Nomination of Member of Government: Motion.

Before announcing ministerial changes, I wish to speak about the two Ministers who, at their own wish, are resigning from office. I would like to pay warm tribute to Deputy Andrews on a second distinguished term as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I believe he has left his own substantial and distinctive mark on the proud foreign policy traditions of this State. He spoke to me about stepping down last autumn but I asked him to stay on until the Mitchell Review was complete, with the prospect that he would oversee the coming into being of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

Throughout his political career, Deputy Andrews has made an important contribution to the development of peace and justice in Northern Ireland. In 1968 he served on the all-party committee with the late Séan Lemass that made certain recommendations concerning the approach to unity in the Constitution that are very much reflected in the changes resulting from the Good Friday Agreement. He also played an active role in the New Ireland Forum. As a backbencher in the 1980s, he led the all-party campaign within the Oireachtas to obtain the release of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and Annie Maguire on the grounds of a serious miscarriage of justice, a position which was completely vindicated. In his much respected contributions inside and outside the Dáil, Deputy Andrews has always attached much weight to civil liberties, when reforms in criminal law and social legislation have been debated.

Having been Minister of State in Iveagh House from 1977 to 1979, Deputy Andrews was first appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1992. He participated in the earlier round of multi-party talks. From October 1997, he represented the Government throughout the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, where he led a very strong Government team. Warm appreciation of his contribution has been expressed in the past few days by some of the leading members of the main pro-Agreement parties, both Unionist and Nationalist.

In addition to Northern Ireland, Deputy Andrews will be remembered particularly for his internationalist approach, his initiatives with other countries to work towards complete nuclear disarmament and his role as EU representative in East Timor. In a previous Government, he was the first to highlight the humanitarian plight in Somalia, together with President Robinson. He has also conducted a very effective campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council, which we hope to bring to a successful conclusion over the next few months.

Working in partnership with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, there has been a substantial expansion, by about a third in real terms discounting inflation, of the overseas development aid programme administered from within the Department of Foreign Affairs. Purely statistical arguments related to GNP tend to ignore and downgrade the expanding aid contribution that this country is making. What matters, as I saw recently in South Africa, is that we are doing more on the ground, and our aid is not tied.

The Government and the House can be grateful for the important qualitative contribution that Deputy Andrews has made to political life and to Irish foreign policy. He has, with his brother Niall, been a standard bearer of a proud and continuous family tradition of public service going back to the foundation of the State. I know he will continue to make an important contribution during the remaining years of this Dáil, and I extend our gratitude and best wishes to his wife Annette and his family for the support that they have given him in his 35 years of public life.

It is also with great regret that I have to announce the decision of the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Chris Flood, to stand down from his position. He is doing this for health reasons and on medical advice. He has also informed me that he will not contest the next general election. Deputy Flood, who has served in this House since 1987, has made a major contribution to policy on social inclusion. He has played a particularly significant role in the practical development of the rights and entitlements of the traveller community. As a result of his work, significant advances have been made in the position of travellers in this country, and there is now more understanding of the problems facing their community and the need for sympathetic action to deal with them.

Deputy Flood has also played a major role in co-ordinating the national drugs strategy and, in particular, the development and extension of services and facilities for those suffering from drug addiction, with particular reference to young people at risk. He has been in charge of local development, giving support and encouragement to community groups who are combating social exclusion. The budget for local development has been doubled to £33 million this year.

Deputy Flood has represented Dublin South-West at local and national level for 21 years to date. There have been enormous improvements and investment in the area, and especially in Tallaght, and Deputy Flood deserves a generous share of credit for the progress that has been made in transforming the area. For my party, Deputy Flood represented so much that is best in working out and implementing a caring social policy.

Consequent on these developments I now move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Frank Fahey, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and at the Department of Education and Science (with special responsibility for Children) for appointment by the President to be a member of the Government.

In addition I wish to advise the House that I intend to make the following ministerial reassignments.

I propose to assign responsibility for the Department of Foreign Affairs to Deputy Brian Cowen, for the Department of Health and Children to Deputy Micheál Martin, for the Department of Education and Science to Deputy Michael Woods and for the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources to Deputy Frank Fahey.

Subject to the motion which I have tabled being approved, Deputy Fahey will cease to be Minister of State on his appointment as a member of the Government. Accordingly, I intend to recommend to the Government:

that Deputy Eoin Ryan be appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation with special responsibility for Local Development – he will also be responsible for the National Drugs Strategy Team; and that Deputy Mary Hanafin be appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and at the Department of Education and Science, with special responsibility for Children.

I would like to make one comment on the Cabinet changes and some of the speculation surrounding them. In any Government, but most especially a minority coalition Government, the role of the Government Chief Whip is absolutely vital. The present Chief Whip, Minister Seamus Brennan, whose long political experience is of great value to the Cabinet, would have a strong claim at this stage to return to a departmental Ministry. He is, however, indispensable to the good running and functioning of the Government as a whole, and indeed of this Dáil, and I am, unfortunately, not in a position to spare him for another purpose.

He is indispensable.

That is his thanks.

(Interruptions.)

The Government is roughly half way through its term. We intend to pursue with vigour the mountain of work that remains to be completed so that not just the Government but the Dáil as a whole can present an excellent report on both achievements and work in progress to the electorate when the time comes.

The economy has done far better than anyone imagined was possible in 1997. The current boom which started in 1993 to 1994 has been successfully sustained and is now into its seventh year. Unemployment has fallen to 5%, and we effectively have full employment. Thanks to high economic growth and a series of good budgets, living standards are on the rise. But we also want to end poverty and promote equal opportunity and social justice. Important negotiations on a new partnership agreement are under way in a good atmosphere. Yesterday we published framework legislation for the minimum wage, an initiative of this Government adopted during the last general election. We have produced a very ambitious national plan, following successful completion of the Agenda 2000 negotiations at European level. We intend to see the programmes set out in the plan implemented and completed on time. All this is being done without recourse to borrowing, with the general Government debt having fallen to 47% of GNP. We want to tackle poor infrastructure and inadequate services, especially where they exist in health, education and the environment. We, more than any previous Government, have been able to generate the resources that can fund major improvements. We have at the same time exercised budgetary prudence, so that we can cope with a downturn as well as with the increased cost of funding pensions in the future.

Real progress has been made in Northern Ireland. The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are now fully working to general satisfaction but there are still important hurdles to be crossed before the new settlement can take root fully. The Government, as reconstituted, will, I am confident, do excellent work over the next two and a half years with a continuing high level of public support. I commend the new appointments of Ministers and Ministers of State to the House.

I propose to share my time, if there is any remaining, with Deputy Gay Mitchell. The times are good but is the Government good?

Deputies

Very good.

Good times and good government are not the same thing. Good times make it easy for a Government to be popular. They do not necessarily mean that we get good government. Good government is about making decisions that need to be made. It is about leadership. It is about thinking of the long-term and confronting problems before they become acute. It is about leading opinion rather than following it. This Government is characterised by "followership" rather than leadership. The Government follows public opinion, it does not lead it.

There are three areas where the Government is falling down – the drugs issue and related crime matters, the health service and traffic. There are now 13,000 heroin addicts, 1,000 more than we had a year ago. Narcotic drug abuse is a symptom of a deeper problem. On average eight out of every ten young people now complete the leaving certificate examination yet only one out of every ten heroin drug addicts have completed it. Two-thirds of those in Mountjoy are regular drug users, a huge increase in the position a few years ago. People fall victim to the pushers of heroin because they are leading dead end lives. They are leading dead end lives because the education and training system has failed them, their parents have failed them or they have been born in the wrong place.

This Government has spent a lot of money on the drugs problem but it has not solved it. It has set up structures, task forces and held many meetings. Government word processors churn out long lists of good intentions but results are not being achieved. The level of narcotic addiction is rising all the time. The drugs problem is getting worse not better yet nobody can say which member of Cabinet is ultimately responsible for the battle against narcotics.

In the past few weeks we have seen a renewed outbreak of violent crime. There were six murders in the past three weeks; there were three murders in one day. Many of these were due to narcotics, to battles between narcotic suppliers and the psychiatric dislocation cause by narcotic abuse. Unlike Tony Blair, the Government is not giving any moral leadership on the drugs issue. It is unwilling to confront the choices people make. It is unwilling to say some choices are wrong and others are right. No one should be offended so nothing is said.

The Government has increased the amount it spends on health by 45% in the past two and a half years. However, nobody would be foolish enough to say that the health services have improved by 45%. If anything, they are much worse than they were two and half years ago. We are spending money but not getting results. That is the most eloquent indictment of any Government. A Government that spends money but does not get results is not a good Government and we do not have a good Government as far as health is concerned. The health services epitomise the two-tier system that exists today. If you are one of those lucky enough to be covered by health insurance you can get help to manage your pain. They can get help to have an operation performed quickly, to have their teeth seen to or other health needs met. On the other hand, those relying on the public health service because they are medical card holders may remain a long period in chronic pain. They may die while waiting for their operation. Their teeth may rot in their heads, and their health needs will only be met after everybody else has been looked after. That describes the health service we have in Ireland today.

This Government has been unwilling to tackle the vital issues of reorganisation of medical manpower in the hospitals. The patients' charter is being ignored in our biggest hospitals. The casualty departments are full because the Government has been unwilling to make decisions, unwilling to govern. The subvention available to families who have an elderly person in a private nursing home is totally inadequate; it averages about £100 per week while the fees in some health board areas are £400 per week or more. More and more families are worried now that if an older member of their family gets sick and needs long-term care, they will not be able to afford the cost of a nursing home.

