Introduction of New Members

I call on the Clerk of the Dáil to announce the returns to the by-election writs for the constituencies of Cork North-Central, Dublin Fingal, Dublin Mid-West and Wexford.

I gcomhlíonadh Bhuan-Ordú 198 de na Buan-Orduithe i dtaobh Gnó Phoiblí, tá orm a chraoladh go ndearnadh, sa chorrthoghchán a bhí ann an 29 Samhain 2019, de chionn an Teachta Proinséas Mhic Gearailt a thoghadh chun Parlaimint na hEorpa, an Comhalta seo a leanas a thoghadh don Dáil:-

In compliance with Standing Order 198 of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business, I have to announce that at the by-election held on 29 November, 2019, consequent on the election of Deputy Frances Fitzgerald to the European Parliament, the following member has been elected to the Dáil:-

Dáilcheantar Bhaile Átha Cliath Thiar-Meán .. .. .. .. .. .. Marcas Mac an Bhaird

Constituency of Dublin Mid-West .. .. .. .. .. .. Mark Ward

Tá Rolla na gComhaltaí sínithe ag an Teachta de réir Bhuan-Ordú 1.

The Deputy has signed the Roll of Members in accordance with Standing Order 1.

I gcomhlíonadh Bhuan-Ordú 198 de na Buan-Orduithe i dtaobh Gnó Phoiblí, tá orm a chraoladh go ndearnadh, sa chorrthoghchán a bhí ann an 29 Samhain 2019, de chionn an Teachta Clár Ní Dhálaigh a thoghadh chun Parlaimint na hEorpa, an Comhalta seo a leanas a thoghadh don Dáil:-

In compliance with Standing Order 198 of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business, I have to announce that at the by-election held on 29 November, 2019, consequent on the election of Deputy Clare Daly to the European Parliament, the following Member has been elected to the Dáil:-

Dáilcheantar Bhaile Átha Cliath-Fhine Gall .. .. .. .. .. .. Seosamh Ó Briain

Constituency of Dublin Fingal .. .. .. .. .. .. Joe O'Brien

Tá Rolla na gComhaltaí sínithe ag an Teachta de réir Bhuan-Ordú 1.

The Deputy has signed the Roll of Members in accordance with Standing Order 1.

The Clerk of the Dáil made the following announcement:
I gcomhlíonadh Bhuan-Ordú 198 de na Buan-Orduithe i dtaobh gnó phoiblí, tá orm a chraoladh go ndearnadh, sa chorrthoghchán a bhí ann an 29 Samhain 2019, de chionn an Teachta Liam Ó Céilleachair a thoghadh chun Parlaimint na hEorpa, an Comhalta seo a leanas a thoghadh don Dáil:
In compliance with Standing Order 198 of the Standing Orders relative to public business, I have to announce that at the by-election held on 29 November 2019, consequent on the election of Deputy Billy Kelleher to the European Parliament, the following member has been elected to the Dáil:
Dáilcheantar Chorcaí Thuaidh-Lár .. .. .. .. .. .. Pádraig Ó Súilleabháin
Constituency of Cork North-Central .. .. .. .. .. .. Pádraig O'Sullivan
Tá Rolla na gComhaltaí sínithe ag an Teachta de réir Bhuan-Ordú 1.
The Deputy has signed the Roll of Members in accordance with Standing Order 1.
I gcomhlíonadh Bhuan-Ordú 198 de na Buan-Orduithe i dtaobh gnó phoiblí, tá orm a chraoladh go ndearnadh, sa chorrthoghchán a bhí ann an 29 Samhain 2019, de chionn an Teachta Micheál de Bhailís a thoghadh chun Parlaimint na hEorpa, an Comhalta seo a leanas a thoghadh don Dáil:
In compliance with Standing Order 198 of the Standing Orders relative to public business, I have to announce that at the by-election held on 29 November 2019, consequent on the election of Deputy Mick Wallace to the European Parliament, the following member has been elected to the Dáil:
Dáilcheantar Loch Garman .. .. .. .. .. .. Maolcholm Ó Broin
Constituency of Wexford .. .. .. .. .. .. Malcom Byrne.
Tá Rolla na gComhaltaí sínithe ag an Teachta de réir Bhuan-Ordú 1.
The Deputy has signed the Roll of Members in accordance with Standing Order 1.

