Nomination of Taoiseach.

The next business is the nomination of Taoiseach. I will now receive motions.

Tairgim:

Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Bertie Ahern a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Taoiseach.

I move:

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

Over the past ten years, Ireland has been transformed in many ways, the greatest part of which has been the overcoming of the historic challenges of conflict, unemployment and immigration. We have moved from being a nation defined by the problems it faced to one defined by the opportunities it has created.

In this, Deputy Bertie Ahern has played an essential role. That his have been the two longest serving peace-time Administrations in our history stands as a testament to his ability to lead. He has combined high office with a determination to stay close to the people who put him there. In an age where many feel the need to read significance into almost every matter, he has brought a cool head and consistent focus on moving our country forward. In the recent election, he did not seek a reward for past achievements, but a mandate to implement an ambitious and positive programme to help keep Ireland moving forward. The people responded both to him and his message. There is no doubt that he is the people's choice for Taoiseach. It is my privilege to move the motion.

I dtús báire, a Cheann Comhairle, guím gach ráth ort mar Cheann Comhairle. Ba mhaith liom tacú leis an moladh atá curtha ag an Aire, an Teachta Cowen, maidir le ainmniú an Teachta Bertie Ahern mar Taoiseach na tíre seo. This is a time when the nomination for Taoiseach most clearly reflects the wish of the people who voted for Fianna Fáil in large numbers.

For the six Green Party Deputies — I welcome the newly elected Deputy Mary White, deputy leader of the party, warmly — our support for the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern honours a decision taken by the membership of the party throughout this island at a meeting in the Mansion House last night. We are not only voting for Deputy Bertie Ahern to be Taoiseach, but for the opportunity to play our full part in a Government that will set the country on a course to being a leader in terms of quality of life, energy efficiency, renewable energy technology, good food production, equitable health care and good planning. That government will reflect to some extent the diversity that characterises society.

We in the Green Party have worked hard with our colleagues in Fianna Fáil to put together a comprehensive programme for Government that needs to be implemented urgently. With this in mind, we are giving implementation of that programme the green light through our support for Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach.

The Green Party does not have that mandate.

I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his appointment. It is a great achievement and I am sure he will fulfil his duties admirably.

I propose Deputy Enda Kenny for the position of Taoiseach. In the recent general election, many voted for a complete change of government.

There was no mandate.

Some 25% more people voted for candidates who opposed the existing Government than for its supporters.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Including the Green Party.

Most of those voters did not want to see the same battered vessel or tired crew put back to sea. They did not want to see it patched up and put out with new bunting. They wanted to see a serious change of government, which is what Deputy Kenny would offer as Taoiseach.

The past seven years have been a period of unique opportunity. Extraordinary wealth was available to the Government to transform our community, the way we live and the way our people are served, but that opportunity has been allowed to slip by. It has not been properly harvested and many have not seen the fruit of the success created. We should be looking back on a seven-year period in which we created a world class health service, made it easier for families to bear their burdens and when there were safer streets than at the beginning of the millennium, but that is not the situation. For this reason, we need far-reaching reform.

In Deputy Kenny, we have a man who has made it possible for the Dáil to vote for a complete change of government, which is a singular achievement. There are enough people who are not part of Fianna Fáil to create an alternative government, to elect a government that, rather than being another pastel shade of Fianna Fáil, is committed to serious reform across the length and breadth of public services.

I propose a man who does not make promises to voters that he does not intend to honour when he is returned to government. I propose a man who remoulded a defeated party some years ago and created the most vibrant force in politics which won 20 seats in the recent election, unlike any other party in the Dáil. I propose a man who has built a platform for real change with Deputy Rabbitte and the Labour Party that offers the opportunity to transform much in this country that needs change.

