Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 Jul 2020

Vol. 995 No. 1

Nomination of Member of Government: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Dara Calleary for appointment by the President to be a member of the Government.

Pursuant to section 4(1) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1946, I propose to assign him to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. In his short time as Government Chief Whip, the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, has shown that he is committed not just to reforming the Dáil but also to overseeing a comprehensive legislative programme, which I referred to earlier. The legislative programme for the month of July is the busiest for one month in a long time, and I acknowledge the co-operation of other parties in the House. Most of that legislation will underpin economic recovery in dealing with the continued challenges of Covid-19.

It is crucial for our country to have a strong, progressive, sustainable and resilient agrifood sector. It is one of most important indigenous sectors, providing more than 170,000 jobs and accounting for 10% of exports. The Government is committed to supporting farmers and food businesses, which underpin towns and villages across the country. There are many challenges facing agriculture, such as Brexit, Covid-19, climate change in the future, Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, negotiations and the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, which we will discuss later this week at the European Council. In the negotiations on the next CAP, we are seeking to protect the family farm and farm incomes, and maintaining the CAP budget will be our top priority.

I know that Deputy Calleary will be an effective Minister. He will work hard and diligently at implementing the ambitious commitments in the programme for Government on agriculture, food and the marine. I wish him well in his new role and commend his appointment to the House.

I also take this opportunity to inform the House that it is my intention to seek the approval of the Cabinet this evening to appoint the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Jack Chambers, as the Government Chief Whip and Deputy Fleming as Minister of State in the Department of Finance with responsibility for financial services, credit unions and insurance. I know the House will join me in wishing them both well in their new posts.

I extend my sincere congratulations to Deputies Calleary, Chambers and Fleming, respectively. The appointment of a new Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine happens at a crucial time for the agriculture sector on our island. Family farms face an uncertain future and the threat of Brexit remains real. It is an important job and I wish Deputy Calleary very well in his role.

Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the circumstances in which the vacancy arose. The controversy, which we discussed again earlier, surrounding the sacking of Deputy Cowen has unquestionably undermined public confidence in this new Government after little more than two weeks in office. I put it to the Taoiseach earlier that the way these matters have been handled has called his judgment into question and raises serious concerns about how he will deal with controversies in the time ahead. He should be in no doubt that the people are looking at this latest mess and they are exasperated, experiencing the terrible sinking feeling that they are in line for more of the same. The Taoiseach has been at pains to say that Fianna Fáil has changed, but the message from this debacle is clear. It is that Fianna Fáil cannot be trusted to do the right thing, that good governance and the public interest always seem to come a distant second to what is politically expedient. One cannot blame people for thinking that it is same old Fianna Fáil, dodging and being less than full with their accounts to the Dáil and the people.

We should be discussing how Ireland can recover from the Covid-19 crisis and we need to discuss solutions to housing and childcare but, unfortunately, because Fianna Fáil cannot change and cannot take up the job of government seriously, we have been discussing a political controversy only a few short weeks after this new Government came into being. I regard that as a failure on the Taoiseach's part. I do not believe he grasps the import or the full consequences of this. People remember previous Fianna Fáil-led Governments and how they operated. They know they cost them very dearly. They are determined, and we are determined, that we are not going down that road again. People deserve a great deal better. Let us remind ourselves that people voted for something better last February. Now, here we are a few short months later with Fianna Fáil back at the helm, and here we go again. The Taoiseach's answers today, frankly, have not been satisfactory. In fact, he failed to answer any of the critical questions I and others put to him, including, interestingly, about the knowledge of the Tánaiste, the leader of Fine Gael, and Deputy Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Green Party, and when they got access to the full facts regarding the controversy and the Deputy Cowen debacle. Instead of being fully forthcoming, the Taoiseach has decided to stick to an approach that muddies the waters. That is not good enough.

I again appeal to him to answer the questions, at some stage, that have been put. He sacked a senior Cabinet Minister because he said he had asked him to answer questions and the Minister steadfastly refused. Irony of ironies, the Taoiseach who did the sacking is himself not prepared to answer in a straightforward way the questions that have been put to him about his actions, decisions and judgment.