The Government's approach is one that spreads the benefit of the nursing home subvention so thinly across all cases, families with substantial means and families with little or none, that it amounts to only a fraction of the weekly cost. Under this Government of plenty, these new Celtic philanthropists, those on unemployment assistance get £74 per week. That is less than the cost of an expense account lunch for two in a Dublin restaurant today. It is worth thinking of that the next time one signs a bill in one of those places.

The Deputy sounds like Deputy Joe Higgins.

Since this Government came into office, 4,000 child care places have disappeared and have not been replaced. Parents are under pressure, parenting is under pressure, children are under pressure. No one really knows the long-term effect all this pressure will have on today's children when they grow up. Intuition, not science, can be our only guide here because there are few precedents to study. It is said that the conditions of early childhood determine the way we will live as adults. That is certainly true of heart conditions and so forth. Are our children really getting the stability, the care, the consistency and the calm they need in the early part of their lives? What price will they ultimately pay for today's Celtic tiger?

The third area in which the Government has been a complete failure is that of traffic. The traffic jams are a testament to political weakness. The Luas has been long-fingered. The Minister is so concerned, as are other Ministers, to avoid unpopularity that she has evaded her responsibilities to make quick decisions about Dublin transport. Bus competition has been long-fingered. Park-and-ride facilities, long promised, have not appeared, yet bus corridors without park-and-ride facilities make no sense at all.

We have a national development plan but no national spatial plan. The Government has made no choice about growth centres. The Government knows what it wants to build but cannot make up its mind where it wants to build it. It is leaving the physical shaping of Ireland for the next century to property developers and land borders. That makes no sense at all. Developments are being held up because there are insufficient planners in our county councils. The councils need about 600 more staff if they are to process planning applications. The Planning Appeals Board has become the biggest single bottleneck to development in Ireland. Archaeological sites are being destroyed by development because Dúchas staff are overwhelmed by applications and cannot examine them properly.

There has been much talk about releasing a new dynamic in our economy through privatisation and public-private partnership, yet the Eircom privatisation has left a sour taste in the mouths of long-term investors. The only people who are happy are those who sold their shares quickly – hardly the sort of investor a Government wants to attract. Other privatisations are stalled. Public-private partnerships, without user fees, are just a new form of State borrowing and they, too, are coming on-stream painfully slowly.

The current reshuffle has been occasioned by the resignation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews has shown a social conscience, notably in regard to East Timor and, more recently, Chechnya. I wish him well and pay tribute to his long political career, during which he stood up to Mr. Charles J. Haughey when many of his recent Cabinet colleagues had nothing at all to say, no questions to ask and just signed on the dotted line, so to speak.

A Deputy

Signed the cheques.

The Government is now entering the autumn of its existence. It took very few radical decisions during its spring or its summer. We can expect little enough now. Once the reshuffle is over, the focus of comment will gradually shift towards the run-in to the general election, whenever it happens, towards the alternatives to the Government, towards a new vision of a more proactive and less complacent Administration. Fine Gael is ready for that. We are doing the work. Real politics is now resuming as the Dáil prepares for a general election.

Before I conclude I would like to pay tribute, and I am sorry he has left the House, as has Deputy Andrews, to Deputy Flood. I regard him as a serious politician, somebody who worked hard but worked with a clear purpose in mind, somebody who was not just solely interested in re-election but who wanted to change things, and did make changes.

I will not make any comment on the suitability of any of the Ministers who have been appointed to the particular offices for which they were chosen. I do not think anybody should be prejudged and the talents of people should not be categorised as readily as they have sometimes been. I will be as vigilant a critic of the new Ministers as anybody else, but this is not the appropriate day to say they are not suitable for the particular job for which they were chosen. Time will tell whether they are suitable, and the Opposition will do all it can to ensure that any failings are exposed. On a day such as this, however, I wish them well and I hope they will not – I am sure they will not – pay much attention to some of the rather crass characterisations that have been made of some of them. I have one particular person in mind with whom I have crossed swords in the past and will do so in the future, but I am sure he is paying no attention to some of the characterisations that have been made of him.

He is very sensitive.

It is very unfair.

May I first pay tribute to my colleague, Deputy Andrews? He is an honourable man who has given great public service and I would like to express my thanks to him for the many courtesies he extended to me as Foreign Affairs spokesman during his term of office, and to wish him well in his retirement. I would also like to join with Deputy Bruton in thanking Deputy Flood for his many courtesies and for the manner in which he carried out his duties. I wish Deputy Eoin Ryan and Deputy Mary Hanafin well in their new posts as Ministers of State.

The timing of Deputy Andrews' departure from the Department of Foreign Affairs is dreadful. I do not know why this particular time was chosen. Deputy Andrews is Chairman in Office of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe. He was in the middle of seeking a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations and an Intergovernmental Conference is under way on the Portuguese Presidency. This is not good timing for the departure of a Minister for Foreign Affairs and I wonder why it was done at this time.

Given my view of the priorities that should be concerning this Government, I say with all honesty that the areas of Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East are not where the most experience of those priorities will be found. I have raised in this House the fact that 75% of prisoners in Mountjoy come from five identifiable areas in Dublin. If they do not go into prison with a drug problem, there is a good chance they will come out with one. Mothers come to me to ask if I can have their sons moved from Mountjoy so they do not pick up a drug habit. Nothing is being done about this, there is no mention of prison reform.

Local authority house building rates in the State are the lowest in all Europe. There was a time in the last 20 years when Dublin Corporation built 1,700 houses a year. We will be lucky if they build 300 houses this year. Is it any wonder there is a housing crisis? Local authority house building has a contribution to make to dealing with the crisis but only 300 houses were built last year.

Only 15% of Dublin city's inner city dwellers can aspire to third level education. The norm for the rest of the county is 50%. Eight out of ten young people expect to do their leaving certificate but among those who are heroin abusers, the figure is only one in ten.

The teeth of poor children can go crooked while they wait for an orthodontist. If, however, their parents can pay, they can have treatment today. An old person on crutches, in pain, waiting for surgery must suffer that pain unless he or she has a cheque book, in which case he or she will be seen to today or tomorrow.

Social welfare recipients, some of them living alone, on £74.30 a week were left to their own devices at Christmas, left to the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the goodness of private enterprises such as Dunnes Stores, which generously donated clothes. The State, with £5 billion of a surplus last year alone, ignored all of these people.

Despite the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs pretending that she would resign if the Government did not agree to an interim contribution of 0.35% of GNP, rising to 0.45%, on the way to a 0.7% of GNP contribution to world hunger, we have yet again failed to meet that 0.35% target. There is no hope that we will meet the 0.7% of GNP contribution to world hunger target. In the meantime 10 million children – a holocaust every year – die per year from easily preventable diseases and hunger.

The Progressive Democrats Party told us it would stand by the Republic. Some standing by. Some Republic. This is the Republic the Government presents to us today: educational apartheid and social injustice institutionalised, and world hunger ignored. Not one decent, pro-active proposal for social justice has come from this Government in its two and half years in office. The appointments made today do not give any indication that the Taoiseach understands the constituency of people to whom I have referred, those needy, poor people who suffer terrible injustice and who see no hope in this two tier Republic.

I wish the incoming Ministers well, but if they want to make a mark I suggest they address this agenda. We can do something about world hunger. If this State meets its 0.7% of GNP contribution to world hunger target by 2007, £600 million by that time, many millions of children may live. We can then put pressure on other EU states to make their contribution to the prevention of world hunger and disease. This should be the Minister's priority in foreign policy on his appointment.

I wish the new Ministers well and I hope these issues will be addressed by the House itself because there are people in society who have been left behind, without hope or care, and they are the people on whom we should be spending our billions of pounds of surplus.

The change in a Government midway through its term of office is a time of opportunity for those fortunate enough to be promoted and a farewell for those who have chosen to resign. Deputy David Andrews is one of the longest serving Members of this House, elected in April 1965. He comes from a distinguished political family and has given great public service to this State. This is not the day to offer a critical analysis of the many contributions Deputy Andrews has made in this House but it is ironic that one reason he is so respected across the political spectrum is for his courage in opposing the former leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, Mr. Haughey. That says a great deal about Deputy Andrews but, sadly, it says an awful lot more about other party members.

I pay particular tribute to Deputy Chris Flood. I have worked with him on the problems related to drugs. I am clear, as is my colleague, Deputy Rabbitte, about his courage and commitment to combatting a scourge which afflicts every urban area in the State and now, sadly, rural areas as well.

That Deputy Flood has chosen to resign for reasons of health is an indication to us all that the toll of the lifestyle of politics does not make exemptions. I wish him and his family well.

I congratulate Deputy Fahey. I am aware of the long time and dedication he has given to politics. He has experienced the joys of political success and the hardship of political defeat. I can understand how he must feel about the recognition that he, his family and his supporters in Galway West are experiencing. I wish him well. I take this opportunity to draw to his attention a booby trap his predecessor left in the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, the nonsensical and illegal requirement that Dublin Port should apply for planning permission for a piece of ground which does not yet exist. He should consult the newly appointed Minister from Dublin South East to see how to delicately defuse that nonsense. Now the former Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources can safely look at his constituents on the road to Sutton and not feel that he is responsible for the consolidation of Dublin Port or compensating it for the loss of the 22 acres of land which the construction of the port tunnel will remove. No doubt the sensitivities of the voters of Galway West will embolden the new Minister to make such decisions and enable him to do the right thing for his Taoiseach on whose constituency this port depends. Nice one Deputy Woods, but it did not work.