We are embarking on more challenging times for which the last Government should have prepared us. We should be in a stronger position to deal with issues of competitiveness, climate change and the delivery of quality public services to those who need them, but we are not. For this reason we need radical change, someone who leads by example and someone who stands up and sets high standards for himself and those around him. This is what Deputy Kenny brings. He is a unique leader for a new generation, a leader not in the old style of "the Boss", but someone who motivates and who creates self-belief, a winning team and the sort of new and open Ireland that is needed. He is a man who will lead a new type of government where voices that have been long ignored will be heard, where outcomes and not inputs will be the test of performance, where waste will not be rewarded with promotion and where the abuse of public office will finally be put behind us. Therefore, I propose Deputy Kenny for the position of Taoiseach.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

As someone who does not intend to have to take up the Ceann Comhairle's invitation to visit him in his office, I take this public opportunity of wishing him every success in the Chair. I am encouraged by his remarks and appreciate that his skills are probably no longer required in Kerry South, given the extent of the booty on its way there——

If the cap fits.

(Interruptions).

——in the back of Deputy Healy-Rae's car. When the Ceann Comhairle stated that there will be a familiarisation programme for the new Members, I believed he stated that there will be a feminisation programme. We might all examine its introduction for the next Parliament.

It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to support the nomination of Deputy Kenny for the position of Taoiseach. Deputy Kenny is an immensely experienced parliamentarian. He is immensely popular with his colleagues on all sides of this House. He is an honest politician whose talents are well suited to the job of managing a Government.

I hoped until recently that he would be elected Taoiseach because he and I set out to offer the people a choice of Government in the recent election. I fundamentally believe it is important in a democracy that there is an alternative on offer to the Irish people. We set out to create such an alternative because the people have a right to expect that its democracy is capable of offering an alternative Government. We sought to do that. We sought to spell out on the big issues confronting our people where we were different and where what we were offering was different, on issues like the management of the health services, the privatisation of the hospitals building programme, criminal justice, policing and a number of other issues.

The people are sovereign and they have made their decision. However, I believe with conviction — I say this with the utmost respect to my Fianna Fáil colleagues in the House — that it is not healthy in a democracy that a single party dominates and is likely to dominate politics in the foreseeable future. Our civil society and institutions badly need a change of Government. That did not happen but I am proud to say that we fought the good fight. The outcome is narrow and the people are sovereign. The Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, has won and I entirely accept that. We will have the opportunity to make some remarks about it later. I take this opportunity to support the nomination of Deputy Kenny for the position of Taoiseach.

I again wish you every success in your position as Ceann Comhairle and confirm that my colleagues and I in the Sinn Féin Party will co-operate with you during the course of the Dáil term before us. There is a collective responsibility on all of us who are elected to the Dáil to govern fairly in the interests of the people. That is something the electorate wants us to do regardless of the party differences that are clearly represented in this House. I remember stating at the outset of the 29th Dáil that there should be co-operation among all parties in advancing progressive legislation on which we can all agree. This is often forgotten in the heat of inter-party rivalry. The Dáil as a whole is elected to legislate for the people. For that reason, it is important that we set down at the outset that it is essential that all voices in this House are respected and treated equally. That is a critical factor on this first day of the new Dáil.

While I regret that the election has reinforced the dominant position of the two main conservative parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, it is also evident that the Labour Party, in tying itself so closely to Fine Gael, has only facilitated the latter's return here with even greater numbers. There is clearly no electoral benefit for the Labour Party. The outcome has been negative for the broad left in Irish politics. Similarly, the decision of the Green Party to form a coalition with Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats is a bad day for progressive politics in this State. The coalition that is presented before us is an extraordinary one, to say the least.

We are particularly concerned that it points to a continuation of many of the most abhorrent policies that the outgoing Government pursued relentlessly, not least in the whole area of the health portfolio. The programme for Government as presented will see the continuation of the scandalous and disgraceful hospital co-location scheme. The Sinn Féin Deputies cannot as a party support the establishment of a new Government that will see Deputy Harney, with respect to her on a personal basis, as the acting head of the Progressive Democrats, return to her ministerial office. We do not know as we speak whether she will have the health and children portfolio, but it is clear that the electorate has spoken and has roundly rejected the malign influence of the Progressive Democrats in the 29th Dáil, which most particularly represented itself in the pursuit of the policies in the health domain for which she was responsible in the concluding two to two and a half years. This encouraged inequalities in Irish society and sought to deepen rather than address responsibly for the growing gulf in Irish society between those who have and those who continue to struggle on a day-by-day basis.

