Nomination of Taoiseach.

Is é an chéad ghnó eile ná an Taoiseach a ainmniú. Glacfaidh mé le hainmniúcháin anois.The next business is the nomination of Taoiseach. I will now receive motions.

Tairgim:

Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Brian Ó Comhain le bheith ceaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Thaoiseach.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Brian Cowen for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach.

Deputy Brian Cowen is immensely well qualified to undertake the duties of the office of Taoiseach. First elected to Dáil Éireann in 1984, he has been re-elected in every election since. In addition to his having extensive experience of local government, he has been a member of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body and an Opposition spokesperson on agriculture, food and forestry. He has shown ability and leadership in a succession of demanding ministerial positions, as Minister for Labour, Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Minister for Health and Children and Minister for Foreign Affairs, including a critically important role during our successful Presidency of the European Union. He has been Minister for Finance since 2004 and Tánaiste since June 2007.

Deputy Brian Cowen's extensive experience across his ministerial career, his deep involvement with Northern Ireland and the peace process and his skilled and widely admired engagement in Europe on behalf of the European Union during our Presidency all equip him to undertake the obligations of office of Taoiseach with flair and capacity. Furthermore, as a most successful contributor to partnership Government over recent years and as one who had an active role in the negotiation of the current programme for Government, he is well placed to lead a Government that will enjoy the support, commitment and energy of all three parties, in addition to those Independent Members of the House who support our programme.

Throughout his career, Deputy Brian Cowen has been a fair-minded and straight-talking participant in the social partnership process and has all the necessary skills to lead the process towards the next stage of development in line with the needs of our economy and society. In short, I consider him to be a uniquely well qualified candidate to succeed me in the position of Taoiseach and to lead the country towards the realisation of our shared objectives and through the challenge we face in the period ahead.

Cuireann sé áthas orm cuidiú leis an moladh. On behalf of the Government, I second the nomination of Brian Cowen for the position of Taoiseach.

During the protracted and sometimes tense negotiations that led to the formation of the Government, I got to know Brian Cowen the politician and the private man. The Brian Cowen I know is tough but fair minded and gregarious but thoughtful. He is relaxed but always focused on the task in hand. He knows the task he now faces as Taoiseach is onerous. He knows that, to complete this task successfully, there must be a strong and unified Government — a lesson he has learned so well from former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, a man to whom this country owes a great debt of gratitude.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

We now enter uncertain times, with rising oil and food prices, the credit crunch and climate change all posing major challenges to governments all over the world. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Cowen, is ideally placed to tackle these challenges and to turn them into real opportunities for this country. He has the ability to harness the energy and innovation of the Irish people to embrace this transformational agenda. The decisions we take now will have profound consequences, not just for five or ten years but for 25 years and for future generations.

It is with a sense of pride and hope that I ask the House, on behalf of the Government comprising Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats and the Independents, to support the nomination of Deputy Brian Cowen. Dá bhrí sin, cuireann sé áthas orm tacú leis an moladh.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I move: "That Deputy Enda Kenny be nominated for the position of Taoiseach."

Today we come as 165 equal people elected by the electorate to make decisions about the future of this country in a very changed economic environment. We must decide what our priorities are and whether we will just go on as we have done or opt for radical change.

In nominating Deputy Enda Kenny for the post of Taoiseach, Fine Gael makes it clear it is opting for a path of radical change. In Deputy Kenny, we have had a leader who has listened, who has understood and who has radically changed the way in which this party works. He has renewed Fine Gael. He has gone to the country and proposed to people a contract for a new Ireland. He has helped to build an alliance for change that came up just short in the last election. This interest and commitment to change has not waned but has intensified in light of the changes this country has seen in recent months.

Only 12 months ago, a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach was elected in this House with new sources of support and a programme for Government was put together. While I am sure it was well meant, Members know that programme for Government now is in tatters as the resources on which it was built will not materialise. Members must ask themselves whether they will stand in denial, pretend that matters have not radically changed and that the programme is deliverable. I believe it would be a betrayal of those people who Members are elected to this House to represent, were they to pretend nothing has changed, fail to face up to the fact that priorities must now change or to pretend that bureaucrats can continue busily working on projects for which there will not, in the words of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, be a red cent for delivery. I believe this would constitute a betrayal of the people who sent Members here.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Honesty also demands that Members do not pretend the difficulties the economy now faces are of an international making. An international crisis did not build huge spending programmes on the back of property revenues that never were sustainable. An international crisis did not make Ireland the most expensive country in Europe. International forces have not caused Ireland to slide 17 places in the competitiveness rankings or have not seen our exports lose market share for five consecutive years. The outgoing Government simply has lost sight of what it takes to survive as a small open economy trading overseas in tough competitive markets. This is the reason change is on the agenda and should be on the agenda of every Member who will vote on what is to be done later today.

Ireland combines areas of outstanding achievement side by side with massive unfulfilled potential. The perpetuation of a certain style of Government is at the heart of our problems. Ireland does not lack for talent, least of all in the public sector. The shortcomings on view today stem from a failure to change a system that was designed for an Ireland that passed away 50 years ago. The Ireland this style of Government has created is not a good place in which to be homeless, autistic, suicidal or chronically ill and in need of a bed. It is not a good place in which to be black. Members must confront the reason such people are let down by the State. It is a betrayal to pretend that failings that have happened far from the centre of Government Buildings are not ultimately political failings for which this House must be accountable.

It would be facile, to quote the Minister for Finance, to stand up in this House and list all the money spent and all the extra staff employed without asking the reason that today, frail sick people are sitting on trolleys in the Mater Hospital in cramped, crowded and unacceptable conditions. It would be facile not to ask the reason a bewildered family with a child racked by depression can get no help. Members must ask such questions today because this is the day on which they set out their priorities for the future.

How can a public service, which Members are told is so well endowed with resources, turn its back on such people? It is not because knaves run our public services but because we have trapped compassionate people in a system that is failing them. How can one consider this record of so many people having been let down without feeling there now is a need for a new vision, radical change and total renewal? It is delusion to talk of parties being the embodiment of the nation and not clamour for a new direction now in the face of those difficulties. It is hollow to elevate the virtue of loyalty and ask us to persist along the same road. In the face of persistent refusal to recognise and make changes, loyalty is a much diminished virtue in my book.