I express my pleasure at seeing my constituency colleague, Deputy Eoin Ryan, being recognised at last and I wish him well. We have worked well together on a number of occasions and no doubt, with the drug problem which exists in our constituency, his local knowledge and commitment will be an advantage. I look forward to working with him.

I congratulate Deputy Hanafin on her prompt recognition and promotion. Rarely has someone come into this House and been promoted in such a short time.

The newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs is a man of undoubted experience. He will probably be the first Irish Foreign Minister who cannot walk into the negotiating chambers of the General Council with the traditional béal bocht mentality that characterised many of his predecessors. Ireland is now a rich nation and will be expected to behave as such. We will be expected to give leadership in the Councils of Europe, not silently sit at the end of the table hoping nobody will cast their gaze upon us and thankful for the grants of money from whatever quarter that have been allocated to our economy. The days of the outstretched lámh are over and the politics that underpinned and informed them are redundant.

We expect from the new Minister a vision of what this country can contribute to the construction of the European project. Traditionally, Iveagh House has been dominated by issues in Northern Ireland. Hopefully, after the report from General de Chastelain next Monday, a new chapter will unfold that will enable the people of Northern Ireland and of these two islands to progress to a new plane of normal politics. The consequence of that will be the release of many diplomatic and political resources currently focused on that issue to the wider stage of how this country will play its part in a European Union that will enlarge over the next ten to 15 years to embrace up to 30 new member states.

Ireland, which now has a population of just over 1% of the total population of 370 million, will find itself with almost 1% of the population of the enlarged Union. In today's newspapers it is reported that the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, is once again suggesting options as to how to deal with the left overs of Amsterdam. One commissioner per country but a two tiered Commission as the price for that option has been put forward by Germany, France, Britain and Italy. How this country starts to construct alliances with other countries which are similarly affected will be a critical test of the new Minister's stewardship in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Of the previous six short-listed countries prior to Helsinki – the list is now enlarged to 13 – three of the applicants have populations smaller than that of the Republic of Ireland. How many of the other countries, such as Latvia and Lithuania, or even Slovakia with a population of approximately five million, will have populations that are either smaller or similar to ours? How the constitutional balance of the emerging European Union will take shape in a manner that recognises the identity of nation states yet sensitively pools their sovereignty while respecting the necessity for some form of democratic accountability will be a major task. Sadly, the Taoiseach, to my knowledge, has not engaged in it.

Deputy Cowen, the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, has an opportunity, because he undoubtedly has the ability, to engage in that debate. Indeed, he will be expected to lead that debate and not, as some of his Fianna Fáil predecessors did, quietly sit back and allow the debate to proceed until such time as Irish interests were threatened and only then make an intervention. We are entering our 27th year of membership of the European Union. Countries such as Austria and Finland, with less than three years membership, look to our experience and our skill in using the corridors of Brussels and elsewhere to give a lead to those member states which do not have the old traditional, imperial clout of Germany, France, Italy or Britain or who did not, until recently, have the economic clout which we now possess. The Minister faces a major challenge. I will not go into some of the offensive comments which have been made about him because the challenge is much bigger than that both for him and the Government.

The Taoiseach could have moved a few more Ministers. Why has the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform not been moved? Why has a most outrageous deterioration in social values been presided over by a man whose administrative acts cover us in shame? Anybody who saw "Prime Time" last night must wonder what type of country we live in. Is there any folk memory in Fianna Fáil of the "No wogs, no dogs, no Irish" attitude that so many of our people had to endure? This is being visited daily on people who came in hope to this country with the same expectations our ancestors had when they went to Liverpool and the new world. Where is the folk memory of Fianna Fáil that it can permit the travesty that is going on at present?

There is no moral high ground on this side of the House. There is no lack of understanding of the fears racism can generate among people who are ignorant and have no experience. We are no different from and no better and no worse than anybody else. However, we have the advantage of other people's experience and of seeing what can go wrong if it is ignored. This Administration is ignoring, at everybody's peril, the problems arising on our streets, not just in Dublin 4 or the city centre but throughout the country. I am sorry the Taoiseach did not move the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He had a chance and he blew it.

The new Minister for Health and Children has a wonderful reputation for announcing spending by the Department of Education and Science. He is an experienced and committed teacher and has offered his views in a sophisticated and elegant way about what can be done in education. The new Minister, Deputy Woods, if he can find where the money is buried, will attempt to fulfil the former Minister's spending commitments, but the former Minister will still get the credit. The Minister, Deputy Woods has been around a long time—

He, too, is a good man for burying money as I recall.

He is the last survivor of the long march through Jack Lynch, Charlie Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern. For that alone, he will never be forgotten and, perhaps, always forgiven. However, the focus now—

There must be a dash of Grecian 2000, Deputy Woods.

At least he has the hair to dye it. We now have the opportunity to recast the structure of the health service. We have the opportunity and the wealth to remove the health apartheid system that is getting worse by the hour.

The former Minister and some previous Ministers for Health had a difficult task. Limited resources, archaic structures and internal rivalries and divisions within the system of medical provision presented great obstacles to reform. There is now a crying necessity to reform the structure of the health service so that people are treated on the basis of their health needs, not their cheque books. People have a right to be treated equally as patients just as they have the right to be treated equally as pupils in the schools for which the Minister, until a few moments ago, had responsibility.

It is an enormous task. The challenge is whether this Fianna Fáil coalition Government has the vision to confront it and to rebuild the health service. I do not hold out much hope for the Minister. He is surrounded by two lethal conservatives, the Tánaiste on the one hand and the Minister for Finance on the other. I invite the new Minister to examine the small print of the three year programme for expenditure which the Government submitted to Brussels as part of its stability programme. In current account terms, we are committed to spending less of our bur geoning wealth than even the United States. In two years, 25% of our GNP will be devoted to the provision of services.

On the index of well being which is a combination ofper capita income, literacy as a test of education and infant mortality as a test of the quality of health services, the United States scores lower than Ireland. The Taoiseach should never turn his back on the Minister for Finance because he is a committed conservative who has induced and allowed the Cabinet to commit itself to impoverishing the nation in terms of its public services. The Holy Grail of never ending tax reductions will impoverish the country, except for those who are rich enough, powerful enough or influential enough to buy their way out of misery. We are facing a two-tier society that will condemn people to walk with some kind of emotional, mental or physical limp because they were denied opportunities at a critical time in their lives. These critical times only come once. One does not get endless decades of opportunity to be re-educated, cured or given a chance to grow up healthy and strong. This Government is the first to have the resources to ensure that, where it can be avoided, nobody will walk with a limp but the Minister for Finance, propped up by the so called Progressive Democrats, is committed to the Holy Grail of never ending tax reductions. The Government will be tested on its ability to deal with this situation.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs will be tested on two points by this side of the House. We cannot be serious participants in the European Union unless we have a presence in every applicant member state. Of the pre-Helsinki six applicants for full membership of the EU, we do not have resident embassies in Cyprus, Slovenia or the Estonian Republic. It costs £400,000 to run an Irish embassy. The Taoiseach has committed approximately £280 million with an ongoing subsidy of £10 million per year to the national stadium project. We need a presence in applicant countries or the Minister will not be able to do his job. His voice must be heard loudly and clearly in demanding representation for this republic with our future partners in a European Union that will determine the nature of our society in the future.

The Labour Party published a Bill on Monday of this week which I sent to the Minister for Foreign Affairs because it would impose a charge on the Revenue and cannot be placed on the Order Paper. I offer this Bill to the Minister as an entrance present to Iveagh House. Let us forget the nonsense about incrementalism in relation to overseas development aid. Why not increase ODA in one step and statutorily increase our allocation from the current figure of 0.31%; the figure has gone down because of the manner in which it is now calculated as a percentage of GNP. If we can build a stadium of the size the Taoiseach is proposing why can we not, in the millennium year, celebrate our new wealth by increasing our allocation for overseas aid to 0.75 of a penny – less than one penny in every pound of our national wealth and so small an amount that we do not even have a currency unit to express it. There is an endless number of projects on which the money could be spent. The Taoiseach gave a procession of photo opportunities in southern Africa and at every one of them he heard endless demands for more help. We have recently commemorated the great Famine. Let us go into a century in which we can do something to alleviate hunger.

These are the tests the Labour Party will apply to this Admistration which has been sadly revamped but not revamped enough.

I would like to share the Green Party time with Deputy Ó Caolain and Deputy Joe Higgins. Deputy Sargent has asked me to say a few words because of the elevation of my constituency colleague, Deputy Eoin Ryan.

I join with others in wishing Deputy Andrews well. We have had vigorous disagreements in the House on foreign policy and particularly in relation to PfP. I am sure he will not want to hear those initials in his retirement. Outside the Chamber he was always affable, courteous and helpful. I remember with gratitude the fact that he arranged facilities for a meeting between myself and the Foreign Minister of Germany, Joschka Fischer. He has done good work in relation to East Timor and on behalf of the Birmingham Six and he has done unstinting work in relation to the peace process.

I also pay tribute to Deputy Flood and congratulate all the new Ministers, including Deputy Fahey, and the new Ministers of State, Deputy Hanafin, whose promotion has been quick and all the sweeter for that and, in particular, my constituency colleague, Deputy Eoin Ryan. I remember when we both stood unsuccessfully for election in 1987 and 1989. Those were great disappointments but I am sure this is a day he will always remember. In Dublin South-East we are looking forward to the great things he will achieve for the constituency because with power comes responsibility. I am sure we will have many remedial teachers in our schools and that Deputy Ryan will get rid of the incinerator in Ringsend and wave his magic wand in many different ways. I am pleased for Deputy Ryan.