I wish the new appointees well, particularly the new Minister, Deputy Calleary, who has served a long apprenticeship in Leinster House and in politics. I truly wish him well in his brief. There is a bit of ground to make up now. This was in many ways a delayed appointment. I am sure his disappointment has now been assuaged. I wish him the best of luck. I also wish the Ministers of State, Deputies Chambers and Fleming, well. I served with Deputy Fleming on the Committee of Public Accounts. He was the Chairman of the committee when I was Vice Chairman. At times he can be very forensic in his analysis, so when it comes to the insurance industry I hope he will be forensic because we need that. I extend my best wishes to all three appointees.

There is, though, an issue arising with the Government. It has had an exceptionally poor start. I do not say that with any malice, but I and other Deputies have asked a range of questions today as to what happened in respect of Deputy Cowen, questions that are broader than just Deputy Cowen. I respect his personal rights and requirements under data protection and that he should ensure that all those rights are vindicated. I also respect the fact that there must be inquiries as to how certain information got into the public domain. There are, however, deeper issues, and I have raised very serious questions with the Taoiseach and he did not have any answers. I forensically asked him questions about the information he knew about. There are also contradictions in some of the statements he has made, and they will all be combed through, so he needs to put an end to this. He needs to think today about how he will do so because many people are now asking extensive questions that go beyond even the issue at hand and into how he is handling things. I urge him to think over the next 24 hours about how best he can put an end to this.

There are broader issues of competence here. There has been a lot of change in the Department of Health. From a Government perspective, the Taoiseach needs to get a handle on this. There is a new acting Secretary General, a new Minister, a new Chief Medical Officer and a range of other people. The Taoiseach needs to pick up the baton and ensure that the process by which we make decisions for the good of this country continues and that people have confidence on the whole range of issues.

The Minister for Justice and Equality has disappeared. There are so many issues with what has transpired over the past few days. The fact that she has not made any public comment on them is just bizarre. The Taoiseach will have to take a real look at transparency and how the Government deals with things. I have tabled a whole range of parliamentary questions, as have my colleagues in the Labour Party, and the way in which the Government has handled them is a disgrace. I will forward them to the Ceann Comhairle, as usual, to look for more information from the Ministers because they refused to answer the questions.

Together with this is the fact that the Freedom of Information Act needs a complete overhaul. The issue of giving out information has not resulted in a good start. Given the Taoiseach's track record as leader of Fianna Fáil while in opposition, I hope to see greater transparency.

The Minister with responsibility for housing has not been clear as to what he will do about the extension of the ban on evictions or about mortgages. From what I hear, the quantum in respect of the July stimulus will not be anywhere near what is required. Hope for young people is very quickly evaporating. I accept, because the Taoiseach has stated as much, that opening schools is the biggest priority. However, given the interview the Minister for Education and Skills gave to the Sunday Independent last week, I have zero confidence in this regard, so things need to change there pretty quickly. It was absolutely incredible to read. There are concerns about childcare as well and where we are going in that regard.

There is, however, a July stimulus for one group of people. I refer to the number of advisers being appointed to the Taoiseach's office, the Tánaiste's office and the office of the Minister with responsibility for transport and climate change, as well as to the Ministers of State, the new head of protocol, who will be in the Tánaiste's office, and the drivers. Funding has been provided to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade so he can continue with his Garda driver and his Garda car. There is a July stimulus for all them.

It has not been a good start for the Government. Let today be a watermark and a change in order that the whole country can, it is hoped, move on and get through Covid. However, the way in which the Government has shown leadership to date has not given us much cause for hope.

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Calleary. His is an incredibly important portfolio. I wish him well. I know these are not the circumstances in which he would have wished for this to happen and that he will be thinking of Deputy Cowen and his family from that point of view.

There was a lot of attention on the failure to allocate a Minister for the west, but there is no such thing as a Minister for the west. I accept there is a region that feels very disenfranchised. The key issue is that Ministers are for all the country; it is the portfolio that matters. This will nonetheless be seen as a gain in the west but at an expense of the midlands. Deputy Fleming, with whom I served on the Committee of Public Accounts, is being appointed as Minister for State, but there is no doubt but that that will be the feeling. There is something wrong with our politics when that is how ministerial appointments are perceived. A Minister cannot be a Minister for a region or an individual constituency. We have heard very concerning things from that point of view in recent weeks. It is essential, however, that Government functions in such a way that Ministers are for all the country. This is one of the areas on which we need to hold this Government to account. There is evidence from previous Administrations that whichever Deputy is in a particular position can matter hugely to his or her individual constituency. However, we need to move towards objective resource allocation so we do not end up with postcode lotteries in the provision of public services and infrastructure, and that resources are fairly allocated and based on need, not the location of a particular Minister. We would all gain from such an approach.

