environment related problems. We still need to be reminded of them. In that time 154 plant species, eight bird species and three fish and amphibian species have been under threat or in danger of extinction here. Ireland still has the lowest tree cover in Europe. Because of Sella-field, technetium 99 levels in Balbriggan increased by 500 per cent between 1993 and 1995. Lobsters have 30 times the legal permitted level of radioactive technetium 99. British Nuclear Fuels intends to release additional waste into the Irish Sea. Ireland has become the second highest emitter of CO²gas per capita after the Netherlands. Levels of nitrogen oxides, the main contributor to acid rain, have increased by 50 per cent since 1982. Traffic, the main source of CO2 and nitrogen oxide emissions, has increased drastically. Last year, 109,333 new cars were bought, the highest number ever. That is unequivocally welcomed all too often by Government spokes-persons. We have allowed a third of our drinking water supply from private group schemes to be contaminated by micro-organisms while 4 per cent of public water supplies is contaminated by faeces. The Environmental Protection Agency report stated there were too many breaches of fluoride levels in drinking water. Even in that narrow focus, which is not sufficient, there is a huge problem.
We still only produce 1 per cent of energy from renewable forms, such as hydro power. The remaining 99 per cent comes principally from imported fossil fuels, the main contributor to global warming. If there is to be action, it must be action with understanding because without that action is costly and futile. To be effective there must be action on tax reform which would see the shift of tax away from income, a view endorsed by Government parties and those in Opposition. However, the concept of taxing polluters and waste still has not been grasped. Ecological enterprise must be rewarded. Unfortunately, it is not yet, as evidenced by Ireland's failure to reach recycling targets. We will have to name the Department of the Environment the Department of Local Government until we begin to see effective action in those areas.
When talking about long careers in politics it is important to look at them in the context of life on this planet which we are here to judge and deal with, often in a harsh way. They must be measured against the length of time there has been life on this planet — ten million years. This is difficult for anybody in parliamentary life to even contemplate, no matter how long they have been in the Dáil. If one equates life on this planet to one year, then human activity begins at a quarter to midnight on new year's eve and in the context of life on this planet, the damage has been caused in the length of time it takes to blow out a candle.
The purpose of the Green Party is to ensure that candle is not blown out. If others are serious they will have to start looking at the root of our problems which are economic ones. The Green Party will continue to say, until the message gets through, that GNP and GDP are insufficient to measure economic progress and well-being. Priority will have to be given to indicators which measure the quality of life. Mike Cooley, a systems analyst and industrial philosopher, asked why it is that if we grow our own food and repair our own cars GNP goes down whereas if a pile-up occurs on a motorway, there is carnage, a whole range of cars is destroyed, people are maimed and end up in hospital, probably at the end of long waiting queues, GNP goes up.
These are the areas which will indicate whether we are prepared to make the changes outlined at Rio, by which the Taoiseach was obviously inspired when he spoke here today. If these changes need to be made, we need to focus more on sustainable economics which, according to the ESRI, will make us more competitive and create further employment, given the tax reform the Green Party is seeking.
People should not depend on Dáil Éireann for all the answers. How one spends the pound in one's pocket will have as much effect on society as decisions taken in this House, as evidenced by the dominance of transnational corporations around the world. Some 70 per cent of world trade is undertaken by the top 500 companies in the world who are not Irish. The Green Party is about transforming society and parliamentary life is only part of the process to bring about sustainable life for future generations.
I wish to share time with Deputy Michael Kitt. I need only a few minutes on this wonderful occasion. I wish the outgoing Government well and thank it for its efforts on behalf of us all during the past two and a half years. It is difficult to hand back the reins when things are going well. We will forget about the hospital waiting lists and all the other problems.
The Deputy is still on the waiting list. I am very disappointed for him.
I am happy to be here.
I thought the Deputy would be given the Defence portfolio.
