Nomination of Members of the Government: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the nominations by the Taoiseach of Minister of State, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and Ministers of State, Deputies Alan Kelly, Jan O'Sullivan and Alex White for appointment by the President as members of the Government.

I wish to inform the House that the President, acting on my advice, has accepted the resignations of Deputies Pat Rabbitte, Ruairí Quinn, Eamon Gilmore, Phil Hogan and Jimmy Deenihan as members of the Government.

I also wish to inform the House that I am nominating Deputy Phil Hogan as Ireland's next member of the European Commission. I intend to nominate Deputy Ged Nash for appointment as Minister of State attending the Government and Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with responsibility for business and employment. I confirm to the House that Deputy Paul Kehoe will continue to attend Government as Minister of State in my Department and at the Department of Defence and Government Chief Whip. I also intend to propose to the Government the appointment of Deputy Jimmy Deenihan as Minister of State at my Department and at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for the Irish diaspora. Further appointments of Ministers of State will be made by the Government in the near future.

I intend to assign the following responsibilities to the members of Government: the Department of Defence to Deputy Simon Coveney, in addition to his current responsibilities; the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to Deputy Paschal Donohoe; the Department of Education and Skills to Deputy Jan O'Sullivan; the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to Deputy Alex White; the Department of Foreign Affairs to Deputy Charlie Flanagan; the Department of the Environment and Local Government to Deputy Alan Kelly; the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to Deputy James Reilly; the Department of Health to Deputy Leo Varadkar; and the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht to Deputy Heather Humphreys.

I thank the outgoing members of the Cabinet for their service during what have been difficult times for our country. Individually and collectively, these former Ministers have played a major part in creating those all-important jobs for our people and in securing Ireland's economic recovery.

I already publicly and deeply thanked the former Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore. As Tánaiste, over the last three years, he has been outstanding in the service of his country and of the Irish people. As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, he has been central to restoring Ireland's international reputation, a restoration that has been vital for generating investor confidence and creating jobs.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

The former Minister, Deputy Pat Rabbitte's upgrading of broadband infrastructure has seen our country move up the international league table for high-speed connectivity, with all the attendant benefits for business, investment and jobs. Right now, high-speed broadband is being installed in all secondary schools, with plans in place for new investment across 1,100 towns and villages in rural areas.

The former Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn's passion for reform was an outstanding example of a ministerial career in various Governments. He took FÁS and transformed it into a new service for training and further education that will help many jobseekers get back into work. I wish him well in his retirement from politics. He will be missed.

The former Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan, introduced some of the biggest reforms of Government during his tenure that will have lasting benefits long into the future. I refer to such issues as local government reform, the effective banning of corporate donations, new building regulations, a new water service and dealing with ground water pollution from septic tanks and climate change. His record of implementing difficult, but necessary, change will stand to him as EU Commissioner, and I wish him well in his new role.

The former Minister, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan's tenure began what will be a successful decade of commemorations marking Ireland's path to independence. He made major progress on the inherited and long-ignored issues of protection of the environment, including the national bogs. Here, he negotiated with considerable sensitivity the plan to fulfil our environmental responsibilities while offering good solutions to landowners and turf cutters.

I look forward to working closely with him in his important new role in connecting with the extensive Irish diaspora throughout the word. I congratulate the new members who are proposed for appointment as Ministers. This is a great day for them and their families and I look forward to working with each of them as we build on the progress made by Government over the past three years.

When this Government came to office rescuing Ireland's economy and restoring its reputation were our top priorities. We were a Government of national recovery and, through our carefully-assembled plan, we have achieved this. Crucially, our reputation as a safe bet for inward investment has been restored. Last December, thanks to the hard work and considerable sacrifice of the people, a sacrifice that at times they must have thought would never end, we exited the EU-IMF bailout. The clean exit of the bailout, without requiring a precautionary credit line or a second bailout, as predicted by many, has improved Ireland's standing and has allowed us to raise new funds so that we can safeguard the public services that our people depend upon in their lives on a day-to-day basis. With new policies to encourage job creation throughout the economy and with competitiveness high on our agenda we have seen encouraging progress in our stated aim, that is, to get our country working again. Last year alone saw 61,000 new jobs. That is not only over 1,000 jobs a week for men and women all over the country it is the highest employment growth rate in Europe. Through our ambitious but necessary reforms of the social welfare system, led by the Tánaiste, we are ensuring that we help the long-term unemployed back into work, where our hardworking and dignified men and women want to be.

For sure in these difficult years for our country we have not got everything right - in the circumstances I believe that no Government could - but over the three years we made the difficult but necessary decisions because we were determined that with this Government it would be people and country first and that we would, at last, get our country moving again in the right direction.

Since we exited the EU-IMF bailout, I am pleased to say that the economy has continued to recover strongly. Vital though this is and was, I emphasise that economic recovery was never the end in itself. Economic recovery is about creating the kind of environment where enterprise and jobs can thrive, where we can provide people with the kind of public services they deserve, where they can put a decent roof over their heads and where we can give people confidence and security in their lives so that they can see from day to day that the great sacrifices they have made for the recovery will have been all worthwhile.

I am pleased to say that some people are beginning to experience this already. For them at last confidence is creeping in, life has improved and when I meet them I can see the relief and new hope in their faces and attitude. However, many more people are not yet experiencing the upturn. They have yet to see and measure the benefits of the recovery in their lives. I assure the people that their efforts and sacrifices to date will neither be taken for granted nor squandered by this Government. The resources we have at hand will be used to promote ever more job creation. It is by returning our country to full employment that we can best reach our goal of making Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business, raise a family and grow old with dignity and respect.

As we enter this new phase of recovery let me pay tribute to the workers of Ireland. Despite waves of economic instability they got out and got to work, and, because they did, they got us and the country back on track. Today, we owe our workers our recovery. On every trade mission I have the privilege to attend on and at every meeting with foreign investors, I hear the lavish praise for the skill, commitment and dedication of our workers. Today, I say to them, particularly to the middle-income and low earners, that I know it has been galling and tough and I know that at times the anxiety has been very difficult. The Government has already removed 330,000 earners from the universal social charge. The introduction of that charge by a previous Government brought the top rate of tax to 52% for individuals and families on average incomes. This is neither right or tolerable for them nor sustainable for the country. The Government wants to make work pay for Ireland's families. Now especially we want to make their lives that bit better and easier.

The objective of Government should always be to create the conditions and supports to allow families to thrive, prosper and reach their full potential. A plan to make work pay will be a major part of our priorities for the remainder of this Government. Fairness and job creation go hand in hand. Everyone should have the opportunity to work and live their lives at home. The changes at Cabinet today reflect the best team to take that recovery forward. There is still so much to do and all of it is so urgent. The new Ministers will bring a new approach and energy to job creation and to ensuring that the recovery, for which people sacrificed so much, reaches every family in Ireland.

In the remaining months of this Government there will be a relentless focus on restoring our domestic economy so that we have rapid job growth on the scale needed to return our country to full employment. In addition to the Action Plan for Jobs we will target specific sectors of the economy for particular attention. Agrifood possesses great potential for Ireland. The agrifood sector is one of the biggest and best domestic industries. With the right supports, we estimate 25,000 new jobs can be created in this sector in the next seven years. The construction sector is another part of the domestic economy that has a critical role to play in our recovery and in creating new jobs. Right now, this sector is too small for the needs of our growing economy. We need high-quality business space to attract in new investment. The negative impact of the lack of housing supply in the capital is un-missable and unacceptable. To bring construction back to a sustainable position we have a clear plan to create 60,000 new jobs. One sector that has shown encouraging signs of growth since the Government introduced new measures within 100 days of entering office is tourism. Last year's The Gathering was a major success. This week the Government published a new tourism strategy to add 50,000 new jobs over the next decade. This year has also seen a shake-up in how local government will support local businesses. Now there are 31 new local enterprise offices nationwide to provide advice and support to people starting businesses at local level. To further help Irish retailers win new business this year the Government is targeting 1,000 outlets to start trading online by way of a new voucher scheme. By helping small Irish businesses trade online we expect 3,200 new jobs to be created in this area over the next two years. As the economy begins to recover we must value, protect and nurture our hard-won competitiveness gains. Creating a competitive business environment to support an increase in exports is essential to ensure Ireland achieves growth and, crucially, gets more of our people back to work.

