That the Ceann Comhairle direct the Clerk of the Dáil to issue his Writ for the election of a Member to fill the vacancy which has occurred in the membership of the present Dáil consequent on the election to the European Parliament of Frances Fitzgerald, a Member for the constituency of Dublin Mid-West.
I was asked earlier at the Business Committee, if the House moves all four writs today, when the polling order will be signed. Those polling orders will be signed immediately thereafter, so people can get their poster teams at the ready for the by-elections that are about to get under way.
Frances Fitzgerald will be an enormous loss to Dáil Éireann. A politician of renown, I was aware of Frances's commitment to social justice and equality before I entered politics. She has served both her constituents and the people of Ireland with distinction. Prior to being elected as a Deputy, she demonstrated her commitment to helping people in need in her career as a social worker and family therapist, working with inner-city communities in both Dublin and in London. Recognised for her trailblazing work on equality, Frances served as the chair of the National Women's Council of Ireland from 1988 to 1992. Her continued and relentless progression of the principle of inclusivity earned her the title of European Woman of the Year in 1992, the same year that she was first elected to Dáil Éireann.
Frances's achievements in her parliamentary career range from serving as Leader of the Opposition in Seanad Éireann to being a member of Government and Tánaiste. She has been at the centre of some of the most radical reforms undertaken in public life, including helping to establish the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2011, where she pioneered a number of groundbreaking reforms, including the comprehensive reform of our child protection and welfare systems. She oversaw the successful children's referendum in 2012. As Minister for Justice and Equality, she not only radically reformed the laws regarding sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children but also introduced legislation for the holding of the marriage equality referendum, which saw Ireland become the first country in the world to vote in a referendum to introduce an equal right to civil marriage for same-sex couples in its Constitution in May 2015. As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, she established a Brexit loan scheme for small and medium-sized businesses, and worked to build new trading relationships and agreements abroad, which are critical to Ireland's future after our UK neighbours leave the European Union. She was, as a Cabinet colleague, incredibly supportive of my own work as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.
Knowing the central role that Ireland plays on the European stage, Fine Gael has a long history of sending experienced and capable politicians to represent us in the European Parliament. I know that Frances will serve the people of Dublin with distinction over her term as an MEP. The people of Lucan and Clondalkin have had the benefits of a Government party Deputy representing them, and I believe it is imperative that they retain this, because there are challenges before us in housing, education, and transport. These challenges can only be met by a responsible, progressive and principled politician, someone, I believe, in the mould of Frances Fitzgerald. There will be stiff competition, of course, as this by-election has some very fine candidates from all political parties and none seeking to secure the public support to serve in this House. I hope this campaign will be fair and respectful, as our democratic process demands it. The forthcoming by-election will give the people of Dublin Mid-West the opportunity to select someone to continue the work of Frances Fitzgerald and to build on her significant legacy.