However, this is an appalling Government. It is reminiscent of the Government of 1977 which almost ruined the country. The Government is like a deck of cards in a Las Vegas casino. No matter how many times it is shuffled the people will always get a bum deal. The actions of the Government have been typified by the recent Thatcherite budget. The Government's problem is that it does not understand the difference between standard of living and quality of life. In other industrial countries we have seen that, since the 1970s, as the standard of living and the GDP increased, the quality of life decreased. If things are so good why is homelessness on the increase, why do we have a housing crisis and why are there so many problems in the rented accommodation sector? The Government is familiar with these problems and yet they continue. Why do we have increased family breakdown and depression? Why is there an increase in male suicide if things are so good? Why do we have a traffic crisis and gridlock in this city?

The Government has done nothing for the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency report which was published last summer shows that all the negative indicators – air quality, water quality, soil erosion, habitat destruction – are on the increase. Yet the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has sat back and done absolutely nothing. What is he doing for the environment? There was a real need for a reshuffle in that Department but the Taoiseach missed that opportunity.

We have a crisis in child care. The budget was a disgrace in relation to child care. The question of hospital waiting lists has not been dealt with adequately. We even have the problem of banning a herbal medicine, St. John's Wort, which is used by 75,000 people. What a short sighted way to deal with a relatively simple problem. We are the only country in Europe which has banned this herb. The gap between rich and poor has increased and will continue to increase under this Government, which espouses a greedy solution to everything. The term "greed is good" was the philosophy of Gordon Gecko in the film "Wall Street", and it is also the philosophy of the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy.

The Green Party is ready to enter Government. We are in Government in five EU countries: France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Finland. The Green Party has performed well in those countries. We would like at some stage to enter a coalition here. One issue we would emphasise is quality of life. I hope the Government examines that issue. If it ignores it, I guarantee that the people will eventually recognise that it has done so. It has been quite a honeymoon so far for the Government, but eventually the people will see through it and will understand that all the talk about GDP is just a gloss. If quality of life is decreasing, the Government will be found out.

The Cabinet changes announced by the Taoiseach are not sweeping but provide the Government with the opportunity to take stock and move forward in a more positive direction. The Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Administration has failed to manage the prosperity in sectors of the economy. I say "sectors" because the economy in 2000 is characterised by gross inequalities. The central failure of the Government has been its unwillingness to ensure the sharing of the prosperity. The new Ministers for Health and Children and Education and Science must, above all, address that inequality which is at its most glaring in our schools and hospitals.

The newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs comes into office at a crucial time in the peace process. The fledgling institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement are up and running but have yet to become firmly established. Demilitarisation and the equality agenda have yet to be implemented. I wish the new Minister well in his post, not only on my behalf but on behalf of my colleagues in the Sinn Féin leadership. We look forward to working closely with him in achieving lasting peace and justice in our country.

I also wish to impress on him the importance of not only defending but also developing and building upon neutrality, an issue of conflict from my position and perspective with his predecessor. The railroading through the House of membership of NATO's Partnership for Peace was one of the darkest days in the history of foreign policy. The new Minister has the opportunity to take stock, and I urge him to seek a new direction and resist the push for the State to become involved in superpower games, be they NATO-led or EU-led.

I wish each of the new appointees well in their respective positions of responsibility. I wish Deputy Flood well for the future.

(Dublin West): This is a Government which does not deserve the support of ordinary people or the Dáil. It pushes at every turn the freebooting greed which characterises capitalist globalisation at present. Fianna Fáil claimed at one stage to be the defender of public enterprise in the State sector, but it is now selling out the most vital publicly-owned services to private individuals who are allowed to engage in the most blatant speculation with property and services which rightly belong to the people.

We witnessed the disgusting spectacle a few weeks ago of people walking away with hundreds of millions of pounds in their back pockets as a result of having sections of the vital telecommunications industry given to them as a blank cheque by the previous Government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party and that cheque then being cashed by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. This is only months after the Government sold out the entire telecommunications sector. What does it think will happen when the Celtic tiger goes belly-up, which is inevitable under the rules of the market economy worldwide? All our vital services will then be in the hands of multinationals. Where will their concern be for Irish workers then? The Government is tobogganing over the edge to disaster as far as working people are concerned by putting more of the economy into multinational hands.

Incredibly party colleagues in local government crudely mimic their elders in Government. Drogheda Corporation privatised its refuse service overnight without consulting the people. The first people heard about it was when a private collector informed them that, in two weeks' time, it would collect the refuse and that it would cost a certain amount. The Government gave a paltry £150 to £200 as a tax concession in the budget to low-paid workers on PAYE, yet its colleagues on Drogheda Corporation want to take that away overnight by charging low-paid workers and vulnerable people £150 a year for refuse collection. It is an incredible spectacle.

The people glorified by the Government are the super rich tax exiles. These are people lauded by the Taoiseach and the Government but whose sense of patriotism is such that they take up their abode outside the country so they can pay less tax.

The housing crisis continues to cause enormous pain to tens and hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country. The housing crisis was allowed to develop by the parties in Government by their stepping aside and allowing a small cabal of speculators and developers to take control of the market. Now hundreds of thousands of people cannot contemplate the idea of putting a roof over their heads, one of the most basic human needs and rights, not to mention the enormous suffering on local authority housing waiting lists. Incredibly, the Government continues to stand aside while this group holds people's lives to ransom. The Government does not deserve support. I will certainly vote against the nominations.

(Mayo): I join previous speakers in paying tribute to the outgoing Ministers: the Minister, Deputy Andrews, and the Minister of State, Deputy Flood. I am sorry to hear the departure of the Minister of State is on the basis of ill health. We hope he recovers his full health, vigour and joie de vivre. I extend my sincere good wishes to the incoming Ministers, that is, those who are changing portfolio: the Minister, Deputy Cowen, who goes to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Minister, Deputy Martin, who goes to the Department of Health and Children and the Minister, Deputy Woods, who goes to the Department of Education and Science.

I wish well the two new Ministers of State in their new job portfolios. I have had the pleasure of serving with Deputy Eoin Ryan, who has been a superb Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights, and with Deputy Hanifin. I asked Deputy Hanifin at a meeting at 7 o'clock yesterday evening if it would be her last meeting in that capacity and she assured me it would not. I do not know if she got the signal at that stage or whether she was playing hard to get or being coy about it. I wish both of them well because I have seen them in action at close quarters on the committee and they have been two superb performers.

However, I join in the general feeling of the Opposition that this reshuffle represents a glaring missed opportunity. I am disappointed and dismayed by the missed opportunity on the part of the Taoiseach in not getting rid once and for all of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. One would have thought he would have used the opportunity to get rid of the dead wood, to take the square pegs out of the round holes, to send a clear signal that the performance was not satisfactory, to send him for an early shower or to the dugout, or to give him the red card. That opportunity was missed. No other Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the history of the State was given such largesse. The largest ever budget in the history of the State was given by way of the recent Estimates – £847 million. Yet, there has been a situation where not alone has there not been any action, there have not been any answers and no performance.

On 11 January last, the State brought charges before the Special Criminal Court in the Jacqueline McIntyre case. This was the guns in the post case. A person was caught red-handed importing by way of the post guns from the United States, clearly for paramilitary purposes. In court the defendant's solicitor read out an anonymous letter and as a result the State asked that the charges be withdrawn despite excellent surveillance work on the part of the Garda Síochána. It now transpires that this anonymous letter had nothing to do with it. If so, why has the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform not explained in public the reason the State, having vigorously prosecuted the charges, decided to do a complete U-turn in court?

On Tuesday last, 25 January 2000, the Special Criminal Court did exactly the same thing. On the instructions of the Chief State Solicitor, the Director of Public Prosecutions asked that charges be withdrawn against two Derrymen caught in possession of explosives and arrested by the Garda Síochána in Letterkenny. We are entitled to an explanation as to why charges were withdrawn in both cases. Has it something to do with the sensitivity of the peace process?

On Tuesday, 18 January 2000, the best indication of the disarray and chaos surrounding asylum policy was the resignation of Mr. Peter Finlay, senior counsel, as independent appeals adjudicator because he could no longer stand over the charade. He did the honourable thing and resigned. Despite this the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform continues to huff and puff that the asylum procedures he has put in place are adequate. Applicants have to wait up to two or three years in legal limbo and queue in degrading conditions on Lower Mount Street. There has been no attempt to introduce a proper dispersal policy or ensure applications are dealt with as expeditiously as possible. There is no openness, magnanimity or welcoming which, as Deputy Quinn said, should be part and parcel of the Irish psyche given our sad experience spanning 150 years.

In opposition the main pitch of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was law, order and public safety. Day in, day out he railed against the then Minister, Deputy Owen. It was almost as if she was responsible for every robbery, raid, rape, murder and mugging. The blame was laid firmly at her door. Let us look in graphic detail at what has happened in the wake of his promise to introduce a policy of zero tolerance. In the last three months of 1999 the Dublin Airport branch of Bank of Ireland was raided and nobody was arraigned. There were also bank raids in Tallaght and Finglas. In the case of the raid at the American Express headquarters in Nassau Street, less than 500 yards from Leinster House, the female bank manager was taken from her Blanchardstown home the previous evening and brought at gunpoint to open the safe. In the case of the raid at the Ballyfermot branch of the AIB the two raiders who were armed to the teeth entered through the back window and escaped with a substantial sum of money. The vast majority of those involved in these raids are still at large.

