Nomination of Member of the Government: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approve the nomination of Deputy Joe McHugh for appointment by the President to be a member of the Government.

Pursuant to section 4(1) of the Ministers and Secretaries Amendment Act 1946, I have assigned the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to Deputy Richard Bruton of Dublin Bay North.

I now request that the nomination of Deputy Joe McHugh of the Donegal constituency be approved. Following his appointment, I propose to assign to him the Department of Education and Skills.

I also inform the House of my intention to appoint Deputy Seán Kyne to become Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the islands, and Deputy Seán Canney to become Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It is, I hope, a proud day for all of them and for their families and supporters.

Deputy Joe McHugh will build on the work of the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in the Department of Education and Skills, a Department in which we will invest almost €11 billion next year. This reflects the country’s changing demographics and our belief in the importance of education in changing lives. This year we will have the lowest pupil-teacher ratio ever in our primary schools and more people from non-traditional backgrounds making it to third level education than ever before. We have record levels of support for students with special needs and new schools are being built, refurbished and extended all over the country. One of his predecessors as Minister for Education, Gemma Hussey, spoke eloquently in this Chamber about the need to have more confidence in our future. Our ambitions for education show that we too have confidence in the future, we are prepared to invest in it and we are prepared to grasp the opportunities before us.

In his new role, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, will take the lead on broadband and work to secure the national broadband plan. When we came to office in 2016, only 52% of premises in Ireland had access to high speed broadband and today it is 75%. Despite the events of recent days, we will not be sidetracked from our mission of providing high speed broadband to 500,000 rural homes, bringing that figure to 100%. The Minister will also take the lead on climate action, one of the greatest challenges facing our planet. Under Project Ireland 2040, we will make an unprecedented investment of €22 billion in climate action over the next decade to modernise our infrastructure and decarbonise our economy. During this time, we will seek a political consensus on carbon tax and act with a long-term vision in a fair way.

Deputy Seán Kyne, who takes over as Minister of State with responsibility for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the islands and also as Government Chief Whip, will have a pivotal role to play as we deal with the challenges of this new parliamentary session and the tight parliamentary arithmetic. I have every confidence in his ability to do so.

Deputy Seán Canney, who replaces him as Minister of State with responsibility for rural affairs and natural resources, will have responsibility for a broad range of issues across two Departments and will bring the same skill and ability as he did to his previous role in government and the OPW.

With these new appointments, we reaffirm the mission of this Government to bring Ireland forward and build on the achievements of the past few years. We recognise that problems persist. We are aware of the scale of the challenges we face. We have plans that are working and making real progress.

Is céim mhór í ceapachán Aire nua i saol a chlann agus a chairde. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Teachta Joe McHugh atá ceaptha ina Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna agus táim cinnte go ndéanfaidh sé togha le dul chun cinn a mbainfidh ár muintir bród as. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis na hAirí Stáit, na Teachtaí Seán Canney agus Seán Kyne, freisin agus leis an Teachta Richard Bruton as a cheapachán nua. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leo. Molaim na ceapacháin seo don Teach.

I commend these appointments to the House.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle. Ar dtús guím gach rath ar an Aire nua, an Teachta Joe McHugh, agus ar na hAirí Stáit, na Teachtaí Seán Kyne agus Seán Canney, agus leis an Aire atá ag dul go dtí baile eile, an Teachta Richard Bruton. Guím gach rath ar a gclanna agus ar a lucht tacaíochta.

I congratulate Deputy Joe McHugh on his accession from the high chair to the senior table. He gets all of the good wishes of every Deputy in the House personally. He is somebody who has made a huge effort with every Deputy, both as Chief Whip and as Minister of State. I welcome his family, particularly former Deputy Olwyn Enright, to the Visitors Gallery. This is a huge night of celebration. Very few people have served around the Cabinet table and it is a great honour. I know it is an honour Deputy McHugh will carry very well and one he will respect. I know he will do his country, his county and his party proud in the Department of Education and Skills.