These are just some examples of the hard work and the agenda that lies ahead. Each Minister will outline how he or she, in their portfolio, will promote jobs and better support our working families. In addition, shortly the Government will publish a statement of priorities for the remainder of our term of office. As we return to better or more normal times this document will outline how we intend to give a hand to working families and low and middle-income workers. We intend to ensure that recovery is deeply felt in every city, town and village throughout the country. It is true that Ireland has been through the wars. There is not a family in any part of the country that has not been affected. However, my message today is that we are already in recovery, things are beginning to get better and we intend now to ensure that they get better for every person. We know that the people are impatient to see and feel this recovery in their lives. They are impatient to see and feel the change for which they have made such sacrifices and the Government is every bit as impatient as they are.

I have a strong belief for our country. I have a great sense of faith in our people. In the time I have been privileged to be Taoiseach I have travelled all over the country. I have spoken to all manner of people and listened to their stories, sometimes of great loss or anxiety. I have learned that despite this, belief, fragile as it is, exists deep in our people. We can say we have learned from the difficult past only if we make sure not to repeat it. With the actions and decisions that the Government has taken, as bitter and unwelcome as many of them have been, I believe we will not repeat that past.

Rather, there is both the will and the possibility now to move forward, rebuild, renew and recreate. There is a chance for change - a welcome and overdue change. We are not just gritting our teeth and keeping the head down and surviving, but also hoping we can get to live our lives in the way people would expect. In government we will give every help, opportunity and support to make that happen. It is both our intention and our duty to do so.

Many individuals, families and communities have experienced the worst of times since the economic crisis first struck seven years ago, but I am optimistic that the best of times are still ahead of us because a window of opportunity has opened for the country. Today, the Government is setting out how it will avail of that window to ensure the recovery improves living standards for every person, family and community. In other words, we will deliver social recovery to accompany the economic recovery firmly under way to ensure the recovery works for the many, not just the few, and the burden borne by the people has not been carried in vain. This means an unrelenting focus on jobs, increased living standards and affordable homes for the people. I look forward to working with the Taoiseach and our coalition partners to make this social recovery happen.

When the Government took office, the economy was on the brink of collapse and threatening to bring down social cohesion with it. Now, it is clear that considerable progress has been made in the job of economic repair. The economy grew by a healthy 2.7% in the first quarter of the year. Unemployment has fallen for 24 months in a row and down to its lowest level since 2009. Exports are at an all time high and Government borrowing is falling rapidly.

In a little over three and a half years, the Labour Party and Fine Gael in government have restored financial stability, ensured Ireland's successful exit from the EU-IMF bailout programme and overseen a return to economic growth. In that regard, I thank the former Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, for his principled leadership and unyielding resolve to put Ireland on the road to recovery.

After shafting him.

I also thank the former Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, and the former Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte-----

-----for their immense contributions, not alone to the Government's work but also to public life. Eamon, Ruairí and Pat have always fought-----

Tom, Pat and Mary.

-----for progressive change in the best interests of the people and will continue to do so.

The progress we have made in economic recovery has created the conditions to place an equal emphasis on social repair. I am confident that, through the statement of priorities we are publishing today and the Government's determination to see these priorities achieved, we will successfully deliver social and economic recovery.

Social recovery starts with jobs because secure work is the single best protection against poverty. As such, the Government will continue to strengthen the domestic economy and implement policies that fuel growth and prioritise new jobs for the unemployed through the Pathways to Work strategy. Helping small and medium-sized businesses to prosper again will be crucial to increasing employment. The Government will establish the strategic bank to channel billions of euro of much-needed finance to small to medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, in the next four years. In turn, this will create thousands of new jobs, but they must be jobs that pay decent wages in order that people do not need to fall back on welfare.

One of the first actions I took on becoming Minister for Social Protection was to restore the minimum wage to €8.65 per hour. Today, I am pleased to announce that the Government will establish a low pay commission on a statutory basis as an independent body to make annual recommendations to the Government on the appropriate level of the minimum wage and related matters. By taking politics out of the issue of low pay, we will ensure there will be no more attacks on low-paid workers to suit short-term whims. We will also prioritise the enactment of the collective bargaining legislation as approved by the Government to protect and further enhance workers' rights. I am delighted that a Cabinet super junior Minister with responsibility for SMEs, collective bargaining and the low pay commission is being appointed to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to ensure delivery of these priorities.

Will we have a bit of the cake?

If we are to raise living standards, pay and conditions are only part of the solution. The Government has broadened the tax base and put it on a sustainable foundation in order that there will be no repeat of the collapse of the public finances that occurred when the crisis struck. That work will gradually allow us to reform the income tax system for low and middle income workers, the people who often have to cope with everything, to reduce the amount they pay and allow them to share in the recovery. This is in keeping with the work the Government has already done in removing 330,000 low paid workers from the universal social charge net.

Building social recovery for workers and their families also means building homes for them in which to live. We have moved from a situation where we were building far too many houses in the wrong areas to one where we are building far too few in the right areas, particularly in Dublin.

There are no wrong areas.

This is reflected in significant upward house price pressure and an increase in rents, which is having a disproportionate impact on low income families. It is imperative that we move urgently to improve the supply of housing for both home purchasers and those renting. In recent weeks I made it abundantly clear that a Labour Party priority in the remainder of the Government's term would be to deliver a major social and affordable housing programme. Housing will be the No. 1 priority of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government for the remainder of that term. We will set in train a construction programme to triple the number of houses built to 25,000 a year by 2020. We will also explore creative ways of funding social housing provision and task NAMA to maximise its potential to deliver homes for families. Currently, 80,000 construction workers are unemployed. Such a programme would create a virtuous circle, helping them back to work, while providing homes for families. Helping people back to work creates a second virtuous circle - it improves the public finances and creates room for investment in quality public services which are absolutely essential to the task of reducing inequality in society. It is through quality public services that every child receives an education, regardless of his or her parents' income. It is through quality public services that everyone has access to health care, regardless of income. When people have little or no income, quality public services ensure a strong welfare safety net to protect them. Public services will be central to the task of social repair ahead of us. Those who work in and devote themselves to public service will be central to fulfilling this mandate on behalf of the people.

We will put education at the front and centre in the new cycle of investment because the Government cherishes and values education.

We have demonstrated that in the programme of new school buildings and refurbishment delivered in every part of the country by the former Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn.

With the closing of rural schools.

We have a window of opportunity now to build a social recovery, and by making education central to that social recovery, we can deliver a world of opportunity for all of our children.

This Government will also embark on a new cycle of political reform to restore trust in our institutions and public life. My colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, has done a huge amount of work in this area, introducing ground-breaking legislation to protect whistleblowers and he has restored the Freedom of Information Act, among numerous other measures introduced by the Government. However, we can and must go further and by the end of this year we will introduce an independent Garda authority to restore confidence and accountability in our policing system. We will also complete a review of the operation of the judicial appointments system to ensure an appointments system that is open, transparent and accountable, and we will enact the lobbyists Bill. Next year, we will bring forward legislation to establish an electoral commission to ensure best practice and probity in our election processes. We will hold a number of referendums on the recommendations made by the Constitutional Convention to improve our public life. We will also hold a referendum on marriage equality next spring and I look forward to working with the Taoiseach to win that referendum and to win the approval and consent of the Irish people to change our Constitution. It is their decision but I hope that many, if not all, of the parties in this House will support the electorate in reaching that choice.

