Nomination of Taoiseach.

Tairgim:

Go n-ainmneóidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Bertie Ahern a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán, mar Thaoiseach.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Bertie Ahern for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach.

Deputy Bertie Ahern, although still only in his early forties, has immense political experience and an outstanding record of public service. While, as a Deputy, he represents our capital city, he enjoys public respect and confidence throughout the country.

Both he and I first became Members of Dáil Éireann on the same day. Both of us have been Members of the Dáil since 1977. He was Chief Whip of the Fianna Fáil Party and Minister of State in the Departments of the Taoiseach and Defence in 1982. A long-serving member of Dublin Corporation, he was a very distinguished Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1986 and 1987.

As Minister for Labour in 1987 and Minister for Finance from 1991, he has played a key role in creating a better industrial relations climate, and in resolving industrial conflicts that threatened our vital national services. He also helped to negotiate each of the three national programmes with the social partners and to create a national consensus on economic and social policy, which has been the cornerstone of economic recovery and national prosperity since 1987.

Deputy Ahern played a pivotal role in the formation of the last two Governments. He joined me as negotiator for a joint programme with the Progressive Democrats in 1989 and also took part in the review of that programme in October 1991. He led the Fianna Fáil delegation which negotiated the Programme for a Partnership Government with the Labour Party in 1992. This is widely acknowledged to be an outstandingly successful Government programme, the most ambitious and comprehensive programme ever.

Deputy Ahern has been Minister for Finance for three years, a position which has been part of the preparatory experience of the last three Fianna Fáil Taoisigh, including myself. Deep experience in economic management is increasingly essential to the modern head of Government.

Since 1991, he has been able to manage the economy in accordance with the Maastricht Treaty guidelines, something achieved only by Luxembourg and Ireland. He also had to steer the country through a difficult international recession, throughout which Ireland almost alone was able to maintain positive economic growth. He also brought Ireland through several months of the currency crisis in very difficult conditions, and succeeded in establishing stable conditions for the Irish pound post-devaluation, which allowed interest rates to tumble to their lowest level in over 15 years. As we know, even the strongest currencies such as the French franc were not in the end able to withstand the huge speculative pressures.

The outgoing Government and the Minister are handing over an economy in excellent shape and with glowing prospects for the remainder of this decade. It is reasonable to expect that, at the end of its term of office, the new Government will leave an economy in equally good shape that has made further strides forward following the same path.

As Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern has succeeded in meeting or bettering his budgetary targets. This year, the current budget deficit has been completely eliminated for the first time in nearly three decades. In the last two years, confidence has been strong, with high economic growth of 5 per cent or more, low inflation, an investment boom, and balance of trade and payments surplus. Net employment has risen, the numbers at work are now at their highest level in 40 years, and the Central Bank now projects an extra 32,000 new jobs for 1994 alone.

Earlier this year, Deputy Ahern chaired a major OECD conference on employment and unemployment, examining the structural causes and remedies of unemployment. As this is the biggest problem facing the country, his deep involvement as a Minister in this issue over several years will be a valuable asset. Over his three budgets, he has further reduced the personal tax burden, and undertaken significant tax reform. This year's tax measures gave reliefs to the mainstream taxpayer, costing in excess of £300 million in a full year. It also made provision for alleviating PRSI on lower paid jobs. It is very obvious that further progress can be made on that in next year's budget without prejudicing the integrity of the Social Insurance Fund.

As a Minister since 1987, Deputy Ahern has had considerable European experience, chairing the Council of Labour Ministers during the 1990 European Presidency. He accompanied me to the European Council at Edinburgh and has been involved in negotiating and directing the formulation of the six-year National Development Plan which involves public and private investment in excess of £18 billion. This process will have brought him into direct contact with the needs of all regions of the country. The results will become very visible over the next few years and it will be the incoming Government's duty to put that plan into effect. Deputy Ahern has recently been appointed by me to the Fianna Fáil delegation at the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. He is determined to give the same commitment and priority to the peace process as I have done.

Deputy Ahern will represent a new generation of leadership in Ireland. He has proved himself to be an exceptionally effective negotiator and conciliator. If not now, then later, these qualities and skills would be helpful in consolidating peace and establishing confidence in both the Unionist and Nationalist communities on the road to a new Northern settlement. These qualities and skills would be valuable in managing the economy and maintaining social consensus.

Deputy Ahern is a deeply caring and compassionate man. He represents a constituency, Dublin Central, where he has had first-hand experience of some of our deeper social problems, where he has worked hard to improve conditions and facilities at both a personal and community level. The trust he enjoys among his constituents is eloquent testimony to a person who is fully in touch with the problems of modern Ireland. For all these reasons, I consider Deputy Ahern to be an extremely well qualified candidate to be my successor for the position of Taoiseach and to lead Ireland towards the 21st century.

I have been privileged to have led one of the most successful Governments in the history of the State. It matters not how long one occupies any position in political life, but what one achieves while in that position.

On the first anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration, I hand over to my successor an Ireland at peace with itself. With its people now enjoying rising standards of living, employment at its highest level for more than 40 years, an economy growing at the highest rate in Europe, and a budget surplus for the first time in nearly 30 years, I have made my contribution to our national advancement. It is hard to recall any occasion, when an outgoing Taoiseach and Government have handed over to their successor such a favourable situation. Mo bhuíochas leat, a Cheann Comhairle, mo bhuíochas libh go léir agus go n-éirí an obair libh go léir.

It is my great privilege, honour and pleasure formally to second the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach.

I move:

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

I have profound pleasure in putting forward the name of Deputy John Bruton as Taoiseach and leader of the next Government.

At the very centre of his political character there has always resided the principle of accountability. Long before it became necessary to name it as a political essential, he espoused it. He has believed always in the direct accountability of the Dáil to the people. He has held, as fundamental to the running of this country, that individual Ministers and the Government as a whole should be accountable to the Dáil and to the people.

Neither of these seemingly unarguable requirements has been much honoured in recent times. The chain of responsibility which this belief creates has been forged in Deputy John Bruton's mind through long experience of 25 years in this House. This includes Governments under five Taoisigh. As a working public representative his practical knowledge spans ten different Administrations.