Guím gach rath freisin ar an Aire Stáit nua, an Teachta Kyne. It will be an interesting job as Chief Whip in the coming days but I am more interested in his position as Aire Stáit na Gaeltachta. Tá taithí mhór aige ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta ach caithfimid a bheith ag obair ar son mhuintir na Gaeltachta chun iad a spreagadh. Táimid faoi lánbhrú sa Ghaeltacht i láthair na huaire chun í a choimeád agus a choinneáil beo. Tá brú mór agus beidh brú mór ar an Aire Stáit nua chun é sin a réiteach le haghaidh cibé am a bheidh aige san oifig.

I congratulate Deputy Seán Canney on coming back to Government. It is a kind of Lanigan's ball - Canney steps in, Canney steps out again, Canney steps in again. I wish the Minister, Deputy Bruton, every success and think it is a good choice.

I wish Deputy Naughten every success. However, the events of last week have cast a great pall over the national broadband plan. It is typical that the Taoiseach did not have confidence in the Minister to continue yet he continues to have confidence in the plan. It is now up to Deputy Bruton to ensure the plan works. Every time the Taoiseach quotes rising from 52% to 75% coverage, he alienates and annoys the 25% who are further away from broadband than ever. Some 25% of people have been cynically exploited by the commercial companies, which literally will provide their neighbours with coverage and not provide them with coverage as they await the national broadband plan. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, will not have time to get settled in because he has to deliver on the broadband plan and he also has to deliver on our actions on climate change. Last Monday's report probably got lost in the maelstrom of budget, Brexit and everything else, but climate change is the No. 1 issue facing our world and our country when all the other issues have passed.

We wish Deputy Joe McHugh every success in the Department of Education and Skills. We have placed education at the heart of confidence and supply in terms of our commitment as a party. We secured the return of guidance counselling and the reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio. Education is central to our country's prospects for achievement. The Minister will face challenges in dealing with the ongoing issues of new entrants, of teaching principals and the pressure on the secondary education curriculum. In particular, there is the issue of third and fourth level education, which face massive challenges in terms of our expectations and our new role as the country and the world changes, and also in terms of funding and how we match all of those together. We wish him every success in dealing with these challenges as we move forward.

Deputy Canney will take up the role of the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, as Minister of State and we wish him success. He will bring his experience of his previous role as Minister of State. I hope he has better trust in the Taoiseach's word than his former colleagues in the Independent Alliance in terms of keeping him there, but he will have the support of everybody in the House.

This is a special day. It is special for the four men - which we note, negatively - who have been appointed to Government and a special day for their families. The hard work will start in the morning. I know Deputy Thomas Byrne will hold the Minister for Education and Skills to account in the House on Thursday evening's education questions. The four should enjoy this evening and enjoy the sense of achievement for their families, friends and supporters. Let the real and very hard work in front of them commence tomorrow morning.

First, on a personal level, of course, it is an achievement for each of the four Ministers. I cite, in particular, an Teachta Joe McHugh for his achievement today. When I break the dramatic news that we will not be supporting this motion, I do not wish them to take it personally because it is not personally intended.

Since the last general election we have been subjected to the political contortion that is confidence and supply between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Now, on its conclusion after the recent budget, we are presented with a period of showboating on the part of An Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, to see who can hoodwink the other into renewing the deal first, reviewing the deal, or whatever one wishes to call it. The confidence and supply deal in 2016 was heralded as the beginning of new politics but, of course, it was anything but that. It has proven to be a scam, a political con job designed to allow Fianna Fáil to pretend to be in opposition despite propping up the Government, and which has allowed Fine Gael to operate without real accountability or sanction. It has been bad for politics, bad for citizens and bad for governance. It has given us an Administration that is inherently unstable and marked by uncertainty and by incoherence.

The very real issues and crises that face citizens and communities continue to grow worse day by day. We are at a defining point in our history as we face into the challenges of Brexit, as we discussed earlier. We have a housing and homelessness crisis that it is out of control. By any measure, Fine Gael's and Fianna Fáil's approach to tackling the housing crisis has failed abysmally. Rent and house prices are out of control. Tens of thousands languish on council housing waiting lists. Not a single affordable home to rent or to buy has been provided over the last three years.