Where will the mandate for change come from? Where will the mandate for renewal come from? It has to come from us. We are the tribunes of the people, elected to represent the public. The decisions we make today will make a difference. Will we give a mandate for real change to someone? Will we commit to genuine change in the way we behave? The reforms we demand, the standards we insist on, the solidarity we espouse and the priorities we set will determine the direction this country takes. If the ground for change is not staked out today, it will not happen tomorrow and it will not happen the day after. We cannot persist with the style of government we have got used to in this House. It involves taking the lazy option of creating new agencies for every problem and putting hacks on such boards without regard to the skills needed. The budgetary system being used does not hunt down waste and does not reward performance. When times get tough, the weak and vulnerable have to take the hit.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

We cannot persist with a system of government that feels it can move public servants around like pawns on a board, without devolving real power to the regions clamouring for an opportunity to develop. We cannot persist with Ministers who preen themselves at glitzy launches but are not to be found when it is time to take responsibility for those things that were not delivered. We have had a style of government that has involved big talk, which in turn has engendered big hope. At a time of big opportunity, all we have seen is big disappointment. We have become used to empty ritual in this House, but it is now time for political seriousness. Under the leadership of Deputy Kenny, Fine Gael has a vision for a better Ireland. The vision, which is built on a hard-headed realism, renews politics, reinvents the economy and restores community. Tough decisions will have to be made to make it happen. Big bureaucracies will have to be broken up, diversity of provision will have to be fostered, information on performance will have to be released and success will have to be rewarded. Agencies will have to stop defending their turf — instead, they will have to merge their work with others to maximise effectiveness. Today should present us with an opportunity to bring about the change in direction this country needs. Most likely, that will not happen, however. The problems that require change will not go away. They will be here tomorrow and the day after. Regardless of what happens in today's vote, Deputy Kenny will continue to build a case for change and to offer Irish people a different way of doing business.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

It is with great pride that I second the nomination of Deputy Enda Kenny for the position of Taoiseach. He has achieved what was deemed to be impossible five or six years ago. He has reinstated Fine Gael as the dominant leading Opposition party in this House. He presided over the party's fortunes at last year's election, in which we gained 20 seats in this Chamber. Deputy Kenny's calm and decisive leadership is a quality that the next Taoiseach will badly need. His strength of character and courage of conviction make him the ideal choice to lead the country as we face difficult economic times. The challenges that lie ahead require the calm and considered leadership of a man who is not afraid to make tough decisions. We need to stem the tide of rising unemployment, reduce the rate of inflation, improve the competitiveness of our economy and reform our public services. I commend the nomination of Deputy Kenny to the House.

I move: "That Deputy Eamon Gilmore be nominated for appointment as Taoiseach."

It is an honour for me to propose Deputy Gilmore to be Taoiseach. The Taoiseach we elect today will lead our country in testing times. There will be hard choices to make but also opportunities to seize. Today is like the changing of the guard. The traditional ritual seems to offer reassurance; things change but everything remains the same. We know that is a fantasy because things have changed fundamentally. Since we went though this ceremony last June, tens of thousands have lost their jobs, businesses have closed, the cost of living has risen steeply and the State finances have slipped rapidly into deficit. What the country is getting is a changing of the guard. What the country needs is a change of Government.

So much depends on leadership. Deputy Eamon Gilmore can provide that leadership as a man in touch with the rural Ireland of his upbringing. He has spent his life representing working people and their families, and is known for his commitment to the vulnerable. He is a man who believes in equality and solidarity as real and realisable political goals.

Today, Ireland has a crisis of confidence in the way our country is run, in the political process and in the power of vested interests. Trust has become a rare commodity. Bravado statements that everything is fine and an election that was won on deception about the economy have led to this collapse of confidence.

Ireland faces a leadership deficit because those about to take charge cannot bring themselves to recognise just how serious the situation is and just how responsible their actions have been for the state we are now in. The result is likely to be a downturn longer and deeper than it needs be and the whole country will suffer.

I know that the Tánaiste, Deputy Brian Cowen, has the confidence of his party, which is well and good. He will have a fair wind from the country for a while to see if he can get to grips with current problems in a fresh and imaginative way, but, frankly, I doubt it. Everything suggests that the people of Ireland will need to look elsewhere for the kind of leadership that can offer honest government in turbulent times as an alternative to one that is tied hand and foot, as this one is, to the vested interests of speculators, developers and reckless bankers.

Time and again the Tánaiste, Deputy Cowen, waved away warning messages that flashed as brightly as neon signs. Every time, however, vested interests won the argument. The casual reaction of Deputy Cowen to the decline in the public finances is ominous. That was directly under his control. He cannot blame the European Central Bank in Frankfurt or the Federal Reserve in Washington for all that has happened. It was his call to steer a correction course but he did not do so and this begs a critical question. Is this Minister for Finance the person to guide the country as Taoiseach through the more difficult times ahead? We need to go back to the basic values that put Ireland and her people first, that put need before greed and people before profit.

I nominate the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Gilmore, for Taoiseach because he is the kind of leader who will speak of a new principle for a new age. Deputy Gilmore has a vision for Ireland. He wants to re-establish a strong sense of direction in our national life, of who we are and where we want to go. I recall that Franklin D. Roosevelt led the United States out of the Depression by taking the core principles of social democracy on board. We have nothing like the difficulties of those times, but today we place those same principles of social democracy to the front and centre of the political agenda by nominating Deputy Gilmore for the post of Taoiseach.

Tá fíor-áthas orm an phribhléid a bheith agam an Teachta Eamon Mac Giollamóir a mholadh chun a bheith mar Thaoiseach. Chun an fhírinne a rá, is ócáid mór dom é seans a bheith agam é sin a dhéanamh. Dá bharr sin, cuidim leis an rún. Ceapaim ní amháin gur maoineach Taoiseach atá ann, ach freisin go bhfuil na fiúntais pearsanta agus polaitiúil atá ag teastáil ag an am seo aige. Tá sé in ann seasamh ar son iad siúd a bhfuil saibhreas acu agus, go háirithe, ar son chosmhuintir na hÉireann atá ag fulaingt tar éis an fás eacnamaíochta a tharla i rith na blianta atá díreach imithe.

It is a great privilege and pleasure to nominate my colleague, the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, for appointment as Taoiseach. What is taking place here today should never be reduced to a choice between personalities. It is a choice between political visions. I believe that fundamental change in Ireland will take place when, on occasions such as this, people will be given the choice that is available in most of the countries of Europe and throughout the world, a choice between a socialist or social democratic vision and its alternative.

The choice between political visions is important at this time, as the person we choose will be responsible for making choices in times of scarcity. Indeed, many people will ask whether those who have squandered the times of surplus and its opportunities are the people who are best equipped to steer the country in times of scarcity. What is important is that there be a reconnection between society and the economy in a way that allows for participation and equality, and offers guarantees to those who have suffered or who have gained little or even lost during the period of the country's greatest economic growth in recent times.

For that reason, it is a great privilege at a personal level to support the nomination of Deputy Eamon Gilmore, the Leader of the Labour Party. He is from a rural background and never lost his connection with it and its issues. He moved to an urban setting and has taken on the issues of that setting. He has a generosity of spirit and can listen to the voices that come from below while, at the same time, he is able to discount the raucous demands of the speculative voices of those who have destroyed the connection between our economy and society, eroded trust in politics and created so much disillusionment. In addition, he will be able to represent, in a conclusive way, the cultural prospects of our country.