For these reasons, we cannot support the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern for the position of Taoiseach in the 30th Dáil. He has not demonstrated in the weeks since the election that he intends to change course in this area and many related areas, including the issue of stopovers at Shannon Airport by United States forces intent on continuing their imperialist endeavour in Iraq. There are many issues that we could address here, many of the failures of the outgoing Government that we see being continued by this new Administration under Deputy Bertie Ahern. It is with regret that I say we cannot find it within ourselves to support his nomination or that of Deputy Kenny, who claims to represent an alternative to the outgoing Government now emboldened by the Green Party and a number of Independents.

We cannot support another five years of privatisation of our health services while public hospital beds are not delivered, accident and emergency units throughout the country are overcrowded, MRSA is rampant, and those who provide critical services find it impossible to carry out their work as they would wish. The list is endless. There is nothing in what either nominee presents that will address any of these critical issues. We will therefore oppose both of them and will continue as a party determined to give a radical voice and a real alternative for the Irish people in this Chamber in the coming years, whatever the duration of this Government.

It will be five years.

I begin by congratulating you on your election to the Office of Ceann Comhairle. We will certainly miss your wit and humour in the Cabinet room. You have been a loyal and committed colleague of mine for the past ten years and I thank you for that. You are a quintessential Irishman and a very appropriate person to represent this House. The Office of Ceann Comhairle is probably not taken as seriously here as it is in many parliaments around the world. Your legal background will be enormously beneficial in interpreting the rules of this House and keeping order.

I rise also to support the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern for the Office of Taoiseach. I do so for the third time in ten years. I do so because I believe he has the capacity to lead a stable, coherent and effective Government in the next five years and because of the unique skills he has to run a coalition Government on the basis of mutual respect and partnership. The fact that he is about to be elected Taoiseach for the third successive time, something that has not happened in this House for more than 60 years, when the political landscape was very different, is a tribute to his unique personal and political qualities, not least of which was the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement and its successful implementation, which has transformed politics and life on the island of Ireland.

Today is not a day for robust opposition or heated debate. Edmund Burke once said magnanimity is not seldom the truest wisdom. I want to pay tribute today to those who are not in this House including, in particular, my colleagues in the Progressive Democrats because we had a very disappointing election. I refer to people such as Liz O'Donnell, who made a great contribution in many respects to this House over 15 years, Fiona O'Malley, Mae Sexton, Tim O'Malley and Tom Parlon, and especially to our leader and former Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell. He has made a lasting contribution to political history and the quality of life in Ireland. His strong defence of the rule of law in the peace process made a major contribution to the health of our democracy and to peace in our society. I think most fair minded people recognise that.

I also pay tribute to many colleagues from other parties who lost their seats, not least of whom was Joe Higgins, a fine parliamentarian even though we did not always agree. We will miss him in this House. Politics can be very cruel to individuals and their families and supporters. Today is a sad day for the many who would have wished to have been here, just as it is a very happy one for the 49 new Members of this House.

We are entering a new political ecology. There is a new organic biosphere made up of——

(Interruptions).

Made up of what?

——new interdependent relationships and, as we know, the whole ecology system only works when all forms of human life are cherished and work together. I certainly look forward to working with the new Green Party Ministers in the Government.

The Deputy might join them.

I strongly believe in collective responsibility and loyalty in Government. That is what I have sought to achieve over the past ten years and that is what I want to achieve with our new colleagues in Government over the next five years. Notwithstanding the programme for Government, which is extremely important, a Government works on the basis of interpersonal relationships, whereby people give and take and support and assist each other. That kind of loyalty helps to deliver successful and cohesive Governments. This time five years ago, I began my speech by welcoming Deputy Kenny to the lonely leaders' club. Today I am welcoming people to the interim leaders' club, which comprises two members at present and may include more in due course.

Does the Deputy know something we do not?

Brian, take it easy.

Deputy Grealish and I are happy to support the nomination of Deputy Bertie Ahern for Taoiseach.

Ba maith liom chomhghairdeas a ghabháil leat, a Cheann Chomhairle, as ucht an post tábhachtach sin a bhaint amach. Bhí áthas orm nuair a chuala mé go dtabharfaidh tú cothram na féinne dúinn ar fad. Tá a fhios agam go gcomhlíonfaidh tú an geallúint sin.