Deputy John Bruton has been the dominant, persistent advocate of Oireachtas reform and he is responsible for initiating the proposals for the committee system now in place in the Oireachtas. He is responsible for the introduction of television and radio in the Dáil. It has been the availability of that television and media coverage that has allowed the people to comprehend fully the crisis we have just gone through. They were able to see and hear the unfolding of the events in all their naked awfulness. The people have become re-engaged in the democratic system and it is important that we in this House take note of this involvement. In reflecting on what this country has witnessed over the last few weeks I am reminded of a quotation from a book entitledThe Democratic Revolution by a US writer, Larry Jay Diamond:

Democracy cannot triumph or even survive on the actions of a few brave leaders. Democracy requires an educated and active mass base, alert to the dangers of hero worship, conscious of the perpetual need to replenish the ranks of political leaders and poised to return to the ranks of ordinary citizens any who would abuse or aggrandise their political power.

In this House we would all do well to reflect on this salutary message.

Deputy John Bruton's outstanding qualities of honesty and integrity and his idealism and patriotism in putting forward innovative ideas have formed a common thread in all assessments of him. He is not an image-driven politician. A Government led by somebody who is more concerned about the promotion of his or her image than the operation of the team to the advantage of all team members will not work well. It is widely recognised that the best coalition was the one led by the most self-effacing Taoiseach in recent years, Liam Cosgrave. In terms of working as a coalition it went through its full term and agreed on the dissolution of the Dáil. Everything was done in a common way and for the common good.

John rises as a phoenix from the distressing ashes of a Government which treated truth——

(Interruptions.)

He rose from the ashes of a Government which treated truth and accountability as of small importance and betrayed the trust of the people and of this House in the paramount need for honourable and honest dealings on all issues. Without this, the democratic process is destroyed.

Restoring trust is never easy, but I am confident that Deputy John Bruton will lead a Government, in partnership with the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Spring, which will deliver to the country, to the people and to this House——

(Interruptions.)

Let us hear the Deputy without interruptions.

——conditions of excellence in the management of the nation's affairs for which the painful experiences of the recent past have so abundantly demonstrated the need.

People are conscious that discussions are still continuing. I have every confidence that Deputy Bruton will emerge from this debate as Taoiseach to lead a Government which will restore people's faith in our democracy. I have profound pleasure in putting forward his name for Taoiseach.

It is with a sense of pride, honour and great pleasure that I second the nomination of Deputy John Bruton. As the longest serving member of the Fine Gael Party, I remember Deputy John Bruton being elected in 1969. He was too young to vote for himself and indisposed on the election day because he was in hospital. He was appointed a member of the Fine Gael Front Bench in 1970 and has served in many Cabinet posts. He was elected Leader of Fine Gael in 1990 and he will prove to be an outstanding Taoiseach. For the information of the younger generation, as a student John Bruton identified himself with a movement aptly named by the late James Dillon, former Leader of the Fine Gael Party, as the Fine Gael Young Tigers. John Bruton in his student days wanted to change Fine Gael.

For dentistry reasons.

Perhaps Deputy Cowen would show some respect.

Where is Deputy Harte's sense of humour?

Deputy Harte, without interruption.

It would be fitting for members of the Fianna Fáil Party to show some dignity on this occasion.

Deputy Harte is going on too long.

Deputy Harte should follow the example of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Andrews.

It is an honour for me formally to second the nomination of Deputy John Bruton.

Are there any further nominations?

There are no further nominations.

On the basis of the agreement negotiated by the Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left Parties over recent days, the parliamentary Labour Party will be supporting the nomination of Deputy John Bruton as Taoiseach. As has been said, the economy is in a strong position. That success has been achieved on the basis of the Programme for Government negotiated and implemented by the Fianna Fáil and Labour Parties since January 1993 and it will continue to be implemented in the future. As outlined by the acting Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, it is of major importance to build on the present position.

The programme recently negotiated offers that prospect. Our two main challenges are to continue to tackle the unemployment problems and build on the peace process in Northern Ireland. These challenges are the pillars of the programme negotiated between the parties on the basis of which the parliamentary Labour Party will support Deputy Bruton in forming the next Government.

Democratic Left supports the nomination of Deputy John Bruton for the position of Taoiseach. Deputy Bruton and I come from very different backgrounds, political and otherwise.

(Interruptions.)

I appreciate that statements of fact are a joke for the Fianna Fáil Party. Over the years there have been many issues on which Deputy Bruton and I have disagreed, but he is a man for whom I have the greatest respect. During recent years in Opposition I got to know him better and believe he is a fair and honest man. One of our absolute priorities in the aftermath of the shameful events which surrounded the collapse of the outgoing Government is to restore the honesty that should be an automatic characteristic of any Government.

I particularly admire Deputy Bruton's innovative thinking on Northern Ireland and his willingness to move beyond the shibboleths of the past. Clearly the continuation of the Northern Ireland peace process must be a priority for the Government elected today. I have every confidence that Deputy John Bruton can build upon the progress made to date.

During the past few days Democratic Left has been involved in the most detailed and thorough discussions with Fine Gael and Labour on a Government programme of renewal. It is a good, courageous and innovative programme which, when fully implemented, will result in a considerable improvement in the living standards and social conditions of people on low pay, people who have no work and people who work and are in the tax net. It is capable of restoring the integrity of the democratic system and putting trust back into the relationship between the public and their democratic representatives. I was particularly gratified that it was not just approved at my party's special delegate conference last night; it was decisively endorsed by it.

For this programme to be successfully implemented there must be trust between the Government parties. Good government requires not only a good programme but also parity of esteem and respect between all the parties. Trust is as important at the beginning of a Government as it is at the end of a Government. The message from my party members at last night's conference was that we should go into Government on the basis of the programme we negotiated, but they made it clear that nobody is entitled to, or should take our party for granted, and I intend to ensure their wishes in this respect are honoured.

