Nomination of Taoiseach.

The next business is item No. 4, the nomination of Taoiseach. I will now receive the motions.

Tairgim:

Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta John Bruton a cheaptha ag an Uachtaran mar Thaoiseach.

I move: "That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy John Bruton for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach."

I propose the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, for the office of Taoiseach in this Dáil. I do so because I have been honoured to serve as Deputy Bruton's Tánaiste for the past two and a half years and I have no doubt whatsoever that he is fitted for the post. He led a good Government well and his courtesy, competence and efficiency will be part of an enduring legacy. My party will be voting for Deputy Bruton today because he has already proved himself able for the highest executive office in this land. I say that without any disrespect for Deputy Bertie Ahern whom I will be among the first to congratulate should he win this contest.

Deputy John Bruton has been an outstanding Taoiseach. His contribution to policy in relation to Northern Ireland will stand the test of time, and it is a mark of the man that up to yesterday he has worked to sow the seeds of an inclusive peace and a fair settlement. His work in Europe will be remembered for a long time. The success of the Irish Presidency in the second half of last year was due in no small measure to his patience and skill and to the respect he has earned on the international stage. Above all, he welded together a team of strong individuals into a coherent and cohesive unit to provide two and a half years of the most effective Government this country has seen. The strength of the economy we are handing over, the rebuilding of good and efficient social services, the decent balance that has been struck between the needs of a compassionate society on the one hand and the legitimate demands of taxpayers on the other, the investment in education, training and skill, and the turning of the corner in the battle against crime are all testament to an outstandingly successful Taoiseach. My nomination of Deputy Bruton as Taoiseach is my last act as a member of the rainbow Government, but not, I can assure the House, my last act. We now, in all probability, go into Opposition, but we can do so as an independent party, proud of our achievements and determined to rebuild our strength.

I will reserve the rest of what I have to say until I see the shape of the new Government. For now I wish to commend the name of Deputy John Bruton to the House. He has earned the respect of everyone in this House. I know he will honour the trust reposed in him to the full as he has always done in the past.

Ar dtus báire comhghairdeachas os ucht an post nua ata agat inniu. Is onóir mhór é duit fhéin agus dod chlann agus dod páirtí.

I wish to support the nomination of Deputy John Bruton as Taoiseach and, thereby, the work of the rainbow Coalition over the past two and a half years. When I stood in this House on 15 December 1994 to support his nomination as Taoiseach I referred to our different backgrounds and said that I had come to admire and respect him during our period in Opposition and that I particularly respected the position he had taken on Northern Ireland. After two and a half years in Government with him my respect for John Bruton has increased. His public stature has grown. He is the person who should be Taoiseach. He has the qualities of political courage and vision necessary to lead this country into the next century.

John Bruton has been an outstanding Taoiseach. In office, he has confounded his strongest critics. As a serious political thinker he has shown himself to be open to and interested in new ideas. He has never been afraid to change his mind when the facts have changed, and this is an absolutely essential requirement for a genuine statesman.

John Bruton has successfully presided over the first multi-party Government since the 1950s. He always led by example, showing great energy and enthusiasm for the job and displaying particular skills around the Cabinet table. His capacity for work was enormous. He had an ability to be on top of virtually every item that came before Government but was always willing to delegate and to trust Ministers to get on with their own work. The Irish people owe the Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, a debt of gratitude for the political leadership he has shown, often in very difficult circumstances, over the past 30 months.

In the event that John Bruton is not elected and the Fianna Fáil-PD Coalition is elected, it may be that we are facing into a different type of Government and a different set of policies. The people have cast their vote in the general election and as democrats we accept the outcome without question, but we leave Government with our heads high, satisfied that we have served the people of this country well if not perfectly, pleased with what the rainbow Government has achieved while acknowledging that with more time much more could have been achieved, particularly for the disadvantaged and the marginalised who are not sharing the current prosperity.

I am proud too of the performance of Democratic Left Ministers and backbenchers. Notwithstanding the outcome of the election the fact is that the outgoing Government is one of the best Administrations this country has had. The country is being passed, temporarily, to the care of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats in far better condition than when Fianna Fáil last left office. More than 120,000 new jobs were created; the numbers on the live register were reduced to their lowest level for six years; real progress was made in regard to reform and integration of the tax and social welfare systems; the structural mechanisms for the implementation of a national anti-poverty strategy were put in place; housing was revitalised; mortgage rates and inflation were kept low; the most comprehensive anti-crime package ever was introduced; local communities were given real resources to fight the drugs menace; and responsible and effective leadership was provided in the continuing search for peace and a political solution to the problems of Northern Ireland.

I give notice to the incoming Administration that Democratic Left will bring to the Opposition the same innovative thinking, commitment, energy and enthusiasm it showed in Government. It can expect vigorous, principled and responsible opposition from Democratic Left. Based on the Programme for Government published by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats vigorous opposition is what the incoming Government will deserve. While there are some positive commitments in the programme, especially where it pledges to build on the work done by the outgoing Government, it also contains many vague, unspecific and in some cases dangerous proposals. In general, Fianna Fáil appears to have dictated most of the policy positions, but in the area of taxation Deputy Bertie Ahern appears to have surrendered to Deputy Harney or perhaps to Deputy McCreevy, we do not know yet.

It is a marriage of convenience.

Slashing the upper tax rate while maintaining tax allowances at existing levels in real terms will do nothing to ease the burden on the majority of the people. Furthermore, this approach will bring at least 20,000 low paid workers into the tax net for the first time. This formula was tried by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats during their previous term in Government and resulted in a 17 per cent increase in the average tax paid by PAYE workers during the three years they were in office. The tax policies of the new Government may represent pay back time for those who control the Irish Independent or dictate its editorial policy, but for most workers it will be a case of “pay as you were”.

I am pleased Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have apparently abandoned their threat to scrap the electoral Act which provides for open disclosure of political donations, but the Progressive Democrats have made a serious error in agreeing to Fianna Fáil's demands for a review of the electoral system. Fianna Fáil made no secret of its desire to see an end to our existing system of proportional representation and Deputy Harney has given it the opening it was seeking. Our electoral system is one of the fairest and most representative in the world. Without it smaller parties would find it difficult to secure representation in the Dáil. By agreeing to this review Deputy Harney appears to acknowledge the doubts about the future of the Progressive Democrats and implicitly accept that its future may lie in a return to the Fianna Fáil family. I put down a clear marker that Democratic Left will vigorously oppose any attempt to make our electoral system less fair, less proportional or less representative. We will oppose all attempts to do away with the single transferable vote and multiseat constituencies.

There are many items to which I could refer, but I make a particular appeal to the incoming Government. Will it build on the progress made by the outgoing rainbow Coalition in providing services for children and adults with a mental handicap? That serious problem must be dealt with urgently.

It should have been dealt with in recent years.