I want to see an all-island recovery and that means working together, North and South, on investment, jobs and growth to deliver prosperity to all the people on the island. Essential to that task is preserving the peace and ensuring political stability in Northern Ireland. I fervently hope that dialogue can resume and that violence can be avoided during the parades season. The Government will continue to work closely with the British Government, the US Administration and the parties in the Executive to break the political deadlock and ensure we preserve the hard-won peace, and continue on the road to all-island prosperity. We will also work with our counterparts in Europe to ensure the EU prioritises the social recovery too by focusing on jobs, investment, growth and equality. We also have unfinished business on our legacy bank debt and we will continue to work through diplomatic channels to build international support for measures to reduce that debt burden on the Irish people.

Today, this Government has set out a very ambitious agenda recognising the opportunity that now exists to build the social recovery, and our commitment to delivering it. This vital window of opportunity must not be lost because the people of this country suffered hugely as a result of a crisis they did not cause, endured while this Government implemented the necessary policies to end it, and now must feel the benefits of the recovery in their lives. That is our task, and we will work with head and heart to deliver it.

Caithfidh polasaithe an Rialtais agus a Airí a bheith mar threoir bhunúsach nuair a dhéantar aon athrú ar Bhinse Tosaigh. Is é seo croílár na hoibre inniu. Gan amhras, caithfear a thuiscint agus a chur san áireamh cé chomh tábhachtach is atá an lá inniu do Theachtaí Dála áirithe. Tá sé mar shólás acu siúd atá ag fágáil an Rialtais go raibh sé de phribhléid acu freastal ar mhuintir na hÉireann ag an leibhéal ab airde. Tá cúis mhór acu siúd atá le ceapadh mar Airí Sinsearacha bheith bródúil as an méid atá bainte amach acu agus as an ardú céime seo inniu.

On behalf of my party, I would like to congratulate those who have been promoted. I know that each of them has behind them family, friends and supporters who have the right to be proud of their nominations to serve in government and also of their roles in helping them reach this day.

Our new Tánaiste, Deputy Burton, secured an overwhelming endorsement from the activists of the Labour Party to lead her party.

This is the pinnacle of a long career. It is absolutely clear that she has benefited from the exceptional support and encouragement of her family. We extend to her our congratulations on her achievement again.

It is natural that much of the coverage of today’s reshuffle will be about personalities. The winners and losers will be raked over and undoubtedly stories will emerge of deep arguments and disappointments; we have heard some already. However, this must not distract us from the substance. It is not the personalities that matter but the policies they implement. All the evidence is that very little will change because of this reshuffle. It is a bit like cosmetic surgery - nothing major has changed. The public want a new direction not just new faces, but they have not got that new direction.

As the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have just said, they believe that they have been fundamentally correct in the past three and a half years. Yet today they are publishing a new policy document, or will do so shortly as the Taoiseach said, after spending the last few days essentially tinkering around the edges of the programme for Government rather than making any significant policy changes.

The Deputy has not read it yet.

They think that they may have communicated badly, they may have made a few mistakes, but they do not see what the rest of the country sees, a Government which has been deeply unfair and which has created a two-tiered recovery-----

-----a Government which abandoned most of its promises on the day after the election-----

The Deputy's party abandoned the country.

With its partisan policies.

-----and a Government which has put politics first in everything it does. According to them, they are unpopular because of tough decisions. This is nonsense.

They are out of touch.

They are unpopular because so many of their decisions have been unfair, have caused avoidable damage and have been about managing the news cycle rather than shaping a better future for all parts of our society.

If we look back at the budgets and major announcements of this Government, we find a constant effort to make claims which were the direct opposite of the truth. Every one of them has been sold as being fair, protecting the weakest, spreading recovery, decisive and visionary. To be fair to the Government, its emphasis on spin has often succeeded in terms of headlines and commentary. However, this immense campaign of spin has rebounded on the Government.

Look at the facts. That is rubbish.

The people who claim to have delivered a democratic revolution while at the same time actively and significantly tightening Government control over the Oireachtas are not being listened to by a public which has grown cynical of everything it says.

Just like Garth Brooks did.

The long list of issues which the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have sought to claim credit for in their speeches is yet more of the same.

As the OECD recently reported, the overwhelming reason for improvements in the economy has been a combination of international circumstances and the long-term strengths of the Irish economy, particularly the skills of our people. Public finances have benefited from a series of major changes in European Union policies, particularly interest rate cuts negotiated by other countries and extended automatically to Ireland. The OECD, in a report requested by the Government, exposed the spin when it said-----

What was the rate when the Deputy left office?

-----that it could not point to a specific effect the Government’s jobs plans have had on employment.

Seventy thousands jobs.

That was a diplomatic way of saying "don’t try and use us to back up your claims to have created thousands of jobs."

However both Irish and international studies agree that Fine Gael and the Labour Party have had a significant impact in one area; they have made fiscal policy dramatically more regressive. They replaced a policy of putting the biggest burden on those with the most to one of putting the biggest burden on those with the least.

Says the guy who wanted more cuts in social protection, did he tell the people that?

The Deputy's party landed us with a bill for €60 billion.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Martin has the floor, please allow him to continue without interruption.

I would like to point out that I allowed the Taoiseach and Tánaiste their opportunity to speak without any interruption.

They were factual.

I would like if we could have some gesture towards democracy-----

Say that again.

-----from the very rattled Labour Party backbenchers who are looking more rattled by the day.

The facts are so clear that this year, for the first time in 20 years, the budget documentation did not include figures on the impact of changes on different income levels. As new taxes and charges mount, we should remember there were ten new tax increases in 2012, 20 in 2013, and a further ten in 2014.

This was the Government's commitment to workers over the past three years in terms of its budgets and comments in relation to taxation.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party issued hundreds of press releases claiming to be fair and to be helping the coping classes while trying to hide the details of yet another regressive budget last October. For three and a half years many in government were living in denial, operating under the belief that the public would give them credit for every positive development, whether or not they had made it happen. They also hoped it could continue running its speeches of the last election so that people would blame the previous Government for everything negative, regardless of how much the policies were linked to decisions of Labour Party and Fine Gael Ministers. In May, this strategy came to a crashing halt. For the first time even Government's most uncritical and naive supporters understand that the public is angry with this Government. The public does not just want a change of faces; it wants a major change of direction. However, that is not what it is getting.

As confirmed last Monday by the Minister, Deputy Noonan, all the public is getting is another public relations campaign. He let the cat out of the bag when he said that all that was being discussed was a nuancing of the programme for Government agreed three and a half years ago.

Paddy found out.

There will be an effort to show some concern on a handful of issues, but the core policy programme remains the same. The Tánaiste has talked at length over the past month about a new approach to the Labour Party's participation in this Government. She has implied that major changes are on the way. The detail of what has been announced shows this to be more empty rhetoric.

Deputy Martin's speech was written before the announcement.

The Tánaiste sought the Commissioner position for Deputy Gilmore and ministerial responsibility for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, but all she has successfully negotiated responsibility for is the property tax and water charges by securing ministerial responsibility for the Department for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

(Interruptions).

These were two major issues which the Labour Party opposed in opposition and said they would not implement.

The late Brian Lenihan signed off on that.

(Interruptions).

How often does the Labour Party have to roll over in this Government?

Fianna Fáil proposed to introduce a water tax of €400 per household.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

It is incredible what it has negotiated versus what it sought in advance of the negotiations on the reshuffle of the Cabinet. What is most striking is that the Tánaiste has identified as priorities areas in which she personally played a significant role in creating problems.

It is no wonder Brian Crowley left.