I am all in favour of expertise being available to Ministers, but I think the number of advisers and the actual expertise being brought in will become sources of serious concern because in some cases it is quite difficult to see exactly what that expertise is, other than media management. I think there will be close scrutiny of that.

The Taoiseach has talked about how important the role of Chief Whip is and has made a big issue of that. I agree with him: it is a very important position. Three weeks on, however, there are justifiable questions about this. I wish Deputy Chambers well in his new role. Government has a job to do, but so has the Opposition. Within the framework document the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste produced, the role of the Opposition was acknowledged. I am quite concerned about the majoritarianism we are seeing come to pass in respect of the Dáil reform committee and the curtailment of some voices in the Opposition. We should be very concerned about that. It is not on for Members of this Parliament not to be able to sit on committees and hold the Government to account. That cannot be the way in which this proceeds.

I hope there will be a rethink of the approach that has been forthcoming from some quarters. These are important roles and, again, I wish the Ministers, Deputies Calleary, Fleming and Chambers, well.

This controversy is not over. The Taoiseach has sacked Deputy Cowen to try to draw a line under it and he is spinning furiously about what he knew in an attempt to evade responsibility. However, the essence of the matter is very clear and it will come out. The Taoiseach colluded with the then Minister to keep vital information from the Dáil. They relied on legal threats to keep that vital information from the media. If it was not for The Sunday Times publishing the article, including the reference to the Garda report last Sunday, the Taoiseach would never have asked Deputy Cowen to answer questions before the Dáil and nobody would be any the wiser.

Earlier, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that Ministers should come before the House to answer questions of public interest. However, the Taoiseach's Government voted twice - on 7 July and yesterday, 14 July - to shield the former Minister, Deputy Cowen, from facing those questions. The Taoiseach abused his majority to ensure he would not face questions and would come in and make a statement and waltz out again without facing any questions. The Taoiseach was backed in that by the Labour Party the first time around and by a number of Independents both times. Ironically, the Minister who now replaces Deputy Cowen was then in his role as Chief Whip, ensuring the questions would not be asked. The Taoiseach‘s statement today that Ministers should face questions is clearly disingenuous.

The Taoiseach relies very heavily on the fact he did not get a copy of the Garda report until Tuesday morning but he knew of its existence on 3 July. He was told about it by a journalist and he knew there was a reference in it to a serious incident about evading a Garda checkpoint. The Taoiseach tried to wriggle out of that by saying it was what a journalist told him and he did not know what was in the report. However, the point is he knew the significance of that at that time. Over the weekend of 4 and 5 July, he discussed the matter with Deputy Cowen and, as part of that discussion, it is clear from Deputy Cowen’s statement that he discussed this Garda report. The Taoiseach knew the significance of this report. He discussed it and together they agreed that when Deputy Cowen made a statement to the Dáil on 7 July, he would not tell the Dáil about it. They agreed he would speak about having a full and frank disclosure and about avoiding a damaging drip feed of information and yet Deputy Cowen chose, with the agreement of the Taoiseach, not to put this vital information into the public domain. From the absence of the Tánaiste from the Chamber and the repeated failure of the Taoiseach to answer point-blank questions about whether he told the Tánaiste and the Minister, Deputy Ryan, it seems extremely likely that he chose not to tell his coalition partners about it.

Is it not the case that the Taoiseach relied on legal threats to gag the media? He agreed with Deputy Cowen that, in making his full statement on 7 July, he would not tell the Dáil about the existence of this Garda report and the reference to evading the checkpoint because the Taoiseach and Deputy Cowen thought at that point that the legal threats had done their job. They thought the media would not publish and they would be able to move on. If The Sunday Times had not published that story last Sunday, is it not the case that the Taoiseach would not have asked Deputy Cowen to answer questions in the Dáil and there will be no question of accountability?

What we have in this absolute dumpster fire of two and a half weeks of a Government is a clear display of the culture of Fianna Fáil. It is a party that is about power and not about ideology. The squabbling between different backbench Members over who should get what junior or senior ministerial jobs at a time when one in four people is unemployed and then this consistent attempt to avoid accountability, which is continuing right now from the Taoiseach, remind people correctly of everything that Fianna Fáil is about and it is tainting correctly the Green Party and Fine Gael as long as they stand beside Fianna Fáil.