Beidh sé in ann seasamh ní amháin don Ghaeilge ach do mhuintir na Gaeltachta freisin. Tá taithí aige. Sheas sé i gcónaí ar son na fiúntais atá tábhachtach agus a thagann ón dtraidisiún. Ag an am chéanna, is duine nua-aimseartha é. It is with much pleasure that I nominate somebody with the personal qualities of Deputy Eamon Gilmore. He has experience of negotiation, the real negotiation that counts when workers whose livelihoods and wages are being threatened by obdurate employers. That is the real negotiating experience he has. He also has experience in politics at every level. Most important, tá na fiúntaisí pearsanta aige i gcomhcheangal leis na fiúntaisí polaitiúla atá aige. It is when a person combines a political vision with fine personal qualities that one can have confidence that change can happen. Dá bharr sin, tá áthas orm cuidiú leis an moladh seo.

Ní bheidh Teachtaí Shinn Féin ag tacú le ainmniú an Aire Airgeadais mar Thaoiseach. Nílimid ag tacú leis an Rialtas seo. Tá sé in ainm agus a bheith ina chomhrialtas, ach i ndáiríre is Rialtas Fhianna Fáil é a ligeann do Mary Harney agus do na Glasaigh páirt a ghlacadh ann. Níl difríocht dá laghad idir polasaí an Rialtais seo agus polasaí an Rialtais idir Fianna Fáil agus an Páirtí Daonlathach idir 1997 agus 2007. Ba mhaith linn go mbeadh treoir nua le Taoiseach nua agus go dtí go mbeidh sin ann ní féidir linn tacú leis an moladh seo.

The Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála will not be supporting the nomination of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Cowen, as Taoiseach. The record of Governments dominated by Fianna Fáil since 1997 has been such that we cannot endorse them by voting for their nominee. The current Government, since its formation in June last, has shown itself to be essentially a Fianna Fáil Government, with the participation of the Minister, Deputy Mary Harney, and two Green Party Ministers. It is neither a partnership Government nor a coalition in any real sense. It continues the policies of the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Governments led by the outgoing Taoiseach for over a decade.

We see the results of those policies today in our crisis-ridden health service, poorly resourced schools, the worsening drugs scourge and violent crime, the deep divide between the privileged and the marginalised and the economic slump brought about by over-dependence on the property market. We could wallpaper the Dáil with Fianna Fáil election manifesto promises of more hospital beds, the end of hospital waiting lists within two years, a network of primary care centres, the extension of the full medical card to an additional 200,000 people, tens of thousands of social and affordable homes, zero tolerance of crime, protection of Irish neutrality and so on. All have been defaulted upon.

The outgoing Taoiseach and his Cabinet colleagues have shown themselves to be serial defaulters. That said, the incoming Taoiseach now has an opportunity, just one year after the general election, to change all that and to take Government policy in a new direction. We have always said that if a Government proves itself worthy of support, then the Sinn Féin TDs will give their support to such a Government and to the Taoiseach at its helm, irrespective of who he or she may be. What we require and, more importantly, what the people require is a Taoiseach and a Cabinet that place equality at the heart of Government. Such a Government would transform our health services, ending the two-tier system, putting patients first and allowing health care workers to provide care for all on the basis of need alone. It would ensure that every school, hospital and primary care centre was fully resourced and provided premium public services. Such a Government would base housing policy on the needs of the people for homes and not on the greed of a voracious market that has left tens of thousands of families without homes or in crippling mortgage debt. Such a Government would support communities and provide the means to tackle both the demand for and the supply of drugs that are causing such misery and mayhem in our society.

A Deputy

Who is supplying them?

This is the new direction we need to see. However, the signs are not good. Already we hear about belt tightening and tough decisions. Health cuts are again hurting the old, the sick and the disabled. In what is supposedly one of the richest states in the world, classes are being taught in converted toilets. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul reports levels of demand on its services not seen since the 1980s. Are we to return to the so-called tough decisions of that era when the weakest in our society were hit most?

I urge the incoming Taoiseach to chart a new course. His talents and energy are undoubted and I wish him well. He has the leadership of his party and command of an apparently stable Government. We in Sinn Féin have worked with him in the peace process and he is now clearly in prime position to set a fresh agenda on all the issues that affect our people on a daily basis. If such a new direction was, indeed, forthcoming, Sinn Féin would revisit its voting position with regard to this Government, but until then we cannot support the Fianna Fáil nominee for Taoiseach.

It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of the Progressive Democrats, to support the candidacy of Deputy Brian Cowen for Taoiseach. It is generally acknowledged that Deputy Brian Cowen has great intelligence and abilities. He uses those abilities very much to play as part of a team, which has been his hallmark. Notwithstanding his youthfulness — he is the youngest of the candidates nominated this afternoon — he has enormous political experience having held the Ministries of Labour, Health and Children, Foreign Affairs and more recently Finance and the position of Tánaiste. He uses the ability he has been given to work for his community.

We constantly hear the same speech from Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. The fact is that a child born in Ireland today will live longer than a child born in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium——

Despite the Minister for Health and Children.

——the UK or Denmark.

(Interruptions).

Allow the Minister, Deputy Harney, to speak without interruption.

I listened to Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

How long did baby Bronagh Livingstone get to live as a result of the Minister for Health and Children's disastrous policies?

We listened to your raiméis.

Allow the Minister, Deputy Harney, to speak without interruption.

I listened to Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and I would appreciate if he would listen.

That is as a result of better medical interventions. For the first time life expectancy in Ireland is now ahead of the EU average——

——and has increased by three full years, which is the highest improvement in the entire OECD between 1999 and 2005.

A dying woman's grip.

Children in Ireland with cancer have a survival rate that is top of the class worldwide. All our survival rates are improving. More people have free access to their general practitioner than was the case in the 1980s when unemployment was three times higher than it is today.

That is not true.

That is not true.

Allow the Minister, Deputy Harney, to speak without interruption.

Deputies opposite should show a bit of respect.

I know people do not want to listen to the facts, but these are the facts. Some 400,000 more people are being treated in our hospitals today than was the case a decade ago.

More people are dying in them.

We have no hospitals.

This Minister for Finance has been hugely supportive as a team player working with me as Minister for Health and Children.

Is that the Minister, Deputy Harney's, job application?

Deputy Brian Cowen's experience goes way beyond the four Ministries in this country. When he was Minister for Foreign Affairs during Ireland's Presidency of the EU he advanced, promoted and succeeded in getting agreement from the EU that there would be no unilateral intrusion of borders between Palestine and Israel. That was a very significant agreement, agreed in Tullamore I understand. He was the first politician to meet Yasser Arafat after 11 September 2001, which was a very troubled time for the world and a time of great sensitivity. He used his enormous political skills to bring a calming influence. I have no doubt that as captain of the team he will use his enormous ability for the benefit of the team.

Will the Minister, Deputy Harney, be on the team?

He will use not just his abilities but also his capacity to make tough decisions. In Deputy Cowen we have somebody who is capable of making the right decision——

——standing by it and defending it. That is particularly important at a time when we have enormous challenges and pressures——

Will he call Commissioner Mandelson?