I have been looking at precedents and I have found that on some occasions in the past, an opportunity was given to party leaders to say a few informal words on this occasion.

Absolutely. Good call.

First, I call the Taoiseach.

Ar mo shon féin, ar son an Rialtais, ar son Fhine Gael agus ar son na Neamhspleáigh, ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh na Teachtaí nua-thofa. To be elected to serve in Dáil Éireann is one of the greatest honours that our citizens can bestow on any of us, and has been since the first men and women were elected here 100 years ago. Today will be a memorable day for Deputies Pádraig O’Sullivan, Joe O’Brien, Mark Ward and Malcolm Byrne, as well as for their families and supporters who have joined them here for the occasion. They must be very proud, and rightly so. I especially want to welcome those who are in the Gallery for this momentous day. The Deputies are joining us three and a half years into the Thirty-second Dáil. I hope their stay will not be a short one. I bear a little regret that having lost two fine women and two fine men, they have been replaced by four men. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to rectify that in the not-too-distant future. It is good to see that our new Deputies are all former members of local authorities. One of them is a former member of Fingal County Council, where I started my political life. It is good to see that the new Deputies have come into politics through the traditional route. They have already demonstrated their commitment to public service and to the local communities they represent. While we will disagree at times on policy and while we might argue on how to solve the challenges of our time, I think all of us in politics are united by a single desire to make the communities where we live better places and to make our country a better place too. My wish is that we all seek to do our best in a spirit of humility, understanding and respect, motivated by the same principles that guided our forebears when they first gathered here 100 years ago. I congratulate the new Deputies and welcome them to Dáil Éireann.

Ar mo shon féin agus ar son Pháirtí Fhianna Fáil, ba mhaith liom i dtús báire fáilte faoi leith a chur roimh an Teachta Malcolm Byrne agus an Teachta Pádraig Ó Súilleabháin chuig Dáil Éireann. Mar aon leis sin, ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Teachta Mark Ward agus an Teachta Joe O'Brien as ucht a bheith tofa sna fothoghcháin ag an deireadh seachtaine. Gan amhras, is onóir den scoth é seo do na Teachtaí nua-thofa. Is pribhléid den scoth í bheith tofa mar bhall de Dháil Éireann. Táimse sásta go mbeidh sé ar a gcumas acu an-chuid oibre a dhéanamh sa Teach seo sna míonna atá romhainn ar son a muintireacha féin, ar son a ndúichí féin agus ar son na tíre. Déanaim comhghairdeas leo. It is my great privilege as leader of Fianna Fáil to welcome Deputies Malcolm Byrne and Pádraig O'Sullivan to the Fianna Fáil ranks in Dáil Éireann. I congratulate Deputies Mark Ward and Joe O'Brien too. Deputy Joe O'Brien is an impeccable Corkman. I wish them well in pursuit of their parliamentary duties.

All of us here will remember our first day in Leinster House. It is a most memorable day. Anyone who believes in politics and in parliamentary democracy will respect the privilege that has been bestowed on the new Deputies and the trust that has been placed in them by the people. My party is very grateful for the great wisdom of the people of Wexford and Cork North-Central, who have placed their trust in Deputies Malcolm Byrne and Pádraig O'Sullivan. Both of them have been excellent county councillors. Both of them have a great passion for education. Deputy Malcolm Byrne has worked for the Higher Education Authority and Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan has worked as a secondary school teacher. Both of them have a great commitment to the issues before us. The priorities and needs of the people were very clear on the doorsteps in all four constituencies.