It is extraordinary that the PD-Fianna Fáil Programme for Government does not contain a commitment to the implementation of the national anti-poverty strategy which was painfully constructed in partnership with the voluntary sector and to which there is a commitment in Partnership 2000 by all the social partners. Failure to commit itself to reaching the targets set in the national anti-poverty strategy with regard to reducing poverty and disadvantage, in tandem with its proposal to penalise low paid workers through the tax package it proposes, brings into grave doubt the capacity of the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats coalition to retain the support of Independents for very long.

As one of the longer serving Members in the House I congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle. Your long service, integrity and basic decency entitles you to the job and I have no doubt the House will co-operate 100 per cent with you. I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart.

The people have voted for change and we must now choose one of our number to form the Government which will lead the people into the next millennium. The people expect this Government to be led from the front. They expect the Leader of this Government to be fair, honest and decisive. They expect him to choose his Government on the basis of ability with a clear vision of what will be required of our Government for the next number of years. Most of all, they look to him to open a new page in the development of our country and our island. The Leader the people have chosen is Deputy Bertie Ahern.

Not by public choice.

By majority I would have thought. Bertie Ahern has been chosen as Leader. He has been a Member of this House for a long time and I know him to have the iron in his soul to be a great leader and to make this country proud. It is my great privilege, pleasure and honour to seek the endorsement of this House for the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern as the next Taoiseach.

Comhghairdeachas, a Cheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom cuir leis an moladh sin. I have great honour and happiness in seconding the name of Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach and putting it to the Members of the Dáil.

Fifteen years ago Bertie Ahern was Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach. Fifteen years on we believe he is set to be Taoiseach. There is no doubt that in the challenging years which lie ahead both nationally and internationally, a person of the calibre and character of Bertie Ahern is someone this country can be and will be justly proud of. He has both vision and stamina but most of all he is understanding. It is that understanding which led the people of this country to put their trust in him. I know he will pay back that trust in full measure. I have real pleasure in seconding my colleague, Deputy David Andrews, and I know that in Bertie Ahern the people of this country will have a Taoiseach of whom they will be proud.

A Cheann Comhairle, I congratulate you on your unanimous election. I have been reading over the last few days that you are the father of the House. For the future, we will have to find a more gender neutral way of describing our longest serving Member. Although I pride myself on being young, I discovered this morning that I am the longest serving female in this House now Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn has retired, but I certainly do not want to be described as the Mother of the House.

The Deputy is many other things.

I thank the Tánaiste and the Labour Party for putting forward Deputy Pattison. In doing that, they have played their part in helping the establishment of stable government. That should be acknowledged.

Today is a very special day, particularly for the new Members of the House. I welcome them and their families. Many of them have seen their political ambitions realised and perhaps their dreams fulfilled. They are coming into the 28th Dáil at a very exciting time because this Dáil will take our country into the next century. The honour to serve is a great one and should never be taken lightly. It is also a huge responsibility on all our parts to ensure that whether we are in Government or in Opposition we do what is required to sustain our democracy.

I remember saying here on 15 May when I set out on the election campaign that politics would be on trial. By the time the election was over I think I was on trial. I intend to prove over the next few years that nurses, teachers and gardaí have nothing to fear. I want to see a dynamic public service serving our country.

Bertie saw to that.

This is not a day to have a go and I do not think we should engage in that. I pay tribute to the Government who all worked extremely hard, particularly the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Social Welfare. I admire the fact that right up to the end the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste sought to have peace restored in Northern Ireland. I would like to congratulate them and the British Government on the initiatives which have been agreed between our two countries. At last it forces the republican movement to make a stark choice between peace and democratic politics on the one hand or violence on the other. I hope we never again have to look at the scenes on our television screens last week when we saw the young Johnston and Graham children wonder what they deserved to have to face that kind of tragedy. I hope that is the end of that and that we never see it again.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I want to be part of a Government that restores peace and delivers a real and lasting political settlement in Northern Ireland, that creates a partnership society in Northern Ireland, where Nationalists and Unionists can equally feel at home, where that society respects the equal legitimacy of both traditions. I look forward to being part of a Government that brings that about. I will spare no effort to ensure we achieve that.

Unfortunately, the Deputy has backed the wrong man.

Equally I want to be part of a Government that sustains the economic boom through the prudent management of our economy and gives workers a break. I am talking about ordinary workers. Single people earning £11,000 or £12,000 a year should not be paying 55 per cent tax. They are the people who have created the boom and the time has come to ensure they get their rewards.

I want to be part of a Government that tackles the crime crisis. Today it is worth remembering that it is exactly a year since the tragic murder of Veronica Guerin, a woman apart who pursued the truth. The greatest thing we can do in memory of her name is to ensure we rid our society of the kind of crime that caused her tragic and premature death.

I want to be part of a Government that tackles our two tier society. So many in our country are marginalised with no opportunity to work, no hope and a poor standard of education. They have a right to participate in the economic development of our country. The challenge for the next Government is to ensure we have less marginalisation, more hope and that people will have dignity and self respect. That is a central feature of the programme for Government.

In the Civil Service too.

Any sense of personal excitement I feel today is somewhat lessened by the fact that three of my colleagues, Helen Keogh, Mairín Quill and Michael McDowell, have not been re-elected to this House. I regret that very much. They were all outstanding Deputies and great parliamentarians who worked extremely hard.

I say to the Minister for Social Welfare that I would not change the electoral system in any way that would handicap smaller parties, but smaller parties did very badly in this election notwithstanding our existing electoral system. That is a fact. I thank those Deputies in my party who were not re-elected. Their absence takes away from any sense of excitement I might feel about other matters. However, good Deputies from every party lost their seats, some of whom worked very hard as Ministers and Ministers of State. We should not forget them today. They are probably watching these proceedings and feeling somewhat sad not to be a part of them.

The Progressive Democrats entered into negotiations with the Fianna Fáil Party and concluded a programme for Government. The spirit in which those negotiations were carried out was refreshing. I welcome that very much and it augurs well for the new Government. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Deputy Bertie Ahern whom I have known for 20 years. I trust and respect him.

The Deputy has backed a goose.

He negotiated in an honourable and fair fashion. I want to be part of a Government where people respect each other and where there is mutual trust. The programme for Government is clearly significant but it is equally important for parties to understand each other's needs. In coalition Governments things can be achieved by putting guns to people's heads, but where things are achieved in that way they are pyrrhic victories because they damage relationships and undermine the kind of confidence and trust that is essential if a Government is to be stable, policy driven and focused on the issues. We are only interested in participating in a Government that is policy driven, stable from the outset and focused on the needs of our people. That is what we must be determined to do.

The Progressive Democrats will be supporting the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern.

The Deputy is in Fianna Fáil, going way back.

Order. Deputy Harney without interruption, please.