——particularly from the differing circumstances arising in the international economic environment, I remind Deputy Sheehan.

Today is obviously a very happy time for Deputy Brian Cowen and his family. I know they are here in the environs of this House. Although he is the youngest of the three candidates, he has enormous political insights and a great vision for the country in which he believes. In particular he believes in equality of access to services——

That will be different from the Minister, Deputy Harney.

——in equity and in ensuring that the resources this country can make available are made available to those who need them most. It is a great pleasure for me and my colleague Deputy Grealish to support the candidacy of Deputy Brian Cowen.

For how long more?

I very much look forward to his election as Taoiseach later this afternoon.

Os rud é nach mbeidh an deis agam labhairt anseo níos déanaí i ndiaidh an toghcháin don Taoiseach agus os rud é go bhfuil sé soiléir go mbeidh tromlach sa Dáil ag an dTeachta Brian Cowen agus go mbeidh sé ina Thaoiseach i gceann tamaill gearr, ba mhaith liomsa an deis a ghlacadh comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis, go háirithe de bharr an seasamh láidir a ghlac sé ar son na Gaeilge, ár dteanga náisiúnta, nuair a toghadh é ina uachtarán ar Fhianna Fáil.

As my late mother was born and reared in County Offaly and as I spent my childhood holidays on a small farm on the edge of the Bog of Allen, in the shadow of Croghan Hill——

A Deputy

It did the Deputy no harm.

I welcome the fact that County Offaly will shortly have the great honour, for the first time, of being the home county of a Taoiseach. Of course, this does not mean that I intend voting for Deputy Cowen.

The Deputy is breaking my heart.

However, on this occasion I want to say that Deputy Cowen has my good wishes. This is a great occasion for him, his family and his county.

I hope that in his term as Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen will see the justice in taking steps to end the divisive inequalities that exist in Ireland today, particularly in our health service, in education and in housing. It is my view that the increasing social inequality of recent years is the major issue facing all of us elected by the people to this house.

I would like to take this opportunity to record my thanks to my constituency colleague, Deputy Bertie Ahern, for his recent kind words regarding my health and to wish him well. Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle.

Are there any other contributions?

Come on Jackie.

A Deputy

Come on Jackie.

I should have known Deputy Healy-Rae would not let me down.

I am delighted to stand in this House this evening. The funny thing is I hope that around 6 p.m., when Deputy Brian Cowen has done his sums——

Deputy Healy-Rae hopes he will be made a Minister.

I will help Deputy Cowen to do his sums, just as I helped Deputy Bertie Ahern in 1997. I might hope that he will take his coat off, so he will have nothing on but his shirt, and come down to south Kerry to help me with potholes. The truth is, since he put that jacket on I have been awfully frightened down below. That is God's honest truth. If Brian would give me a hearing this evening, I would be delighted if he would pull off his coat, give it to another fellow and come down to south Kerry to help me. I am telling God's honest truth because the weather is getting very hot and I am under pressure.

I am here to support Brian Cowen this evening, as I did in 1997 when I planted the famous man Bertie as a seed. He held the position until yesterday evening and I wish him the very best of luck in whatever part of the world he operates. One thing is certain, nobody will have to ask his name when he goes on journeys. I wish him the best. I wish Brian many years of success and I will give him my number one when we vote in a moment. Good luck, I wish you many years of happiness and success.

That was said straight from the heart.

Cuireadh an cheist: "Go n-ainmneoidh Dáil Éireann an Teachta Brian Ó Comhain chun a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Thaoiseach."

Question put: "That Dáil Éireann nominate Deputy Brian Cowen for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach."
Rinne an Dáil vótáil: Tá, 88; Níl, 76.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 88; 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.
  • 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.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • 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 Tom Kitt and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.
Question declared carried.

I declare Deputy Brian Cowen to have been nominated by Dáil Éireann for appointment by the President to be Taoiseach.

On my way to Arbour Hill this morning, I received a telephone call from a man called Mr. Gormley. My heart gave a jump because I thought it might be the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, to say he was interested in not supporting the Taoiseach elect, Deputy Cowen. When the traffic lights at Christchurch turned green four times in a row and the traffic did not move, I happened to notice the billboard which said we are spending €34 billion on the Transport 21 programme. I inform the House that the gentleman in question was not the Minister, Deputy Gormley.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an dTeachta Brian Cowen, go pearsanta agus ar son mo pháirtí, as bheith tofa agus ainmnithe mar Thaoiseach le dul chuig Uachtarán na hÉireann chun bheith deimhnithe mar Thaoiseach ar mhuintir na hÉireann. Is cúis áthais dó, dá bhean chéile Mary, dá mháthair May, dá chlann, Sinéad agus Maedhbh, agus do mhuintir a dháilcheantair é a bheith tofa mar Thaoiseach. Tá cúis acu bheith bródúil as. Chas m'athair agus athair an Teachta Cowen, go ndéana Dia trócaire orthu, ar a chéile anseo go minic. Chas mise ar athair an Teachta go minic freisin anseo. Cé nach bhfuil sé linn inniu, bheadh sé mar cúis bhróid aige a mhac a bheith tofa mar Thaoiseach agus is onóir iontach mhór í sin duit. Is tú an úillín ór dod mhuintir inniu. Déanaim comhghairdeas leat arís, ar mo shon féin agus ar son mo pháirtí, ar an onóir mhór a bhronnadh ort anseo sa Dáil inniu.

Esto Fidelis is the motto of Offaly, the faithful county. The Taoiseach elect has epitomised that in his attitude to his party, his constituents and the previous leaders of the Fianna Fáil Party. He has always placed great store on political loyalty and spoke in this House on numerous occasions about the virtue that that is. The challenge facing Deputy Cowen when he receives his seal of office and names his Government is to balance that loyalty against the requirements of the national interest and all our people, whom he now represents.

The enormous privilege bestowed on Deputy Cowen by the Dáil today must be tempered by the enormous responsibility this position carries. That responsibility will sometimes mean the Taoiseach elect will have to make decisions in the loneliness of his own office and without the collective energy of those around him. Those decisions must be in the public interest and the national interest and must be justified from that point of view. It will require the Taoiseach elect to have far stronger and assertive management of our economy than was evident in recent years.

As Deputy Bruton pointed out, we are now in a position where there is a currency crisis for exporters with the fall in the dollar and sterling. There is a requirement for real intervention by Government to restore Ireland's competitiveness as a trading nation. There are clearly infrastructural inadequacies of road, rail, power, energy and broadband. There are almost 100,000 young couples facing the prospect of negative equity in the housing market next year. There are the consequences from the fall-out of a 50% reduction in house building and all it brings. There is clear evidence of the tax take being in freefall and public finances heading for an unprecedented deficit. There is also the evidence of a lack of development of a real world-class education system rather than a veneer of perfection, as we are painted with on a regular basis. Clearly there is a requirement to implement and enforce legislation passed by this House, particularly in the area of justice because of what we see happening on our streets.