An entire generation of young people in particular are locked out of any real prospect of homeownership ever. There are 10,000 homeless, 4,000 of whom are children, sleeping in emergency accommodation. This is the stuff of scandal. The Government has similarly failed to address the deepening crisis in our health service. Hospital waiting lists stand now at over 700,000 people. Last year alone, 100,000 people had to wait on trolleys in emergency departments. This morning, there were 542 people on trolleys in hospitals. This is hardly a record of success.

Many other challenges will be faced, including the challenge of affordable childcare and of decent work and wages. We need workable solutions to these challenges. We need clarity and stability. The Taoiseach tells us the latest drama around confidence and supply ought to conclude by Hallowe'en. Deputy Micheál Martin says it will drag on until Christmas. This is an extraordinary scenario from people who tell us stability is the goal.

How is the old Government going in the North?

There is a choice here. Either Fianna Fáil can do the honest thing and cross the floor to form a coalition by agreeing a programme for Government and delivering it or we can go to the people without delay. What causes instability is uncertainty and delay. We are into just the latest episode of that. Fianna Fáil wishes to be all things to all people at all times but it has been found out. Particularly facing into the huge, historic and generational challenge of Brexit, we need a stable Government. As such, we have two options. Fianna Fáil can cross the floor and go into government. Its members should get out of their high chair and sit with the big boys and some girls at their table or go to the people. Let us have an election and a fresh mandate to let a new and progressive Government emerge.

To be appointed a member of the Government of Ireland is a unique honour and a great privilege. It must be a wonderful day for Deputy Joe McHugh to be made one of those 15 people who are charged with the running of our Republic after centuries of struggle to have that capacity. It is a great privilege and honour for him and one which is well merited. There is no one in the House who does not appreciate Deputy McHugh's ability and his sociability as someone who can interact with everyone here. Like the leader of Sinn Féin, however, the Labour Party will not support Deputy McHugh's appointment, not for any personal reason but because we do not have confidence in the Government and never have had. That is because it is a very unusual construct. I was approached as was everyone in the House to cobble together the numbers but one must look at what is happening in Westminster where there is also a confidence and supply arrangement. For the first time in several hundred years, Irish unionists are determining policy which is not in the best interests of their nation. If we turn the mirror on ourselves, we see that this is not a normal Government. While we have had minority Governments in the past, we have never had a construct like this in which a very significant minority is held in position on a grace and favour basis, in essence, by the largest party in opposition which has been waiting since the inception of the Government for the right time to pull it down.

We could have done it lots of times but we did not.

That cannot be an effective way to function. People talk about the new politics, if it is new politics. I remember speaking to my colleague who sits close to me here, namely, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

That must have been an interesting conversation.

Deputy Calleary should listen sometimes.

Deputy Howlin should listen to the members of the Labour Party sometimes.

The Minister, Deputy Ross, told me that there was consternation in government the first time it was defeated whereas now it is a surprise if it wins a vote. We cannot reduce the House to a glorified debating society in which its formal resolutions are meaningless. Votes used to have consequences here. The decisions of the elected assembly of the people actually had a meaning.

Deputy Howlin banished councillors.

Deputy McGrath will have his chance. In fact, he has had it. The truth is that at the latest count, well over 200 Bills have passed at a rate of sometimes three a week on Second Stage before entering limbo and going no further. They could have been debated by a university debating society as opposed to the national Parliament. In point of fact, I understand that this was acceptable for a period of time. All parties had to come to terms with the outcome of the last election. However, we are now facing very serious issues whereas we have debated issues in the past and following five or six votes decided to have no opinion on fundamental issues being unable to secure a majority for any point of view. That is sustainable for a while but it is not sustainable into the longer term.

In the context of the major issues we face, none more serious than Brexit, we need a stable Government. We need a Government which can command a majority in the House. That will ultimately mean some form of coalition because that is the way normal negotiations work when forming a Government. That would allow decisions to be brought to Cabinet by Ministers who know there is a chance of them getting through the Cabinet in the first place and that decisions of the Cabinet have a reasonable prospect of being enacting by the Houses of the Oireachtas. That has been the way of politics since the foundation of the State. This is a unique and unsustainable version of democracy. While I wish all of those who have got new jobs today well in their roles in the national interest, in particular Deputy McHugh who joins the Cabinet for the first time and whose appointment is the only decision we really have to make, the right thing to do now would, in fact, be to have a general election.