I am interested in looking to the future, not the past. I wish Members on the Government side would at least hear me out. In supporting the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern the Progressive Democrats look forward to participating in a coalition Government with Fianna Fáil——

——and playing our part to ensure that Government leaves no stone unturned in addressing and confronting the issues that face our society. All of us must have an open mind about confronting issues and being open to new ideas, no matter what they are or where they come from.

Lastly, I again pay tribute to the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton. I know he made enormous efforts to stay in power.

The Deputy did not do too badly herself.

Nobody gives up power lightly, but I know the Taoiseach made enormous efforts to hold on to office. However, there will be a new Government after today. I look forward to continuing to work with the Taoiseach as Leader of Fine Gael in Opposition, with the Tánaiste as Leader of the Labour Party and with the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa. Politics is about ideas which sustain us when we have set-backs and that, not personalities, must come first.

I would remind Members that we are discussing the motion on the nomination of Taoiseach. We should not anticipate the discussion on a motion on the appointment of Ministers which will be taken later today. There is a tendency to drift into that area. Let us hear more about the merits of the candidates proposed.

I will try to be as relevant to the motion as the previous speakers. Ba mhaith liom, i dtosach, mo comhghairdeachas pearsanta a chur in iúl duitse, a Cheann Comhairle, as an bpost rí-thábhachtach a bhaint amach. Tá mé cinnte go leanfaidh tú le traidisiún an neamhspleáchais sa Teach seo mar baineann neamhspleáchas go speisialta leis an bpost sin agus go dtabharfaidh tú, mar a dúirt tú, cothrom na Féinne do gach Teachta. Tá a lán fhios agam gur sin atá i gceist agat.

Before stating the manner in which I intend to vote on the nomination of Taoiseach, I take this opportunity to thank all those who voted and campaigned for me in my seventh successive general election.

I am concerned that the constituency of Dublin Central, in which I was elected, had one of the lowest turnouts in the State. Out of an electorate of almost 64,000, a little more than 36,000 turned out to vote. In Dublin Central nearly 28,000 people did not believe it was worth while to vote at all. This may not be surprising given that Dublin Central has some of the most disadvantaged communities, socially and economically, any-where in the country. A recent study found that Dublin 1 and Dublin 10 postal districts, both of which are in Dublin Central, have the lowest access rate to third level education. Approximately 4 per cent of children, compared to 54 per cent in affluent Dublin 4, go to college or university.

Unemployment statistics show parts of Dublin 10 are the worst unemployment blackspots with in excess of 50 per cent unemployment. Other smaller more localised inner city neighbourhoods have even higher and endemic unemployment levels. These are the areas where the heroin drug problem was ignored, allowed to fester and spread out of control for 15 years destroying hundreds of young lives and demoralising once proud communities. The crime problem associated with heroin undermines normal life and drug dealers took effective control of whole neighbourhoods. Decent people lived in constant fear in their homes in the centre of our capital city. Heroin was even sold openly on O'Connell Street. This was, and is, the reality of social exclusion in Ireland.

Few voices were raised to give leadership to the people or to draw attention to these issues. Veronica Guerin who raised her voice was murdered a year ago today. Not one of the principals involved in that crime — those who ordered and carried out the crime — has so far been charged with her murder. The total loss of confidence of people in the institutions of the State was recently dramatically seen in the anti-drugs marches when people organised to regain control of their communities from drug dealers. The anti-drugs marches transformed parts of Dublin which had become virtual drug-infested no go areas. Local people in Cabra, Ballyfermot and the inner city stood up to be counted and turned the tide against the drug bosses. Some of these people, to whom we are all indebted, are now brought before the courts on the evidence of persons who are the scourge of decent people, evidence which should have no credibility. The Judiciary presiding over these cases are totally out of touch with the issues on which they are passing judgment. This is injustice heaped on injustice and, if it continues, will only aggravate social tensions. An amnesty must be seriously considered for anti-drugs campaigners.

Social exclusion and the heroin crime problem are the legacy of neglect of the main political parties in successive Governments. That is the appalling record of those who have failed the people of Dublin Central, which is, of course, only a microcosm of an increasingly divided society, whose architects were, and are in the main political parties.

All of that to which I have referred is set against a background of a booming economy which presents the incoming Taoiseach and Government with the greatest single opportunity to concentrate resources in the areas of most need and make a genuine attempt to end social exclusion and create a more equal society. However, the record of the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil does not inspire any confidence that this will happen. The last occasion a Progressive Democrats-Fianna Fáil coalition was in Government homeless people died of cold on the streets of Dublin. If a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government is elected on this occasion, I trust and hope it will not mean a continuation of a divided society or that the great opportunity presented by the economic boom will be squandered. Only time will tell if that is to be the case, but many vulnerable people fear the influence of the Progressive Democrats over the incoming Government.

I welcome the election of many independent Deputies and members of small parties and express the hope that they can work together in the incoming Dáil as an effective counterbalance against the Progressive Democrats. I will vote today against both leaders of both conservative parties.

A Cheann Comhairle, ní raibh sé i gceist agam labhairt ag an bpointe seo agus tuigim do chás nuair a deir tú nár cheart dúinn a bheith ag caint níos faide ach theastaigh uaim nuair a bhí daoine eile ag labhairt comhghairdeachas a ghabháil leatsa as an bpost atá bainte amach agat. Is léir gur post an-deacair é agus go bhfuil an-mhisneach agat tabhairt faoi. Is cinnte nach mbeadh gach éinne sásta tabhairt faoi ach cinnte tá sé tuilte agat agus guím gach rath ort. Ar an dara dul síos ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh mo chomhleacaí John Gormley atá tofa don chéad uair. Ní duine neamhspleách i saol an Tí seo a thuilleadh mé ach is duine de pháirtí mé anois, an Chomhaontas Glas, sa teach. Tá an bheirt againn ann.