I will not make a nomination for Taoiseach on this occasion but I will talk about the nominations before the House. There have been extraordinary events in the last few weeks in terms of this House, public accountability, transparency and all the issues that arose where the public made up their own minds and we are still witnessing extraordinary events. Democratic Left is being treated very shabbily. Last week I attended a meeting of all party leaders involved in the preliminary talks and the clear understanding at that meeting was that whichever smaller party entered into the negotiations would do so on the basis that it would have two seats at Cabinet. That may seem an impossible demand, but a party is not represented at Cabinet if it has only one Minister. With all the international demands by virtue of our EU membership, Ministers are frequently away. Is it suggested that if a party's Minister is away the party should have no clout, no voice at Cabinet? That would be an impossible position in which to put any party.

We have arrived at the present position not through any unforeseen circumstances but through a combination of incompetence and arrogance, and that is why we are still in a period of uncertainty. These are strange times. The Labour Party has progressed from demonising Deputy John Bruton up to ten days ago, to virtually canonising him today. If somebody told me a few months ago that a County Meath farmer would bring Democratic Left into his first Government I would have said: "Bring the men in the white coats to see me". I do not know if Deputy Rabbitte will get the farm, but certainly these are extraordinary events.

I do not want to use today to talk about my experience in the last week except to say that many people were sensitive about the way they were treated recently and rightly demanded openness and transparency. When I sit at a table I like people to tell me if they have problems in dealing with my party, but when they tell me the opposite and their colleagues brief the media otherwise day in and day out, there is not much openness or transparency there. Openness and transparency is not just something for others. We must have the bottle to state our case and we must give people the opportunity to argue their point of view.

The Progressive Democrats approached the events of the last few days in an open and honest fashion. We were interested in being in Government. Anybody in this House who is not interested in being in Government does not deserve to be here because it is only in Government that one can implement one's policies. We stated our case to the Leaders of the Labour Party and Fine Gael. We put forward our views on economic issues and we put forward very reasonable positions which I intend to publish after today's debate. We stated our clear message on the economy which is fundamental to the formation of any Government.

Tax reform is crucial if we are to generate employment. The average industrial job giving an employee £173 take home pay costs an employer £291 a week. Forty per cent of the cost goes to the Government in tax and PRSI. That is a crazy tax system for a country with such a high level of unemployment and that is why the Progressive Democrats always said that tax reform must be the priority. Tax reform should not be considered as residual, when everything else has been done. It must be fundamental to the new programme.

On public spending we said that spending should approximate to inflation. The country must begin to live within its means if we are not to throw away all the benefits from economic growth. We all know the high cost to the economy of the mad spending of the past — 70 per cent of income tax is used to service our national debt. Given the growth rate for next year, the Government will take in £1 billion extra in tax. If we increase spending at the level of inflation and take the extra £150 million to service the national debt — giving a total of £400 million — there would have been £600 million left to deal with tax reform. It would have been the single biggest message to the unemployed and business people that we are serious about dealing with our economic and employment problems. Why should a business person in Dundalk be put at a huge disadvantage, because of our antiwork tax laws, compared to his colleague a few miles up the road in Newry? If the peace process means anything, we must begin to harmonise taxation, otherwise we will lose heavily to Northern Ireland.

On State enterprise I found the attitude, particularly of the Labour Party, astonishing. The Progressive Democrats believes that every State enterprise must be approached in an open fashion in terms of its future. The rights of workers, consumers and employees must be balanced.

By virtue of our EU membership there is a requirement to liberalise the markets; we must respond to the markets and seek to have efficient State companies. We cannot throw taxpayers' money at every problem. That type of politics got the country into a serious situation and it does not get anyone an extra vote at the end of the day. I do not know if anyone could justify investing £60 million in Irish Steel without knowing whether it is viable.

Did the Deputy see the economic results yesterday?

The Maastricht Treaty guidelines were referred to. I say thank God for these guidelines because at least the Maastricht Treaty places some controls on us when we are not capable of controlling ourselves. The attitude to fundamental economic issues in the programme published last night is a total fudge; there are no commitments, just intentions. It is intended to increase spending by 2 per cent above the rate of inflation. Next year spending is to rise by 6 per cent, more than two and a half times the rate of inflation. This is not justifiable. It is unnecessary and it will not reinvigorate the economy. These were among the issues we put forward in the preliminary talks.

Which partner should be involved in negotiations was a matter for Fine Gael and the Labour Party and, apparently, they made their choice late Saturday evening. I very much regret their choice because the programme published is not the coherent economic programme we need at this time. I agree that we have to create a fairer society and give the unemployed an opportunity to participate in the economy. We cannot tell someone who is unemployed that we will pay him social welfare to do nothing but we will not give him the right to participate in a meaningful way in the development of the country. My party put forward the type of proposals advocated recently by Deputy Ruairi Quinn but, apparently, they are not acceptable to the Labour Party either. It is not fair to tell so many people throughout the country that until we can create jobs they will have to stay at home and do nothing and all that we will do for them is merely pay them social welfare. There is an opportunity to introduce a radical community employment scheme so that every person will have the opportunity to help develop their community and country rather than being sidelined and marginalised as they are at present.

People at a conference last night spoke about the bright new rainbow of renewal. It seems it is more like the red rainbow of ruin, from much of the stuff I read.

Is that yours, Michael? Well done, the script writer of the year award.

One of the classic fudges is the issue of local charges. Some people take the view that the community does not wish to pay for services. People are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. If they go to the video shop they do not expect to receive the video free of charge. If services are provided at great expense by the State they do not expect to receive them free of charge. Apparently, there will now be a tax allowance in respect of service charges. This means service charges will be extended because if there is to be a tax allowance any local authority would be crazy not to have them. If one has not already paid service charges he need not bother because nothing will happen — a service charges amnesty.

That is not true, tell us the truth.

The Deputy can explain it; let us debate the programme next week, if I am misinterpreting it.

Perhaps the Deputy would read the programme before commenting on it.

If the Deputy had sent me a copy last night I might have been able to read it but I have to rely on the morning newspapers.

May I dissuade the Member in possession from going into great detail at this time? I respectfully submit that long speeches should be left until later in the day for the debate on the appointment of the Government.