I thank those people in Dublin Central who voted to return me to the 30th Dáil. It is a great honour for all of us to be elected to Dáil Éireann but it is particularly difficult for an Independent candidate to succeed in a general election. I owe a great deal to a group of people who on a voluntary basis campaigned, canvassed and erected posters to help me compete with the big political machines. I thank every one of them for their efforts, which made my re-election possible. However, it is particularly disappointing that in my own constituency of Dublin Central, more than 40% of the electorate did not consider it worth their while to vote. The percentage of those who did not vote was much higher in the more disadvantaged areas of the constituency.

When I spoke here five years ago, I welcomed the many new Independent Deputies elected at that time but, regrettably, nearly all of that group lost out on this occasion. It is appropriate to pay tribute to each of them for the committed manner in which they played an important and active role through the Technical Group in all the deliberations of the outgoing Dáil. I pay special tribute to the leader of the Independent group during the past five years, Joe Higgins, who after ten years of total commitment in terms of bringing the attention of this House to social injustices, was not re-elected. This House will be a duller and, more important, a less inclusive place without Joe Higgins. I am certain, however, that his day will come again.

On the nomination of Taoiseach, there has been some speculation in recent weeks in the media regarding why I was not involved in talks with one of the nominees, Deputy Bertie Ahern. Perhaps that was because we both shared the same constituency and the Deputy was conscious of the priority issues on which I contested the recent election. Those issues include the need to end the two-tier health service and the scandal of the exploitation of public hospitals for private profit; the need to control the price of building land, much of which is held by a cartel of billionaire developers who have driven house prices beyond affordability for most people; the need to radically address the inequality in education, which sees less than 5% of children in some communities in Dublin Central going to third-level education; the need to strive for a fairer and more equal society; the need to safeguard our neutrality and sovereignty by ending the shameful use of Shannon Airport by United States military forces on their way to their murderous and illegal war in Iraq; the need to develop our natural resources to benefit our people and not at the behest of multinational oil companies; and the need to ensure that when a person dies in Garda custody or dies of injuries sustained while in custody, an immediate and independent investigation is conducted. These were some of the political issues on which I stood for election in Dublin Central and it is they and no other consideration whatever which will dictate the manner in which I will vote on the nomination for Taoiseach.

I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle in a very special way.

(Interruptions).

I congratulate him because I go back to when I directed elections for him in the early years. God knows, I played a leading role in sending him to this House in the first instance. I wish him many long and happy years in the seat in which he is now sitting.

Straight from the heart.

I clearly state my support for Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach. I have had a wonderful relationship with him since I was elected to this House in 1997. I look forward to backing this brand new Government comprising Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats Party and my fellow Independent Deputies. I thank in a very special way the massive team of supporters and people who put me into this position in South Kerry, against the might and the massive strength of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour.

I thank the Deputy even more specially.

Standing here this evening, I guarantee the Ceann Comhairle that if there is a bad pothole around Waterville, on Dursey Island in west County Cork or anywhere in Cahirciveen, I will do my very best——

(Interruptions).

In the Ceann Comhairle's absence, I will do my best to sort them out and I will keep him well informed all the time.

I assure the Deputy that I will never be far away.

Tá orm an cheist a chur de bhun rún na Dála inniu. I am required to put the question in accordance with the resolution of the Dáil today.

Cuireadh an cheist: "Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Bertie Ahern chun a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Taoiseach."

Question put: "That Dáil Éireann nominates Deputy Bertie Ahern for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 89; Níl, 76.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kelleher and Tom Kitt; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.
Question declared carried.

The other motions before the House fall.

Is cúis mhór áthais domsa seasamh anseo inniu os chomhair na Dála mar Thaoiseach. Is mór an onóir, an phribhléid agus an dualgas atá orm an cheart a dhéanamh ar son muintir na hÉireann agus cuirfidh an Rialtas nua seo chun oibre le fuinneamh.

I express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the Dáil for the great honour it has conferred on me by electing me Taoiseach. I am deeply conscious of the important responsibility this honour places on me. It is my first duty and great pleasure upon being nominated by Dáil Éireann for the office of Taoiseach to congratulate you, a Cheann Comhairle, on your election by the House. Your long service and experience as a Deputy, together with your experience as a Minister, will equip you well for the important office to which you have been elected. Deputies from every side of the House can have full confidence that, in you, we will have a fair and an impartial champion. For my part, I pledge you the respect and co-operation upon which the effective discharge of our parliamentary business depends. I wish you well in your new and important position.