Níl aon dabht agam ach go bhfuil an bheirt atá roghnaithe anseo mar ábhar Thaoisigh an-mhaith mar dhaoine agus go ndéanfaidh siad pé leas ar son na tíre agus is féidir má tá seans acu. Maidir leis an Chomhaontas Glas ní féidir linn ach a rá gur beag difríocht ata idir an cineál rialtais a bheidh ann má tá duine amháin i gceannas nó duine eile. Is cinnte go bhfuil difríochtaí agus tá pearsantachtaí difriúila ann agus is cinnte go bhfuil rudaí láidre agus rudaí laga ag baint leo go léir, mar atá againn uilig. Fós féin ar na comhairlí contae timpeall na tíre ta na páirtithe uilig atá anseo ag comhoibriú le chéile agus caithfidh mé a rá mar bhall den Chomhaontas Glas go mbíonn sé mar an gcéanna dá bharr go bhfuilimid ag leanúint ar aghaidh le polasaithe eacnamaíochta go háirithe atá mar an gcéanna sa dhá chás. Má bhí aon duine ag éisteacht, agus ceapaim go raibh go leor, leis an dTaoiseach i Nua Eabhrac is cinnte go raibh an-teachtaireacht ag na daoine a bhí ag caint cúig bhliain tar éis an rud ar a thugtar The Earth Summit i Rio. Bhí na daoine a bhí ag caint ansin ag rá go gcaithfimid go léir comhoibriú le chéile, go gcaithfimid a bheith ag déanamh rudaí an-difriúil ar fad amach anseo faoi mar atá déanta faoi láthair. Sa chlár rialtais atá foilsithe ag Fianna Fáil agus na Progressive Democrats, áfach, níl aon rud suntasach a bheadh mar dhif-ríocht idir an rialtas nua atá ag teacht agus an rialtas eile atá imithe. Is mór an trua don Chomhaontas Glas nach raibh ceist curtha orainn roimhe chun ár dtuairimí a nochtadh maidir leis an chlár rialtais nua. Idir an dá linn tá muid mar pháirtí sa bhfreasúra agus beidh muid sásta comhoibriú leis na páirtithe eile agus na daoine neamhspleácha eile a bheidh sa bhfreasúra. Beidh siad ag déanamh a ndícheall chomh maith linn agus chuige sin tá mé ag rá go mbeidh an Comhaontas Glas ag staonadh ar ainm John Bruton sa chinneadh atá le déanamh. Beidh muid ag vótáil in aghaidh an rialtais mar tá seans caillte acu tabhairt faoi chlár a bheadh oiriúnach don aois seo chugainn agus a bheadh ag teastáil agus de dhíth orainn. Chuige sin tá muid ag súil amach anseo gur féidir leas na tíre a bhaint amach trí athrú suntasach sna polasaithe eacnamaíochta a bheidh á leanúint.

A Cheann Comhairle, I congratulate you on your elevation to the position of Ceann Comhairle. As the father of the House, it is fitting that you should hold this position of honour and responsibility. I wish you a happy and successful term as Ceann Comhairle. I take this opportunity to wish Séan Treacy a happy and peaceful retirement.

I am conscious of the privilege bestowed on me by the people of Wicklow and east Carlow to be their voice in Dáil Éireann. I am equally conscious of the responsibility of public office at local and national level. Decisions taken in this House affect the lives and livelihoods of every person in this State.

In deciding how to cast my vote for Taoiseach I considered a number of issues. I studied the new Fianna Fáil-PD Programme for Government in detail and I sincerely hope the new Government will be able to deliver on many of the proposals outlined in it. In particular, I welcome some of its proposals on crime. Today being Veronica Guerin's anniversary, the issue of crime is at the back of everyone's mind. I sincerely hope those two parties can deliver on some of those proposals.

The vote for Taoiseach will be one of the most important decisions taken by this House and will determine which Government will take us into the next millennium. The Taoiseach for whom I will vote must be somebody I can trust, who can deliver on his promises, not merely to me and my constituents but to the electorate in general. He must be aware of the needs of young people, devise and implement policies that will make it easier for them to further their education and retain a greater proportion of their pay when they take up employment. For far too long they have been neglected. We must also provide employment for young people in the field in which they have been trained.

I am very conscious of having been elected as an Independent Member and emphasise that I will remain so. However, I am under no illusion that I now risk being aligned to a political party. In these circumstances, I need to be reassured that certain issues will be dealt with and projects delivered in my constituency in the lifetime of this Government.

As an Independent Member I have been subjected to and endured the type of criticism inherent in that role. However, I emphasise that I am just as interested as any other Member of the House or of the general public in having a stable Government. While I do not intend to cause the fall of any Government like all other Members, I shall face the electorate five years hence. The issues I support will have to be addressed. I have an agreement that a certain number of them will be dealt with as a matter of priority. One such is the construction of a secondary school to cope with the rapidly growing population of north-east Wicklow, a site for which is available in Kilcoole. I have received an undertaking that the planning process will be initiated immediately and its building commence not later than next year.

County Wicklow is one of only two counties without a district veterinary office. I have been assured that such an office will be provided in the east Wicklow area. As a county, Wicklow suffers the disadvantage of having its western part cut off from its eastern part by a broad mountain range making it very difficult for those resident in the west to negotiate with Wicklow County Council whose offices are located in the east. Those from the western part wanting to lodge planning applications or tax cars should be able to do so with the minimum of inconvenience. I have been given an undertaking that a sub-office of Wicklow County Council will be opened in Blessington as a matter of urgency.

(Interruptions.)

Order, please allow the Deputy in possession to continue.

She is certainly in possession.

It is a good job Bobby did not spend all the £23 million.

Deputy Fox without interruption.

Although not located in my constituency, Loughlinstown Hospital is the main one serving County Wicklow and has collected funds for some time past for the purchase of a CAT scan, the shortfall for which, I understand, will be made up within a matter of months.

I have been given undertakings on many other matters which will benefit all communities, some of which are not costly or of great national importance but are of enormous importance to Wicklow and east Carlow.

Politics is about listening to people and implementing the policies they advocate. The Member for whom I will vote as Taoiseach must listen to people, understand their needs and, more importantly, respond to them. I shall vote for Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach and wish him and his incoming Government well.

(Dublin West): Having been honoured by the support of substantial numbers of the ordinary people of Dublin West to represent them in the 28th Dáil, it is my intention in this and future debates to bring to the fore real issues affecting them, their concerns, problems and aspirations for a changed and better society.

As a member of the Socialist Party, I am confronted by a nominee from the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties, both of which have dominated political life here since the foundation of the State. Therefore they and their nominees must carry a major share of responsibility for the present shape of our society. From the shape of that society we can gauge the shape of society that will result from their election.

This is not a judgment on personalities but on political parties and political records. Politically, the parties that have put forward nominees stand condemned for their abject failure over decades, including recent times, to create the conditions where the marvellous resources and talents of our people could be harnessed to guarantee a life free from want, unemployment and many of the problems we face. Both candidates worship the new god of the market, which is not a democratic organisation of society but an economic dictatorship by which a tiny minority wield massive power, affecting the lives of millions of people, as tragically 600 workers in United Technologies in Derry have discovered, as did workers in Packard Electric, Semperit and other companies.

The parties that have nominated potential leaders today are responsible for the fact that one million people, including tens of thousands of our youth, have been forced into involuntary exile on foreign shores. Those parties are responsible for the criminal neglect of many working class communities by allowing long-term unemployment to blight those communities. As a result of an abysmal lack of facilities, life is an enormous struggle for many people. That neglect over decades is directly responsible for the heroin crisis that bedevils many communities and the crime that follows from that. I blame the establishment for the suffering of drug addicts, their parents and heartbroken families and the resulting problems in communities. Were it not for the fact that ordinary people have come out against the brutal drug pusher, the political establishment and today's nominees would still be in the dark.