(Interruptions.)

It is hard to believe that people are serious about openness and transparency and making the Dáil more relevant given the comment I heard in the background: "We should not keep the President waiting"— I am supposed to sit down.

If a new Government is elected today my party will be in Opposition as we have been since the last election. On the question of Northern Ireland the new Government will not find the Progressive Democrats on any occasion playing politics or seeking to make life difficult for it. A new Government led by Deputy John Bruton will be good for Northern Ireland and people who are worried and concerned need not be. I have had many dealings during the past year with Deputy Bruton, particularly on matters relating to Northern Ireland, and I found him to be genuine, interested, a man who wanted to help and had an open mind. We need have no fears. I assure him and the new Government that I will not engage in any party politics on the floor of this House or elsewhere as this matter is far too important. I hope no one else will do so either.

On 12 January 1993, Deputy Bruton said of the new Government about to be elected that it did not have the moral authority which derives from a mandate from the people. The Government that is about to be elected today does not have the moral authority that derives from a mandate from the people.

What about the previous one?

On the question of what I will do in Opposition I want to give no further commitment than the one Deputy Bruton gave when he said:

There are different ways of doing things. There are better policies available than those contained in this programme. We will be using our strength in this House to ensure that alternative policies are put forward and that an alternative Government to implement those policies is put in place at the earliest opportunity.

That is what we will be doing.

Today is a great day for Deputy Bruton and those who stood by him. Recently he has been demonised by many people. It is easy to be on his side today, and perhaps for the past few days, but it was not always so easy. It is a great day for him and his family and I wish him well.

This is also a great day for Democratic Left, if it is to participate in Government. I presume that it will because it will be either "blink or chink" later. It is a small party and this will be its first opportunity to participate in Government. In 1989, we felt great pride when we entered Government for the first time; there was a sense of excitement and vision and we knew what we wanted to do. The representatives of the Democratic Left will be hard working, honourable members of the Government. In my dealings with them I have always found them to be honourable and if they make an agreement they stand by it. We might miss Deputy Rabbitte on the Order of Business. Perhaps the new Government will give him an opportunity, if he is a member, to at least——

With the way things are looking, the Deputy will not.

He can snipe at his own Government.

The reason the four party option was not a possibility was that neither of the two smaller parties would have had the political clout needed at the Cabinet table. This does not pose a threat to anyone; I am stating an obvious political reality. The only way we could have our policies implemented and commitments in a programme for Government honoured is if we had political clout in terms of numbers. That is the reason the four party option was never viable.

I regret that Fine Gael despite its strength — it has 50 per cent more seats than the Labour Party — did not exert its authority in its choice of Coalition partner. Many of its supporters are concerned about the new Government about to be put in place. I assure them that I will be delighted to represent their interests in this House and will be vigorous in attacking the Government. I will also make sure, on the fundamental economic questions, that this country is not driven to the Left. I note that the new Leader of Fianna Fáil wants to move his party towards the Left. Recently one commentator said that the centre of Irish politics was very crowded; after today it seems I will be in the centre all on my own. If Deputy Ahern believes that his party is too probusiness and wants to move it towards the Left I will have a large political space to myself. I am looking forward to the challenge.

The Greta Garbo of politics, she wants to be alone.

I can recall my dealings with the Deputy last week.

The Progressive Democrats will oppose the nomination of Deputy Ahern and, because we do not support the nature of the Government that Deputy Bruton proposes to put in place, will not support his nomination either.

I wish to dissuade Members from making rather long speeches and going into detail at this stage as that will be more appropriate when we come to deal with the nomination of the Government.

Having received a copy of the programme A Government of Renewal minutes ago it would not be appropriate to make a long speech. It is bizarre that we are expected to vote for a Taoiseach when we have no idea of who will be in his Cabinet. As such, it is a question of the blind leading the blind. Exactly one year ago on this day we celebrated the signing of the Downing Street Declaration, one of a number of examples where the Green Party could support the Government — we will also offer support on an issue by issue basis to this Government. It was also on that day the British Government played a wonderful political trick by giving permission for THORP to go ahead. While in this House it was all peace and harmony, on the east coast people experienced fear and were concerned that all the facts had not been put before us. It seems that the Irish political parties have learned the political trick of pulling the wool over people's eyes: we have the hope of a three way Government whereas I believe the agenda is of a two party Government with the intention of trying to freeze out the smaller party. We are beginning to see what went on behind the scenes.

It was interesting to hear Deputy Owen in proposing Deputy Bruton as Taoiseach insist on renewing political leadership and avoiding hero worship. We have a cult worship of political leadership but we fail to deal with wider political issues such as the double jobbing of the dual mandate. While the political parties say that they do not suspect this, they are not prepared to act on it. One of the weaknesses of Government is that it appears it is not prepared to act on its convictions and that is disappointing.

It is ironic that a Government of parties who do not welcome political patronage seems to be coming apart on the issue of who will be in the back or front seat of the State car. I hope the Government will accept the advice, which is authoritative, of people who are not elected, such as the Conference of Religious of Ireland, the ESRI, the European Commission, to implement policies proposed by the Green Party. The Government's response has been that these people do not have to get elected. It is political courage rather than a political ideology that is lacking. Whatever Government takes office needs to have the courage to make whatever changes are necessary. It is a very unnatural rainbow that does not include the colour green.

There might be a State bicycle for Deputy Sargent.

The Fianna Fáil Party is discredited and, consequently, it is difficult to see any practical or workable combination of parties to form a Government other than the three who have negotiated the programme. A Government of Renewal, the Fine Gael Party, Democratic Left and the Labour Party. That is the reality. I do not believe the involvement of the Progressive Democrats would have led to stability. The obvious alternative would be a general election which possibly would not significantly have changed anything — although many have said that had there been a general election at the time the result could have been a radical change in the voting preferences of a substantial number of the electorate, such is their disquiet and disgust at recent events.