Leaving office can be very difficult. It upsets some more than others as is obvious this evening. The Deputy will have to get used to it because he will be there a long time. I listened to Deputy Rabbitte having a go at Deputy Mary Harney of the Progressive Democrats about her leaving Fianna Fáil and setting up her own party. I could listen to that from anyone else but not from a member of Democratic Left, formerly known as the New Agenda, The Workers' Party, Sinn Féin The Workers' Party and Official Sinn Féin. It has changed jerseys more times than Mae West. To lecture us in that vein is a bit much but I suppose we will have to get used to that type of remark from Democratic Left during the next few months.
Will the Deputy be voting for Senator John Dardis?
My party has a number of good candidates whom we will look after first. I congratulate Deputy Bertie Ahern on his appointment as Taoiseach. In politics one needs a certain amount of luck to get along. In his case he has had luck and, as mentioned earlier, he has had much bad luck too but has been able to live and work with it and use it to best advantage. Above all what we are seeing today in the appointment of Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach is that his hard work has been rewarded. I do not think any of the 166 Deputies has worked as hard in the past ten or 20 years as Deputy Bertie Ahern. He assumed leadership of the party when it was going through a difficult period and transformed it in a short time. We are optimistic about the future and delighted to have the opportunity to go back into Government. We always looked after the country well and I see no reason it should be any different in the future. We are entering Government with the Progressive Democrats with Deputy Mary Harney as Tánaiste. I wish her well. It was a difficult election for her and the Progressive Democrats are now smaller in number. Nevertheless, that party has a big responsibility and I wish it well in its efforts.
I congratulate in particular my county colleague, Deputy Charlie McCreevy. In recent weeks the media was not sure if he would be given the Finance portfolio but I am glad he has been given this responsibility. He lectured various Ministers for Finance about where they were going wrong. He will now have an opportunity to do what he has always told us he would do. While we have made promises in the programme for Government, difficult decisions will have to be made but with Deputy McCreevy in charge of the Department of Finance we need not worry about the state of the nation's finances. As Deputy Dukes is aware, a number of projects in south Kildare are in need of immediate attention. I hope they can be advanced in the immediate future.
Is the Deputy going to do a Mildred Fox on it?
I am delighted Deputy Andrews has been appointed Minister for Defence. The restructuring of the Defence Forces has created enormous difficulties for soldiers and their families. Action will have to be taken immediately. There is much uncertainty and soldiers and their families are fearful of the changes, many of which have been forced upon them without consultation. The new Minister should sit down with the representative bodies immediately and agree a plan for the restructuring of the Defence Forces. While restructuring is necessary, the matter has been dealt with in a shoddy manner. This cannot be allowed to continue.
The hearing claims currently being processed will have serious financial implications. Millions of pounds have already been paid out. I have called for the establishment of a tribunal to deal with the matter. It is madness to pay out vast sums in legal expenses to the legal eagles. If soldiers' hearing has been impaired due to the negligence of the State, they should be compensated. I appeal to the new Minister to deal with the matter immediately.
There has been a smooth transition of power from the previous Administration to the incoming Government and I compliment all those involved. I wish the Taoiseach, Deputy Harney and the other members of the Cabinet every success. They will need all our help. Governments tend to ignore the views expressed by the Opposition. I appeal to the new Cabinet to be more mature in the way it conducts its business and if helpful suggestions are made by the Opposition, I would like to think it will accept them. I wish to share the remainder of my time with Deputy Michael Kitt.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I thank Deputy Power for sharing his time. I join in congratulating the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and all the members of his Cabinet. When the Fianna Fáil Members of the Cabinet were Front Bench Opposition spokes-persons they worked very hard. They deserve their appointments and I wish them well. The success achieved by Fianna Fáil in the general election was due to the work done by them and the visits made by the Taoiseach to all corners of the country. He visited some constituencies many times in his efforts to reorganise Fianna Fáil and, as can be seen from the general election results, he was very successful. The Taoiseach visited my constituency shortly after his election as leader of the party. This was the first of many visits and marked the beginning of the reorganisation of the party.
It may not be widely known that the Tánaiste is a native of my parish in County Galway. As Matt the Thrasher said, for the glory and honour of the parish we are glad that Deputy Mary Harney is a member of the Government and has been appointed Tánaiste. I wish her and her colleagues well.