Deputy Howlin does not really think that.

Deputy Howlin walked away.

We listened to the people.

"I did not ask for anything in return. I am happy with the access I have to the Government and to Government Departments." These are the words of Deputy Michael Lowry who has just winked at his colleagues sitting beside him.

He is as entitled to be here as Deputy Barry.

He will probably be here after the next election.

When Deputy Barry has been here for 31 years, he will have something to crow about.

Deputy Healy-Rae can make it a circus if he likes.

Deputy Barry should be allowed to speak without interruption.

I will tell the House another thing. Deputy Lowry has more access to the Government and its Departments than me. Does it not tell us where this Government is at that it relies on the votes of Deputy Lowry to win this and other divisions? Last week, a Minister had to resign from the Government because he left himself open to accusations of crony capitalism. This week, the Government survives only with the votes of a Deputy who epitomises crony capitalism. Another Minister is not here who has questions to answer also. For this reason and others, the Dáil should not take time to appoint new Ministers this evening. Instead, it should make arrangements to end the life of this Government and name a date for a general election.

This Government should go, and I am not alone in saying so. This morning we learned that 44% of people polled by Ipsos-MRBI agreed and said they too want a general election. These people are tired of the failures of this Government.

What percentage support did the Deputy's party get in that poll?

The Government's privatisation policies have failed utterly-----

The Deputy needs to learn to read.

-----to deliver broadband to rural Ireland.

Within the margin of error.

The number one reason we need a general election is that the Government has failed to address the greatest housing crisis in the history of the State. It has failed to build the public housing people need while shovelling more and more cash into the private landlord sector. The Government is part of the problem, not part of the solution. The only reason to allow this Dáil to run for even one more day is the abortion legislation. This legislation must be processed as quickly as possible-----

The Deputy supports us now.

-----and then the Government must go. We register our point tonight not just by our speeches. We will call for a vote through the lobbies. It is not the time for new Ministers. They are joining a failed Government. It is the time for change. It is the time for a general election.

I wish to inform the Deputy that the vote will be through the lobbies so he will not have to call for it.

(Interruptions).

Please, Deputies.

I think I deserve a few seconds back due to that intervention by your good self.

The Minister of State, Deputy Breen, is missing from the Chamber. There is a wonderful attendance from Fine Gael tonight, but one of the men involved in this is missing, and everyone should know that his title is Minister of State with responsibility for trade, employment, business, the EU digital Single Market and data protection. How can anyone claim that a Minister of State with such responsibility has nothing to do with the communications industry or the broadband plan? He should at least be here to answer questions. That must happen. Otherwise, this charade is long from over.

I was struck by the Taoiseach's statement last Friday in Bailieborough. He said there was a problem because the Minister, Deputy Naughten, had dinners with one bidder for a billion euro State contract and not with all of them. This goes to the heart of the problem in this House and with this State that despite all the new rules we have brought in on transparency etc., we have not changed much from previous days, which have been mentioned. There is a symbiotic relationship in this Parliament between Ministers, civil servants and the wealthy business elite. The decision to privatise telecoms lies at the heart of this.

I know from a reply I received to a question I asked last week, and I want to share this with the House, that €18 million has so far been spent on the competitive tendering process for the provision of broadband services. Guess what it was spent on - competitively tendering for advice on how we competitively tender for the provision of broadband services. I ask the Government to stop pretending we are not engaged in a bizarre, Byzantine process that costs public money and yields poor services and results for the State and its people. This applies to broadband, housing, health and CervicalCheck. Despite all the promises of change, this is what we get time and again. Effectively, we own Enet. It is a publicly funded outlet that exists only because we tendered for 90 towns and villages to be serviced with broadband, involving 75% of the State's infrastructure fund.

I ask the House to look at the charade of how we are refusing to deliver proper public services. I echo the call for the Government to go back to the people on all these crucial issues-----

I thank the Deputy. Her time is up.

-----of housing and health, the bags it has made of this and of CervicalCheck and the fact that it is not running this country properly in a way that would service citizens.