It was the one seat Fianna Fáil had left.

Since the election, the Tánaiste has specialised in a major conjuring trick of both being part of the Government and distancing herself from it. Deputy Howlin would know all about that.

Most journalists have at some point printed articles about how unhappy the Tánaiste has been with the Labour Party’s performance in government. She has encouraged the idea that the worst policies would never have happened if she had been in control. In her record as Minister for Social Protection, the false claim that she has been a lone fighter for greater fairness is exposed. Time after time she has implemented changes and cuts while trying to pretend that they were socially progressive when they were the exact opposite. Not only has she agreed policies at Cabinet that imposed new charges and taxes on people below the living wage; she has led the charge in her own Department. While missing from the speeches we have just heard, the sheer scale of the Tánaiste's targeting of low-income groups includes cuts in child benefit, jobseeker’s allowance for young people, maternity benefit and the back-to-school footwear and clothing allowance, and the abolition of the cost of education allowance. She is also responsible for the cut in the respite care grant, the abolition of the redundancy rebate, the slashing of the household benefits package, the abolition of the telephone allowance and the cut to jobseeker's benefit and disability allowance for young people, although this was reversed under pressure. She also cut the fuel allowance and the one-parent family allowance, undermined farm assist and abolished the bereavement grant. Whatever the Tánaiste has been in this Government, a dissident from its unfair policies is not one of them.

Last Tuesday, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, in a presentation to Fianna Fáil, told us that households with children and lone-parent families are now top of the queue in looking for its help and assistance. There is a sense of despair and hopelessness out there which blights life for many who are unable to see a better future for themselves or their families.

It was crafted by Fianna Fáil.

We have been told that social housing is to be a new priority for the Labour Party.

Fianna Fáil was responsible for houses built in all the wrong places.

There is no doubt that there is currently a major social housing crisis, which has escalated dramatically in the past year.

Fianna Fáil has done nothing about it for the past 15 years.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party are in government.

The truth hurts. As every Deputy knows, the biggest driver of this has been the restriction of the rent supplement scheme introduced by the Tánaiste. Every day new cases emerge of families being forced into critical situations. The Minister who proposed and implemented this policy is now Tánaiste and is now telling us how concerned she is about social housing.

Nobody is listening to the Deputy.

We are told now that the Labour Party is taking over responsibility for the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to control the housing agenda. This must be a great surprise to Deputies Penrose and Jan O'Sullivan, who have held responsibility for housing at Cabinet for the past three and a half years. Who do people think they are codding? The Labour Party has had responsibility for housing policy for the past three and a half years, as the former Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, is well aware.

And Paddy knows it.

(Interruptions).

If the Government was sincere about social housing, the first thing it would do is to abandon its policy on rent allowance.

Fianna Fáil did nothing about social housing.

It should abandon its policies.

(Interruptions).

The first thing the Government should do is abandon-----

The whole social fabric of-----

Deputy Ó Ríordáin, please.

-----its policy on rent allowance, which is causing huge problems. Government members can shout and heckle all they like.

Anybody who knows anything knows it is a real issue. The rent allowance changes are forcing people into squalor and away from their communities. That is the bottom line and the truth.

Created by Fianna Fáil.

This is the same Government that introduced the property tax and is doubling it this year despite the fact that more than 93,000 mortgages have been in arrears for over three months and 35,314 homeowners have not been able to pay their mortgages for over two years.

That is Fianna Fáil's legacy.

Not a word yet about the future.

Despite this, Fine Gael and the Labour Party, rather than introducing an independent mortgage resolution office, as suggested over three years ago by Fianna Fáil, insist that the mortgage issue should be left in the hands of the banks.

The much heralded insolvency legislation has not delivered tangible benefits. At the end of March, only four insolvency arrangements had been concluded.

It has only started.

This brings into clear focus the warning made by Fianna Fáil when that legislation was going through the Dáil.

The eviction Bill.

The Tánaiste may well have stored her "Gilmore for Taoiseach" posters in the garden shed, but she has no such alibi for the large and still growing list of broken promises and unfair decisions for which she and her colleagues have been responsible.

The Deputy has been speaking for 20 minutes and has not said a word about the future.

One of the great challenges remains not just the creation of jobs but the creation of decent and sustainable jobs.

Where is Fianna Fáil's plan?

Where is its vision?

The Government’s jobs policy to date has been about claiming credit for jobs rather than actually making an impact. This is the Government that closed enterprise centres throughout the country so that they could be renamed and reopened with a fanfare.

What did Fianna Fáil do in 14 years?

The same has happened with many enterprise and innovation initiatives. The most recent Government report on action on jobs goes as far as to claim as a new action research centres that have been open for over a decade.

Seventy thousand jobs have been created.

We need a Minister who puts aside the spin and gets serious about the crisis still faced by SMEs. They have no access to finance, face punitive charges and are tired of a Government that claims everything is fine when it manifestly is not.

Does Deputy Martin have anything positive to say?

The two-tier recovery will be entrenched unless our SMEs are supported, and it is significant that this is not a priority for the reshuffled Government.

Read the document.

Retailers and business in towns across Ireland are in deep trouble and no radical change in direction has been heralded for them.

The Deputy has not read the document.

I wish the former Minister of State, Deputy Alan Kelly, well in his new role.

(Interruptions).

He has already set himself the goal of reorganising and rebuilding the Labour Party organisation and announced his own elevation to Cabinet. Perhaps some of this energy will show itself in his new Department.

That is number one ticked off the list.

The Tánaiste served as deputy leader of the Labour Party for the past seven years. I am sure she will be looking forward to Deputy Kelly carrying out his function and providing her with the support on which Deputy Gilmore relied.

I am not so sure.

Just like Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív.

When is the Fianna Fáil reshuffle?

The former Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, has every right to be annoyed at being presented as the scapegoat for a health sector which is engulfed in crisis at every level. The policies he implemented, against which there has rightly been a growing public backlash, were Government policies, not his alone, although he must also bear significant responsibility for them.

When the campaign to remove medical cards was cranked up, it was on the orders of the Government, particularly the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin.

When hospitals were given unsustainable budgets, it was on the orders of the Government. When scarce resources were diverted to damaging reforms, it was to implement agreed Fine Gael and Labour Party policy.

Is there any word of positivity?

When 1 million health insurance policies were hiked, it was not the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, alone who did it; it was a Government that claimed it was hitting only “gold-plated policies”. This year’s funding crisis has at its core a decision taken by other Ministers to censor the HSE's annual plan by insisting that services be maintained, even where funding was being withdrawn. A system which had been delivering major improvements in services and doing so within budget has been undermined by a Government that will not even acknowledge the cutbacks it is imposing.

The announcement on Wednesday of introducing free GP cards for the over-70s, while, at the same time, removing full medical cards from the same age group just because they were slightly above the new income criteria that the Government introduced, was deeply cynical. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have not announced any new direction in health policy. They have not announced the abandonment of the compulsory insurance system or made any credible commitment to protect services.

We also need a new direction in the education sector where cutbacks and ill-judged changes are causing real damage. In education the Labour Party did not just break its promises; it did the exact opposite of what it stated it would do.

Its first cutbacks were in services for disadvantaged pupils and special needs children. Then it hiked third level fees and abolished grants for postgraduates. Incredibly, it even abolished all dedicated support for guidance and counselling services in schools. Is it proud of this?

Children were in prefabs for years.

That was an appalling decision, making young people vulnerable in an ever challenging, complex world.

Fianna Fáil sat there-----

I love the democratic input of Labour Party backbenchers who do not even have the courtesy to allow others to address the House in the time allotted.

The bottom line is that it was deeply cynical and appalling to get rid of guidance and counselling services from schools. Young people face many challenges in a complex world and the Government has denied them the valuable resource they require. No other sector has so consistently shown an ability to deliver major improvements and no sector needs as badly a Government which believes in respecting professionals.