On 24 May democracy took its course and the Irish people went to the polls and elected the 30th Dáil. The exercise of democracy, as prescribed by the Constitution, is fundamental to the stability of our country and legitimacy of our Government. Though our free, transparent and peaceful exercise of the democratic franchise is happily the norm, it should never be taken for granted. It is worth remembering today, as we meet for the first time, that Ireland enjoys a longer period of continuity under a single written constitution than any other European country.

From a perspective of peace and prosperity, the abiding memory today of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s may be of economic hardship and emigration but we should recall too that in a world at war and a European Continent oppressed by fascism and communism, Ireland's proudest achievement then was the establishment of stable democracy. It remains one of Ireland's proudest achievements now. Ireland's democracy, established with such firm political purpose by those who fought for and established the Republic, is the foundation for all we enjoy. Today, for myself and on behalf of all those who share the privilege of being elected to the 30th Dáil, I acknowledge those who have gone before us and left so much of lasting value behind.

Every generation has made its contribution to the unfolding story of Irish history. It is fitting to recall and salute those who served in the 29th Dáil and are not here today. Many former Deputies stepped down after long years of service. Others suffered the bruising and very public pain of political defeat. All made their own contribution to public life. I salute them, their families and their political supporters and I wish them well in the future.

Today is an occasion of great honour for every Deputy who has been elected as a representative of the people. This is especially so for those taking their seat in the Dáil for the first time today. They have come to Leinster House with their families and supporters who are looking down on them from the Visitors Gallery with a justified sense of pride in their election. They carry not only their high hopes but also the high hopes of the community who elected them. They are the Ministers and Taoisigh of the future and in years to come the turn of events will hinge on their decisions.

For myself, I am greatly honoured to have been elected ten times in 30 years by the people of Dublin Central. I promise I will continue to do my utmost to repay the trust that has been placed in me and continue to serve my own community to the very best of my ability. I also pay tribute to my political opponents on the benches opposite. Political battles are hard fought and a general election is especially so. Deputy Enda Kenny and Deputy Pat Rabbitte made their case to the people and did so with all the strength and passion of people who were genuinely persuaded of their cause. For my part, I respect their convictions and I respect them. I wish them and their families well in the future.

I welcome the opportunity to serve the people in the years ahead with colleagues from the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats, with the support of others who see the merits of our programme.

We live in an Ireland of unprecedented peace and prosperity. This has not happened by chance. Through every single day of the past decade, the quest for peace has been the single dominating purpose of my public life and the work of Government. Today, I pledge again, as I have before, that the cause of peace will be the cause that is always closest to my heart. During these past weeks, attention has understandably been focused on the course of the general election. In the future, I believe a far greater regard will be given by history to the new and glad departure in the relations between Unionists and Nationalists and between North and South on this island. There now exists between British and Irish, Nationalist and Unionist, an agreed consensus on our shared future. It is not an end of history but it is a new beginning. The work of this Dáil and the Government I will shortly nominate is to shape and strengthen that shared and better future. In doing so, we can begin to put the divisions of the past permanently behind us. All of the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, can be a place of peace and of promise.

Today, Ireland stands as a strong economy in a global market place. We enjoy the full employment, good wages and promising opportunities of which the generations that secured our independence and built our democracy could only dream. Now our opportunity and duty is to secure our prosperity and use it to build a better Ireland. By promoting a strong economy, enabling individual enterprise and increasing investment in public services, we can continue to build not only a strong economy but we can build upon the foundations already laid for a stronger and fairer Ireland.

Wealth creation is not an end in itself. Rather, it is the engine that drives improvements in our social services, giving us the money to increase child benefit, build more playgrounds and sports facilities, deliver pension increases, improve services for children and adults with disabilities and ensure that our strong economy is grounded on a sustainable environment so that together we can all enjoy a sustainable future. A sound economy is the essential bedrock of social progress. It is the foundation for all our ambitions — in health, enterprise, welfare or education. In a world with higher interest rates, higher energy costs and increasing competition from emerging economies success cannot be assumed and prosperity cannot be taken for granted.