I welcome the involvement of the two left wing parties in the formulation of the programme A Government of Renewal and I look forward to a more committed approach to resolving the problems of poverty and disadvantaged communities throughout the country. I represent many disadvantaged people and I trust that the new Government will respond positively to their needs. Major social problems remain such as endemic unemployment, educational inequality and homelessness to the extent that as a society we are still very far from cherishing all the children of the nation equally — in fact, for a great number the reverse is the case. This has led to a sense of hopelessness among many of our young people, the most vulnerable of whom are further exploited by the activities of drug dealers.

I intend to do all I can to influence any new Government to confront these issues and create a more just and equal society. I trust that the peace process will regain its momentum and will not be hindered in any way. On this basis I do not intend to vote in a way that would prevent the formation of a coalition Government today.

Deputy Harney said if she had forecast a few years ago that a County Meath farmer would be successful in leading Democratic Left into Government the men in white coats would have been sent for. However, it might take the support of a County Wicklow farmer to keep them there and, perhaps, they should send for the men in the white coats anyway. I have not had an opportunity either to study the programme A Government of Renewal, which is unfortunate in that our vote is more important than previously. During the debate on the formation of the previous Government I indicated I would vote for what I thought was a positive and practical Government, even though it did not need my support but, as I said then, that would not always be the case, as has been proven. Looking at the positive aspect of the outgoing Government, one has to say that it brought the economy and the nation forward immeasurably. It is necessary to record this because irrespective of one's political hue, peace and stability in the economic life of the country is what every Member is elected to pursue.

It is difficult to understand how parties from each political pole can come together and yet follow the ethos of the people they represent. Notwithstanding that, we are in a political crisis. The downfall of the last Government could prove in time to have very little significance but we have to await the outcome. The economy is in excellent shape, we are in a position to go forward with the peace process and generally things are looking up for the people. As an Independent Deputy I do not want to see any of that set back in any way but I believe some of the rumours circulating about the proposed Programme for Government, initiated perhaps by the people of the Left — I have no difficulties with the personalities of the parties of the Left — indicating that, if implemented, the programme will entail expenditure which we cannot afford. Just because our economy is in good shape does not mean we have to squander it; we must build on it. Future generations will not thank us for giving away the family silver simply because of a power play. To that end, I will abstain in the vote for Taoiseach. The Government of the day can count on my support if its Programme for Government is in line with my thinking. I am a sound thinking person and the economy and people must come first not politicians and State cars.

I wish Deputy Bruton, his family and his party well and indeed the other parties who intend to form the next Government.

I am sure everybody here hopes this is the last speech before we make our decision on the matter, and as my friend Deputy Tom Foxe is not feeling very talkative this morning I wish to say, as briefly as it is possible for me to say anything, which many people do not think likely, that the outgoing Government has made a fair fist of things, even though I disagree with many details. Without question, an incoming Government, as the Taoiseach outlined this morning, will take over an economy in better shape — and I would not boast about it — than it has been for a very long time. I hope the incoming Government will not take advantage of the goodies in the cupboard, and those that are yet to come, to have a fling while they are in office and leave us in no better position, or worse, when it leaves.

In so far as this country is concerned, there are two outstanding items, one is the creation of jobs. It is not simply a question of how many are on the live register, we have failed far more abysmally than the number of approximately 280,000 suggests because to that number we must add — and we never do — those who had to leave the country because of lack of jobs. The under provision of work for our people is a greater problem than the numbers on the live register.

I ask those who will preside over the fortunes of this country in the immediate future not simply to consider the numbers on the live register but all those who are not here to be on it and to realise how abysmally we performed for many years. It has been the rake's progress for 20 of the last 25 years.

The second item about which I am very concerned is peace on this island. I hope and expect that, regardless of what Government is formed or who is in a position or Ministry, there will be no let up in the search for peace in our country. I sincerely admonish those who feel we can have peace at any cost because peace at any cost is merely pushing forward violence for the future. It must be a just peace, a peace that strikes at the cause of our problems and not just the symptoms. We are all so hyped up — and rightly so — at the breakthrough that we tend to make all sorts of compromises to avert violence.

We must remember that the cause is still there and not being dealt with. It can only be dealt with between the two Governments; it is not a matter solely for the two communities. The incoming Government should note that 12 counties — not just six — suffered and have been deprived since partition. If anything, the southern six, apart from the violence which is unspeakable, have been deprived and ravaged longer by partition than the six northern counties, for the simple reason that the North was greatly helped from Westminster by the occupier, Great Britain, whereas successive Governments here did not differentiate between the counties on the Border and others.

Having said that, the proposal of Deputy Bertie Ahern for Taoiseach is one which, on numbers alone, would commend itself in any forum of this nature. His qualities and experience would, on a personal basis, commend him for that position. I will vote for Deputy Ahern if there is a vote — although the way people are talking here one would think it is a foregone conclusion, and perhaps it is — but then we thought that last week and we are not so sure this morning——

We thought that last night.

However, in the event of him being rejected, I will not oppose Deputy John Bruton. I say this not only because Deputy Bruton has been a Member of this House for a long time but because when he came into this House, he was one of the bright, young forward thinking sparks on the Fine Gael benches, and God knows there were not very many of them at that time. Perhaps he has more than served his time should he come to the throne this morning and I wish him well in that position. I do not envy him his problems in organising, controlling and keeping his partners in check. The younger the partners and the smaller the child, the more difficult they are to control. In any event, my first choice for Taoiseach is Deputy Ahern but I will not oppose Deputy Bruton because I believe he has the knowledge and the interests of rural Ireland at heart. He may not know the type of small farmers I represent but he has had a fair opportunity to learn about them and if he needs any further advice I hope he will not hesitate to call on me.

He can always consult me.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 94.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Blaney, Neil T.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hilliard, Colm M.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • (Limerick West).
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Hugh.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gallagher, Pat.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • (Limerick East).
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Eamon.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Power; Níl, Deputies E. Kenny and Ferris.
Question declared lost.
Question put: "That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy John Bruton for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach".
The Dáil divided: Tá, 85; Níl, 74.

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Hugh.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gallagher, Pat.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Eamon.
  • Yates, Ivan.