I blame those parties for the plight of thousands of people on waiting lists for local authority houses. We are on the verge of a major housing crisis, exacerbated by the insane increase in house prices in the past two years, a consequence of a market gone mad. How can this problem be acknowledged, particularly by Deputy Ahern and his side, when the aspiring Tánaiste on whose votes he clearly relies believes that working class families live in mansions and that unexpected additions to the family can be catered for by opening up some unused extension or other?

The proposal of the nominees to cut a few percentage points off the tax rate at the lower level does not, by itself, constitute taxation justice for the PAYE worker, the workhorse of the tax system for so long. Taxation justice would involve the levying of taxes on the massively profitable banks, financial institutions and powerful corporations at a level approximating that of the PAYE worker.

That is how the system works in North Korea.

(Dublin West): What hope is there of tax justice when the five parties vying for power today stood aside while thousands of decent householders, the backbone of the PAYE system, were dragged through the courts by local authorities for arrears of a discredited double tax on water, now abolished as a result of a magnificent demonstration of people power? Incredibly, next Wednesday Fingal County Council will move in the Circuit Court to confirm orders for water disconnection against some of those householders.

By contrast, one of the nominees, Deputy Ahern, backed shamefully by the Labour Party, presided over the writing off of £500 million in a tax amnesty for the most privileged and powerful sections of society, not one of whom darkened the doorway of a courthouse, in sharp contrast to the way ordinary people are treated for opposing an unjust tax. What hope of tax justice from these nominees when one of our highest profile semi-State companies — TEAM Aer Lingus — regularly employs thousands of workers from abroad on a casual basis, paying their wages, without deducting tax, into off-shore bank accounts to undermine the working conditions and confidence of Irish employees of that company who have built it up through their sacrifices and pay the maximum amount of tax? What hope of taxation justice from these nominees when their parties, and the three parties which support them, have their hands permanently outstretched to the wealthiest and most powerful sections of Irish society for donations to oil their political machines and maintain their political careers?

With regard to the tragic situation in Northern Ireland, does anyone believe that a political establishment in the Republic which treats its citizens in this way can inspire confidence among ordinary people in the North, a section of whom are already deeply suspicious of this State, or help overcome the sectarian chasm that exists there? An immediate ceasefire is 30 years overdue and the tragedy of paramilitary violence and violence on the part of the British state must be brought to an immediate end. However, the peace process must be built not by deals between politicians at the top but by fostering the unity of working class communities to tackle the major problems they face.

I hope to be a voice for many inadequately cared for and catered for people in our society, including those with disabilities, the friends and families of those with mental handicaps who at present have no respite, those who require heart and lung transplants and those seeking refuge who, in the course of the general election campaign, were disgracefully scapegoated by some politicians in a cynical bid to gain votes.

Some pundits would state that a Deputy representing a small party or an independent Deputy must support one or other nominee from the major parties to make any difference. I do not subscribe to that view. In the past, these pundits advised the parties of the left to sink into coalitionism with the parties of the right. That has been the traditional route of the Labour Party, with disastrous consequences for the left and a total failure to build the left as a credible force in our society, leading supporters up the hill of hopeless compromise. Following a number of years, that party has been booted down again by a disappointed electorate. Unfortunately, that has been the role of Labour and Democratic Left when they could have built and provided for our people a real alternative to the establishment.

I stand for the building of a strong and independent left, the only agenda of which should be the powerful movement of ordinary people, independent of the clutches of the conservative establishment, to fight on all the issues and lobby for democratic socialist change in our society whereby material resources and talents can be utilised for the benefit of all people rather than for the obscene greed of a small minority.

It is my privilege to quote James Connolly, one of the great founders of the Labour movement and socialism in our society. He outlined that the resources of society must be developed for the benefit of all people and referred to ".a system of society in which the whole human race will be secured against the fear of want for all time, a system in which all men and women will be joint heirs and owners of all the intellectual and material conquests made possible by associated effort." My vote will be to ensure the independence of the left. I will give no credibility to any of the establishment parties and I will vote against them.

Dá bhrí sin tá sé soiléir nach bhfuil muinín ar bith agamsa i cheachtar den bheirt Teachta atá ainmnithe anseo do phost an Taoisigh. Níl muinín agam ionta nó ina bpáirtithe polaitíochta. Is iad na pearsain seo agus na páirtithe a mbaineann siad leo agus na rialtais in a raibh siad páirteach roimhe seo atá freagrach as neamh-réiteach na bhfadhbanna géara atá ag cur isteach ar chuid mhór de mhuintir na tíre. Táim ag cur san áireamh ansin mí-chothromaíocht i gcúrsaí cánach ó thaobh lucht PAYE de, di-fhostaíocht fad-théarmach agus an géarchéim i measc cosmhuintir Bhaile Atha Cliath go mor-mhór. Is iad atá freagrach as neamh-réiteach na bhfadhbanna agus is cinnte nach bhfuil aon pholasaí nua acu a chuir-feadh leigheas ar fáil ar na fadhbanna.

Déanfaidh mise mo dhícheall sna blianta atá romhainn amach na gnáth-dhaoine a thabhairt anseo isteach agus cumhacht daonlathach na ngnáth-dhaoine a chur i bhfeidhm ar an chóras polaitíochta.

Once again I remind Deputies that the motion before the House is the nomination of a Taoiseach.

This is the proudest day of my life, to stand here having been elected by the people of south Kerry. Over the past few weeks I have traversed the highways and byways of the Kerry South constituency. The people there supported me and voted for me. I am here on a mission to work for the people of south Kerry.

That includes Deputy O'Donoghue.

The Deputy is lucky.

During my campaign many matters were raised which I wish to have dealt with by the incoming Government.

Since the closure of the Pretty Polly factory in Killarney very few industrial jobs have been created in south Kerry. Many people travel long distances to find work. We require significant new industry for Killarney and other areas of the constituency. We want to extend the tourist season in south Kerry.

Does the Deputy want one or two months?

We cannot expect young people to work in a sector which is seasonal. This causes problems for employers looking for staff. The Government must invest more money in tourism so that rural areas such as south Kerry can have a year round tourist season.

I have called for immediate assistance for farmers, in particular hill farmers, whose income has fallen dramatically over the past 12 months. Live cattle exports must be resumed immediately. The farm development grants must be reintroduced to enable farmers to avail of modern farming methods. With regard to fishermen, I want realistic grants for small fishermen——

Does the Deputy want a fishing rod?

——to improve or replace their crafts. I have called for special funding to repair and upgrade the neglected piers in south Kerry. I wish to refer to one——

Do not mention them all.

——the pier at Cromane, near Killorglin. When the fishermen in Cromane return with their boats they have no pier to pull in beside. A derelict four wheel drive tractor drives out to meet the boats and bring in the catch so that these men can maintain their livelihoods. This cannot and will not prevail in future.