I congratulate all the Deputies elected to the Dáil, particularly Deputy Harry Blaney whom I first met many years ago. My late father was first elected to the Dáil in the same year, l948, as Deputy Blaney's late brother Neil. We do not have the same record of service as the Blaney family but we are getting there.
On the comments about the way some Departments are organised, I do not understand the criticism of the decision that the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht should also deal with the islands. During Question Time the former Minister, Deputy Higgins, dealt with issues relating to the islands and the Gaeltacht. I pay tribute to the former Minister of State, Deputy Carey, for the work he carried out on behalf of people who live on the islands. I hope the new Minister, Deputy de Valera, is committed to continuing this work. It is very important that the people who live on islands are not neglected. It was very encouraging that some of the issues raised by them were responded to by the previous Government. I hope the new Government will continue this work. I recently received an invitation to visit Kilrush and the Aran Islands next weekend to see the renaming of new ferries. This is a very positive development and I would like to see similar developments on all islands. The former Minister, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, and the former Minister of State, Deputy Carey, worked hard to ensure that people who live on the islands were not discriminated against. It is only logical that the incoming Government should continue this work and that the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht should deal with the islands.
Culture has been removed.
I pay tribute to the former Minister and Minister of State for the work they carried out on behalf of the islands and the Gaeltacht.
It is logical that science and technology should be linked to the Department of Education. As the father of a leaving certificate student, I am interested in the type of courses being offered students. The holding of the election prior to the leaving certificate examination was of help to the parents of students.
The Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, referred to the creation of a new Department, the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. That is a welcome move. As the Taoiseach said, many recent successes in the sports area have given us an international profile which, in turn, helped to promote our tourism industry. Not long before the election we were celebrating Ken Doherty's success in snooker, and recently we have seen the success of our under 21 soccer team. These successes in sport will promote tourism but they are important in their own right, as are the successes we had in the past in the areas of arts and culture.
Today's debate has been constructive and relevant to the handover of Government from three parties to two. It says a great deal for the proceedings of this House that this has been done without any of the bitterness which attended the breakdown of the Government in 1994. I hope we will continue to be positive in the future and that this Government, with the action programme it has published, will have a successful term in office.
I congratulate Deputy Bertie Ahern on his election as Taoiseach in charge of the 28th Dáil. It is a happy day for him as he has achieved something he almost achieved two and a half years ago. It is a happy day also for his family, relatives and friends who, I am sure, will enjoy the celebrations, perhaps even more than the Taoiseach who must immediately immerse himself in the job. I am sure the celebrations will continue long into the summer.
I regret my party leader, Deputy John Bruton is not Taoiseach, but as somebody who comes from north of the Liffey, I am glad the incumbent comes from that area. That is good for Dublin and for the area north of the Liffey. I hope that trend will continue; who knows what life has to offer?
I wish the Taoiseach well in a difficult job but it is a great honour for him. He has announced his Cabinet and I congratulate all the new Ministers. The word "new" may not be appropriate in some cases because the people concerned have been Ministers. To those returning to Government and those who are coming into Government for the first time, I wish them well.
The day one goes into Government is very exciting and two and a half years have not diminished my memory of becoming a Minister. I am now battered and bruised with welts and scars from the two and a half years I spent in the Department of Justice but it was a great honour to represent this country. Despite the difficult times I endured I was glad to have been given the honour of being a Minister, particularly Minister for Justice. I hope those who are prepared to examine my record during the past two and a half years in Justice and of this Government will see that much has been done.
When the Dáil dissolved some weeks ago the then Government was very well regarded by the people. That sense of satisfaction was reiterated during the campaign to the point where the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste came out on top in the televised debates. However, the electorate has spoken, the dust has settled and Deputy Ahern is now Taoiseach, with the help of some Independents.