It looks as if the new millennium will be even worse. On 1 January a 21 year old was shot dead in Ashbourne. On 6 January a security van was attacked in Douglas, County Cork, by armed robbers who escaped on a motorcycle. They are still at large. On 9 January a naked body was taken from a cold canal in County Kildare. Foul play is suspected. The teenager concerned was tied to concrete blocks and consigned to the canal because he was unable to meet the repayments on a consignment of drugs for which he had borrowed money and which had been seized at Dublin Airport. It was payback time. On 10 January there was an armed robbery at the Fassaugh Avenue post office. On 13 January shots were fired during a raid on the Balbriggan branch of Bank of Ireland in which a substantial sum of money was taken. The four raiders involved are still at large. The car used in the raid was found burned out one and a half miles away. On 16 January there was an armed raid at the Three Rock Hotel in south Dublin in which shots were fired and £50,000 was taken. There were three killings last weekend – two in Limerick and one in Drogheda. On Tuesday night there were two armed raids smack in the middle of Dublin city. There does not appear to be any clear plan in place to deal with the spate of gangland killings and raids despite the availability of resources.

The most pertinent statistic is to be found in the quarterly household survey published by the Central Statistics Office. It is clearly indicated that 30% of the population do not feel safe when walking the streets at night. This increases to a dramatic 48% in the case of women over the age of 65. One in every eight homes has been hit by crime. A total of 12% or 154,000 homes are hit annually. There have been 99,000 acts of vandalism.

Despite the commitment of money and because of the lack of a coherent plan – the man sitting to my right did not have enough time to tackle it – the drugs problem is eating into the core of society. Surveys show that two thirds of young people are dabbling or have the potential to dabble in heroin or cannabis. Despite this there is no indication of a coherent strategy to deal with the problem.

The prison system is in chaos. There was a record number of suicides last year. There is no prison philosophy, mission statement or clear vision of what we expect from the prison system. Drugs addicts come out more damaged. I regard this reshuffle as a missed opportunity.

I welcome those who have been appointed. Why is Deputy Rabbitte laughing?

The Minister sounds like her character on "Bull Island". It is unbelievable.

I do not know about that. I am not much good at pulling pints whatever about giving lip. I welcome the changes which have been made and pay tribute to Deputies Andrews and Flood for the service they have given. Deputy Andrews is a man of great character and integrity. He has shown a great sense of purpose throughout his political career. If I was asked to name his guiding principle that is the one I would choose. He has always had a cause of great worth and in respect of which he was prepared to give leadership. He brought these talents to the Department of Foreign Affairs and will be sorely missed. I have no doubt he will continue to show his crusading qualities in what will be a full and active life.

Deputy Flood comes from my constituency of County Westmeath. I worked with him for three months in the Department of Health and Children and found him to be loyal and trustworthy. He always gave of his best. He has played an enormous role in the past two and a half years in giving due prominence to the traveller issue and in tackling the drug culture.

I welcome the changes at ministerial level. Deputy Woods is the new Minister for Education and Science. I look forward to observing him in that Department which, although full of the most excellent mandarins, needs a firm hand. He will bring to the Department his great experience of life. If one could work 24 hours a day, it would ask for more. I wish him good luck and look forward to welcoming him to County Westmeath. I had already cajoled Deputy Martin into coming.

What can one say about my midlands friend, Deputy Cowen, the new Minister for Foreign Affairs? He will be a great success. He will bring to the Department his intelligence, wit, pugnacity – which is needed in any Department – and sense of purpose. More and more, people worldwide are realising that a country's size does not affect the influence it can bring to bear on matters of international importance. In the past, only representatives of the bigger countries spoke and were listened to. As a small country with a strong history, a record in social and economic matters and a record of achievement in Northern Ireland, we can bring all that expertise to bear on the world stage. We are extremely pleased that Deputy Cowen will be bringing his qualities to the foreign affairs position.

(Dublin West): Dictatorships throughout the world are quaking.

Deputy Higgins is very funny. Deputy Rabbitte referred to "Bull Island" earlier and that is what is behind his laughter. I cannot help it, if I am like the person who parodies me on the programme, I can only say "well done" to him. Perhaps I should change my style but it is rather late in my life to do that.

Deputy Martin has been a huge success in the Department of Education and Science and I do not have any doubt that he will be equally successful in the Department of Health and Children. I recall when former Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, informed me that I was to be given the health portfolio. I was only in the Department for 12 weeks until St. Valentine's Day when many of us lost our jobs. However, I enjoyed my time in the Department. I used to return to my flat at night with bundles of files and dictionaries to translate the medical terms. I would like to have remained longer in the Department at the time although I would not like to be sent there now. Deputy Martin has youth, vigour, determination and a strong streak of individualism which will doubtless enable him to put his own stamp on the Department of Health and Children, as Deputy Cowen did.

We also have two new additions to the composite ministerial team. I am delighted that Deputy Eoin Ryan and Deputy Hanafin are joining us. The Ministers with whom they will be working will have to keep on their toes because these two Deputies want to make an impression and I have no doubt but that they will. From speaking to people on the street and others who telephoned me, there is obviously great enthusiasm for the two appointments. Our team will be greatly strengthened. Change is good. Although I was not offered a new position, I am very happy at what I am doing and have a great deal more to do. I would not like to be interrupted mid-stream. I am very happy that others are moving but that I am staying put.

Deputy John Bruton poses as a paragon of integrity, honesty and steadfastness, qualities he maintains Government Members do not possess. Yet, Deputy Bruton stood in this House today and told untruths. I will not repeat them as we are not allowed to tell lies in this House. The untruths related to Luas. I have with me a copy of the indicative timetable which I issued and which I will issue again to all Deputies if they want it. Each of the targets set have been met and most of them have gone ahead of the indicative timetable. I will send the timetable to Deputy Bruton although I am sure he will not read it and will continue to say the kind of dotty things he said this morning when he asked for a chorus of assent if we thought this was the best Government. Of course, we do. The idea that somebody would ask the Government what it thought of itself is—

Deputy O'Rourke has one minute remaining.

I have only started.

The Minister is running on empty.

I am not. I will be interested to see whether Deputy Bruton will come into the House and correct himself in regard to the untruths he told this morning. I doubt that he will. I will send him the timetable and I hope he will have the grace which he constantly attributes to himself, although nobody else attributes it to him, to outline the facts rather than an embroidered and embellished version of them.

I reserve my last word for the new Member of Cabinet, Deputy Fahey. I have great affection for Deputy Fahey with whom I worked for five years in the Department of Education where he was a Minister of State with responsibility for sport. He was a great comrade. Deputy Fahey was prepared to be interesting and imaginative long before those qualities, which he had in abundance, were admired in politicians. He did not lose his sense of inquiry, consideration and reflection over the years. Above all, he did not lost his drive to get things done. I am sure that he will bring those considerable qualities to bear in his new position as Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources.

I wish to share time with Deputy Yates.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I wish my colleague, Deputy Andrews, every success in his retirement. I have had the pleasure of working with Deputy Andrews for the past 26 years in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown constituency and have always found him to be of the highest integrity. He gave his all to any job he undertook. Deputy Andrews did an excellent job as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He represented the country exceptionally well and will be a great loss to politics, particularly to this Government which could make good use of his talents for the remainder of its tenure. In the 26 years I have know him, Deputy Andrews and I have never exchanged a cross word. If politics means anything, it is that we should confine our debates to this Chamber and work together outside of it for our communities. I wish Deputy Andrews well and thank him for the past 26 years.

I also wish Deputy Hanafin every success. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown has been a good constituency in terms of being represented at Government level. I wish Deputy Hanafin well in her new post and I am sure she will do a good job. I also wish Deputies Eoin Ryan and Fahey every success. It is a great honour to serve in the Cabinet and to serve as a Minister of State. I wish the new post holders every success.

The Taoiseach prides himself on being a Manchester United supporter. I am sure he has attended many of the Manchester United and Arsenal matches. The chant of the Manchester United supporters from the Stretford end is always "boring, boring Arsenal". The first comment that comes to mind in regard to this reshuffle is that we are increasingly seeing boring, boring Bertie. At a time when there is a clear sign of fatigue, tiredness and staleness in the current Administration, he has again opted for the minimalist approach, leaving the same old tired faces in many Departments and not availing of the opportunity to freshen them up. By the time the next general election comes round, the electorate will also be fatigued and will seek to make the appropriate changes.

On a personal level, I would like to be associated with the remarks of my colleague, Deputy Barrett, about Deputy Andrews whom I always found to be an utterly charming gentleman. Deputy Andrews has had a distinguished political career and I wish him and Deputy Flood well in the future.

I have not ceased to be amazed at the outgoing Minister of Health and Children's ability to hide his intellect behind his pugnacity. Nevertheless, I wish him well and hope that the endless hospitality and finger food in Iveagh House will not bore him to death. He is out of Angola now, so to speak, and faces an onerous job in regard to the next phase of reconciliation in Northern Ireland. I hope Deputy Cowen will be part of a process which will broaden the sense of Irishness, one which will make Mr. David Trimble as Irish as someone whose grandfather fought in the GPO in 1916. I did not know how big a hole would be dug for the prospective Fianna Fáil leader and Minister for Education and Science, but it is pretty big in Health and Children. The poisoned chalice was going to be Justice, Equality and Law Reform or Health and Children. I wish him well in that very difficult job, in what is in effect a leaking bucket. His talents will certainly be required.