It was very clear that the priorities of the people were housing and health services, illegal drugs and crime and, of course, regional economic development and climate change. These are the issues that we experienced first-hand when we met people. I thank all of the members of all parties who knocked on doors and participated because it is the essence of democracy that we have people who are willing to do that on behalf of all of our candidates and parties. Family members and members of the organisations are essential to the wheels of democracy. We thank those who knocked on the doors on behalf of those candidates, some of whom are in the Visitors Gallery witnessing today's events. We appreciate their contribution to our democracy as well as in terms of this momentous day for the four Deputies who have been elected.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas agus fáilte mhór a chuir roimh na Teachtaí Pádraig Ó Súilleabháin, Malcolm Byrne and Joe O'Brien and I welcome their families. This is a momentous and special day for all of them. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will, I am sure, forgive me for extending a very special welcome to the man to my left - position-wise, not politically - Mark Ward. Mark is a very welcome addition to a very strong Sinn Féin team. I welcome his parents, Joan and Billy, and his son, the wonderful Oisin, who is a gifted and talented hurler.

There was something in the stars for us Dubliners that on the day we lost Jim Gavin, we gained Mark Ward to this Parliament. The challenges that face all of us collectively and individually as political parties are very considerable. The message has come back loud and clear that the current Government of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is failing ordinary people. They have said that very loudly. It is incumbent on us Deputies in opposition, therefore, to set out our stall, not just of critique and analysis but of solutions and answers, which solutions and answers the people so desperately long for.

I wish each of the Deputies a fair wind in this Dáil and I again congratulate their families. I take this opportunity to put one and all on notice that the battle is now on to change Ireland, to change politics in this State, to deliver for people and to plan for the decade ahead, a decade of opportunity in which we can rise to the challenges of our people. This in the end was the message sent to us from the doorsteps. I welcome Wardy on board the team and I thank our activists and the electorate who came out and cast their vote for Sinn Féin.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Labour Party I most sincerely welcome the four newly elected, newly minted Deputies to the elected assembly of the people of Ireland. It is an extraordinary privilege. I remember a few years ago walking onto the plinth for the first time on the way in here. I remember also going into the Dáil bar for the first time and being told it was only for Members. It is an extraordinary privilege to be in this place, to be chosen by the people of their constituencies to be the successors of decent people who founded this State. We celebrate the centenary of these Houses this year.

I know Malcolm Byrne very well. I hope I will get to know Joe O'Brien, Mark Ward and Pádraig O'Sullivan, if time allows. I am not sure how long we have to make those acquaintances. I thank everybody who participated in the by-elections. It is challenging now in the new world of social media for people to put themselves forward for election. There are many critics out there. It takes some degree of courage to put one's name on a ballot paper.

I always remember the phrase of Uachtarán na hÉireann that testing the love of the people can be a daunting prospect. For our democracy to thrive we need people to put themselves forward. I thank candidates of all opinions and hues who offered a choice in each of the four constituencies. No doubt wider choices on the direction of our country will be offered in coming months. However, I will leave that discussion for another day. Today is a joyous occasion for four people who have achieved an extraordinary ambition for themselves and their families. I congratulate them and wish them well in their careers in this House.

On behalf of People Before Profit, I commend the four newly elected Deputies. It is not an easy thing to put one's name on a ballot paper and stick one's head above the parapet. There is a lot of hard work involved and the new Deputies set themselves up for a lot of responsibility and expectation on behalf of the constituents who elected them. It is a brave thing and the four Deputies deserve commendation on putting themselves forward and taking on the responsibility and privilege of being an elected representative in this House. I also commend all of those who put themselves forward who were not elected, and all the hard work that they and their teams put in over the past while.

There are many things one could say about the recent by-elections. I do not want to take away from the achievement of those who were elected or who ran, but it should be a concern to all of us, some three or six months away from a general election, that there was such an abysmally low turnout. Notwithstanding the political difference that we will and should debate over the next few months on key issues such as housing, the health service, infrastructure and inequality in our society, we also all have a great responsibility to make ourselves relevant to the almost 75% of the electorate who did not turn out and who did not engage. I do not blame them. We all have to take collective responsibility for that. The sense of disengagement and disillusionment with the political system felt by may was palpable on the doors. I am sure those who were elected would acknowledge that. We have a job to prove ourselves as relevant to making a difference to the lives of huge numbers of people who feel disenfranchised by our political system. That should be a solemn responsibility for us to do better over the coming months as we head into a general election.