As I listened this afternoon to Deputy Mildred Fox outline her reason for supporting the election of Deputy Ahern as Taoiseach I was reminded of the song from "The Mikado" about having a little list, none of which will be missed. Deputy Fox must have felt sick when she heard Deputy Healy-Rae's much longer list of what he had achieved, despite saying on the lunch time news, in what was perhaps his only moment of coyness, that he would not tell anybody what he had got, that the people of south Kerry would know. My family came from south Kerry and I hope what Deputy Healy-Rae has brought to south Kerry will benefit the members of my family who still live there. I suppose the Minister, Deputy John O'Donoghue, will be able to call on the Deputy's help whenever he runs into difficulty with the Minister for Finance and cannot get the money for his portfolio; Deputy Healy-Rae might lend him some of the money he has been promised for the roads, the fishermen and tourism. It sounded as if he wanted the many hours of daylight enjoyed by the people living in Norway, Sweden or Iceland — at certain times of the year there is no night in Iceland — to be a feature of life in south Kerry and so extend the tourist season there.
The lists of the Independent Deputies who have indicated their support for the Taoiseach today came as a surprise not only to those who are now in Opposition but to those who are in Government. When they saw one or two Deputies getting all the goodies they must have wondered what would be left for them. The other Deputies in the constituencies of Wicklow and Kerry South should get behind those two Deputies and claim in advance all the things that have been promised so that they can get a piece of the action. We will wait to see just how much is delivered to the Independent Deputies.
Faces have changed here, and we have changed places, but what matters is that the good work which has been done over the past two and a half years should continue. The work towards an inclusive society will, I hope, be continued by the incoming Government. That policy underpinned everything we did, no matter which Department was involved. Two strands of the outgoing Government's policy, which are aspects of the same central issue, were economic security and tackling crime. We have a budget surplus and can afford to choose how to spend that money. Do we want to see reductions in the numbers of gardaí, nurses, teachers and employees in other public service areas? I do not believe we do. The farcical proposal during the election campaign, which was dropped as the day of the election drew near, to lay off 25,000 public servants, was a public insult to the thousands of people who a provide good service to the State.
What we need is a fair distribution of the benefits of our economic success and, at the same time, a guarantee of financial control. That is what the Government led by Deputy John Bruton was delivering. We heard a great deal of rhetoric in recent weeks from Fianna Fáil and from the party described by my party colleague, Deputy Noonan, as the mudguard on the Fianna Fáil bike. Despite all this, this House should call for this inclusive economic progress to continue. I agree that, during an election campaign, the taxation debates may not be as clear or as subtle as they will be when a party is in Government. However, the race is over and we must acknowledge what independent economists said about the taxation policies of the two groupings.
A reduction in the taxation rates would benefit those who are already better off while widening the allowances and the bands spreads the benefits more evenly. We have a choice. The incoming Government should consider what independent economists have said to ensure our tax policy does not help the better off and the well off and exclude those on middle and low incomes. It has time to do that before the November budget.
We need to give Ireland its greatest economic security — a strong currency. That was one of the themes of our EU Presidency. No Government can afford the luxury of openly questioning its currency policy as if its members were chatting on bar stools or around the fireside. It is not a matter of which is the right or wrong course. Indecisiveness in itself is a problem. Money has been invested in this country because of the expectation that we will enter economic and monetary union and, if the doubt cast during the election campaign continues, we will face severe difficulties. As night follows day, it would push up interest rates and we would be back in the earlier vicious circle. The Government — particularly the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Harney — should forget its inde-cisiveness about entry into EMU and unambiguously commit Ireland to this great step forward which will be good for the country.
If crime levels continue to increase inexorably many will be unable to enjoy the benefits of our economic growth. The House should turn its back on sloganising which gets in the way of real debate. Prior to the election we witnessed the meaninglessness of what Fianna Fáil referred to as zero tolerance. To Deputy O'Dea it means hanging plaques around people's necks stating "I am a criminal", "I am a drug addict" or "I stole twopence". That gets in the way of serious debate. The Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Donoghue, will be watched carefully by me and others on the Opposition benches in view of all he said as Opposition spokesperson on Justice. I promise he will have a difficult time. I also promise that if he is constructive and helpful in the fight against crime I — or whoever is Justice spokesperson for our party — will act likewise. What matters is that the thorough reform of our criminal justice system that started only two and a half years ago is maintained at the brisk pace set by our Government. If the Government maintains that pace Fine Gael will play a constructive role in the process. However, if it returns to the days of inertia which existed in the eight or nine years Fianna Fáil had charge of that Department, we will vigorously oppose it. A great deal has been done in the past two and a half years and at times the then Opposition supported our moves.