We must play a greater part as a small nation in the bigger scheme of things on a global scale. As the Minister, Deputy Gormley, pointed out, we have obligations regarding climate change, energy and food security and in dealing with poverty. There is a requirement to build up confidence in our people.

From the perspective of the Taoiseach elect, I hope he will continue the work of all his predecessors in respect of the Good Friday Agreement and deal with the imminent threat of dissident groups planning to disrupt what has been achieved after so much hard work and commitment by so many people. This party has always supported the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in full. We stand and will continue to stand by that.

We are now five weeks from the referendum decision on the Lisbon treaty. This will be the first electoral challenge for the Taoiseach elect. He is aware that the Fine Gael Party for many months has been campaigning openly, publicly and strongly in favour of a "Yes" vote on the Lisbon referendum. I am sure that by now, if he has not done so already, the Taoiseach elect will recognise I am both qualified and able to make a judgment on a matter like that. If evidence of my commitment on that is required, if the Taoiseach elect is being driven past Westland Row in the morning, I will be there from 7.15 a.m. to meet customers and consumers as they go about their daily business.

Any other credits or plaudits being sought will have to be earned. The Taoiseach elect can start this evening at his first Cabinet meeting by indicating clearly his resolve and intent to lead a new style of Government for a country that needs a change in Government because of the challenges it faces. He can start with the first item on the agenda, the rejection of the ministerial pay increases. He should return with a different Minister for Health and Children and he should announce his proposal to develop a realistic programme for Government that can be delivered within the timescale of the Government he will lead.

I hope the Taoiseach elect will restore the primacy of this House and that he will ensure that major announcements are made in here.

He should ensure Members get answers to questions.

I hope the Taoiseach elect's immediate predecessor as Tánaiste will provide a better quality of answers to written questions than Deputies on all sides of the House have done in recent years. I know the Taoiseach elect has an interest in reforming this Chamber and the way this House goes about its business, and I would like to see evidence of that.

I congratulate Deputy Cowen on his nomination for the position of Taoiseach. This party will continue to stand by the country, as the leaders of this party have done in the past. We will support issues we believe are in the national interest and that of our people. The Taoiseach elect should understand I am always encouraged by the enthusiasm of young people, irrespective of their backgrounds. I am encouraged by their endeavour and commitment. Given the responsibility the Taoiseach elect will carry on his shoulders, he also has an enormous opportunity. This is a challenge which I know the Taoiseach elect will not shirk. There is an opportunity here to lead decisively, inspire young people and enthuse our older folk in convincing them that politics really does matter. As a small country having travelled so far in a short time, we have the capacity to be world leaders in many areas of life. We can lead by example and Deputy Cowen can start that in his role of Taoiseach from this evening.

With regard to the issues concerning our country, we will not be found wanting where we believe issues should be supported. Where the Government — all these brilliant people waiting and doting on the Taoiseach elect's every syllable for the past month, hoping to come back in changed suits after being given their seals of office — falls down on implementing the programme for Government, this party will pursue it relentlessly in this House. I am sure the Labour Party will agree. Ministers will not sleep easily for the next four years if they do not implement the programmes set out by Government or if they change from that. We will oppose and expose while promoting our own viewpoint strongly and vociferously in this Chamber, where I believe it really matters.

The Taoiseach elect is now and has been for some time the guardian of the people's money. He assumed the captaincy of the team for Ireland and he should use it wisely. He should use this opportunity wisely. He should not — I believe he will not — shirk his responsibilities. It was Ronald Reagan who said politics is not a bad profession. If one succeeds, there are great rewards and if one ends up in disgrace, one can always write a book. I do not believe this will happen to the Taoiseach elect and he would not want to write the book himself. I hope he leads by example and that his Government, when it returns this evening, will have an agenda that is clear, decisive and in the country's interest. The complacency and veneer that have obtained in recent years will not stand us in good stead in the future.

I began by saying that the motto of Offaly, the faithful county, isesto fidelis. Perhaps the Tánaiste, Deputy Cowen, might extend it to esto fidelis patria tua. Congratulations.

A Deputy

Jackie is back.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an dTaoiseach nua atá tofa ag an Dáil. Is onóir mór é don Teachta Cowen, a chlann, a chairde agus a chosmhuintir i gContae Uibh Fháilí. Glacaim leis gur duine an-chumasach agus an-chliste é. Guím ádh mór air go pearsanta i leith na dualgais Stáit agus phobail a bheidh air amach anseo.

I congratulate the Tánaiste, Deputy Cowen, on his election as Taoiseach. It is a great day and a great honour for him and his family, friends and community.

I travelled back to Dublin from south Galway on Monday evening last through his faithful County Offaly. I drove through Banagher and Ferbane and as I rounded the corner at Ballycumber and headed towards Clara, the pride felt by his local community was obvious. Posters had been put up in anticipation of his election as Taoiseach. There are many present from County Offaly. I do not recall being so overwhelmed by people from that county since the final moments of the 1981 All-Ireland hurling final.

I wish the Taoiseach elect well personally and in respect of the duties he will perform on behalf of the State and the people. He has come to office with the reputation of being a very capable and combative politician. I look forward to debating with him the issues that affect the people of this country.

The Taoiseach elect is entering office at a time of change. Many of those changes are of his own making. He is taking up his position when people are concerned about their jobs and businesses, about how they will pay their mortgages and about the services they receive from the State in hospitals and schools or in their communities.

A lot was done but not all of it has produced the best results for the people in the past 11 years. There are comments I wish to make about that matter but I will reserve them until the Taoiseach elect returns to the House later and we gain an idea of the bigger picture.

I wish Deputy Cowen well in the office of Taoiseach. I also wish him well personally. As already stated, I look forward to engaging with him in what I believe will be direct, honest and straight debate regarding different ways of serving the people.

Ba mhaith liom mo comhghairdeas agus chomhghairdeas Theachtaí Sinn Féin a ghabháil leis an dTaoiseach tofa. I extend my congratulations and those of the other Sinn Féin Deputies to the Tánaiste, Deputy Cowen, on his election to the position of Taoiseach. I sincerely wish him well in his post and with the onerous responsibility attaching thereto. I also wish him well with the tasks that will present themselves in the months and years ahead.

I hope the Taoiseach elect will recognise that as an Opposition party, it is our responsibility to highlight the deficiencies in Government performance. I have done so resolutely, time and again. I will continue to voice my concerns in the hope that the Taoiseach elect, Deputy Cowen, and his colleagues in the new Cabinet will listen and act accordingly.

Many people are hurting and are fearful. Not everyone has benefited from the past decade of economic success. Earlier today, people from County Kerry protested outside the gates of Leinster House regarding the prospect of a deterioration in health service delivery in their locality. Those in each county have every right to be concerned that the template that has been devised in respect of the north east will be visited upon their communities in the future.