We also need a new direction in policy on Northern Ireland. For nearly three years I have been repeatedly warning about the impact of the disengagement of the Government and the British Government. They have adhered to a policy of leaving everything to Sinn Féin and the DUP and hoping things will work out. Last year the Government even nodded in agreement as Sinn Féin and the DUP went to London to launch a blueprint for the economic future of Northern Ireland which made no mention of any cross-Border or whole-island dimension. We need a Minister for foreign affairs in Northern Ireland who understands this and will start to show a real commitment to the process of peace, reconciliation and development.

The need for a new direction in Europe is more obvious than ever.

Does Fianna Fáil have an MEP?

Simply standing to the side and hoping everything works out has not worked and will not. The Taoiseach has yet to outline how he and the Government believe the European Union should be reformed to allow it to emerge from the austere policies of the last six years. Ireland has not received full justice for its case in the Union and the Government has yet to begin articulating a demand, let alone push for it. Following agreement at the June 2012 European Council meeting, the Taoiseach and the then Tánaiste spoke about the game changer on how Irish banking debt would be dealt with, but two years later there has been no movement whatsoever. The Tánaiste's speech confirmed it was indeed Frankfurt's way, not Labour's way, that was ruling the roost.

Elements in Fine Gael briefed the media earlier this week that they wanted the Ministry for education because of the threat to small schools. They did this three years after the former Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, had made it clear that he saw small rural schools as inefficient and ripe for rationalisation. They did it after the campaign to close rural Garda stations and the justice system had been nearly shattered because of the decisions of the former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, who had refused to listen to the people's concerns.

With regard to agriculture and food and the needs of rural Ireland, rural communities need sustainability. This has to be continued through the pillars of the CAP and central Exchequer funding.

In the midst of all of the pictures and stories today about new faces, there is no commitment to a new direction. The policies that have so angered the public, the deep unfairness of most major decisions and the two-tier recovery which even today the Government has hailed as its greatest achievement still remain. All we have been offered are a few sound bites intended to resurrect the political and electoral fortunes of Fine Gael and the Labour Party but which reveal the decision to double down on the policies of the past three and a half years. There is no point in the Government talking about giving relief to hard-pressed-families when it is pushing ahead with deeply regressive and unfair water and property taxes. There is no point in talking about social housing when it is leaving in place rent allowance restrictions which are at the core of the crisis. There is no point in claiming to care about health and education when it is continuing with changes which are delivering chaos and undermining services. The Government has stated it wants this to be a ‘"reset" moment for it, but it is nothing of the sort. It is changing some of the faces, but the core strategy, the core unfairness and the core reality of spin and broken promises remain unchanged.

Nothing positive.

The only positive aspect is that Deputy Brendan Howlin is still in the Cabinet. That is good for us. His attention is positive for us.

Déanaim comhghairdeas leis na Teachtaí a bhfuair poist nua agus a dteaghlaigh. Mo chomhbhrón leis na Teachtaí a chaill anseo.

This morning I returned to the speech the Taoiseach made on 9 March 2011 on the nomination of his Government. Three years is a long time in politics. In that time all his fine words have faded. Mar a deir an seanfhocal, "Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir." He may remember that he then told us that “We are on the threshold of a new era of achievement, prosperity and potential.” He talked about how the Republic had been betrayed and how people were frightened about losing their homes. He stated: "Parents are rendered speechless at the sight of their children boarding planes to countries [here he waxed lyrically] where spring is autumn and our today is their tomorrow." He went on about workers praying for invisibility as they queued for the dole and the worry that neighbours might see the representative of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul calling at the door. He promised that what had been done would "most certainly not be done again." He committed to “create a new Ireland that works and is fair and honest.” He spoke about a covenant with the people. He promised “to close the gap between politics and the people, between Government and the governed." He has done none of these things. In truth, he has done the opposite. The people are not stupid. That is why the Government parties did so badly in the recent elections. Citizens kept a report card on the Government and marked it clearly; they marked it with the word "Failure".

In his speech in March 2011 the Taoiseach did not mention the North. Under his watch, the peace process is facing fresh challenges. The anti-Agreement elements are renewing efforts to undermine and destroy the power-sharing and all-Ireland political institutions. While I welcome the comments of the Tánaiste on the peace process, in his speech today, as in 2011, the Taoiseach did not mention the North. The Government needs to be seized by the urgency of the current situation. There is an onus on it to take a lead in defending the peace process and ensuring the necessary momentum for change is reinvigorated. In its term the North has generally been mentioned by Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil in a futile attempt to attack Sinn Féin. That is no way to deal with the partition of the island and its consequences and the necessary job of building good relations with our Unionist neighbours, nor is it the way to get the British Government to adhere to its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. This forms no part of the priorities set out today, which is not good enough. The Taoiseach is a co-equal guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and it is time the Government lived up to that responsibility. It should do so not only on the day before 12 July but every day.

The Taoiseach had the opportunity to change political direction in his announcements so as to be socially conscious and fair and make the rhetoric of his speech in March 2011 a reality, even belatedly. Theip air é seo a dhéanamh. Tá daoine fós ag fulaingt. For struggling families, a Cabinet reshuffle is of no consequence whatsoever unless it can bring positive change in their daily lives. The new Cabinet the Taoiseach has announced is no different in political outlook or approach from the outgoing Cabinet. It is, in turn, no different from that of his Fianna Fáil predecessors.

That has been the tragic record of politics for decades in this State. Three years ago, the Taoiseach's rhetoric was all about a democratic revolution, but that is not what happened. The Government has broken one election promise after another.

When the troika was here the Taoiseach dishonestly blamed it for his decisions, even though he embraced and continues to embrace austerity with a passion. His Government has been the EU's good little boys and girls, doing it Frankfurt's way by giving the people's money to the banks and heaping private banking debt on long-suffering families. However, since the troika left, even though its mentality is alive and well in the Cabinet room, he has steadily lost control of political events, as his Government stumbles from one embarrassing debacle to another. The time of the stumble was when the big boys left.

This is probably best represented by his handling of the crisis in the justice system and in the Garda. The Taoiseach spent months defending a dysfunctional system and attacked the Opposition for asking entirely legitimate questions. He strongly rejected suggestions that the Minister for Justice and Equality should resign in the face of mounting scandals. He adopted the same attitude in respect of the Garda Commissioner before he had to go. The Taoiseach ignored, dismissed and ridiculed warnings from Sinn Féin and others about the way his Government was reacting to these serious issues.

Arrogance has crept into the way this Government does its business. That arrogance is evident in the appointment of political cronies to State boards in the run up to today's Cabinet reshuffle. In the dying days of the last Government, Fianna Fáil packed State boards with its cronies, and it was loudly and rightly criticised at the time by the Taoiseach. Now, however, the Taoiseach is doing the same thing. He also sought to retain control over the banking inquiry by stacking it with Government Deputies and Senators. His Ministers have favoured their own constituencies for funding. The Taoiseach also said he would not cut child benefit or supports for citizens with disabilities, but he has done both. He said he would get a deal on the banking debt, but he failed to get such a deal. What the Taoiseach has delivered is cuts to living standards and vital public services, an unsustainable banking debt for decades to come, ten people - mainly young people - emigrating every hour, hundreds of thousands of families in mortgage distress, a homelessness crisis, a crumbling health service, a family home tax and water charges - buille ina dhiadh buille tubaisteach eile dírithe ar ghnáth daoine an Stáit seo.

Sin an fhadhb mhór leis an Rialtas seo - thug sé cosaint don chiorcal órga. There is plenty of money for consultants, investors, bankers and politicians, but little for children with disabilities. The number of special needs assistants has been cut back and senior citizens have been hit by the Government again and again.