At this stage in the history of this Dáil, many of our constituents might think we are just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, especially given the stream of bad news from Brussels and Westminster in recent days. Last Thursday, in a brief intervention in which I called on the Taoiseach to come before the House, I did not get an opportunity to comment on the outgoing Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten. I have known Deputy Naughten since he entered Dáil Éireann. I knew his dad before that, the former Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Liam. Particularly since he became an Independent Member in 2011, Deputy Naughten has made significant contributions to this House and I know he will continue to do so, especially in the areas of health, social care and nursing homes. Many Independents, including myself, were somewhat indebted to Deputy Naughten in the 2011 to 2016 period, the austerity Government period, when he campaigned for better access to the national media for Independents, given that at that stage we had very significant support in the polls. Even in this morning's poll we still have significant support.

Obviously, I took strongly opposing views to Deputy Naughten's on many aspects of his brief in communications, climate change and the environment, especially in respect of the regulation of household waste collection, the regulation of mobile and fixed telecoms and climate change. I accept, however, that his great ambition was finally to achieve the full roll-out of broadband for the whole of our country. Given the history of telecoms in Ireland and the disgraceful findings of the Moriarty tribunal on the second mobile licence, however, it is wrong that any meetings were held by any Minister with a party to a critical public tender. A constituent of mine who has a good knowledge of telecoms and communications recently drew attention to the fact that we lack digital independence, given that our major mobile phone and broadband companies are now all controlled by foreign enterprises, foreign entities. The decade-long failure of the roll-out of rural broadband can always be traced back, as my colleague has said, to the privatisation of Eircom by the Ahern-McCreevy Fianna Fáil Government. That sale of our telecoms network was of course enthusiastically supported by Fine Gael. This and the continuing failure on the part of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to use our State assets to create a national mobile and fibre-optic broadband system are another two of the disastrous ongoing impacts of the blanket bank guarantee.

I wish the Minister, Deputy Bruton, my constituency colleague, well in his new portfolio but I think he is a Minister from the wrong party, given its history, to address seriously the national broadband roll-out and, as I said, Ireland's total lack of digital independence. In the Minister's stint in education he made no serious impact on pupil-teacher ratios, capitation grants, the achievement of teachers' pay equality - in Darndale this morning people drew my attention to the fact that we are still struggling for pay equality - or a better-funded third level sector. The Education (Admission to Schools) Bill is perhaps the Minister's only real legacy in education. I warmly congratulate the new Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, and wish him well. He is always a very pleasant colleague in this House, and I hope he will try to grasp those very difficult issues which his colleague, Deputy Bruton, avoided. I also wish Deputy Canney, Minister of State at the Departments of Rural and Community Development and Communications, Climate Action and Environment, well on his second stint, I think, in government, and Deputy Kyne well in his new portfolio.

Any restructuring of a Government makes us think how the Department Votes and portfolios could be better organised. For example, one of the mistakes the Government made recently was effectively to do away with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I did not agree with its policies, but the system of having a Minister for Finance and a separate Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform was a good one and could have been into the future. I hope people will look at this again, probably after the general election. We have had endless discussions about the justice portfolio and whether there are actually two Departments in the current Department. I believe there are. Back in the mid-1990s, we had a Minister for Justice and a Minister for Equality and Law Reform and we could see a better organisation. Finally, in defence we have seen the recent demonstration by our soldiers, sailors and Air Corps personnel and their relatives. Over the past seven or eight years, defence has effectively not been at senior Cabinet level, we have not had a Department of Defence, and pay and conditions have fallen very sharply. Perhaps Deputies should reflect on this and how we could better organise our portfolios after the general election.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis na hAirí nua. I welcome and congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, and thank him for his time as Government Chief Whip. I work with him on the Business Committee. He is always helpful and cordial. We have differences of opinion but always work well together. I welcome a bhean chéile freisin. I welcome Deputy Canney back as a Minister of State and I wish Deputy Kyne and the Minister, Deputy Bruton, well in their new roles. The Minister has Tipperary connections, and we thought he might look after us better regarding the DEIS schools in Tipperary town but he has failed spectacularly. He is a safe pair of hands, however.