Irrespective of the protests of the current Minister for Health and Children and others within the Government parties, it is the absolute duty of other voices in this Chamber to represent the need for change not only in the context of individuals holding particular portfolios, but also in respect of policy direction. I respectfully urge that such change be made. I hope the Taoiseach elect, who has demonstrated an awareness of people's needs, will use his skills to bring about real change in policy direction in the areas of health, education, public transport and housing provision, among others. We have a right to expect quality public services and people are waiting for them to be delivered.

I hope the Tánaiste, Deputy Cowen's term in office will see the changes to which I refer come about. The first signalling of his intent will come in a few short hours when he announces his new Cabinet. I hope the Taoiseach elect, Deputy Cowen, will, at that point, have taken on board the appeals I have made on behalf of the people we all represent. In the event of his embracing the changes to which I refer, I look forward to working with him in a positive fashion in the future in the service of our people and the people of the island of Ireland as a whole.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an dTaoiseach, an Teachta Cowen, agus a chlann. This is a proud day for the Tánaiste, Deputy Cowen, and the people of County Offaly, particularly those in Clara. I have no doubt that Deputy Cowen's late father, Ber, would be extremely proud of his son's achievement.

I referred earlier to the Tánaiste, Deputy Cowen's many fine qualities. I forgot to mention one that is very important, namely, his commitment to social justice. The latter became apparent to me when we, along with the Ministers, Deputies Dempsey and Brennan, were holed up in negotiations last year. I pay tribute to the Minister, Deputy Brennan, who played a leading role in those negotiations. We heard earlier about the health difficulties of Deputy Gregory. In a similar context, I wish the Minister, Deputy Brennan, and his family all the best for the future.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Another thing that became clear from the negotiations in which we engaged is that the Taoiseach elect, Deputy Cowen, understands the "green vision".

He was on "Planet Gormley".

He informed me at the time that he has a good relationship with my colleague, Joschka Fischer.

It is clear that we have to work together on various issues. The problems we face can only be solved by the Government and the Opposition working together. I apologise to Deputy Kenny that it was not me who made the telephone call to which he referred.

Did Deputy Gormley use a carrier pigeon?

(Interruptions).

We have emerged from a period of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. I wish to acknowledge the role played by Fine Gael and the Labour Party in achieving that growth and prosperity.

(Interruptions).

The only way that we will achieve in Government on the issues of peak oil and climate change is by working together.

He might get the call yet.

Come back, all is forgiven.

A Deputy

They should have included him in the Mullingar accord.

Sort out those transfers.

That is why this Government has worked so well over the past ten months. We have set up, as Members know, the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security and appointed a member of Fine Gael to lead it.

They know where the talent is.

A Deputy

They have made some mistakes.

I would be most anxious that we work together over the next while. I have no doubt that the incoming Taoiseach understands what consensus politics is all about.

A Deputy

Better than the Minister anyway.

He understands that if we are to tackle the major issues facing this country and our planet, we will have to work together for the betterment of this country.

Why does the Minister not just join Fianna Fáil?

I would hope Deputy Stagg would be more gracious in his approach as well.

(Interruptions).

Allow the Minister to continue, without interruption.

I offer my congratulations to the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and the Fianna Fáil Party. It is a very important occasion for him personally. Again, I congratulate his family who are with us in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery.

I too would like to congratulate Deputy Brian Cowen on his election as Taoiseach in this House. Shortly, he will begin the journey to Áras an Úachtaráin to receive his seal of office. It will be a very proud journey for him and his family. It is great that he is joined here today by his mother, his wife, Mary, their two daughters and his family. They are perhaps feeling prouder than he is because I know he is beginning to take on board the enormity of the honour that has been bestowed on him.

I join Deputy Gormley in wishing our colleague, Deputy Seamus Brennan, a speedy recovery. I was nominated to the Seanad with Seamus Brennan in 1977. I believe I will be joined by everybody in the House in hoping that his current health problems will be a thing of the past very soon, which would be the wish of us all.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I said earlier that Deputy Cowen is a man of enormous ability and intelligence. I have no doubt that as captain of the team, a team to which he has been very loyal——

Who will be vice captain?

I have had the pleasure of working with him for nearly 11 years as a member of the Government. I have found in Brian Cowen somebody who really understands the constitutional imperative of collective Cabinet responsibility. However, it is not just because it is a constitutional imperative. He is genuinely a team player.

He should put the Minister on the subs bench.

Deputy Kenny mentioned that in this House on a number of occasions Deputy Cowen has spoken about loyalty being a political virtue. He will bring all of that to the benefit of the new Government of which he will be Taoiseach later this evening. He not only has my good wishes but, I know, the good wishes of the vast majority of the people of this country in the challenging and daunting but no doubt very rewarding task he must now take on as leader of the Government and Taoiseach of our country.

I welcome the opportunity to congratulate my fellow Offaly person on his election to the highest political office as Taoiseach. In warmly congratulating the Taoiseach elect, I want to also congratulate his wife Mary, his daughters Sinead and Maedhbh, his mother, Mrs. Cowen, the Cowen and the Molloy families and the friends and supporters of Brian who are here today.

It is an extremely proud day for everyone in the county of Offaly and the constituency of Laois-Offaly. Brian has served the constituency since 1984 and worked with my father in the past, as my father worked with his father at times. While we are obviously both of different political persuasions and both passionately believe in our respective parties, the one common aim we have is to address the needs and concerns of the people of Laois and Offaly.

I cannot promise I will go down the route of consensus taken by the Minister, Deputy Gormley. However, I look forward to having a constructive relationship with the new Taoiseach and I look forward to working with him in the coming years. He has a unique opportunity to deliver. My task is to provide constructive opposition and we in the Fine Gael Party under Deputy Enda Kenny will certainly do that. I again congratulate the Taoiseach elect, Deputy Cowen, and look forward to working with him in the years ahead.

I rise as a constituency colleague of the Taoiseach elect to wish him every success. Deputy Gilmore mentioned that he had met many Offaly people around the plinth and the Houses. That is true, but on behalf of the 29% or 30% who are not here, I offer my good wishes from a personal point of view. It is great honour for yourself and your family — for Mary and the girls, your mother and the proud town of Clara and beyond. It is a great day for the midlands. I wish you well.

Reference was also made to previous campaigns. I can remember the three elections of the early 1980s which were a pressured time in political families in Laois-Offaly. The first occasion on which I encountered the Taoiseach elect was outside a church in Kilcormac. He had a silver IR Golf and I had a gold CI Golf. A Cheann Comhairle, the rules of parliamentary procedure would not allow me to recount any more of that story but it was a good one.

I wish the Taoiseach elect well in the very serious challenges that lie ahead. Finally, I wish to quote somebody who I have never quoted before, Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae. He said he had a few pet projects. I too have a few pet projects from the constituency. No doubt I will have ample opportunity to discuss them with the new Taoiseach in the near future. I wish you well.