It is a year since the appalling murders of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and Veronica Guerin and many who were involved in criminal activity at that time are now on the run. The reaction of the Opposition at that time was to foolishly call for a state of emergency. In the past two and a half years we targeted areas that had previously been neglected. Effective action was taken against organised criminals and to deal with the scourge of drugs, but I would be foolish to claim that everything has been done. I urge the Taoiseach to continue that work and not to allow things to slip again. Many measures are in place. The Taoiseach will have the advantage of being able to fill most of the 800 prison places which are almost ready. He will have the advantage of the legislation I put through this House. I hope the Taoiseach will see them as advantages and continue the work that has started.
It is time we dealt with the crime issue in a more unilateral and non-divisive manner. There was much divisiveness and headline-grabbing in the past two and a half years with some Members saying, "I am tougher than you." That is not good enough and is not the way to get answers to our crime problem.
The outgoing Government adopted multifaceted policies. It is not enough just to build prisons and introduce tough legislation. We must tackle the problems in areas from which many people who occupy our jails come, by providing the probation and welfare services and drug addiction clinics that will make a difference to their lives. If not the problems will grow and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue will face them in the coming years. I hope history will record the work I carried out as Minister, and that of the outgoing Government, as the turning point in tackling our crime problems and dealing with the disadvantaged and marginalised in our society. The ambition to have a job was taken from them perhaps as a result of them dropping out of school early.
I do not think — I may be proved wrong — some of the changes the Taoiseach made in Departments will do anything for the marginalised communities. I do not understand how the Minister for Health and Children will sit across the Cabinet table from the Minister for Social Welfare who now has responsibility for "social, community and family" affairs. That change represents expanding the title without any thought as to how the portfolios will deliver services or bring about a sharing of our economic benefits among all our people equally. This is what we want to see and the Government has an opportunity to do something about it. It is taking charge of a very fine country and it will be judged on how it continues the good work of the past two and a half years.
I congratulate the Taoiseach —
(Dublin West): We were promised time to speak before proceedings finished.
I am advised that in terms of proportionality, Deputy Dukes should be called now. There will then be another slot of eight minutes and speakers can decide how to divide it between them.
I congratulate Deputy Ahern on taking office today. If I may say so without appearing to be other than what Deputy Ahern knows me to be — an implacable enemy of Fianna Fáil — I would like to compliment him on his acceptance speech. I have great hope as a result of the way he approached that. He showed a very deep understanding and care for the function he has taken on and I wish him well with it. As a citizen, I hope this Government continues in office for the full constitutional and statutory period. As a politician, I doubt it will. I am not sure where to come down between the two. For the 3.5 million of us living in the Republic, I hope the former is true.
I wish to offer a small piece of well meaning advice to the Taoiseach. He has displayed through his political career an impressive capacity to mediate and resolve problems. I caution him, however, not to do so always in the same way as he has done up to now, which is by using somebody else's money, usually the taxpayers'. That is a bad way of doing it. I hope he finds a way of using that talent to mediate and resolve without it costing the rest of us money. That is a major part of the obligation he now has.
One of his predecessors was also known as a problem solver. There was a famous case where we found people were employed in jobs at the public expense, which the rest of us did not know about for quite some time afterwards. It created problems in industrial relations which the current Taoiseach had to resolve later.