I want stable and viable employment for the young people in south Kerry, not dead end schemes. I want access to educational courses that are relevant to modern industry. In particular, I want a reduction in the cost of car insurance for under 25s; this must be done.

That is quite a long list.

I want to increase awareness among young people and their parents of the sad and tragic consequences of drug abuse.

The local roads crisis affects everyone. Regional roads in south Kerry, and I might as well add south-west Cork, are in a disgraceful condition.

Take a bow, Deputy Sheehan.

Lack of finance resources for these roads is not an acceptable excuse. This problem will have to be addressed immediately by the incoming Government. I have called for a massive injection of money in local roads in south Kerry.

And Glengariff and Castle-townbere.

The Progressive Democrats will look after that.

I suggest to the incoming Government that the entire amount of car tax revenue should be used for this purpose as was intended.

It would only be a fraction of what they would need.

The safety of old people living alone is of great concern to me. Rural post offices and Garda stations which are closed will have to be reopened and kept open. A stronger Garda presence is needed in all isolated areas.

Zero tolerance.

The restoration of grants to realistic levels for the repair of old dwellings would encourage young couples to set up home with their elderly parents.

What has Deputy O'Donoghue done over the past ten years? That is no way to represent a constituency.

The very serious problems in Northern Ireland affect us all. I offer my total commitment and support to the incoming Government in providing a peaceful solution to the terrible situation there. There are many other matters of great importance to me which I hope — and I have been promised — will be addressed during the lifetime of this Government which include health, housing and agriculture.

Do not have people waiting nine months for grants.

Will Deputy Sheehan please stop interrupting?

I will maintain my best efforts on behalf of my constituents. I have discussed these matters with Deputy Ahern

If Deputy Ahern does not deliver the goods, Deputy Healy-Rae will be in trouble.

He has listened attentively to me and has discussed the problems that exist.

That is better than the last time.

During the term of this Government I hope the problems in south Kerry will be addressed and put right.

And in south-west Cork too.

I will be voting for Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach on the clear understanding that the problems in south Kerry will be addressed. I am elected by the people of south Kerry as an Independent Deputy. I have no intention whatsoever of changing that status; I will be an Independent all the way through. I thank each and every person in south Kerry who elected me and sent me here on a mission and I want to carry out my instructions to the letter of the law. I assure everybody in south Kerry I will represent them in this House over the next number of years.

A Deputy

The deal is done.

Do not write me off, I am warning you.

Ba mhaith liom ar dtús mo comhghairdeas a ghabháil leat. Glacaim an suíochán sa chomhdháil seo inniu go bródúil mar Theachta ó mhuintir an Chabháin agus Muinea-cháin agus is ar a son agus ar son mo pháirtí Sinn Féin atáim anseo mar ionadaí. Is stairiúil an lá é dár bpáirtí. Is stairiúil freisin an ócáid í don chomhdháil seo.

Is páirtí poblachtach é Sinn Féin agus i bhfocail Fhorógra na Poblachta 1916 "dearbhaimid gur ceart ceannasach do-chloíte ceart mhuintir na hÉireann chun tír na hÉireann, agus fós chun dála na hÉireann a stiúradh gan chosc gan toirmeasc". Níl an cheannasacht iomlán fós ag muintir na hÉireann agus is é bunchuspóir mo pháirtí an Phoblacht uile-Éireannach a chur ar bun.

Tagaim anseo mar ionadaí ó cheantar atá imeallach le fada an lá mar gheall ar chríchdheighilt ar dtíre agus mar gheall ar neamhaird ag rialtais i ndiaidh rialtais sa stát seo. Mar Theachta beidh sé mar bhunaidhm agam deireadh a chur leis an neamhaird sin agus mo cheantar a chur ar ais i lár pholaitíocht na tíre seo.

I am honoured to stand here today, a Cheann Comhairle and fellow Deputies, as a Deputy for the people of Cavan and Monaghan and as a representative of Sinn Féin, the party of which I am proud to be a member. I represent an all-Ireland party that enjoys a significant mandate in both parts of our divided island and I welcome the presence here today of my colleagues, Gerry Adams, MP for West Belfast, and Martin McGuinness, MP for Mid-Ulster. I look forward to the day when I will join them and all the others elected by the Irish people as a whole in a national parliament for the 32 Counties.

In the recent election voters were offered a choice between two sets of coalition partners with virtually identical social and economic policies. From the composition of the House today it is obvious that the electorate resented being forced to make such a choice. This reality is reflected in the growing strength of the smaller parties and independents.

In the general election Sinn Féin stood as a party for change. Our vision is of a new Ireland, of people united in shared prosperity. We note the failure of successive Administrations in this State to fulfil the aim of the democratic programme of the first Dáil Eireann which declared the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the nation's labour.

A Deputy

And not to be murdered.

This ongoing failure is evident in every town and village in Ireland and can be seen in the high level of long-term unemployment, rural decline and the growing drugs crisis. Promoting the interests of my constituents in Cavan and Monaghan and advancing the case for a fairer social and economic order based on equality will be my priorities during the course of the term before us. The partition of our country and Britain's occupation of the six north-eastern counties is the single greatest problem facing us as a people. The most important task for us all is to rebuild the peace process. This must include the full recognition of Sinn Féin's electoral man-date by both Governments. The way to lasting peace is through inclusive negotiations leading to political and constitutional change. The intense and positive engagement of the new Government and all the representatives in this House will be needed to bring that historic change about. On the vote for Taoiseach, therefore, Sinn Féin's priority is the rebuilding of the peace process. Accordingly, I will be casting my vote for Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach. I am doing so solely on the basis of his and his party's positive disposition towards a genuine and inclusive process.

At what price?

I look forward to working with the new Government and others in this House in the achievement of a lasting peace with justice for all the people of Ireland.

What about a ceasefire?

No ceasefire.

I remind the House that, in keeping with precedent, Deputies making their maiden speech are not interrupted.

I congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your election and look forward to co-operating with you for the duration of the 28th Dáil. I am honoured to be an Independent Fianna Fáil Member of Dáil Éireann and thank my organisation workers, director of elections and voters for making this possible. On coming into the House I was reminded that it is 70 years since my father was first elected to the Dáil in 1927. That tradition has continued uninterrupted except for a short hiccup in the last by-election in north-east Donegal just over one year ago. I am honoured to carry it on, following in the footsteps of my late brother, Neil.

Independents have an important role to play in the formation of a Government and hope to play a positive and constructive role in the workings of this House for the duration of the 28th Dáil. The new Government will face many problems, the most urgent of which is to secure a genuine and lasting peace on this island based on justice for all the people of the nation. I hope to play some part in helping it to bring this about.