I join in offering congratulations to my constituency colleague, Deputy Brian Cowen, from the Offaly half of the Laois-Offaly constituency. I made the mistake of referring to him as a Laois man recently and every Offaly person has taken me up on it since, but I think they all know it was a genuine mistake. I wish every personal happiness to Mary Cowen and all the Cowen and Molloy families. As a constituency colleague, I can say that within our party, ours is the most peaceful constituency in Ireland for a five-seat or multi-seat constituency. It would be a lesson for other areas. All the party works as a united team.

Since he became Taoiseach.

People will know the reason we get such a high vote is because we operate as a team. We are together every day except when Laois and Offaly are playing against each other.

Deputy Charlie Flanagan mentioned he has a few pet projects. He should not worry about it. I have them all in hand.

This is a very difficult speech to make lest somebody might think one was saying something for some other reason. However, as a member of the party of reality——

As the Roman general Sulla said to the ageing Pompey the Great: "More worship the rising than the setting sun."

I cannot beat you on that, a Cheann Comhairle. I join with everybody in the House in my congratulations. I want to be realistic. My main worry is not 19,000 votes the next time but possibly twice that number because of what is happening here today.

I am delighted to be in the Chamber as a Member of this Dáil to see our colleague from Laois-Offaly, Deputy Brian Cowen, becoming Taoiseach. I am glad to see his family here, his wife, his mother in particular, his brothers, Christy and Barry, and his daughters. The only pity is that Ber Cowen himself is not here today. More is the pity that his uncle Vinny only died in the past three weeks, who I think was the real politician in the Cowen family.

I was surprised Brian Cowen only got 88 votes. There was so much praise for him in this Chamber in the past few weeks that I expected members of the Opposition to come over and vote with us on this occasion. To quote my colleague, Deputy Seán Fleming, we are united in Laois-Offaly. My hope is that from this day on we would remain so loyal and friendly.

Aithním gur mór an onóir dom oifig an Taoisigh a ghlacadh inniu, nuair a rachfaidh mé go dtí Áras an Uachtaráin, agus glacaim go humhal leis. Is ócáid mhór é, do mo chlann, mo chéile Mary, mo bheirt iníon Sinéad agus Maedhbh, mo mháthair May, mo chlann agus mo ghaolta uilig. Táim fíor-bhuíoch do lucht tacaíochta an Rialtais — Páirtí Pharlaiminte Fhianna Fáil, an Chomhaontas Glas, an Páirtí Daonlathach agus na Teachtaí Neamhspleáigh — a roghnaigh mé don phost mórchúramach seo. Nuair a chaithim súil siar ar na hiartaoisigh a bhí i réim sa tír seo ó bhunaíodh an Stáit, is maith is eol dom an dea-obair a rinne siad i leith na tíre. Tuigim go maith go bhfuil an cúram céanna ormsa agus ar mo chomhghleacaithe sa Rialtas. Táim an-bhródúil as na gaiscí atá déanta ag saoránaigh na tíre seo sa saol i gcoitinne. Tá clú agus cáil ar ár scríbhneoirí, ár gceoltóirí agus ár luthchleasaithe, srl. — na mílte ón dtír seo a thaisteal an domhan agus a thaispeán a gcuid talann. Tá daonra an-óg againn sa tír seo agus tá cumas iontu. Tuigimid go bhfuil fadhbanna agus deacrachtaí le réiteach againn. Geallaim don Teach go ndeánfaimid ár seacht ndícheall chun fadhbanna na tíre seo a shárú. Is dúshlán é dúinn go léir.

Tá an-chuid cainte faoi drochstaid eacnamaíochta na tíre seo, ach an bhfuil dearmad déanta againn ar an bhforbairt atá déanta againn le blianta anuas? Caithfimid a admháil go bhfuilimid níos fearr as ná mar a bhíomar. Caithfimid bheith réalaíoch, áfach — níl aon amhras orm ach go bhfuil sé de dhualgas orainn na mór-fadhbanna sóisialta atá againn a réiteach. Beidh sé mar ceann spíce againn cabhair a thabhairt dóibh siúd atá ar imeall ár sochaí. Ní mór duínn aire, urraim, meas agus cion a thabhairt dár seanóirí agus a chinntiú nach mbeidh saol ainnis, dearóil, uaigneach acu amach anseo. Fadó, bhíomar ag brath ar eachtrannaigh chun na tíre seo a fhorbairt, ach anois tá pobal oilte againn agus níl drugall orthu a dtalann a léíriú. Deirtear go bhfuil mí na meala thart dom anois — is fada an lá ó bhí mí na meala agam agus nílim ag súil leis sa saol polaitíochta. Tuigim go bhfuil jab le déanamh ag an bhFreasúra agus fáiltímid roimh cháineadh dearfach. Is beag maitheas atá i gcáineadh diúltach. Táimid uilig ag obair ar son na tíre. Tabharfaimid gach cabhair dos na meáin. Níl ach rud amháin ag teastáil uainn, sé sin cothrom na féinne a thabhairt dúinn inár saol poiblí agus go háirithe inár saol príobháideach. Glacaimid le cáineadh ach iarraim é a bheith féaráilte.

Thosnaigh mé m'óráid i nGaeilge mar is é mo bharúil ná gur seoid luachmhar í ár dteanga. Caithfimid í a chaomhnú agus a fhorbairt. Cé go mbeidh lucht na díspreagadh againn i gcónaí, measaim go bhfuil dea-mhéin i leith na teangan i measc an phobail anois. Níl aon bhata draíochta agam, ach tá spriocanna ós ár gcomhair. Ní folaír dúinn misneach a thabhairt do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus na Galltachta agus a chur in iúl don phobal go bhfuilimid bródúil as ár dteanga. Ní ceart go mbeadh náire orainn í a labhairt go poiblí. Cén fáth nach féidir linn bheith dá theangach? Níl bás na teangan mar rogha againn. Deánfaidh an Rialtas gach iarracht ár dteanga a choiméad beo agus í a chothú.

I am deeply honoured by my nomination for the position of Taoiseach. A number of weeks ago, my parliamentary colleagues chose me to lead Fianna Fáil — that was a great honour in itself — and today this House has elected me as Taoiseach. I am the 12th person to have bestowed on him the honour of being nominated leader of the Executive since the foundation of the State and I accept the honour with a genuine sense of humility. That sense is engendered in large part from a love of Ireland. This is a wonderful country and we are a fortunate people.

We live on an island which has come to enjoy the richness of full peace, with no strife or agitation born from past hostilities. Yesterday's proceedings at the site of the Battle of the Boyne reinforced that fact in a very real and visible way. I commend the outgoing Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and the outgoing First Minister, Ian Paisley, on the sentiments expressed in their respective addresses at the site of the battle yesterday, and I commend Mrs. Paisley also.