I wish the Taoiseach well because I know he is a person of conviction and goodwill. He is somebody who likes to have peace and happiness all around him. I wish him well all the more because I was struck today by the demeanour of the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney. The Tánaiste looked to me like someone who had received the worst news of her life and I wondered why that was. I feel it may be because she is rather shocked and I can understand why. She now finds herself in Government, completely against the run of play, having lost a huge part of her parliamentary party and apparently still under the threat that, if I may say so, de Valera rides again. I am not at all sure that the Taoiseach and his party have given up the idea of trying to abolish the proportional representation system, which they tried to do a couple of times in the past.
At one stage this afternoon Deputy Harney and her party colleagues were trying to say that this has gone out of the Government programme. They are not sure how they feel about it, however, because they did not do well under the current system of proportional representation. I caution the Tánaiste against giving too much reign to that feeling of disenchantment with an electoral system that has seen her party being mauled in this election. The electoral system is not at fault. People did not like what the Progressive Democrats were saying during the election and the Tánaiste and her party have paid the inevitable price.
The Tánaiste said something very interesting to me on the last day of the previous Dáil. She commented: "I know Minister Dukes does not like soundbites, but if it can't be said in a soundbite it is not worth saying". She should reflect on that because the electorate told her that in spades during the election. She was clobbered by soundbites and she is now a very junior partner in Government because of soundbites. People decided they did not want to fire 25,000 public servants, or oppress single mothers whose families are too numerous for them to live at home with their parents with another baby they did not expect, and so on. I hope for the sake of good government, if not for the sake of the parties in government, and for the kind of politics the Progressive Democrats is supposed to stand for — the party is supposed to be policy driven — that the Tánaiste has learned the lesson that soundbites are inimical to good politics. Life is more complicated than a soundbite and I hope she has found that out.
The Tánaiste is in charge of the Department of Enterprise and Employment. I may be underestimating the extent of her responsibilities because a couple of bits were slipped in by the Taoiseach in his reorganisation of Departments, which was not what I wanted to see.
There were a few soundbites about trade in the speeches. I hope the Tánaiste realises that the Department of Enterprise, Employment and Trade amounts to more than soundbites because in the past two and a half years the Department of Enterprise and Employment has been much more than soundbites. It has meant 120,000 extra jobs. One does not get extra jobs by having soundbites but by having good, sensible and well thought out economic and fiscal policies. Soundbites are inimical to good government and I hope the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach remember that. Life is more complicated than a soundbite and the Tánaiste should know that more than anyone else after her experience in the general election. I hope her party colleagues understand it too.
In congratulating the Taoiseach, I also wish him well in his choice of Minister for Finance. It is a position to which I have a longstanding emotional attachment. I can think of few people to whom I would wish better than the Minister, Deputy McCreevy. However, he will have a few headaches. He must now follow up an impressive economic performance. He must deliver on the most wrong-headed tax policies I have ever seen two parties pursuing in an election. He must deliver on a continuation of budget surpluses and on the most ill-quantified collection of aspirations, promises, nods, winks, nudges, suggestions, reorientations, redirections and restimulations that I have ever seen in any Government programme. He must do this at a time when the Tánaiste and her party might find themselves going into a single currency if they can make up their minds on that. I know the Taoiseach has the right religion, but I am not sure the Tánaiste has adopted this yet.
The Minister for Finance must do all these things which are in the Government programme, run a budget surplus, keep inflation down, keep interest rates at their current level and deliver on all these weird and wonderful "maybes" and "supposed to be's" in terms of expenditure. I fear that it will be beyond even the renowned capacity for plausibility of our current Minister for Finance.
Where I was reared, in Drimnagh, we had a name for people like the Minister for Finance. We called them "plausible jaws". They could get away with anything because they had words at will. However, he is much more than that. He really believes he will deliver on all of these things simultaneously but it will be almost an impossible job. When it comes to a choice between giving effect to what they say are their tax plans and giving effect to what they say are their expenditure plans, that is, their overall fiscal targets, and these vague promises they have in umpteen areas of expenditure, the Tánaiste should be delighted to hear me strongly urge the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach and her to find in favour of fiscal responsibility, of keeping public expenditure within the limits they have set, and not adopt what I fear might be the Taoiseach's inclination, the tendency to resolve all these problems without worrying too much about costs.