I note the absence of the Minister, Deputy Ross, and his colleagues from the Independent Alliance, although the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan, has arrived. It shows something about the dysfunction-----

The Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, is here as well.

He is very quiet. We do not see him anymore. When he was on this side, he made a lot of noise and had a lot to say. It is the height of political brass neck for the Taoiseach to come into this House and talk about bringing stability to the Government so that it can move forward with the national broadband plan. The Taoiseach knows nothing about the plan. He intends to make it a personal wrap-around, like the boiler around the hot stove or the wrap-around in the hot press. It is not that intimate to him. He knows nothing about rural Ireland and he cares less. Hardly a week or month goes by without a report of internal fighting within this shambolic Government, especially with reference to the relationship between the Independent Alliance Ministers and their so-called Fine Gael colleagues. If the Taoiseach is so interested in maintaining stability to deliver on the endless promises his Government has made, why have these reports of disquiet been so consistent? My colleague from Tipperary is here a lot longer than I am. He is normally elected by the people of Tipperary at the head of the poll. Deputy Mick Barry and others who want to bring about his demise have not been elected for as long as he has been. The Deputy in question knows what kind of vote we are about to have and he does not need to be advised. He has been elected by the people of Tipperary in accordance with their right.

The Deputy must want to hoover up the No. 2s.

Gabh mo leithscéal. I did not hear what the Deputy said. Anyway, it is all the one. The Deputy should look after Limerick and not mind us in Tipperary.

He said that the Deputy must want to hoover up the No. 2s.

It appears to me and many others that the Taoiseach treats his so-called political partners with contempt. This means it is a matter of political luck that the Government has not collapsed already. Any prospect of delivering the national broadband plan would collapse with it. The former Minister, Deputy Naughten, has been criticised. I want to compliment him as a diligent and hard-working Deputy and Minister. He was the only Minister who kept in touch with us. Our colleagues in the Independent Alliance can vouch for this. He briefed us regularly. I thank him and his staff for that. I wish him well. He did his best to advance the broadband process. If anything, he was too anxious to get something delivered. He understands rural Ireland and cares for it deeply. I think he summed up matters very well last week when he said that the Taoiseach is more interested in "opinion polls than telecoms poles" and in "optics than fibre optics". That has been the problem with this Government since its inception. We know about the €5 million that was spent on spin. The dysfunctional nature of this Government was on full display in October 2016, when a row about judicial appointments broke out between Fine Gael and the Minister, Deputy Ross, and his Independent Alliance colleagues. In October 2017, another row between the parties related to the freezing of the assets of senior bankers involved in the tracker mortgage scandal. We know who lost that one - the unfortunate people who are suffering with their mortgages. The Independent Alliance did not win it. There was another example of this instability just last month, when reports emerged that Fine Gael Ministers were privately blaming the Independent Alliance for being responsible for a major part of the health budget overspend.

Did they do that?

Who will the Minister for Health blame next? He has no bother finding €12 million for the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, but we have to wait for everything else. All of this suggests that political crisis has been avoided by mere chance up to now. Despite the changes that are being made today, the Government is on its knees. It would be no great sorrow to say goodbye to it, as long as it does not mean the end of the national broadband plan. The Government does not care about broadband or ordinary people. As it proved in this month's budget, it cares about the bankers and the big people. It missed the opportunity to tax the fat cats, to tax AIB on its huge profits, to tax the new landlords in Tipperary who are wreaking havoc on us all, to have any meaningful impact or result and to show that it cares about ordinary people. It can move the deckchairs, as Deputy Broughan has said, but the Titanic is well rattled and well shook. The only reason the Government is sticking together is to pass the dastardly Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 with the help of the main Opposition party and the other Opposition parties. This purely regressive legislation goes far beyond anything that is in place in England or anywhere else. It is shameful. That, and nothing else, is the glue that is keeping the Government together.

We will get it through.

More hot air from Deputy Mattie McGrath.

The Ministers and Ministers of State who are being appointed to new positions today are four capable men. They are good-humoured in everything they do. They are good men. The only problem is that none of them is a woman.