The scale of the challenge I face is expressed in the quality and achievements of all those who have gone before me in this high office, not least my immediate predecessor, Deputy Bertie Ahern, whose outstanding contribution to the life of this country has rightly attracted praise and acknowledgement from far and wide and continues in the tradition of a great line of Taoisigh before him. Summarised most eloquently in the message he brought to the United States Congress in recent days, his is an inspirational example. I salute him and wish him happiness and fulfilment in the contributions that he will doubtless make over many years ahead.

Tomorrow I will have the privilege of addressing the investment conference for Northern Ireland with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown. It is appropriate that, on my first working day as Taoiseach, I will have the opportunity to advance relationships and deepen engagement, on a North-South and an east-west basis. Consolidating the peace through economic development and mutual understanding will have my full engagement and wholehearted support. Tomorrow's conference is a timely reminder that our destiny on this island cannot be secured in isolation from the rest of the world.

We share too much history and culture with our neighbouring island not to work for the deepest friendship and the most fruitful engagement. Our economic success on this island owes much to the strength and depth of our relationship with the United States, through the very many investors who have found here a successful partner for investment and through the scale of the trading relationship between the two economies.

However, it is in the context of our European identity and membership of the European Union that our place in the international arena and our relationships with other nations, near and far, find their proper perspective and most potent context. As a member of the European Council, I will strive to ensure that our European vocation is a live, engaged and creative thing, not a passive recipient of the fruits of the labours of others. In the same spirit, I look forward to leading a campaign in the coming weeks to assure the Irish people that ratification of the EU reform treaty is in our interest. Far from damaging our interests, the treaty will enhance our capacity to shape developments in line with our perspectives and principles. There is no more urgent or important task ahead of me in the immediate future.

In considering my role as Taoiseach, I have thought a great deal about Ireland's place in the world today. Where does Ireland stand as we approach the closing years of the first decade of the 21st century? We know it is very different from what it was ten years ago when we were heading towards the millennium.

Our economic success, which was in its early years a decade ago, has been sustained. We have settled our relationships on this island and reached accommodations that had been inconceivable for generations. With our increased confidence we explore and exploit new opportunities overseas. The movement of our people is now by choice; in the past, it was by force of circumstance. Perhaps most strikingly of all, we have accommodated tens of thousands of migrants who have come to our shores to help us sustain our economic success.

All this represents considerable change in a short period. It would be challenging for any society, but it is particularly challenging for us given our location and history. We have adapted well and established many common values with the rest of Europe. They are largely positive values. We have matured through the process and learned from our new experiences how to right some of our failures of the past.

The influence of the EU project has been all-pervasive across every aspect of our lives. We have availed of the full range of opportunities of membership better than most. The political, economic and social landscape has been utterly transformed for the better in this country because of our participation in the European Union. The greatest mistake we could make now would be to move away from the opening out to the world that has brought such benefits to our nation. I have been reading Des Geraghty's excellent bookForty Shades of Green in recent days and his thesis is that we are now in a new space. What was once one of the most dispersed nations in the world is now becoming one of the most diverse nations and the change is visible and real.

We are now redefining ourselves in terms of mending relationships with those of other traditions of long standing on the island and establishing relationships with the new Irish and migrants who have come to our shores to share in the economic miracle of the Celtic tiger economy.

We also are connecting in a myriad of ways through economic, social and cultural lines with many peoples on the Continent of Europe and further afield as the economic reach of our society is becoming truly global.

Our Celtic heritage has helped us, as a modern Republic, to take our place as a leading nation within the European Union. We are admired and respected as a progressive country throughout the wider community of the developed world. Moreover, in the developing world, our forefathers' tradition of giving has been maintained by the contemporary missionary and development work of today's Irish men and women who toil there as a vocation.

In the first budget I presented to this House, I talked of economic activity as a servant of society. The statistics speak volumes for what has been achieved in the past 15 years. They also might receive too much attention. Some might ask what year on year growth amounts to if it does not improve some people's lives. However, Ireland in 2008 is a much better place to live for more of our people than ever before. Far fewer of our people are struggling on the margins of our society. We have moved from a Third World infrastructure to one that is progressing well and will be the match of many of our European peers in the years ahead.

One of the challenges we face today is to temper a rising tendency towards individualism within Irish society. We rightly have encouraged a culture of the individual taking personal responsibility for his or her well-being. We have reaped benefits from the more confident Ireland as presented by its most successful people forging new opportunities at home and abroad. Overdone however, this carries risks. Not correctly harnessed, this can sap the energy of our sense of community, which still is strong and visible in many ways. We must prioritise turning the benefits of individual flair to the benefit of the community as a whole.

This is what the Government wants and needs. Its responsibility is to fuel the engine of community and to lead the charge away from the promotion of exclusive self-interest towards a superior value of a wider community interest. The pre-eminence of community and participation over self promotes social harmony and a better quality of life for all. This is what will allow us to develop a society of social inclusion.

Our particular charge is to represent the interests of our young. The character of the generations that will build this century still is being formed. These generations will decide the shape of the future. It is the job of the Government and of parliamentarians to take the steps that will make it clearer for that generation to help shape this Republic in a way that realises its greater potential.

I have referred to our economic progress and how it has translated into significant social enhancement. While we have made great gains, we also face great challenges. Our job as legislators is to provide leadership to society at this time of change. However, society must engage with us in this process. Change of this nature cannot simply be driven by the Government. The common good is enshrined in the Constitution and should have special relevance in Ireland at the beginning of the 21st century. The ultimate test of our progress will be the extent to which we can mobilise all of the people to think and behave in a manner that puts the interests of society as a whole ahead of our own private interests. As Seán Lemass observed, all "national progress . . . depends . . . on an upsurge of patriotism" among the people. It is the job of government to lead on this issue but that of society as a whole to address. My Government will pursue this agenda to lead change and I will return to this theme when I bring forward the nominations to the Government to this House later this evening.

I wish to reflect on what this means to me. On assuming the position of leader-elect of Fianna Fáil, I stated that I was excited if not a little daunted. I have assumed the position of Taoiseach with an even greater sense of responsibility. I have been overwhelmed by the good wishes I have received from people the length and breadth of the country, as well as from abroad, of all political persuasions and none. In particular, I thank my family. I received my grounding in politics from my father Ber, who in turn received it from his father, Christy, a founding member of the Fianna Fáil party. Politics is about public service above all else. This is a great day for my wife Mary, my daughters Sinead and Maedhbh, my mother May, my brothers Christopher and Barry and all other members of the families of Mary and me. I also am joined by many friends who have made this political journey with me and mine for many years. Their presence fortifies me today.

I thank the men and women of this House for the generosity of their support and good wishes. I look forward to them extending that blanket of goodwill for many months to come. All of these greetings from within this House and without are most welcome although in some respects they add to the sense of expectation. I will commit myself completely to meeting those expectations. I sincerely hope I can do so in full.

It is now necessary, a Cheann Comhairle, to inform the President of my nomination so that she may appoint me as Taoiseach. Accordingly, I suggest that the Dáil be suspended until 6 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 4.35 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.