On the appointment of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, I know my good friend, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, will agree with me when I, with great personal warmth and sincerity, wish Síle de Valera well in that responsibility. I am sure she will bring a great deal of wisdom and balance to it. Without seeking to offend Deputy Michael D. Higgins, I ask the Taoiseach to reflect a little on the range of responsibilities in that Department. The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht should not also have to be concerned about wildlife and the ability and freedom of the people to ride horses along the banks of our canals. The Office of Public Works has taken the most extraordinarily blinkered view of whether we should be permitted to ride horses along our canals. Only the other day, a good friend told me the Office of Public Works has caused barriers to be erected on the banks of the canal between Monasterevin, County Kildare——
The Deputy's time is up.
How time flies when one is having problems. I wish Deputy de Valera well.
My final point to my successor in what was the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications is that the Taoiseach has given the wrong signal in calling it the Department of Public Enterprise. He said he wanted a Department which would promote competitiveness. Calling it the Department of Public Enterprise gives the wrong signal because, as the Tánaiste would tell the Taoiseach, it tells people they can get out of it more than they put into it. Public enterprise should give us, as citizens, more than we put into it. This name is wrong and I am afraid Deputy O'Rourke will have a difficult problem in dealing with it.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins has no more than seven minutes. Is the Deputy prepared to share a few minutes with Deputy Joe Higgins?
(Dublin West): The Acting Chairman said there would be time to speak.
I must put the question at 9.45 p.m. Will Deputy Michael D. Higgins use all the few minutes available to him?
I had anticipated using all of it.
(Dublin West): In fairness, they got their say already. On the first day of the Dáil, my votes are——
I am asking Deputy Michael D. Higgins if he is willing to share some time. There is really only six minutes left now.
I am not responsible for curtailing Deputy Joe Higgins's time.
I will try to allow him some time to speak. Another Deputy is also offering.
I must put the question at 9.45 p.m.
I do not have a difficulty with that. In the circumstances of having to make a choice between one Independent Deputy and several others, it would be easiest if I were to use the five minutes, which I propose to do. This debate is not satisfactory for those new Deputies who may wish to speak and I hope they will have another opportunity. It is not my intention to stand between them and any such opportunity.
Ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis an Taoiseach agus leis an Tánaíste agus le baill nua don Rialtas atá toghfa agus ceaptha anocht. Guím gach rath orthu. Bhí sé de pribhléid agam a bheith sa Rialtas céanna le chuid acu agus an cuimhniú atá agam faoin am sin ná an méid oibre a bhí muid in ann a dhéanamh le chéile. Guím mo rath ar na daoine chomh maith. Do na dhá scóir is cúigear atá toghadh don chéad uair go dtí an Teach seo, na Teachtaí nua-toghfa, guím mo rath orthu freisin.
I wish the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, and members of the Government every success. There are one or two points that are appropriate to make on the first night as one wishes the new Government well. I have had the opportunity of working with some of its Members. I wish all its Members success in dealing with topics that must be faced immediately. I wish my constituency colleague, Deputy Molloy, well. He has considerable experience in politics and he is the only Deputy from Galway who will be a member of the Cabinet.
I thank the Taoiseach for his generous reference to my work as the first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. There is immense significance in the dropping of the term "culture" from the title of the ministry. It will now be the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. When the ministry was negotiated and included in a programme for Government for the first time, the significance of culture was that it was the binding force. Culture was that which spoke about diversity, carried the debate between private art expression and public consumption of it and carried the argument about access. It was what enabled an argument to be made beyond commerce about broadcasting. Culture was to be the place where the Irish language was to be launched as something larnach mar bunchloc. It was in the definition of culture that the Irish language would be placed.
I was criticised as the first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht by the Irish language organisations. With respect to Deputy Dukes, they said that the Department moved from being one with a staff of 70 to 1,700, including those with responsibility for the banks of canals. I was happy to establish that Department and for it to include the different areas, with the assistance of the person who is now Taoiseach during his time as Minister for Finance, my colleague on the right who succeeded him as Minister for Finance and others. That was done deliberately to put together a strong and cohesive Department.