I pledge that the Government I will lead will work to protect prosperity and strive to ensure that Ireland's potential, all our potential, is achieved. In doing so, I look forward to achieving, with the social partners, the challenging goals we agreed in Towards 2016. I also look forward to leading the public service into a new phase of modernisation and change to the benefit of all our people.

On this occasion five years ago, I said that "high office does not confer upon its holder either a monopoly of wisdom or the benefit of hindsight". It has certainly proved to be so. I take courage from all the lessons I have learnt from life, including my life in politics. I especially take heart that I have learned from experience that effort is rewarded and if one stays the course, difficult goals can be reached.

A Cheann Comhairle, today I am honoured and humbled by the democratic mandate which the Irish people have given me. It is an honour I will work with all my might to repay every day I hold this office. It is with great pride and an acute sense of responsibility that I accept the nomination of Dáil Éireann for the office of Taoiseach.

Ba mhaith liom ar dtús mo bhuíochas agus mo chomhghairdeas a ghabháil leat, a Cheann Comhairle, as ucht a bheith tofa mar Cheann Comhairle ar an 30ú Dáil. I congratulate you on your appointment as Ceann Comhairle of the 30th Dáil. Coming as you do from Cahirciveen in the deep south, you bring with you a wonderful tradition from a county with which I have strong associations. In fact, you will now have to develop a little style of your own, as all your predecessors did, either by accent or by action. I recall asking a former Minister for Education, Mr. Richard Burke, who came from close to the location of a former distinguished Ceann Comhairle, Mr. Seán Treacy, where they got the accent. He said: "It's the limestone. It sticks in your throat." I am not sure what will be your quirk after five years.

It is an honour and a privilege to be nominated to contest the position of Taoiseach in this Dáil and House of Parliament. I thank Deputy Richard Bruton for nominating me on behalf of the Fine Gael Party and Deputy Pat Rabbitte for supporting that nomination on behalf of the Labour Party.

I congratulate Deputy Bertie Ahern and give him credit for his persistence and permanence in the political field in Ireland. For him, this is not just an honour; it is one that is almost unprecedented in that only one of his predecessors since the foundation of the State had the opportunity and privilege of serving three times as Taoiseach. I suppose we should all be glad for small mercies in that he has decided to begin the long glide to retirement, as he has already announced.

Standing in this position five years ago I said we would support the Government in the interests of the country where we felt that was necessary, and that we would oppose the Government and hold it to account where we felt that was necessary. We have had jousts in the House during Leaders' Questions and on other occasions but I accept the verdict of the people, the consequences of the proportional representation system and the decision of the Dáil today in nominating Deputy Bertie Ahern and confirming him as Taoiseach. Five years ago I set out to make him history but I did not quite get there on this occasion.

We live in a very different world than we did five years ago. Both nationally and internationally, things have turned on their head. Circumstances for the Taoiseach, as leader of the Government he is to announce, are very different from five years ago in terms of the economic challenge that faces the country and the changed national and international circumstances.

Given the Taoiseach's infernal ability to create or construct a Government of incompatibles, I must wish him well in what he does. He mentioned that he had been elected ten times over 30 years, which is true. At least in one respect, I have a slight edge on him in that I have been in the House for 32 years and have been elected 11 times. On this occasion, I have had the opportunity to bring back with me 20 new or re-elected Deputies. For me personally, this was the most enjoyable election campaign I have ever fought. To see democracy in one's own constituency gives one an understanding of the movement taking place but to lead a national campaign on behalf of a national party through 43 constituencies really brings home the impact and the importance of every single vote, and how important that is to our democracy.

I congratulate Deputy Bertie Ahern. I wish him well in his endeavours and in the challenge that faces him. I assure him that this party, with the increased mandate which we sought and were given, will support the Government in the interests of the country where we deem that appropriate and responsible, and we will continue to hold the Taoiseach and whatever Ministers he appoints to account on issues on which we feel they should be held to account. It was Einstein who said: "Try not to be a man of success; try also to be a man of value." I hope at the end of the Taoiseach's tenure of office that this is what the people will judge him by.