I take this opportunity to pass a brief mid-term judgment on this Government. The point made by Deputy John Bruton this morning is the most important. The fact that people are experiencing economic prosperity and growth in jobs does not mean we have a good Government. Increasingly people are separating the question of whether things are going well for the country and whether we have a good administration or could have a better one. On many areas the Government is in a state of paralysis. It is very good at spending money, availing of photo opportunities and spin doctoring on the way it spends money. However, on the critical issue of how to sustain the boom, it has done little or nothing.

We have no integrated transport plan. We are 20 years behind the rest of Europe in relation to bus competition. I have consistently advocated the need for an equivalent of the Independent Radio and Television Commission, which has suc cessfully regulated independent radio, to do the same for public transport. The public transport licensing system is a joke, and the law is disobeyed on a daily basis. In relation to traffic gridlock in Dublin, there is no move to integrate Owen Keegan's work in traffic management with the subvention and running of Dublin Bus, road management, local authority management or the management of Operation Freeflow. We need a Dublin transport authority that will integrate all these. However, because it is interdepartmental, the Taoiseach has done little or nothing about it. We have no plan to go alongside the national development plan. We have had much talk about public-private partnerships but little action. The School of Music in Cork is the only one that is up and running. In all these areas where political action is needed to change things, little or nothing has been done.

I can go through the issues. Little or nothing has been done about traffic gridlock. The mismatch between supply and demand in housing is driving up house prices and a whole category of young people who could normally aspire to home ownership can now forget about it and may look forward to renting their homes for the rest of their lives. Little or nothing is being done to build the extra 40% of houses that are required over the next decade. That means a mindset adjustment, a sea change in relation to sanitary services and infrastructural development to open up new land for development within urban areas and elsewhere.

On child care, we put forward a specific proposal that children under five years of age should get £25 a week. We have fallen between stools in the debate on this issue. We substitute analysis for action, and nothing is done.

In the area of health, the waiting lists for elective cardiac surgery are so long that a person has to have a heart attack before he or she is taken into hospital and is then moved from hospital into a cardiac treatment unit. People who are walking around are not sick enough to make any progress on the waiting list. I know of many such examples.

On skills shortages, one of the key impediments to the continuation of the Celtic tiger is the inability to move people from welfare to work and to ensure we have adequate numbers of skilled workers. Many jobs paying £5 or £6 an hour remain unfilled. There is no radical plan. The simplest thing would be to provide that for people earning under £170 a week, the minimum pay, their gross pay and their net pay would be the same. The Government has failed to address that issue.

On taxation, the biggest issue is that people go on to the top rate of tax at too low an income. What is needed is not to cut the top rate of tax but to introduce a new rate of 35%. There has been no imagination in dealing with these issues, no new responses. We continue the dialogue with the social partners. The Government and the Dáil have been substituted for a consensus process, and the Government has shown no flair or imagination.

In the area of agriculture, there has been a record drop in incomes. We have had an unprecedented crisis in the beef sector and a failure on the part of Government to get to grips with meat processors and income supports.

There has been no imagination in the area of decentralisation at a time when a radical approach is required.

Most of all, we cannot ensure an equal society if we are not true to ourselves. We live in an unequal society. The obligation on politicians is to provide equality of opportunity at school leaving stage. The fact that one in ten children leave school at primary level highlights the failure of our education system to tackle disadvantage and equality of opportunity. We have had a Minister for teachers. Successive Ministers for Education become Ministers for teachers. What we need is a Minister for equality of education.

I will continue the battle on Luas with the Minister. The Government took an atrocious decision in May 1998 which it is now reversing. I wish the new Ministers well. However, we have the same old tired Government, with the same old tired leadership. The real change we need is a change of Government.

Whatever about Deputy Yates's description of the Government as a tired old Government, it is even more evident how tired and fed up the Opposition is when it sees how well the Government is doing and sees no light at the end of the tunnel.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to pay tribute to some of my colleagues who are retiring or being promoted. Let me pay a personal tribute to Deputy Andrews, the outgoing Minister for Foreign Affairs, who resigned. I have had a long association with him. I served with him as a Minister of State. That was my first experience as Minister of State and I found Deputy Andrews to be very courteous and helpful to me personally during that time. Stories are often told about Ministers and their Ministers of State and the difficulties they face in getting anything to do in the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is something of which Deputy Andrews was never guilty. He allowed me free rein in the areas for which I had responsibility. Throughout his career he has shown a deep commitment to many humanitarian causes. He is known for that not just nationally but internationally. His greatest achievement in politics was his contribution to the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent putting in place of that agreement in Northern Ireland which paved the way for peace on this island. That is something of which we are all very proud, but in a particular way Deputy Andrews can be proud of the role he played. We can only hope that from now on that very good foundation and what has happened since will be built upon. I wish Deputy Andrews and his family well in the future. He will continue to serve in this House until the next election in two and a half years' time and will retire at that stage. However, I expect that he will still keep a lively interest in humanitarian issues.

I congratulate Deputy Cowen on his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I could say many nice things about him but I know he would only blush and be embarrassed as he is here with me at present. He has shown a capacity for leadership in his previous Ministries. He has an obvious determination and tenacity in the jobs he has been called upon to do. It is recognised by all Members of this House that the job of Minister for Health and Children is not an easy one, and he served in that role with distinction. His intellect and strength of character will be necessary in his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs representing this country abroad. I have no doubt he will be able to fulfil that role. His commitment to the mentally handicapped and the programme he put in place – including the provision of funding – will be a lasting legacy of which he can be proud. It will be remembered by everybody in the years ahead. He had to fight many vested interests to prioritise this issue but he succeeded in doing that. His achievement has been well recognised by all sides of the House, the service providers and advocacy groups. I have no doubt that in his new role at the Department of Foreign Affairs he will leave further legacies.

I also congratulate Deputy Woods on his proposed move to the Department of Education and Science. He is probably the most experienced member of the Cabinet having served in several ministries with distinction. Given the detailed knowledge he acquired in each of them, I have no doubt he will do a good job in his new portfolio.

The outgoing Minister, Deputy Martin, is to move to the Department of Health and Children. He has proven to be innovative and dynamic and has had the courage to tackle a number of thorny issues. Most importantly, he has the ability to take strategic long-term views and lay the foundations for the future. He had done this in education, science and so on and he has shown he is not afraid to face challenges. I disagree with the Deputy Yates's assessment that he has been a teachers' Minister. He has served the country well and has brought education into the 21st century. Certain aspects of it needed that.

I pay warm tribute to Deputy Flood who served as Minister of State with distinction. We served jointly on the task force on local government and local development and I worked closely with him in this area. He has been deeply committed to issues of social inclusion and to efforts to combat drugs in the various drug task force areas. He has also shown a deep commitment to eliminating disadvantage. He worked with me as Opposition spokesperson on travellers and the recent travellers accommodation Bill and other moves in this area were largely the result of his work there. I am sorry to see him go and in the circumstances outlined by the Taoiseach, and I wish him well in his retirement.

I congratulate Deputy Fahey. He is probably one of the most experienced Ministers of State. Most people will probably remember him as a Minister of State with responsility for Sport. He showed his resilience by coming back from defeat in the 1992 general election and returning to the Dáil and the Government as Minister of State in 1997. I have no doubt he will make a huge success of his new portfolio. It is an area in which he has a special interest.

When in Opposition I worked with Deputy Eoin Ryan in the area of urban renewal and the environment. I will also work closely with him in his new portfolio. He will bring to it dedication and commitment.

I congratulate Deputy Hanafin in her proposed new role in the Departments of Health and Children, Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Education and Science. We have worked together, not in the Dáil but in the Fianna Fáil Party, where I got to know her in recent years. I have often heard her comment on issues dealing with children and child care. As a teacher she will bring her experience to bear on her new portfolio. I wish all my colleagues every success.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Rabbitte.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I pay tribute to the retiring Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation. I worked opposite Deputy Flood in recent years and the tributes paid to him are well deserved. He inherited a detailed policy brief from Deputy Rabbitte, who had developed a comprehensive policy regarding the ministerial task force on the role of sport and recreation as a preventative element in the fight against crime and drugs. Deputy Flood utilised that policy effectively when he was Minister of State. I regret he is obliged to resign for health reasons. I congratulate all those who are to be appointed.

I hope Deputy Cowen will display more diplomacy in his new role than he did as Minister for Health and Children, where he mixed arrogance with indifference. He should have learned earlier that it is not enough to throw resources at problems. Throwing resources at health is like pouring water into a leaky bucket, if they are not matched with strong management and reforms. As a consequence many defects and inefficiencies remain in the health service.

The Minster's attitude to health was peevish at times. I am not whingeing when I point out that one of his first acts was to get rid of a number people on the health boards, including me. His indifference was demonstrated by his failure to replace us. Places were left vacant up to the time of the local elections. That says much about his indifference to the Department. It also showed in the lack of reform in health.

The file will show it was an invalid appointment.

The recent flu epidemic should have been planned for, yet hospitals were ineffective in dealing with the rush of elderly and even younger patients into the system. Accident and emergency beds were filled with people suffering from pneumonia and other problems.