However, the significance of the loss of the word "culture" and its binding element raises questions which may be answered in the reply to this debate. Where lies responsibility for broadcasting or Teilifis na Gaelige now? Where lies responsibility for spoken Irish outside the Gaeltacht and for the Irish language within culture generally? Who is responsible for cultural expression outside the country? Has culture shrunk to cover only those areas funded by the Arts Council?
In a spirit of generosity on the opening evening of this Dáil, I must say that I had the benefit of listening to Deputy de Valera ask me questions regularly and I congratulate her and wish her well. She will have my co-operation and enthusiastic support. I congratulate her on one achievement already, on including a £26 million provision for the Arts Council, which will enable the plan I had said could be achieved over five years to be achieved in three years. The Minister will have my support for that, but I recall when the first ministry for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and its territory was defined and I know all of the arguments that took place subsequently on the transfer of functions and the definition of what is important.
Let no one ever say again that the Irish language has been neglected. It features strongly within our culture, yet the word "culture" has been omitted from the title of the Department. What will that omission tell us in the days, months and years ahead when there will be many debates?
I wish everybody forming the new Government well. I congratulate them on their public service and promise them my co-operation, particularly the Taoiseach who has served in so many different ministries. I pay tribute to him and his family and wish them well.
As it is now 9.45 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil today. The question is: "That Dáil Éireann approves the nominations by the Taoiseach for appointment by the President to be members of the Government."
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Andrews, David.
- Ardagh, Seán.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Blaney, Harry.
- Brady, Johnny.
- Brady, Martin.
- Brennan, Matt.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, John (Wexford).
- Burke, Ray.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Carey, Pat.
- Collins, Michael.
- Healy-Rae, Jackie.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Killeen, Tony.
- Kirk, Séamus.
- Kitt, Michael.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Lenihan, Conor.
- Martin, Micheál.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McDaid, James.
- McGennis, Marian.
- McGuinness, John.
- Moffatt, Tom.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Moloney, John.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
- Coughlan, Mary.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Cullen, Martin.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Davern, Noel.
- de Valera, Síle.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- Dennehy, John.
- Doherty, Seán.
- Ellis, John.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Flood, Chris.
- Foley, Denis.
- Fox, Mildred.
- Hanafin, Mary.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Seán.
- O'Dea, Willie.
- O'Donnell, Liz.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Flynn, Noel.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
- O'Keeffe, Ned.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Malley, Desmond.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- Power, Seán.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Roche, Dick.
- Ryan, Eoin.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Smith, Michael.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wade, Eddie.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Woods, Michael.
- Wright, G.V.
- Ahearn, Theresa.
- Allen, Bernard.
- Barnes, Monica.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Bell, Michael.
- Belton, Louis.
- Boylan, Andrew.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Broughan, Tommy.
- Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Liam.
- Burke, Ulick.
- Carey, Donal.
- Clune, Deirdre.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
- Coveney, Hugh.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Creed, Michael.
- Currie, Austin.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Deasy, Austin.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Dukes, Alan.
- Durkan, Bernard.
- Enright, Tom.
- Farrelly, John.
- Ferris, Michael.
- Finucane, Michael.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Gormley, John.
- Gregory, Tony.
- Hayes, Brian.
- Higgins, Jim (Mayo).
- Higgins, Joe (Dublin West).
- Higgins, Michael.
- Hogan, Philip.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Kenny, Enda.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McDowell, Derek.
- McGahon, Brendan.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McGrath, Paul.
- McManus, Liz.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Mitchell, Jim.
- Mitchell, Olivia.
- Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Neville, Dan.
- Noonan, Michael.
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Shea, Brian.
- Owen, Nora.
- Penrose, William.
- Perry, John.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Reynolds, Gerry.
- Ring, Michael.
- Sargent, Trevor.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Spring, Dick.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Timmins, William.
- Upton, Pat.
- Wall, Jack.
- Yates, Ivan.