Níl

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hilliard, Colm M.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • (Limerick West).
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies E. Kenny and Ferris; Níl, Deputies Dempsey and Power.
Question declared carried.

I hereby declare Deputy John Bruton to have been nominated by Dáil Éireann for appointment by the President as Taoiseach.

I wish to thank this House and my colleagues for nominating me as Taoiseach. It is a high office but a humbling one. It is a high office because the holder is rightly held responsible for the good governance of this Republic. It is a humbling office because in our democracy the Taoiseach does not discharge his duties by virtue of his own merits or, dare I say it, by looking into his heart, but derives all authority from this assembly, the Dáil the duly elected parliament of our people.

I should reflect on the word "Taoiseach". In Gaelic Ireland, the Taoiseach was one who led by example rather than by exhortation, by character rather than coercion and who exercised such authority as he had as a service to the people. In the same way that I seek simplicity in the office of Taoiseach I seek simplicity in government and national policy. Good government is a public service and it should be kept simple. This is a Republic. Public office is a privilege that must be paid for in hard work and long hours. The Government must go about its work without excess or extravagance and as transparently as if it were working behind a pane of glass. The same holds for national policy.

In recent times we have seen two views discarded: first, that the State should substitute for private effort and, later, that there is no such thing as society. Both are wrong. The State must support, it must not substitute, otherwise it will end up enslaving and there is such a thing as society. We are our brother's and sister's keeper and from that flows the simple aims of proper public policy.

The first duty of a Government is to keep good order which means promoting peace. Normal life in Northern Ireland is now our first national aim. Then our own needs must be met: to nurse the sick, to house the homeless and to give every man and woman a chance to contribute to the community. That contribution is the cornerstone of civil society and that being so we can simply say that our work is to create work. That is at the heart of the joint programme agreed by Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left.

I move: "That the Dáil shall sit later than 4.45 p.m. today and shall adjourn at the conclusion of item No. 2; (2) proceedings on the nomination of the Government shall be brought to a conclusion not later than 7.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair; (3) at the conclusion of business tonight the House shall adjourn forthwith until Tuesday, 24 January 1995; (4) that until the Dáil shall otherwise order, the order in which questions to members of the Government, other than the Taoiseach, shall be asked in accordance with Standing Order 35 (2) shall be that in which the members of the Government will be listed in a resolution approving their nomination by the Taoiseach for appointment by the President".

It is now necessary, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, to inform the President of my nomination so that she may appoint me. Accordingly, I suggest that the Dáil be suspended for three and a half hours.

Déanaim comhghairdeachas leis an Teachta John Bruton ina thoghadh mar Thaoiseach. Tá súil agam go mbeidh saol sona aige sa phost. Níl an chiall chéanna le bunadh na laethanta seo agus a bhí fadó. Tréaslaím leis ar aon nós. I congratulate Deputy John Bruton on his election as Taoiseach, and wish him well in the period ahead.

My advice to John Bruton iscarpe diem, enjoy the day, seize the hour. He has wrestled a great triumph from dark days, and is entitled to feel that his many years as a diligent public representative have earned him his day in the sun. It is a great honour to become the tenth Taoiseach of this country, following the great line that began with W. T. Cosgrave and Éamon de Valera. It is a great honour too, for his wife Finola and his family, and Fianna Fáil members, through me, convey their congratulations to him and them. It is also a great honour for his party and county. He is the first Meath man to become Taoiseach, and Meath men have caused not a little trouble for Dublin for many a year. I promise that, as Leader of Fianna Fáil, we will give him a good, hard, fair match during his term as Taoiseach, he can count on that.

Deputy John Bruton has been a Member of this House for 25 years. He has already been Minister for Finance, Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism, as well as being Leader of the House. He has made an honourable and distinguished contribution to the work of the House, not least in his pioneering efforts to introduce a modern committee system to it. When he published his ideas on Dáil reform in 1980 I took a great interest in what he said and I have since supported some of his key concepts in that regard. He has considerable experience in Government, and is, as everyone will acknowledge, a leader of some stature. He has known more than most, the ups and downs of politics.

Ten days ago, when I went to an ECOFIN Council in Brussels, I thought I could look forward to forming a Government within a little more than 24 hours. The programme was to all intents and purposes agreed. By that evening, I was contemplating the prospect of heading into Opposition and that has now come about.

Like his predecessor on this side of the House, Deputy Bruton should reflect that it is the quality of what he achieves as Taoiseach that is important, not how long he manages to stay there. That will be the true mark of his success and of his contribution to the welfare of the nation.

The outgoing partnership Government between Fianna Fáil and Labour has left him holding an excellent hand, a prospering economy, unprecedented levels of Structural and Cohesion Funding negotiated with Europe until the end of this decade, and the breakthrough in the peace process in Northern Ireland achieved one year ago today. It will be up to Deputy Bruton to make the most of those advantages. We will provide constructive, vigorous and vigilant Opposition. I look forward to co-operating with him in the national interest, as appropriate. We will not criticise him for implementing good and successful policies. On all sides of the House, we wish to see our nation prosper and go forward, and he as Taoiseach has our good wishes and is entitled to respect while he is the leader of our country.

Governments are usually judged by the people on their management of the economy, unless controversy arises that overshadows their record of competence and focuses on other aspects of their governance. I am glad to state that our economy, organised by the outgoing Government, is in fine fettle. Together with the trade unions, employers, farmers and other groups, we worked well and hard to reach a plateau of monetary stability and fiscal discipline, not just because the Maastricht criteria demanded that we adopt severe yardsticks but because those criteria express the real needs of the economy and the opinion of most of our electorate that we must keep our house in order. I will mention a few key indicators of our economy for this year. Our GDP is forecast to grow by more than 6 per cent in real terms this year and GNP will grow by 5½ per cent. Average inflation will show 2½ per cent as we said at budget time. The 1994 budget will recover the first current account surplus since 1966-67. The debt-GNP ratio should fall to about 94 per cent, in other words 5 percentage points lower than in 1993. These striking figures show an economy in tip-top shape. I trust it will remain so.