On my behalf and that the Regional Group of Members, I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Calleary, and the Ministers of State, Deputies Chambers and Fleming. I know all three would not like being appointed in the manner they have been appointed but I congratulate them nonetheless. I particularly congratulate the Minister, Deputy Calleary, on his accession to a full seat at the Cabinet table. Very few people have secured the opportunity to sit around the Cabinet table and it is a great honour and a huge responsibility, particularly at a time when huge change is needed. The Minister will get the good wishes of every Member of this House. I have enjoyed working with the Minister over the past few weeks in facilitating the heavy legislative workload that is going through the House at the moment. The skill set he has developed since his election to Dáil Éireann in terms of working with people will be a vital tool for him working in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, both in Ireland and the Council of Ministers level, where he will really have to roll up his sleeves. It is a huge honour for the Minister and for his family, who know the ebbs and flows of politics, and I think of them as well today.

I know he will do a good job for his country, his county and his party in his role in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. There are huge challenges there at the moment, particularly in relation to the viability of family farms, particularly in the suckler sector, which the Minister will know well. There is a need to protect the overall Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, vote at European and domestic levels and to ensure the new environmental schemes that are introduced are farmer focused and farmer friendly. We have indications from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that we will see a new farm retirement scheme and that would be warmly welcomed because of the age profile in agriculture, particularly within the beef sector. It is not a good age profile to drive the type of change that is needed to sustain the viability of many family firms across this country.

I congratulate the new Minister and wish him the best of luck. If I could give him one piece of advice, it would be to take on board the suggestions from the Opposition side of the House. I know he will take those on board because it should not be about Government and Opposition. It should be about Parliament inputting in a constructive way to come forward with practical and implementable solutions for the challenges we now face in an economy and society post Covid-19.

I was shocked and saddened to hear the news last night that my neighbour, Deputy Cowen, had been sacked by An Taoiseach. This is not an easy time for Deputy Cowen or his family. He is in a very lonely place at this point. I have known him since he entered Dáil Éireann and I have worked with him and his brother. At a time when just transition is a key term across the midlands, it was reassuring to know that we had someone at the Cabinet table who knew the issues and challenges facing our communities as a result of the wind down of Bord na Móna. I know Deputy Cowen will continue to work hard for his constituents in Laois and Offaly and keep a close eye, along with myself, on the plans for just transition across the midland counties. I wish Deputy Cowen and the Ministers, Deputies Calleary, Chambers and Fleming, very well in the future.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a ghuí ar na hAirí ar son an Rural Independent Group.

I compliment Deputy Calleary on his forthcoming appointment as Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and wish him well. I also congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, and the incoming Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, on their new positions. In his time as Chief Whip, Deputy Calleary has worked exceptionally well with the Whips of the different parties and groups. There is a huge legislative programme to get through but he has always been understanding and engaging in his role as Chief Whip. He has looked for agreement rather than division. I have worked with Deputy Calleary for decades, going back to his days in Ógra Fianna Fáil, and since he came into the Dáil in 2007. I have had many a joust and jostle with him and no doubt we will have many more, but I know the west is wide awake this morning.

I do not mind what others say about Ministers for regions, but regions must be represented at the Cabinet and, before today, the west was not represented. Now it will be well and truly represented. I know there will be a small celebration in Carty's Bar in Knock and other places. Breda Laffey will be very happy, as will many others. Deputy Calleary's wife, his mother and all his family will be proud. I wish him well and look forward to working with him in these very difficult and challenging times, with the Common Agricultural Policy negotiations and the demise of agriculture. If he can make one mark, I hope it will be to cut out half the bureaucracy and red tape that is involved in the schemes run by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Many of those schemes are going back with moneys not drawn down simply because of the bureaucratic red tape.

I wish the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, well and I look forward to working with him as Chief Whip. The incoming Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, who is from close to my own heartland of Tipperary, proved his ability, capacity for forensic questioning and fairness as Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. He will be well able for the challenge that is put up to him today.