It is a terrible pity that Olwyn Enright and others with her scale of talent could not be here today to be appointed as Ministers. Deputy McHugh's forthcoming appointment as a Minister is a huge honour for him and his family. We wish him the best of luck. As Deputy Howlin said earlier, to sit at the Cabinet table for the first time is a unique honour in our Republic. I am quite sure that Deputy McHugh will be good at it. His colleague, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, will need more than luck. The Joint Committee on Climate Action, which is chaired by Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, who is sitting at the back of the Chamber, has revealed in real under-the-bonnet detail that our climate policy is in utter disarray. Last week's special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change referred to this as the biggest challenge of our time and emphasised that we need to act quickly. The Government was hammered for cutting carbon tax measures from the budget, but I fear that when the Taoiseach looks at today's polls he will notice that its poll ratings have not dropped or dipped. I emphasise to him that I think the Irish people care about this issue. They will come to understand the scale of incompetence that is evident in our climate policy at the moment and the need for change. The Joint Committee on Climate Action has to finish its work by the end of January.

I agreed with almost everything Deputy Howlin said, but I disagree with him in one respect. This Dáil has done some things well when it has worked collectively. It has presented the Sláintecare plan. It managed the abortion referendum and now it needs to pass the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018. We have worked collectively on Brexit. Some people have said we should go to the people immediately, but I am not so sure. I would love an election because I do not have confidence in the Government. As much as I have high regard for the four gentlemen who are being appointed to new positions, I cannot vote in favour of this proposal. I cannot express confidence in a Government that is performing so poorly on some of the core issues I am interested in. I am not sure it is in our interests to dive into an election just before the UK Government is about to fall. I think we would be better served to hold our counsel and to go to the people after March when we have seen how Brexit finally breaks. I do not think the election date will be much longer after that, to be honest, because the Government cannot hold. I think everyone in this House has done some service to the State by keeping the thing going through this incredibly difficult time. One of the lessons we can learn from this is that politics works when politicians work collaboratively, which is what the four gentlemen whose positions we are considering do. I hope that in the six months or so - maybe less - that are left before the election, we will work well together. I wish the Ministers and Ministers of State the best of luck in their work. I have every confidence in them. I have no confidence in the Government. The task faced by the Minister, Deputy Bruton, is to work with Deputy Hildegarde Naughton and the joint committee to come up with a climate plan for this country. As I said earlier today, this is something we have to do by law. Nothing has been prepared. The Minister's work starts tomorrow. The scale and urgency of the change is beyond belief. The benefit that can result from doing this work is the creation of a republic of opportunity. The Government is currently presiding over a republic of missed opportunity. That has to change.

Last week's development involving the former Minister, Deputy Naughten, has put back the delivery of rural broadband to 540,000 homes and businesses by up to five years. He was the third Minister to announce a national broadband plan with great fanfare. Pat Rabbitte and Alex White did so before him, but none of the three delivered. Rural broadband is absolutely essential for the economic and social life of rural Ireland. This infrastructure is as important as the electricity, road and rail networks. Rural dwellers are absolutely entitled to the same broadband facilities as their neighbours in cities and large towns. This plan started to collapse when the former Minister, Deputy Naughten, decided to allow Eir to cherrypick the delivery of broadband to 300,000 of the more easily reached rural homes. ESB and Vodafone pulled out quickly after that decision was announced. Eir pulled out not long after they did so. The privatisation of Telecom Éireann has bitten back. When it was privatised by Fianna Fáil in 1999, it left the State without control of the telephone network. This has made the roll-out of rural broadband more expensive and more difficult and has put the State at the mercy of the private market and the profit motive. It is now widely accepted that the privatisation of Telecom Éireann was a huge mistake, but that is not the full picture. The privatisation of Telecom Éireann by a Fianna Fáil Government, and the maintenance of this policy by successive Governments, was a deliberate political decision that must be reversed. I have absolutely no confidence in this Government.

Tá orm anois an cheist a chur de bhun ordú na Dála inniu.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 58; Níl, 34; Staon, 29.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Barry, Mick.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Browne, James.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Curran, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Lawless, James.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Keeffe, Kevin.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Troy, Robert.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Maria Bailey and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Mattie McGrath.
Question declared carried.