Having said all that, well done to the four Deputies.

Déanaim comhghairdeas le na Teachtaí Dála nua agus céad míle fáilte don Dáil. I congratulate the four Deputies who have been elected. It is a proud day for them for them and their families and I wish them well in this Dáil. Being elected through a by-election is a very special way to be elected. I was too and I remember that day back in June 2009. It is an interesting way to come to the Dáil rather than through a general election.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to the four gentlemen who have been elected but it means the gender balance is skewed again. We hope that the general election, when it comes, sees more capable women being elected. I wish the four new Deputies well and I hope they enjoy this day. This is a day to be enjoyed. The other days may not be quite so enjoyable.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an gceathrar Teachtaí Dála nua. On behalf of the Rural Independent Group and other Independents, I congratulate the four successful Deputies and welcome them here today and their family members and supporters who went out in all kinds of weather and knocked on doors for them.

It is a major honour, as others have alluded to, to be elected to this Dáil and come to the Chamber today. The new Deputies will need to be careful how they vote tonight to ensure they will not be gone again this evening. There is a learning curve and it is a great exercise in democracy that the new Deputies and all the other candidates put themselves before the people for selection.

Like others, I am concerned about the low turnout. People are fud na tíre and in rural Ireland are definitely concerned as there has always been a healthy turnout in rural Ireland. People are concerned that successive Governments have abandoned them and are not listening. They want to be listened to. I wish the four new Deputies all the best for as long as they are here and for their future careers.

On behalf of my colleagues and Deputy Healy, I welcome the four new Deputies to this House. I agree with Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett that we must reflect on the participation in our democratic system. It is a major honour to be elected and be part of our constitutional Republic. The very centre of this and the source of everything we do in this country is the vote and the fact that the individual is sovereign. Each of us is king or queen. This should steer the work of all four Deputies, who represent everybody in their constituencies. Thinking beyond that, we are a national assembly, and to take Edmund Burke's advice, it is not Deputies' industry that is needed but their independent opinion in the national interest and representing all our people. It is what we seek and try to do. If we can do that, maybe we will restore confidence and the numbers of people who vote, which is the centre of everything.

I welcome the four new Members, Deputies Malcolm Byrne, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Mark Ward and Joe O'Brien, and their families. It is not just today that their families will be aware of the effort that goes in to getting elected. Most people become an overnight success after 15 or 20 years and usually much time goes into this feat. This is a memorable day. Like Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, I was elected in a by-election and it is a very different experience from a general election because the new Deputy might come here in the middle of a term or, in this case, at the end of the life of a Government. We will soon find out if this will be measured in weeks or months.

I wish the Deputies well and reiterate the point made on turnout. There was good engagement on the doorsteps but it was very obvious there was a high degree of disillusionment. People were forthcoming in telling us what the issues are and we must take very serious note of them. We will speak about what is probably the primary issue in a Private Members' business debate tonight. I again wish all four Deputies and their families well.

Ba mhaith liom, ar mo shon féin mar Leas-Cheann Comhairle agus ar son an Chinn Comhairle, fáilte a chur roimh bhaill úir an Tí: Pádraig O’Sullivan, Malcolm Byrne, Mark Ward agus Joe O’Brien. Guím gach rath orthu go léir ina gcuid oibre anseo sa Dáil. Tá a fhios againn go léir atá tofa go dtí an Teach seo gur onóir faoi leith é a bheith tofa agus níor cheart dúinn dearmad a dhéanamh ar sin choíche. Táimid go léir ag súil go mór le bheith ag obair leis na Teachtaí nua atá tofa agus guím gach aon rath orthu mar Theachtaí Dála de chuid Dáil Éireann. Tá súil agam go mbainfidh siad sult agus taitneamh as a dtréimhse anseo.