We must briefly remind ourselves of two salient figures from the period of the last Fine Gael-Labour Coalition. When it entered Government in 1982 the debt-GDP ratio was about 93 per cent. When it left, it was 122.2 per cent — a 30 per cent increase. It is now 93 per cent and we are committed to a further decrease in that figure.

In 1986 more than 300,000 work days were lost in strikes. Last year the figures were a mere one fifth of that horror figure. The record is there for all to see.

Later today, on the election of a Government, I will set out the record of the outgoing Government partner. That will be seen as a good record, in the main, a record of planning for change and implementing it and of sound financial management and innovative strategies for business. We hand over an economy that is powering ahead and creating jobs at a satisfactory rate, a difficult achievement. We hand over the nation's finances in better shape than they have been for almost 30 years. We leave in place a decade of consensus national agreements, which have been the foundation stone of sanity in industrial relations. The sound management of Structural and Cohesion Funds destined to transform our infrastructure is vital to ensure maximum gain now and in the future. Major decisions have to be made with regard to the future of our semi-State companies and on the accessibility of our public institutions.

I commend strongly to Deputy Bruton and members of his Government that they hand back the economy to us in 1997, if not before, in as good a shape as we have left it for them. If they attempt to stray from the path of righteousness in economic terms, we will hound and harry them as we see fit——

Deputy Ahern should go out to Tallaght some time.

The Minister, please.

——and persuade them as best we can to do what is right for the economy and right for the long term prosperity of the nation.

On this, the first anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration, I want to make special mention of the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, and his historic achievement, with others, in brokering peace in Northern Ireland. I have on many occasions called him, in the words of Daniel O'Connell, "the best of patriots". None of us who enters politics knows if we will achieve anything great. It was in destiny's hands that Deputy Reynolds' greatest legacy to his country was peace. There is no war in Ireland this Christmas. Who could have believed that was possible this time last year? There were those who believed, there were those who continued to hope, and there were the brave hearts that risked much for us all.

Deputy Reynolds was among those risk-takers, those believers, and "best of patriots", and we as a nation are indebted to him. The traumatic events of recent times will not in the long term overshadow his outstanding achievements as a good Taoiseach, an honourable politician and a good man. I extend my thanks and that of our party to his wife, Kathleen, and to his family, for allowing him the space and time to work for the nation.

On behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, I want to say that we will co-operate in the smooth running of the House — as we did this morning — and do all in our power to ensure that the work of this new Government proceeds apace. We wish Deputy Bruton and his Coalition partners well in the days to come. Those on the Opposition side of the House will watch them very closely.

We will agree to the motion put forward and we would like our Whip to be consulted in respect of all arrangements. Deputy Bruton will be aware that my colleagues on this side of the House would like to know the arrangements before making speeches on the formation of a Government. We normally do not know the individuals who will be appointed, but on this occasion we do not even know the political parties that will be involved. Unlike other occasions, in congratulating Deputy Bruton on his appointment as Taoiseach, I will not make harsh comments, rather I will quote the words of two famous poets. In the words of Wordsworth, "The rainbow comes and goes" and in the words of Shelley, "When the cloud has scattered, the rainbow's glory is shed." We would like to know the real circumstances.

On behalf of the parliamentary Labour Party, I congratulate Deputy John Bruton on being elected Taoiseach. I also congratulate his family. He has served in this House for many years and has given all his working life to politics and the betterment of the country. I congratulate him on achieving this office and look forward to working with him in the Government which will be formed this afternoon.

I compliment the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party on his speech in which he promised constructive Opposition. This country needs constructive Government and constructive Opposition. The Tánaiste quoted some facts and figures from the 1980s and complained about the then Government. If we open a debate on that today, we may have a great deal to say about the quality of the Opposition in the mid-eighties.

I wish Deputy Bertie Ahern well in his task in leading the largest party in the State, one with a proud history. He is a man of conviction, of courage, one who has had enormous political experience throughout his career.

I congratulate Deputy John Bruton and wish him well. He is taking on a difficult task, never an easy one. I look forward to working with him.

The greatest honour this House can bestow on any of its Members is that of electing him or her to the position of Taoiseach, an honour that has now been bestowed on Deputy John Bruton. It is a great day for him. Certainly he is a fighter. Anybody who cares to undertake a study of what happens in politics need only look at the careers of Deputies Albert Reynolds and John Bruton over the past five weeks in order to realise that politics is the art of the impossible, that virtually nothing is impossible.

Now that Deputy John Bruton has been elected Taoiseach my wish would be that he would be firm and decisive because there has been much uncertainty and indecision recently. However, he still has the major task of putting a Government together. We are in a very unreal position, not knowing what parties will make up that Government or whether it will have a working majority in this House. I must say I am delighted that the Constitution limits the number of ministerial appointments to 15 so that there are no choices or extensions open to the various parties in that respect.

I wish Deputy John Bruton well in the task ahead of him. I am sure he will lead that Government on the basis of the trust about which he has spoken so much. Certainly, my dealings with him over the past year always have been on the basis of trust and co-operation.

I want to congratulate his wife, Finola and his family whom I see here today. It is a great day for them also. I genuinely wish them well.

May I also wish the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, his wife and family well.

I congratulate Deputy John Bruton on having bestowed on him the highest honour this House can bestow on any Member, which is to lead the Government of this country. I have already placed on record this morning my regard and respect for Deputy John Bruton and his abilities. Certainly, I shall be supporting him in implementing the programme A Government of Renewal in which I had a part in negotiating in recent days.

I too appreciate the circumstances in which the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, finds himself. It is not always easy to hand over such high office. There is no doubt that one of the most important achievements of Deputy Albert Reynolds is the peace process and, in so far as I shall have any hand, act or part in the continuation of that process, I will seek to ensure it is successful.

Go raibh maith agat, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Ar son Comhaontas Glas, tréaslaím leis an Teachta John Bruton, a bhean chéile, Finola, agus a chlann óg as an post tábhachtach atá bainte amach aige. Creidim gur duine macánta a bhí ann sa Fhreasúra agus tá a fhios agam, agus tá súil agam, gur mar sin a leanfaidh sé air sa rialtas nua.