Most citizens understand that people must shoulder their share of the burden of recovery, given the way Fianna Fail left the country. People know that, but they resent the unfair way this is being done by a Government which is clearly ruling in the interests of the elites. I have met parents, and I am sure the Taoiseach has too, whose children have all emigrated. They are the Skype generation, the scattering. These people and their families know exactly who is responsible for their forced emigration.

Today's Cabinet reshuffle changes none of this. Being in government is about making choices. This Government could have made different choices. Tá bealach níos fearr ann. Last October, Sinn Féin put forward budgetary proposals based on fairness. These would have reduced the deficit, reduced tax on families, protected public services and invested in jobs. The Government chose a different route which has led to hardship for ordinary citizens. It is time that this Government gave ordinary families a break, rather than rhetoric. October's budget must give something back. It must ease the tax burden on working people and distribute the burden of recovery more fairly. However, people have lost any hope that the Government will do this.

Since the last elections, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have said they will subject Sinn Féin's economic policies to greater scrutiny. I welcome that. There is a need for an honest, forthright and genuine discussion about a different economic approach. However, the Government's view of the economy is based on its core political values. If one supports privatisation and does not believe in the right to public services, one will have a particular view. That view is best represented by this Government's austerity policies. However, if one believes in a real republic, a citizen-centred, rights-based society, the right to a home, the right to universal health services and access to education, the right to freedom and equality and if one believes, most important, in solidarity, that will shape one's economic policy. That is the ground on which Sinn Féin stands.

During the period of the Celtic tiger economy, Sinn Féin pointed out the dangers of the developing property bubble and the potential for an economic crash. We warned about the over-reliance on taxes from the property sector, the over-dependency on construction and the danger of auction politics. We argued for the wealth of that economy to be invested in real, sustainable jobs, public services and infrastructure. We were ridiculed by the same people whose flawed, greedy, self-serving policies collapsed the economy, forcing hundreds of thousands out of work and almost half a million of our young people overseas. Sinn Féin was right then and Sinn Féin is right now.

We believe that it is possible to make the necessary deficit adjustments without harming families or front-line services. The Cabinet made the decisions, not individual Ministers. Time and again, we have been told that each decision was a Cabinet decision. It is possible to create real jobs. It is possible, although the Government might consider this a strange thing to hear, to ask the wealthiest to pay more. What is wrong with that?

It is possible to cut waste in public spending. The property tax, water tax, removal of medical cards, mortgage distress and lack of social housing have pushed people to the limit. The Members opposite are bound to know that. They do not need me to point it out. They all represent people in their constituencies, so they must know it.

Let us see some scrutiny not only of the policies of Sinn Féin but also of the policies of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil, which state that for decades to come our children and grandchildren should be forced to pay for the greed of the bankers, developers and corrupt politicians. That is not right or fair, and the Taoiseach should have put a stop to it. The reality is that there is no real difference between the leadership of Fine Gael and the leadership of Fianna Fáil on economic matters. Athnaíonn ciaróg ciaróg eile mar a deirfeá. They are two sides of the same economic coin.

However, the Labour Party should be different, and could be different. When will the Labour Party wake up to the unmistakable message delivered by the voters in May? When will the Labour leadership end its fatal embrace of Fine Gael? The Labour Party must decide, while it still has time, on a radical change of strategy. That will mean more than changing the party leader who, in fairness, sacrificed himself. He fell on his sword rather than involve the party in an internal feud, which he probably would have defeated. The party has time to get it right.

It is a democracy.

This reshuffle is a mediocre piece of political drama that will have no positive outcome for the people of Louth, although Louth now has two Ministers of State.

One is a super junior Minister.

Comhghairdeas. Is it a bird or an aeroplane? No, it is a super Minister. However, the working people of Louth, Dublin, Mayo or, dare I say, Derry, Antrim or Armagh will not see any difference.

The Deputy's party is running that part of the island.

It is different folks, but the same strokes. In keeping with the Government's record, there is little of substance in today's manoeuvre. However, I welcome the appointment of a Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora, which was a Sinn Féin proposal.

We are the servants of the people.

We are sent here by the people. What citizens need and what they clearly voted for in May, as they did in the 2011 general election, is political change. The Government has not delivered this, however. The Government has let the people down. The Taoiseach has no mandate whatsoever for what he is doing. Therefore, instead of shuffling the jokers in the pack and reshuffling his Cabinet, the Taoiseach should let Paddy and Patricia have their say. He should call a general election, go to the people and let them decide.

Deputy Catherine Murphy is sharing time with Deputies John Halligan, Richard Boyd Barrett, Ruth Coppinger, Shane Ross, Finian McGrath and Joe Higgins. They will have three minutes each. Is that agreed? Agreed.

As others have said, changes in personnel will really mean nothing unless it makes a real change in people's lives. In order to make that change, it would have been necessary to have a new vision.

I wish all of those who have been elevated well and I know that on a personal level this is a very important day for them. There is no doubt, however, that this is still the same Government that was elected in 2011. To mix metaphors, this is a game of two halves, and when the Government was elected, it came in with a fair wind. As regards the second half, however - irrespective of how long it will run for - one cannot say it will have a fair wind. That is because in the local and European elections the people very definitely said that they needed a radical change in direction.

In the last general election there were a number of big issues, including debt, which was a primary issue for citizens. It was the crux of their concerns. This year, we will spend in excess of €8 billion servicing the national debt, which is the same amount we will spend on our entire education system. That continues to be the difference between having and not having hope for the future.

There was supposed to be radical reform and a democratic revolution. There was also supposed to be major institutional reform. Unfortunately, the political reform has been superficial, while institutional reform has been a code for cuts in health and education services. Very often we look at such institutions and think this country is stuck together with sellotape. It is not the reform that people had a right to expect.

The banks were to be taken in hand and made to function. We will say as little as possible about that, but there is no better example of there being two Irelands. The same personnel are in the Bank of Ireland, with the same big pay-offs for those at the helm. That is not lost on people.

As I said, this is very much a game of two halves, but there is no fair wind this half, so those taking up their new portfolios today will have a major task. At a recent conference on the economist William Beveridge, Professor Tony Fahey said that a revolutionary moment in world history is a time for revolutionary actions, not for patching up. We have seen too much patching up occurring to date. I would hope that the new people in Cabinet, although we have yet to hear from those Ministers, will actually deliver something a lot more challenging. The one thing I do welcome, however, is the initiative on housing.

I genuinely wish all the Ministers well, including those who have resigned or are being replaced. I notice there has been a purge of my former comrades from the Democratic Left and the Workers' Party, in what might be regarded as a reverse takeover.

There is often a media tendency to over-hype the impact of reshuffles, but history shows that they have little discernible effect on the lives of many people. I cannot see how a few fresh faces will get over problems such as the massive public distrust of the current Administration. More than 700,000 people, including at least 200,000 children, are living in poverty. Hundreds of thousands of people are on the live register. One in four children is now growing up in a home where no one has a job. People do not believe the Taoiseach will make the changes. They are deeply sceptical that he can manage the economy and the public finances. It is not that voters are apathetic, indifferent or lazy. It is that they know from long experience that the identity of Ministers in charge makes only the slightest dent in departmental policy. What difference will any of this make to single mothers, given that 58% of lone parents will lose a proportion of their income shortly? What difference will it make to the thousands of unemployed husbands and wives in this country? What difference will it make to hundreds of thousands of workers earning well below the liveable wage? What difference will it make to a young mother carrying a foetus with fatal foetal abnormalities? Because of a brutal and uncompromising system, supported by this Government, she will be forced to go abroad for a procedure. As has happened in the past, she will probably come back with the remains of the child she loves in a box in the back of a car. It is outrageous and appalling. Irreparable damage has already been done to the lives of many women and children. Jobs, homes and people's dignity have been lost and, in many cases, people's lives have been lost also.