The Minister failed to look at the issue of the privateversus public mix in public hospitals except to load some of the burden of the public health services on to private health insurers. The symptoms are everywhere, including weak management and lack of leadership. For example, one of the major hospitals required an MRI scan at a cost of approximately £1 million. The Department allowed the Southern Health Board to enable consultants employed by the board set up a private business, a limited company, and to use the facility as a profit making venture. The board then stated that there was a ration on public patients using the facility in a public hospital. There is something fundamentally wrong in a system that allows things like that to happen. It meant that a public patient had to wait two years for an MRI scan in a public hospital, a scan owned and operated by a private company in a public hospital. By contrast, a private patient could have access to it in two months or less.

With the departure of Deputy Cowen, there is now a three-tier health system, consisting of the public patient, the private patient who has limited VHI or BUPA insurance who would get access to a public hospital, and those who are highly insured with ready access to the private hospitals. There has been scant regard given also to two areas, to which I will devote some of my time, which are not mentioned at all because they are not high profile areas in the health services, one of which is the psychiatric services. There are too many facilities around the country that are Dickensian, that have lacked any investment programme and are showing their age. The system developed in the 1980s drove people out of psychiatric hospitals into the communities, people who were ill-equipped, and who did not have the back-up facilities. Often many of those people ended up homeless on our streets. Not all the homeless are psychiatric patients but many of them ended up homeless on the streets and were condemned to local authority flats in areas with no social services, with all the consequences of that. That issue has not been addressed and there is a need for a new Minister. I congratulate my colleague from Cork, Deputy Micheál Martin, on becoming the Minister for Health and Children. He has an opportunity to deal with areas in real need of reform, such as the care of the psychiatric patients. I cannot go into detail on it in the limited time I have.

On care for the elderly, an indication of the Minister's failure is that an allocation was not made in 1999 for day-care centres for the elderly. The Minister failed to make an allocation available up to January of this year. I was informed by a senior official in a health board that the health board had not received a memorandum or communication from the Minister for Health and Children relating to capital funding for day-care centres.

Funding was ten times more this year than last year.

I am referring to last year – 1999. There was not any communication to the health boards to whom I spoke. That shows the type of priority given. The Minister has not dealt with the whole issue of nursing homes and the subventions for nursing homes. The level of subventions have not changed for years. Families are now forced to sell the family home in order to get the father or mother cared for. The elderly are being told to sell their homes to get a place in a nursing home. The health boards are being forced to tell them that because of the inadequate level of subvention, over which the Minister presides. The Minister is great at announcing big figures but it is like pouring water into a leaking bucket with the inefficiencies, lack of policies and the lack of reform. There is huge wastage in that area and the Minister addressed that situation in a very ineffective way.

The issue of medical manpower has not been addressed. In a reply to a parliamentary question which I received yesterday, the Minister was hanging his hat on a report that was due from a study group.

It is imminent.

I have limited time but I will address two other issues. Fianna Fáil has 11 Deputies in Cork city and county, and neither they nor the Minister have done anything about the closure of RTE Cork, which has provided a top class public service to the people of Cork city and county and even South Kerry over the past 25 years. An effort has not been made to reverse the decision made by the RTE authority to close down that station. Even at this stage, on the eve of closure, the Minister and the 11 Fianna Fáil Deputies should stand their ground on this issue and make sure that the service which has been valid and valuable to the people of the south western region is allowed continue. We should not fall victim to the battle of the jingle on the airwaves.

I thank Deputy Allen.

Deputy Rabbitte has a Labour Party slot later, after Deputy McDaid.

My understanding from the Leas-Cheann Comhairle was that he was merging my five minutes with the two minutes Deputy Allen was giving me and that the Government was to take my slot. It is all the same if the House is agreeable.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The wedding party or Mafia wedding group arrived in Cork last Tuesday. Surely this would have been an ideal opportunity for the Cabinet to set an example to the public by travelling to Cork by rail? If the members did not want to slum it in first class or Citygold, they could have used the executive carriage to travel to Cork. This would have given out a message and led public opinion by saying that public transport is available and encouraging them to use the public transport to get to Cork,

One could go down on a sponsored walk.

That opportunity was lost and they came and went in a cavalcade of Mercedes. I hope that having left, the Government will leave some residual benefits to the people of Cork city.

On a point of information, Deputy, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy Mary O'Rourke, Deputy Noel Dempsey and I travelled by train to Cork.

I referred to the Cabinet.

The meeting was in Cork, not on the train.

The Deputy should apologise.

Acting Chairman

The Minister will have a chance to reply. Deputy Rabbitte has five minutes.

If the new Minister for Foreign Affairs is offering me seven minutes, the staff of the House should not be churlish. I am truly sorry about the departure, and the manner of the departure, of my constituency colleague Deputy Chris Flood, who has been a committed Minister and an honourable constituency colleague. I know that he has never been afraid to take a principled and decent stand on awkward issues in the constituency and I particularly recall some very contentious issues in the area of traveller accommodation. He had a great feel for the job of Minister. The drugs strategy and the local drugs task forces have made a tremendous contribution, albeit having been implemented 20 years too late when the problem had been allowed to take root. I am sorry to see him go and I also fear that it might mean that Fianna Fáil will return to taking both sides of the road with them in the constituency, which I would regret.

I also want to be associated with the many tributes which have been paid to Deputy Andrews. He was, perhaps, the most laid-back Member of the House but was a man always motivated by decent considerations. I wish him well in his retirement.

Of all the Ministers of State that might have retired, Deputy Flood would be the last person I would have chosen. There are a number of anonymous under-performers and under-achievers on the second bench of Ministers. I would have thought the Taoiseach would have availed of the opportunity for a more radical shake up.

Ever since Deputy Andrews announced his decision, wherever more than two or three people met around the country and asked who has the natural skills, diplomacy and track record to take over at Iveagh House, they automatically said Deputy Cowen. Asking Deputy Cowen to take over the diplomatic service is like asking Mike Tyson to stand in for Michael Flatley in "Riverdance" or "Lord of the Dance". He knows, of course, I do not mean that. Deputy Cowen is a man of considerable ability. He has not been a good Minister for Health and Children but he has the intellectual ability and commitment to politics to be a good Minister for Foreign Affairs and I wish him well. I also wish the Minister, Deputy Fahey, well. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, has at some length paid tribute to his skill as a politician. Former Deputy, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn can certainly acknowledge this and the manner in which he successfully undermined her in Galway west is a tribute to that skill and tenacity. If he demonstrates that skill in the Cabinet he will do a good job in his Department.

I wish Deputy Eoin Ryan well. He is entitled to his chance, but I would have preferred if he had been given another portfolio. It is difficult to understand the job being done by the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, when one comes from the leafy suburbs of Dublin 4. However, I wish him well, as I do his colleague, Deputy Hanafin.

I greatly regret that the Taoiseach did not take the opportunity for a more wide-ranging and radical reshuffle. If there are a number of anonymous under-performers among the Ministers of State, there are a number of very weary performers at Cabinet level. Members of the House – this is something we share with the media – live a relatively comfortable middle class existence. However, that is not how society is organised. The gulf between those with a relatively comfortable existence and others in society is widening, which is evident when one considers the functions of the Department of Health and Children. The injustice and inequality in terms of access to health care, notwithstanding the additional moneys which have been invested, are still acute.

Nobody has referred to the Minister for the Environment and Local Government. Quite properly my colleague, Deputy Quinn, referred to the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, remaining in his post and the fact that the Taoiseach must have something against him. There has been a 62% increase in the price of houses since the Government took office while the number on the housing list has doubled to almost 50,000 people. The recommendations in the Bacon report are not working as the figures for last year show house price increases of 21% while rents in the private sector have almost doubled.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy has one minute remaining.

I am sorry I do not have more time as I would like to have discussed a number of policy areas. The calculated decision in the budget to widen the gap between those on lower and no incomes other than State support and everybody else is regrettable. I am very surprised the Taoiseach permitted this as he is renowned for staying in touch with the ordinary person. We in this House are losing touch with the ordinary person who is not enjoying the benefits of the economic boom in the way rhetoric in the House seems to suggest. They cannot get access to a hospital bed, affording a house is beyond their wildest dreams, neither can they get a public house. In my local authority area there are 2,780 on the housing list according to the latest calculation while we have permission to build 1,000 houses over four years, that is 250 houses per annum.

Deputy Gormley made a good point when he said we should not confuse living standards with quality of life. We are confusing these and I do not think the new team put together by the Taoiseach shows any more commitment to understanding and redressing this than the old team. There is a crisis in terms of housing while the more money we invest in health services the more endemic the problems seem to become. There must be serious management problems in the health sector. Why is the problem getting worse while investment is exponentially rising? These are fundamental questions which no doubt we will return to during the life of the Government.

I wish the new Ministers well.

I wish to share time with Deputy Conor Lenihan.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

My primary reason for contributing to the debate is to pay tribute to my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Flood. However, it would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity to say what a pleasure it was to know a man of the calibre of Deputy Andrews. He was committed, honourable and a man of substance. I congratulate my colleagues, particularly Deputy Eoin Ryan who will shortly be joining my Department, Deputy Hanafin and the new Mini ster, Deputy Fahey. I have no doubt about the capabilities of Deputies Cowen, Martin and Woods in their new portfolios.

It was with great sadness that I learned of the decision of Deputy Flood to resign from his post as Minister of State at my Department. It has been a great pleasure to work with Deputy Flood over the past two and a half years. He has made a very significant contribution to the Government's policy on social inclusion, particularly in the area of greatest disadvantage. He has impressed all who worked with him with his deep personal commitment to his portfolio. He has never swayed from taking a strong personal stand on difficult and unpopular issues.