There are many other problems, including unemployment, rural decline, crime, drugs and taxation. The loss of our young educated people to emigration is a festering sore. There is marginalisation and depopulation of the west. Added to this is the neglected corridor straddling both sides of the Border from Lough Foyle to Carling-ford Lough. This has left my county of Donegal marginalised more than any other. At 33 per cent, it has the highest rate of unemployment in the country and the lowest income per head of population. One of the main reasons for this is the neglect of the county by all Governments and State agencies in recent years. We have not been getting our fair share of funds from central Government or the European Union. I will be urging the incoming Government to address this.

I have been approached in recent weeks by the leaders of the two main political parties seeking my support in the election of Taoiseach. I discussed with them the serious situation that exists in the six north-eastern counties. On the abortion issue, the current position is unsatisfactory and cannot be allowed to continue. I will, therefore, be pressing the new Government to put a properly worded amendment to the electorate in a referendum so that a clear and unequivocal decision can be reached. I also discussed with both leaders the urgent problems in my own county and made certain proposals. I was assured they would give the matter serious attention and their response has been treated with respect and will remain confidential. I thank both leaders for the manner in which they treated my proposals.

Following discussions with my organisation, our task was to evaluate who could best in the long-term realistically deliver on my proposals. I had no doubt about the genuine interest of both leaders and their sincerity about the future of the State and the success of the 28th Dáil. I have come to the decision that the electorate wants a stable Government and that the best means of achieving this is through the election of a Fianna Fáil-led coalition Government.

That is a surprise.

I have, therefore, decided to cast my vote in favour of Deputy Ahern. If elected, I wish him well in the onerous task which lies ahead. I assure him that I will treat with respect his honoured position for the duration of his term of office.

A leopard never changes its spots.

I will put the motions in the order in which they were proposed.

Question put: "That Dáil Éireann nominates Deputy John Bruton for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 75 ; Níl, 87.

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Belton, Louis.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Broughan, Thomas.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • 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.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • 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.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, William.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Yates, Ivan.

Níl

  • 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, Raphael.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • 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.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and Howlin; Níl, Deputies D. Ahern and O'Donnell.
Question declared lost.

I am now putting the question on the second motion, "That Dáil Éireann nominates Deputy Bertie Ahern for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach."

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 85; Níl, 78.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • O'Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O'Cuív, Éamon.
  • 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.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Belton, Louis.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Broughan, Thomas.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • 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.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • 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, Ollivia.
  • 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.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, William.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies D. Ahern and O'Donnell ; Níl, Deputies Higgins (Mayo) and Howlin.
Question declared carried.

I congratulate the incoming Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, on being chosen as Taoiseach by the Dáil. He brings to office a wealth of ministerial experience. He has served with distinction in many offices. He also brings to high office a personality that will help him a great deal in working with colleagues and doing the business of Government in an effective, fair and decent way. He also benefits from the support of a large and experienced political party, Fianna Fáil, which has served this country well over many years. I wish him and his colleague, Deputy Harney, the Leader of the Progressive Democrats, well in the task that lies in front of them.

The economic conditions in which this new Government will enter office in a few hours are exceptional in historic terms. Never before have we seen such rapid growth in employment. Never before have mortgage and interest rates been at such a low level. The Government also comes into office at a time when the foundations have been laid for major moves towards a settlement in Northern Ireland. The talks process is open to all. The principal difficulty in those talks — the issue of decommissioning — has been one on which in recent days the Irish and British Governments have reached agreement on a way forward. I believe this creates good conditions in which the new Government can give the necessary impetus to the talks and enable matters to move forward.

Obviously there are many challenges facing this country in the years ahead. There is an increasing gap between those who are well off in our society and those who are not — those who are excluded by technology or lack of education from participation in society. There is a growth in consumerist attitudes in our society which damages care for others, which is the essence of politics just as it is the essence of good personal living. Political decisions should represent and reflect what we regard as good, honourable behaviour in our personal lives. It is important, therefore, to have a Government that cares about everybody in our society.

Hopefully, on foot of the Amsterdam summit, we will shortly have a debate on the development of Europe, which faces many challenges. We will have a single European currency on time but it is important to have a similar political consensus in Europe if the necessary supporting decisions are to be taken to make that currency work. The political will for that must be created in Europe. That may be lacking at present and it is a challenge that will face the new Government.

The social partnership has been a great success and I am proud the outgoing Government has been successful in negotiating the new Programme 2000. Virulent global forces will increasingly affect our economy and people. We see this all the time. We are physically an island but in no other sense because we are affected by what happens elsewhere. The Government must reconcile itself to the great increasing pressures in the world.

It is important to reflect on the fact that there are 450 million more people on this earth now than at the time of the last general election. They need to be fed and they create many more demands on our environment. We should think globally and act locally to ensure we have a sustainable society for all our people.

I hope the new Government will put extreme emphasis on the development of education which is the key to Ireland's competitive economic success. I also hope the new Government will not abandon proposals the outgoing Government put forward to decentralise education. Our education system must decentralise decision making if it is to achieve its full potential. Centralisation is not the answer for the future.

I again congratulate Deputy Bertie Ahern on being selected for the highest office this House can bestow. I wish him exceptional good fortune in the job. He has known both the good days and the bad ones. He has experienced disappointment as well as success, and that is necessary for anyone to be successful in politics. That has prepared him well for the task he will now undertake. I wish him well and all those who care for him, in the months and years ahead.

I also wish you well, a Cheann Comhairle, on your appointment. I join with all those who have spoken so highly of you and who have said how deserving you are of the office you now hold.

I wish to conclude on a personal note. In my entire life I cannot remember a period I have enjoyed more than the last two and a half years working with my colleagues in the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and in Democratic Left. It genuinely was a pleasure to work with Deputy Spring and Deputy De Rossa as well as with all my other colleagues. It was a great pleasure to work with a highly professional public service that assists all of us as Ministers.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

We are lucky to have a public service that is above suspicion in terms of any undue influence being exercised upon it. There are many reasons why Ireland is an economic success but one of them is that we get investment from overseas. We would not get such investment were it not for the fact that everybody the world over knows that the Irish public service is above undue influence from any quarter and applies the laws of the land without fear or favour. That is a great support to any Government and it is a great guarantor of the successful future of our country.

With those words I wish Deputy Ahern all the best.

Is cúis mór áthais domsa seasamh anseo inniu ós chomhair na Dála mar Thaoiseach ainmnithe ar Phoblacht na hÉireann. Is mór an onóir, an phribhléid agus an dualgas atá orm ceart a dhéanamh ar son muintir na hÉireann agus cuirfidh an rialtas nua seo chun oibre le fuinneamh.

I express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the Dáil for the great honour it has conferred on me by electing me Taoiseach. I am deeply conscious of the important responsibility this honour places on me.

I congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your election and I promise you, on behalf of myself, my party and the Government, that we will give you the fullest possible co-operation in the discharge of your duties. I wish you a long and happy stay. Over the years we have talked about fathers of the House but you stand as the true father of the House because nobody is within four years of you. We have argued here before about who was first elected at various elections but it is a sign of how things change that you stand alone from the class of 1961. I wish you well and hope, given your relatively young age which I will not mention, that you will be here for a long time.

A Cheann Comhairle, a Chathaoirligh, Teachtaí Dála, distinguished visitors, it is my honour to stand here this evening at the commencement of the 28th Dáil as the person nominated to be Taoiseach. I am conscious of that honour and the privilege and responsibility placed on me to lead this partnership Government of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats into a comprehensive Government programme which will address the great challenges faced by our nation. Those challenges have been well aired today by a number of speakers and we all understand what we must do for the people. We are all elected to this House by the people and we must work for them in the years ahead.

The Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Harney, our Government team and I will work long and hard and to the best of our ability to provide sound, stable and productive Government. We will concentrate on the primary needs and concerns of the nation at home and abroad. Many of the best Governments have been minority ones. This will be the first to be both a minority Government and a coalition. The situation will require the incoming Government to pay particular attention to all views expressed in this House. We will try to work constructively with other parties and Independent Members wherever possible. There is a duty on us all to ensure the Dáil functions effectively in the interests of the people for the full length of its natural term or as near to that as possible.

I thank the Taoiseach for his kind remarks today which are important to me. I thank him for the telephone conversation earlier today and for the way both of us were able to work during the election campaign. Although we appeared to fight our causes in total hostility, we were courteous when we met and I appreciate that. I also thank him for the assistance and briefing he authorised and provided for me and a number of colleagues during the three week interregnum, especially in relation to Northern Ireland, budgetary matters and the European Council summit in Amsterdam.

The last Dáil was unique because for the first time there was a change of Government without a general election, although I hope that is not repeated in the near future. It is healthy for our democracy that all the larger parties and many of the small ones have had experience of Government and of working together in different combinations in the past ten years. That has been good for this House. I came here in another period when the choice was black and white but that has since changed.

The Taoiseach and his colleagues have every right to look back with satisfaction and pride on many aspects of their stewardship during their comparatively short period of two and a half years in Government. I think the average term of office since the foundation of the State is about two years and eight months. Needless to say, I do not intend to keep to such a period; it will be far longer than that.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge the work done by the Taoiseach and his colleagues. The Irish Presidency of the European Union Council was handled with great efficiency and professionalism. I said that on the conclusion of the Presidency and I meant it. Ireland's essential interests in Europe have been well defended by and large in the negotiations on the Amsterdam Treaty, which we must bring to the people for ratification, and, as the Taoiseach stated, we must debate the report of the Summit in the House.

While the breakdown in the ceasefire was a serious setback, useful rules, structures and guidelines have been put in place by the outgoing Government to advance the peace process. The new procedures for dealing with decommissioning announced yesterday should prove, I hope, to be a most positive step toward inclusive all party talks. Throughout the past five years the Tánaiste and his Department have played a special and important role spanning two Governments and providing continuity, and that deserves to be acknowledged.

A new start has been made in tackling crime, particularly since the tragic murder of Veronica Guerin which has been mentioned by many people here today on her anniversary. The work must be carried on to the next stage in a co-ordinated and comprehensive way. The battle against crime must continue through many future Dálaí to bring safety and security to our citizens.

The leaders of the Rainbow Coalition, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Social Welfare and others, have by and large served the country with great distinction and to the best their ability and I congratulate them on what they have achieved. It can be reasonably said that the Rainbow Coalition did not lose the election; it was more a case of the Opposition winning it. This shows that solid and constructive work in bringing forward well considered and relevant policy positions and Private Members' Bills can provide a good preparation for Government and make this Dáil an interesting place in which to work.

The Taoiseach said we are from the school of politics which understands hard knocks, the ups and downs, almost being there and the good and bad days. We both know what it is like to have the cup dashed from one's lips at short notice but, more importantly, how to survive, not to take it too seriously and to live and learn from the experience with a reasonably constructive frame of mind. I have had to do that and, I agree with the Taoiseach, that I am a better person for it.

It is important that the Taoiseach and the Leader of the Opposition should have a professional relationship and be able, when the national interest demands it, to close ranks and to co-operate. An example of this during the last Dáil was when the IRA ceasefire broke down.

That night the Taoiseach and I discussed the matter and we had many discussions that weekend. I thank him for the courtesy he afforded me in Opposition. I hope our relationship will continue in the same spirit and that I will have similar relationships with the leaders of the other parties. That is essential for the good order of this House. It does not, of course, diminish the necessary parliamentary vigour on either side which forms part of our duties.

I thank the Members of Fianna Fáil, the parliamentary party and the organisation throughout the country, for the great honour they did me in supporting me and asking their colleagues and elected representatives to nominate me for the high office of Taoiseach.

I offer my sincere thanks to my partners in the new Government, the Progressive Democrats. I thank Deputy Harney for all her work over the past number of weeks, many of which were difficult for her. I thank Deputy Harney and all the Progressive Democrats for their co-operation in the negotiations, which were successful, and the efficiency with which we produced this programme.

I express my thanks to the Independent Members who supported my nomination today. I greatly appreciate that support. I assure the wider public that I have an honour which has been bestowed on only a handful of people. It carries responsibility and is a job at which a person must work extremely hard. I like working hard, but this job is harder than any other and I look forward to it. I also look forward to the co-operation of the Independents and all other Members of the House. I appreciate the respect and the comments made during the past years. I look forward to representing this House in the capacity of Taoiseach to the best of my ability.

Having spent 20 years here and having had an interest in politics from a very young age, it is hard to put into words the honour of this position. The only way I can repay it is to work every hour of every day to show I merit it. I will do that on behalf of my party, the Dáil and the people of the country.

I thank everyone for the faith and confidence they have placed in me. I thank my family, my extended family and my friends who have worked with me for two decades to help me stay in this House.

I congratulate every Member elected, particularly the new ones, as this is a huge honour for them. They worked extremely hard to get elected to this House and many of them consider this the pinnacle of their career. Some people elected to this House today will go on perhaps to hold the position to which I have been elected. Others will be appointed Ministers or Ministers of State in the future, leaders of Opposition parties and to other positions. I wish them well at the outset of their career as they assume the great dignity that is part of being a Member of this House.

I understand it has been agreed by the Whips that the House should adjourn until 7.30 p.m. and sit not later than 10 p.m. tonight.

I thank everybody and look forward, with all the vigour and energy I can give, to doing a good job as Taoiseach. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Are the arrangements proposed by the Taoiseach designate for the suspension of this sitting and the late sitting agreed? Agreed.

In accordance with precedent, when the Dáil resumes Members on my left shall take their seats on my right and Members on my right shall take their seats on my left.

Sitting suspended at 5.35 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.