During the week, I met a member of the Government for whom I have respect. I had a coffee with him and asked him what he really thought. He said: "People have already made up their minds about this Government. It's too late." He added: "It's like a person on the Titanic. It doesn't matter which way they turn, left or right, they're heading towards the iceberg."

I wonder if the Minister is still there.

Until October, I would say.

While the Taoiseach was announcing the new ministerial positions, I was attending a protest with about 20 families who are on the housing list. They are either homeless or about to be made homeless, or they have been on the waiting list for ten or 15 years. All of them are in dire straits. They are just a small example of the hundreds of thousands of families who are suffering cruelly. Frankly, the sham drama of this Cabinet reshuffle will mean absolutely nothing to them unless it signifies a radical shift in policy. We should remember that the reason this reshuffle is happening is that the Government, particularly the Labour Party, took a hammering in the local and European elections. They took a hammering because of property tax, water charges, cruel and savage cuts to some of the most vulnerable sectors of our society, and an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis that is the worst we have seen in the State's modern history. The new Labour Party leader has her fingerprints all over some of those cuts. They include the cuts to rent allowance, which have resulted in the housing crisis, and cuts in the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance, the fuel allowance and child benefit. Those cuts have directly contributed to the suffering of families out there. They want to know if the new guard will do anything about those things. Will they abolish the unfair and regressive property tax? Will they abandon plans for water charges? Will they reverse the cruel cuts imposed on the young, the old, the disabled, the homeless or those threatened with homelessness? There is nothing in today's discussion that has alluded to the need for urgent and radical action to deal with those things. That is all that matters to people.

I do not see any sign of a commitment to policy change to shift the burden away from those who are suffering and cannot take any more. If the Government does not address the inequality and unfairness that have been the products of this brutal austerity regime, then all of this means nothing, and it will not save the Labour Party or Fine Gael from further electoral devastation at a future poll.

That is the challenge. That is what people are interested in. All of this is just pure theatre. I take no pleasure in saying that but one comes away from families who are suffering. I know of a member of one family who has just been taken to hospital because there are 14 people in a two-bedroom house. The mother has just been taken to hospital, a child is sick and the family has been on the list for 12 or 15 years. That is what the Government needs to address.

The Taoiseach seems to have learned nothing after his reshuffle today. On 23 May 2014, his Government took a hammering of Brazil v. Germany proportions but instead of apologising and taking full responsibility for that as Luiz Felipe Scolari did, we are seeing a continuation of the same tactics. In case the Taoiseach is confused, the message the electorate delivered was that it wanted a lifting of austerity and did not believe in the Government's fake recovery yet the Taoiseach did not mention the word "austerity" once in his speech nor did the Tánaiste.

The Taoiseach did not announce one policy change. We have seen a few new faces and the rejigging of a few new Departments. However, the strongest message the electorate delivered was to the Labour Party. We have a new leader and a new Tánaiste. She mentions the buzz words "low and middle-income earners" - working-class people that she and her party betrayed in the election. She discovered last weekend that there is a housing crisis and that there is a problem with low pay. Today, she announced that the Labour Party has full control of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. Is there any chance of an actual house being built any time soon for the people out there? The Tánaiste spoke about increasing supply by 2020. There are people in her constituency contacting my office who are living in cars and tents in other people's gardens. What is she going to do about that or is it all just window dressing like the Threshold help line the Government set up recently? Following questioning, I discovered that this helpline has helped six people in three weeks. The Tánaiste seems to be continuing the same policy.

Has Labour got anything to say about Big Phil who is off to Europe with his big fat salary having inflicted the hated property tax on tens of thousands of workers in this country?

We usually use the term "Minister".

I apologise. He is no longer a Minister.

It is absolutely galling for people to see him being promoted for what he has done. In his wake, he is leaving Labour in charge of the water charges so it does have a chance of accepting the message delivered by the electorate and announcing the abolition of water charges.

The Tánaiste announced that there would be a low pay commission. We do not need a commission on low pay. It should be obvious to the Tánaiste that workers need a minimum wage of at least €11 per hour and the undoing of the pay cuts that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform introduced. Will the Tánaiste stop encouraging the race to the bottom in which her Government is engaged?

The Taoiseach said that people have been through the wars. He is right. They have been through a class war. Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, spoke about a class war and we all know which class is winning. Even now, the Government has a last chance to stop paying €8 billion this year in bondholder debt which it is taking from the pockets of working people and giving to the bondholders. That is the most significant announcement the Government could make today - to lift austerity and create public investment to create jobs and build the houses we need.

I join with all other speakers in congratulating all those who have been promoted to the Cabinet or been moved to different positions in the Cabinet. It is a great pleasure for them and their families except possibly for Deputy Varadkar who has been moved from a very successful ministry into a political swamp that would intimidate anybody but I wish him well.

Having congratulated everybody on what they have done and achieved, I wonder what they have been talking about. Having read the Taoiseach's and Tánaiste's speeches, I wonder what they have been talking about and doing for the past five days because there is virtually nothing new in what they have to say, as every speaker from this side of the House has said. We can only conclude that the policies which they must have agreed so early caused very little difficulty because there are no new policies in these statements and that the juxtaposition of the Cabinet positions was what was important. When one adds that to the obvious imperative of spin and timing that does not coincide with important things like a concert being played in Croke Park, one realises how this Government is actually being run. That is worrying. This could all have been done by Monday or Tuesday but it was not done by Monday or Tuesday for frivolous reasons and for reasons the Government prioritises over things that are important. I am disappointed.

Is this based on the Deputy's vast personal experience?

I was going to pay tribute to Deputy Quinn but I will not do so now. Unfortunately, I do not have time. We should pay tribute to the former Minister for Education and Skills for the great work he has done. He will now be in a position to interrupt other speakers from that side of the House.

We expect Fine Gael to resist new policies because that seems to be its business in Government but the measures announced by the Tánaiste today as some sort of new departure are all familiar in this House. She spoke about a low pay commission. That is new but we know that commissions are the graveyard of political policies. That is why they are there. They are there to delay it. If the Government was serious about low pay, it would do something about it and not have a low pay commission. That is not going to work and it certainly will not work in the next 18 months. It is not going to happen. She spoke about an independent Garda authority. This was announced many months ago and it was announced again by the Minister for Justice and Equality in this House the other day. The Tánaiste spoke about a judicial appointments system, something that was also announced by Deputy Shatter when he was Minister for Justice and Equality. There is nothing new there. She spoke about a lobbyists Bill. We knew about this long ago as well. This particular change in government has changed nothing.

I congratulate all the new Ministers. I think this is the first time we got an opportunity to wish the Tánaiste well. It is a very important day and a great day for the new Ministers and their families. Regardless of our political differences, and I have strong political differences with many of them, it is always a great honour to be elected to this House but also to be nominated by the Taoiseach to be a Minister. It is a special day for the Ministers and their families and I wish them well. Regardless of political differences, it is a very important day so they should enjoy it before they roll up their sleeves and get stuck into the hard work over the next couple of days.

It is very important that if one is coming in as a new Minister, one should sit down, pick two or three key things in one's Department and come up with three or four new ideas to try to turn the country around. After the local and European elections, people have told us that they want real reform, real change and new policies, particularly in respect of job creation. They also want new ideas in education and sensible reforms. That is what people are talking about. We are all looking for a new vision so there is an opportunity for new Ministers to come in, try out new ideas and try to come up with new solutions. The new Ministers should look at the issues of reform, change, accountability and investment because they are the way forward as well.