I would like to add my voice and the voice of my party to the congratulations to Deputy Bertie Ahern on being re-elected as Taoiseach and to extend our good wishes to him for the lifetime of this Dáil. I do so without cavils or caveats of any kind. To be re-elected for a third consecutive term is a truly remarkable achievement. I acknowledge that achievement and congratulate the Taoiseach on it. It is a tribute to his single-minded focus on politics and public service. Later today, when he announces the members of his new Cabinet, we will have an opportunity to dwell in a little more depth on the substantive issue, the formation of the new Government and the challenges that lie ahead. However, for the purpose of these few remarks, I wish the Taoiseach well and acknowledge that extraordinary achievement, which is a reward for his single-minded focus on politics — I hope he gets the opportunity on the way back from the Áras to do half an hour of canvassing in Drumcondra before he returns to the House. His re-election is a tribute to his extraordinary ability to straddle the ground between the people of property in our society and the people of no property, which is a remarkable achievement when examined in political terms.

In the new configuration of the Dáil the Labour Party is the undisputed party of the left and we intend to provide opposition to the Government on that basis. We intend to represent the vacant space which the lobbyists of the Green Party used to recently occupy and we will do our best to hold this Government to account. However, this afternoon is the Taoiseach's afternoon. I do not think anybody in modern times is likely to repeat the achievement of being thrice elected Taoiseach. It is a tremendous honour. To him and all who care for him, I offer my unstinting congratulations and best wishes.

On behalf of the Sinn Féin Deputies I join earlier speakers in congratulating Deputy Bertie Ahern on his election as Taoiseach of the 30th Dáil. I echo what has been said, namely, it is a remarkable achievement in the short political life of this State and of Irish politics on the island of Ireland. I wish him well in the period ahead, whatever duration that will be. As I indicated in my earlier remarks during the debate on the selection of Taoiseach and the nomination of Deputy Ahern and Deputy Kenny, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to play a constructive role.

We are not in Opposition for opposition's sake, but to recognise the merit of proposals from Government on legislation. As is required, we have a record of supporting as we believe appropriate. I hope there will be many occasions in the course of the lifetime of the 30th Dáil when there will be unanimity, or as near as is achievable. That will be indicative of greater care, attention and consideration of proposals and legislation that will come before the House. Let us hope that as a result of the composition of the new Government, with the myriad of parties and representatives now represented there, there will be reflection on many of the ideas people on these benches care about.

I wish Deputy Bertie Ahern well. This is a proud moment for him and his family and I wish him success not alone on a personal or party political basis, but for the people of Ireland who are dependent on his stewardship in office.

Aithním agus cuirim fáilte roimh thoradh an vóta seo agus guím comhghairdeas agus gach ráth ar an dTaoiseach ar bheith tofa arís mar Thaoiseach na tíre. Ní rud nua é dó mar is Taoiseach é le tamall fada agus tá ag éirí go han-mhaith leis sa ról sin. Ach san am céanna, cuireann toradh an vóta seo tús le ré nua mar cuireann sé tús le ról mo pháirtí fhéin, An Comhaontas Glas, dul i gcomhpháirtíocht i Rialtas. Ciallaíonn sin nach amháin gur ócáid stairiúil é domsa go pearsanta agus don Taoiseach mar Thaoiseach i Rialtas nua mar sin, ach chomh maith mar gur páirtí muid atá fíor-bhuíoch d'obair an Thaoisigh le linn an próiséas síochána agus teacht i bhfeidhm Conradh Aoine an Chéasta.

Dá bharr sin is féidir linne sa Chomhaontas Glas a rá go bhfuilimid mar pháirtí uile-Éireann anois toisc go bhfuilimid páirteach insan Tionól i Stormont agus anseo i nDáil Éireann chomh maith. Táim buíoch don Taoiseach as an obair sin ar son na síochána sa tír seo agus as an ról atá ag muintir na tíre uilig i gcur chun cinn na tíre insan Chomhaontas Glas ó thuaidh agus ó dheas. Guím gach ráth ar an obair sin. Táim ag súil leis an dul chun cinn gur féidir linn a dhéanamh chun saol níos fearr a bhaint amach do mhuintir na tíre ar fad agus todhchaí na tíre a láidriú tríd an dúshlán atá romhainn.

Sitting suspended at 5.05 p.m and resumed at 6.30 p.m.