It is a sad time for the former Minister, Deputy Cowen. I wish him, his wife, his mum, his brother, who is in recovery, and all the Cowen family well. I knew and had engagement with his late dad, Ber, when he served as Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture. He often travelled to meetings at the greyhound track in Clonmel and engaged with people there. The Cowen family has a long and proud history of service to politics. I stood up yesterday in this House to speak about the situation following Deputy Cowen's statement to the Dáil last week. I have just received a text message indicating that the Garda Síochána has contacted the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate the leak of information relating to Deputy Cowen. This is a very serious situation and it is why I did not support the proposal yesterday to have another debate or ask additional questions. We have a huge legislative programme and a huge amount of work to get through. Deputy Cowen came into the House last week to give a profound apology for a crime he committed and for which he paid the price. He did the crime and he did the time. Now we are going to have a forensic investigation of the matter. Are any of us who ever robbed an orchard going to be hauled before the Oireachtas for statements?

It is the parties of the left, in the main, which were grandstanding on this issue. I resent the fact that yesterday, after I opposed her party's proposal regarding Deputy Cowen, the self-proclaimed leader of the Opposition, who thinks other Opposition Deputies will be silenced, told me it was the most untruthful statement I ever uttered.

I will be writing to the Ceann Comhairle about this. When I consulted her to find out what her issue was, she told me I was a slíbhín.

Imagine that. It might not be on the record but the journalists heard her say it. I will take no lessons on slíbhínism from a party with such a murky past and which is still involved with that past. It is a party that is denying that it did not want to be in government and now its leader wants to be total leader of the Opposition. None of us in the Rural Independent Group, the Regional Group or the Social Democrats has any voice. That is the diktat of the unelected leader of Sinn Féin. I do not know of any democracy in Europe that has appointed leaders, but we have one in the North and the South.

If Deputy McDonald thinks I am a Member under her wing and I will bow and kowtow to her, she is mistaken. What she said was a disgraceful rebuff and if I said it, I would have the Me Too brigade down on me. Deputy McDonald said it and I expect an apology. She said it and she was heard saying it.


I ask to be allowed to speak and Deputy McDonald will have time to reply. The journalists in the Gallery heard what she said and my colleague, Deputy Michael Collins, heard it. If that is the new politics we have heard about, my goodness we are in trouble. Will threats and kneecappings be next? We lost three good Sinn Féin councillors in Tipperary when they were bullied out of their party. I take no bullying from Deputy McDonald or anybody else.


I wish Deputy Cowen and his family all the best at this tough time for them. We in the Rural Independent Group will speak without fear or favour on issues affecting rural Ireland and the people we represent. We will not be downtrodden or bullied by Sinn Féin or anybody else. This is the party that did not want to go into government, but it wants to have seats in the front row of the Dáil and all the Opposition speaking time, and it wants to limit all the roles for smaller groups. The new politics that Sinn Féin wants is to take us back to the past.

That was the entertainment for today.

Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire nua, an Teachta Calleary, agus leis an mbeirt eile. Guím gach rath orthu ina róil nua. Cuireann sé iontas orm, áfach, nach ndearna an Taoiseach tagairt ar bith d'Aire sóisearach don Ghaeltacht. Ar ais arís, níl trácht ar bith ar an nGaeltacht i mbliain chinniúnach maidir le hAcht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus maidir le polasaí do na hoileáin. B'fhéidir go mbeidh an Taoiseach in ann soiléiriú a thabhairt air sin.

I congratulate the Minister and Ministers of State on their new roles. I cannot let the occasion pass without saying that the elevation of a further three wise men brings into sharp focus the long journey we have to go towards gender equality. The role of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is an extremely important one in terms of sustainable rural and regional development and the challenges that present in regard to climate change and bringing farmers and their families on board. I wish the incoming Minister, Deputy Calleary, the best in all of that. However, the circumstances of his appointment and the sacking of the previous Minister leave a lot of unanswered questions. While I wish the Taoiseach the best and I think he has a good heart behind his actions, he has handled this situation very badly. In my view, his judgment has been brought into question by his handling of the matter.

Nobody in the Opposition asked for a head on a plate. We did not ask for a Minister to be sacked. All we asked for was openness and accountability. Indeed, some members of the Opposition voted against proposals put forward on this side of the House. We simply asked for questions to be answered. The need for accountability was the strongest messages we got from people during the election campaign. We all make mistakes and we all do something wrong. Nobody here can say they did not do something wrong at some time. Where members of the Government make mistakes, there is an onus on them to come into the House and explain, particularly in the circumstances that pertained in this case, where there was the release of a Garda record. We do not know how it was released. We do not know what the particular record was, or whether it was a PULSE record or something obtained under data protection.