The Taoiseach had an opportunity to look seriously at creating a full-time senior post for disability. I know we have a junior Minister. There are 595,355 people with a disability in Ireland. This is 13% of the population. There was an opportunity to do something about that. I know the new Minister for Health will be dealing with this issue as well. I say to him that it is very important not to forget that 45% of people with disabilities experience income poverty and 36% experience other forms of poverty.

Will the Minister ensure that everyone with a disability is guaranteed a high quality service as a right and prioritise funding for disability services in line with the Taoiseach and the former Tánaiste's pre-election commitments on disabilities? These are sensible ideas that should be listened to by all Members.

The Government needs to up its game on the economy and tax and fiscal policy. The SME sector should be focused on as a way of developing the economy and getting us out of the current mess.

I wish all the new Ministers well.

This Fine Gael-Labour Party Government was tried, convicted and condemned by the ordinary people of this State at the ballot box on 23 May. Today, however, instead of expressions of remorse and a declaration of major changes to take us away from the disastrous austerity policy, we got rhetoric as usual and a continuation of destructive austerity that has wreaked havoc on our society in order to salvage the European financial market system and a sick European capitalism from crisis. This system is built on speculation, profiteering and naked greed.

Working people, pensioners and the poor continue to pay dearly. The Tánaiste and Labour Party leader had the nerve to stand up and pretend to be a champion for low-paid workers in the same week that Greyhound refuse collection workers had a blunderbuss put to their heads to take a 35% wage cut. This is legal in an Ireland that has had a supposed labour party in power for the past three and a half years. It is a little late for it to be reincarnated as a champion.

The water tax constitutes the next most serious attack on living standards of our people. The Taoiseach admitted in the House that it would be €580 per household on average when the policy of so-called full cost recovery is implemented in a few years' time. Hatred for the water tax was a major factor in the Labour Party's annihilation in the local and European elections. Today, in what must be an act of supreme arrogance, the Labour Party took direct ministerial responsibility for the implementation of this regressive bondholder's tax. What happened to the limits of austerity that the Tánaiste has been preaching about for the past few months? Today it is clear that it is austerity as usual.

Fine Gael and particularly the Labour Party should prepare for a major revolt of people power when they try to implement their water tax and for the disappearance of what little support they salvaged in the local and European elections. James Connolly and Jim Larkin set out to build a mass political movement for working-class people in this country and for the socialist transformation of society. That goal has been betrayed by generations of right-wing Labour Party leaders. The task is nevertheless as urgent as it ever was, and working people, socialists and the left will undertake that task in the teeth of what the Labour Party is doing.

I have listened to many speeches in the House over the years on the appointments of Governments and reshuffles of various kinds, and this has been, from an Opposition perspective, the worst performance I have ever heard. It was based purely on the old classic attitude of everything is a failure and nothing works, and it is all regressive and anti-progress. There was not a single word from an Opposition Member, with one exception, about what should happen for the future. Deputy Finian McGrath on the Independent benches advised Ministers when they sit behind their desks for the first time to decide two or three priorities that they can go after and have a strategy and a structure to the work within their Departments. That was the only constructive suggestion made by the Opposition.

I do not know who wrote Deputy Martin's speech, but it was a classic speech that one would hear from the back of a trailer down in Newport on a wet Saturday morning when nobody wants to listen.

The Taoiseach would know all about the back of a trailer in Roscommon.

I liked the engagement between Deputy Ross and the former Minister, Deputy Quinn. At least Deputy Ross has the experience to be courteous in understanding how these interactions happen.

Deputy Adams made reference to what the Government is not doing and its interest in affairs North of the Border. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Charles Flanagan, has a keen interest and long experience in engaging in issues across the Border, on this side of the Border and on the Northern side of the Border, as has the new Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who is a Border Deputy with long experience of engagement with minorities North and South. In her capacity as chairperson of the centenary commission, she will send a powerful signal about inclusiveness and how it should be comprehensive, fair and so on.

Perhaps we live in different places, but did I hear this morning that 70,000 new cars had been bought this year and that for 24 consecutive months there has been a drop in the live register? Do I hear in places I visit around the country that employment is increasing and small firms are taking on new people? Do Members opposite not understand that we listened to the messages of the electorate in the elections and that we have heard that message? That is why the new position given to the Minister of State, Deputy Nash, assisting the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will be to deal with SMEs and access to credit, local employment offices and the opportunity to give people the information they need to expand their business and take on new workers. That is where the future lies, but I regret that not a single constructive suggestion, with one exception, was based on the future, which is what we all have to deal with.

What about our proposal about social housing?

The Deputy comes in with his serial rant about destructiveness.

All the people in Tuam were wrong.

As for the Socialist Party, do its members not understand that when they turn on the tap, somebody has to pay for that? We have not had the capacity for years to invest in infrastructure for people in Deputy Higgins's constituency who want the opportunity to work. We cannot have infrastructure unless we have an entity that can borrow money and provide it to business, industry and consumers

If the Sinn Féin line is followed, a wealth tax should be introduced, property and water charges should be abolished, every other charge one can imagine should be abolished, and we can live in a Utopian land where everything is free.

It is called the Willy Wonka factory.

I understand Deputy Adams has abandoned his wealth tax and his 82% tax rate. He will abandon everything else as it is scrutinised, as it will be in the run up to the next election, which is just over 20 months away.

Not by the Taoiseach. Unless it is in a script.

I want the Deputies opposite to understand that this Government, with new faces and some changes of emphasis, has heard the message of the people and listened to it. I will not waste any more time here. There is a great deal of work to be done by the Government and the junior Ministers who will be appointed over the next period. Our job is to fulfil the mandate given to us by the people and to listen to how that message can be delivered. That mandate was to sort out our public finances and put our country back to work.

I never heard that phrase on the doorsteps and I bet the Taoiseach did not either.

In due course, the people will have their opportunity to adjudicate as to whether the Government parties have fulfilled that mandate. If the projections regarding the potential growth of the economy, the continued drop in the live register, the continued rise in employment and investment in SMEs for exports and the strong line of investment into the country are fulfilled, these are all signs that the country is heading in the right direction.

From our point of view, I have admitted that we did not get everything right but we hope over the next 20 months to work exceptionally hard in the interest of our country and its people because it is for the sake of the future and the future for those young people coming behind us that this Government applies its priorities. At the end of that time, everybody with a democratic mandate and the wheels of democracy that turn will have an opportunity to be judged. For our part, the Tánaiste and I commit to heading a Government that will work exceptionally hard in the interest of our people and our country and, hopefully from our perspective of dealing with that mandate, we will improve the position in 20 months' time so that people look back and say that the sacrifices were very hard but they were worth it in that the country is on the road back to prosperity.

This is a day of enjoyment and excitement for new Ministers and those who may have changed responsibilities. It is also a day of disappointment for those who moved out and moved on, and for people who cannot be chosen because of constitutional restrictions on numbers. The party opposite used to have 20 or 21 Ministers of State in order to keep the temperature down. This is always a difficulty but people understand that choices have to be made in putting these positions together. Government is about choices, not personalities or jobs for people. We are moving the country forward so that our people have opportunities.

I am willing to accept the challenge on behalf of Government that we will work exceptionally hard over the next 20 months. We will continue to implement our mandate and the document to be produced, which I do not think Members have yet read, will be endorsed shortly by the Government and will set out the economic statement and strategy, following from the Government having developed a strategy to exit the bailout programme and filling in the signposts for the years ahead on low paid and middle income workers and the opportunities that present for the Government to continue to make decisions that benefit our country and our people. I know the signs are out there. I feel the signs of that confidence but I want to see the people being able to appreciate that what they have done is paying dividends for their lives, their incomes, their careers, their homes, their families and their opportunities. Therefore, I commend to the House the motion on the nominations for appointments to Cabinet by the President.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 93; Níl, 33.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Question declared carried.
Sitting suspended at 3.45 p.m. and resumed at 5.30 p.m.