Honesty is a quality fundamental to politics. It is crucial that, at times, that principle be seen to rise above populism or what is perceived to be simply a popular decision. Otherwise the next generation, who will not have voted for us, will be unable to benefit from the achievements of the Government of today.

I want to pay tribute also to Deputy Bertie Ahern on the magnanimous manner in which he has dealt with events in the time within which he has had to do so. He mentioned the creation of jobs whereas Deputy John Bruton mentioned the creation of work; I assume that both words have a similar intent. That being said, something which has not been grasped by the other parties is that ecology and economics are similar and must be dealt with and perceived as being part of the same ideology. Already there is much work out there; sometimes the "creation of work" is a misnomer since there is plenty of work to be done. Therefore, we need to develop mechanisms to ensure that that work is done and that people generally are not denied an opportunity to participate in it.

I look forward to assessing each of the issues that will arise in the lifetime of this Government, from the point of view of the Green Party, on their sustainability and overall benefit to society. I shall be voting in accordance with that principle.

Unfortunately, for the second time, I will be unable to compliment my colleague and father of the House in the kind of flowing words he used to pay tribute to me this morning. It is most reassuring to know that one has a colleague of such standing in the House. No doubt the time will come when opportunity will smile on me, hopefully with interest.

I compliment Deputy John Bruton on his elevation to the office of Taoiseach and wish him well.

I should like to let him and the House know that the stance that will be taken by the Independents will be an independent one, that we shall vote on each issue on its merits, not because it will have been put forward by any particular party.

I should like to pay tribute also to what I might describe as the Opposition — I do not know whether I should refer to them as such while they continue to sit opposite — but the other Members and parties in the House on the manner in which they conducted themselves this morning. In recent times at least incoming Taoisigh were, metaphorically speaking, gutted. It is good to note that that has not been done today. Go n-eirí an t-ádh leis an Teachta Bruton.

I think I am still Government Chief Whip so there is just one item of housekeeping to which I might refer.

I want to make it clear to Deputy Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael Whip, that his proposal will not preclude the House from deciding the terms of reference of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security. If the Whips agree, we can conduct that business afterwards.

On my behalf, and I am sure on behalf of my colleagues in the constituency of Meath and its electorate, I offer my sincere congratulations to my constituency colleague, Deputy John Bruton, on his elevation to the office of Taoiseach. I wish him well on a personal basis. All of us who have had experience of working with him, as Members of this House — whether he or we were in Opposition over the years — will attest to his dedication and commitment to the people and constituency of Meath. I also wish his wife, Finola, and his family, well. However resolute we may be in Opposition — and I can guarantee the House that we will be resolute — it would be my hope that they, his family, will be spared the political fray resulting from whatever we may say or do. Families suffer enough in the course of political life and should not be attacked in this House.

On behalf of myself and of the people of County Meath I wish Deputy John Bruton the very best.

As another constituency colleague of Deputy John Bruton. I want to wish him the best of luck at a very difficult time. I and my family have known Deputy Bruton and all of his family over a long number of years. Deputy Bruton referred to 1969 when he first became a candidate for election to this House. At that time I was working for two old stalwarts of the Labour Party who have since departed, my late uncle and the late Deputy Jim Tully, who contested that election against Deputy John Bruton. Deputy Bruton was successful, as was the late Deputy Jim Tully.

I know that Deputy John Bruton has worked extremely hard over many years. We have had many battles and, I am sure, will have many more but one point I have always made whenever speaking to my colleagues, or people outside of Meath, is that Deputy John Bruton is a man of the utmost integrity and honesty and, having known all of his family and been associated with them over many years, he could not be otherwise.

We shall work together. Certainly I shall strive very hard to ensure that the necessary improvements, to which Deputy Bruton referred in his contribution, will be implemented for the benefit of the people we all represent, in particular in the interests of peace in our country. I and my party will give him our full support over the next two and a half years. I wish Deputy Bruton's wife Finola, to whom I have already spoken, and family well. The Deputy has worked hard for this position. I wish him the best of luck.

I sincerely congratulate Deputy Bruton, a County Meath man, a friend and a constituent of mine——

They can treat each other as hopeless cases.

——on being elected the tenth Taoiseach of this country.

The Deputy will be the next one.

I hope he will perform well and the country will benefit from his leadership. He has an important role to play and I wish him well. His wife Finola and their four children will probably see a good deal less of him now that he has taken on this big job. I have spoken to his four children and I told them to tell their father that it was essential to allow time for daily telephone calls. I wish him health and good counsel.

I thank the Deputy.

I have congratulated Deputy Bruton, but I would like to say publicly that I am pleased for him and his family that he has been elected Taoiseach. I was at school in Dunboyne 25 years ago when he was elected TD to represent that area. I entered politics 12 years later. I am a native of the same parish as Deputy Bruton and he was most courteous to me when I was first elected and since. As my constituency colleagues, who spoke on behalf of the people of Meath, said, today is a proud day for Deputy Bruton and his family. I congratulate his wife, Finola, and I am delighted to see her, their children and John's parents present. I am sure it is also a proud day for his parents to see him elected Taoiseach. On my behalf, and on behalf of the people I represent in County Meath, I congratulate him.

I congratulate Deputy Bruton and in particular, I congratulate his wife, Finola, who comes from Westport. The people of that town will be very proud and honoured today as will Finola's mother. Patsy, who I am sure will be watching the proceedings this morning.

I wish the outgoing Taoiseach well because his son also travelled to Westport to meet his wife. We are accustomed to having the Taoiseach of the day visit Westport and I look forward to seeing John and Finola make regular visits, like the former Taoiseach, to the capital of the west, Westport.

Knock Marriage Bureau has now moved to Westport.

I must now ask if the proposals made by the Taoiseach designate, Deputy Bruton, in respect of the late sitting, arrangements for the debate on the nomination of the Government, Adjournment of the Dáil, order of questions and suspension of sitting are agreed to? Agreed.

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

As the courting continues.

On a point of order, Sir, I do not wish to be on this side, I wish to be somewhere in the centre.

Sitting suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 4.15 p.m.