His contribution to local development and tackling the scourge of drug abuse is widely acknowledged and appreciated by the voluntary and community sectors, particularly by those working with the local drugs task forces and in partnership areas. When Deputy Flood took responsibility for this area residents' associations were taking to the streets of our major cities and towns. To his credit that is no longer the case. In terms of drug abuse he has been particularly successful in increasing the resources available to the local drugs task forces and has put in place a facilities and services fund for young people amounting to £35 million which provides much needed facilities and services in our most deprived areas. He has overseen the implementation of the integrated services process in four areas of intense urban disadvantage and has taken a very keen personal interest in its progress. This project reflects his own strong belief in the need for a much improved and more focused response by State agencies at local level in our worst urban blackspots and in the involvement of local people in tackling problems in their areas. He has been instrumental in ensuring the success of the Operational Programme for Urban Initiative which is designed to tackle urban issues in an integrated manner through supporting business creation and improving infrastructure and the physical environment in the three selected urban areas.

Of late there has been discussion about the £280 million funding for vital sporting infrastructure which we recently announced. Deputy Flood has secured a budget of £420 million under the national development plan for social inclusion measures to operate through the area based partnerships and the local drugs task force areas. He has worked closely with my colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, in putting in place arrangements for the closer integration of local development with local government. This will ensure the long-term future of a range of supports for local communities to help them break the cycle of deprivation and lay foundations for the next generation.

Deputy Flood has discharged his responsibility in a quiet, unassuming manner and as a result may not have received the recognition he deserves for the very important contribution he has made in his area of responsibility. He is one of those people who represent what is best in our democratic process. He beavers away behind the scenes, bringing about real change, while not seeking the limelight for himself. He has a deep and abiding commitment to public service and has served his constituents in Dublin South-West and his country in a caring and compassionate way.

I also wish to pay tribute to Deputy Flood, my constituency and party colleague since I became a Member of the House. Normally there is great tension between party colleagues in constituencies, but Deputy Flood and I got on famously. We never had a row. He was very welcoming when it was first mooted that I should be brought into the constituency and he very much smoothed the path for my arrival in Leinster House, and I pay tribute to him for that. He did not blow his trumpet as loudly as others in politics but he achieved a great deal, particularly in combating the drugs menace. He has played a huge and pivotal role in re-establishing order and restoring confidence in communities, which protested at the lack of action in regard to the drugs problem. Deputy Flood has turned that around and he can be very proud. I pay tribute to my colleague who will be a great loss to the constituency, but I am sure he will also greatly contribute to Fianna Fáil securing two seats there in the next general election.

Mr. Hayes

I wish to record on behalf of the Fine Gael Party in Dublin South-West our appreciation to Deputy Flood who was a great colleague. He was principled politically and demonstrated during his tenure in the Dáil, representing his constituency and as a Minister of State, the very best in Irish politics.

Where is he going? He is still here.

I thank Members for their contributions. I listened to Deputy Bruton's contribution before I had to leave the House in order to launch the Forfás 2010 strategy and I could not help but reflect on how similar his comments have been of late to those of Deputy Joe Higgins. I do not know whether he has found a new script writer or whether his own thinking has radically changed but I found the gloom, doom and pessimism of the Deputy's comments hard to believe at a time when unemployment has reduced from 17% to 5%, long-term unemployment is down to 2%, there is net immigration, high growth rates and Ireland attracts 27% of all the mobile investment coming from the US into Europe even though it has less than 1% of the European population. It was reminiscent of 20 years ago and that is a great pity.

When the Minister left Fianna Fáil.

I wish to make a number of comments about those who are standing down before I speak about the new ministerial appointments. Deputy Andrews has been a Member of the House since 1965 and has been elected in 11 successive general elections. He is a man of enormous integrity. He is a progressive politician and has shown great courage during his political career. His father, Todd Andrews, played a very important role in developing the semi-State sector and it must have been a great honour for him to see two of his sons elected to Dáil Éireann. In last year's local elections, two of his grandsons, Barry and Chris, were elected to local authorities. The Andrews family has given three generations of service to the country.

I have known Deputy Andrews well since I entered Leinster House in 1977. When people stand down, nice comments are made about them, particularly when they do so of their own accord. Throughout the time I have known him he has always been a great colleague. He is a decent, honest, hard working person. My colleague, Deputy O'Donnell, who has worked closely with him over recent years as Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs summed him up last Saturday when she said that he is not territorial, does not want to do everything and likes to work with people and give them the opportunity to contribute. She also said that he finds it easy to work with women, and that cannot be said of every male politician here and elsewhere. I wish him, his wife Annette and his family every success in the future. He will be with us in the House until the next general election.

Deputy Flood has been a constituency colleague for a considerable time. He is in every sense a decent person. The comments of Opposition Members and Deputy Lenihan are true. He is understated and does not crave the media. Our constituency has high profile, middle profile and low profile individuals. Deputy Flood is a solid performer and has a passionate interest in the concerns of the less well off in our society and in community development. He worked with great vigour to deal with the drugs crisis that exists in many communities. Anyone I have met who has worked with him in recent years, whether in public administration or at community level, has had nothing but positive comments to make about his performance, effort and concern.

It is sad that he must bring his ministerial and, indeed, political career to an end at the next general election for health reasons. He is young and all of us wish him well over the next number of years. He has had a difficult time in the past and I thank him and his wife, Carmel, for their support. He has been a loyal and decent colleague and, as Deputy Rabbitte said, he never sought to win support at the expense not just of people in his own party but those in other parties also.

Deputy Cowen is being promoted to the Department of Foreign Affairs. He is one of the most able people to have served in ministerial office. I am amused when I read that there is sup posed to be a certain formula if one wishes to become Minister for Foreign Affairs. The world of diplomacy does not operate on the basis that everybody smiles at everybody else, that one just tells people what they want to hear or one goes about one's business in a particular way. We should be mature enough in this House to know what is required to be a Minister in any Department. Deputy Cowen is tough, decisive, has his own views and is not afraid to outline them. That is much more important in ministerial office than some of the qualities that are perceived by others as being necessary. We will soon get to a stage where if one is not a certain size or does not look a certain way, one will not be able to serve in the House.

Hear, hear.

I hope we do not arrive at that juncture. This is a republic, which is about treating everybody equally and with respect.

We are at a difficult stage in the Northern Ireland peace process. We require most of all somebody with the skills which Deputy Cowen has to take this process forward. An enormous effort has gone into it over recent years and I believe that he is the right person to take up that post to negotiate on our behalf with our counterparts in Europe and around the world. We will be proud of him internationally as he seeks to represent Ireland in the international field.

Deputy Woods is a man of enormous experience having served in several different Ministries. He has held office constantly since the late 1970s when his party has been in power and that speaks volumes for the type of person he is. He is extremely loyal, hard working and bright. I have no doubt that he will be a great Minister for Education and Science as he has a keen interest in education and research.

Deputy Martin has been one of the most dynamic and energetic Ministers for Education ever and I have no doubt that he will bring that energy and dynamism to the Department of Health and Children and will do a good job. Deputy Fahey has been appointed as Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources. He has a proven track record and displayed many skills in the Departments of Health and Children, Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Education and Science in regard to the needs of children in our society. He put in an enormous effort in that regard. He is moving to a different area but he will do an outstanding job and I congratulate him and wish him well.

This is a coalition Government. Such Governments function on the basis of co-operation, not confrontation. The Government works extremely well and the Taoiseach goes out of this way to make sure that he works well with his colleagues. The Government is all the stronger for that. Bookmakers are giving odds of 4/1 that the Government will be re-elected. Opposition Members should place a few bets at that price before the odds shorten because this Government is the first since 1969 to have a real chance of re-election. We work together in the interests of the country and have had remarkable success in a short time. We have almost two and a half years to fully implement our programme for Government.

The changes made by the Taoiseach are appropriate as I do not believe in change for the sake of change. I note that others said that he should have taken the opportunity for more widespread change. I do not agree that one must move people around just for the sake of it, so that, in some sense, it might look good. There are people who, in their ministerial positions, are very involved in various projects that take some time to bring to fruition. Moving people for the sake of it does not achieve anything. It takes time for people to get a handle on a new area. The Taoiseach has got it right. I look forward to continuing to work with all my colleagues in their respective roles.

Deputies Hanafin and Ryan bring a fresh new impetus to the Government. They are both young. I hate to say I worked with their fathers as it makes me sound ancient but I did. Both their fathers were in the Seanad when I came in here in 1977 and I have known both of them for a long time. They are bright, able, talented people and will be an enormous asset to the Government's ministerial team. I congratulate them and wish them well.

As it is now 1.00 p.m. I must put the following question: "That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Frank Fahey for appointment by the President to be a Member of the Government.

Question put.

Ahern, Bertie.Ahern, Dermot.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Cullen, Martin.Davern, Noel.de Valera, Síle.Dempsey, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fahey, Frank.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Foley, Denis.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.

Kenneally, Brendan.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Michael.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donoghue, John.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Kennedy, Michael.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

Allen, Bernard.Barnes, Monica.Barrett, Seán.Bell, Michael.Belton, Louis.Broughan, Thomas.Bruton, Richard.Burke, Liam.

Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour. Creed, Michael.

Níl–continued

Currie, Austin.D'Arcy, Michael.Deasy, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Durkan, Bernard.Farrelly, John.Ferris, Michael.Finucane, Michael.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Hayes, Brian.Higgins, Jim.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael.Howlin, Brendan.Kenny, Enda.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGahon, Brendan.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Spring, Dick.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Stagg.
Question declared carried.