Then there is the whole question of Ministers being vetted. As I understand it, nominees go through a vetting process by the Garda before their appointment. The Taoiseach is shaking his head, so I might be wrong about that. I presumed they go through such a process, just as teachers and others have to be vetted before they are appointed. Are Ministers vetted by the Garda and, if so, what emerged from that in Deputy Cowen's case? Then there is the very serious question of data being released in the manner in which they appear to have been released. I certainly agree with the Taoiseach that there is a serious question to address in that regard.

I am sharing time with Deputy Fitzmaurice. I offer my sincere good wishes to the new Minister, Deputy Calleary, the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, and the new Minister of State, Deputy Fleming. I am especially pleased that we now have a Minister of State with responsibility for credit unions. I look forward to working with him to ensure there is an appropriate regulatory framework for the not-for-profit, member-owned credit unions that have consistently supported communities. I wish all three appointees well. I am pleased to see that the new appointments give a certain rebalancing from the perspective of the regions. The big news is the appointment as Minister of Deputy Calleary, who faces huge challenges in securing an adequate CAP budget. I look forward to seeing him pursue the Fianna Fáil policy of convergence of the basic payment in the next round and in the transition phase. I wish him well in his work and I look forward to working with him.

In regard to Deputy Cowen, it is important to note that there is an ongoing process. He disputes the PULSE record and, as a citizen, he has a right to do so. However, as a Minister, he had a duty to come into the House and answer questions and he chose not to do that. Finally, on a personal level, this is a devastating blow for Deputy Cowen and his family. As a fellow Member of Dáil Éireann, I feel for them. Politics can be a brutal business.

I was shocked and saddened by the Taoiseach's actions yesterday evening in regard to Deputy Cowen. I think it was a trial by media. I wish Deputy Calleary the very best of luck. The ministerial map is at least being rebalanced a small bit for the west of Ireland. I wish the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers, whose mother hails from Castlerea, the best of luck, and likewise the incoming Minister of State, Deputy Fleming.

The new Minister, Deputy Calleary, has a job at hand today. I think he will get support from many in the House wishing him the best of luck. However, he should remember that for years, there has been an imbalance in agriculture, and the conglomerates have been looked after year upon year by previous Governments. The Minister comes from an area where small family farms keep the community viable and where the butcher shop and local shop are kept going by the local farmers. Now is his opportunity to leave a mark in agriculture over the next few years, for the farmers of the west and the north-west who have been forgotten for many years. I wish him the very best of luck in the future.

I send my thoughts to Deputy Cowen and his family. It is incredibly difficult when one loses office in the circumstances we witnessed last night. There are issues and questions again about how people's personal private data are revealed to the public and we have to look at that in a variety of different ways. Regardless of that matter, it is true what the Taoiseach said in that we in the political system are held to higher standards. That is particularly the case when it comes to people questioning the integrity, independence or accuracy of An Garda Síochána. We have a particular responsibility to get that right.

This has been a terribly difficult issue for the individuals involved. My experience is that I was informed by the Taoiseach about it in a timely and fair manner and I respect and support his judgment calls, which were difficult judgment calls. We welcome and look forward to working with the new Minister, Deputy Calleary, and the Ministers of State, Deputies Chambers and Fleming, in the critical work they have to do. While this has been a difficult political and personal issue, I do not believe it will distract from the vital work the Government has to do. We face immediate challenges in how we manage Covid, stimulate our economy and effect change in the health and housing systems. This Government can, and will, continue to work cohesively and with all its energies to address the challenges facing our people.

We must now put the question. The question is-----

On a point of order, will the Taoiseach clarify who is now the Minister of State with responsibility for the Gaeltacht? Deputy Calleary, who I wish well in his new position, was responsible for the Gaeltacht. Is there now no Minister of State for the Gaeltacht or where does that responsibility lie? Is it with the Minister of State, Deputy Chambers?

Can the Taoiseach clarify this matter now, or will he do so at a later stage?

Deputy Chambers assumes the position Deputy Calleary held.

It is Deputy Chambers.

Question put and declared carried.