Labour has never been afraid to take political risks
Speaking in Dail Eireann on the Nomination of Taoiseach
In the general election, the Labour Party sought a mandate to continue implementing our policy in government – to continue the job of rebuilding our economy and our society.
And we viewed it essential that Ireland have stable, balanced government to continue addressing entrenched problems such as health and housing that will take more time and resources to put right.
We believed the return of the Labour-Fine Gael government offered the best possibility of stable, balanced government.
And for that reason, we support the nomination of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach today.
We also support the nomination because the Taoiseach supported key economic and social goals driven by the Labour Party in government even when they didn’t form part of Fine Gael’s agenda.
From minimum wage increases to marriage equality, from strengthening workers’ rights to enhancing maternal care for women, the Taoiseach brought his party with him, in recognition of the fact that it was a coalition and that these progressive measures were in the country’s best interests.
That is the importance of compromise and partnership in the national interest.
Our support today is in keeping with – and bookends – the proposal the Labour Party made to the electorate.
The electorate has given a greatly increased mandate to those currently on the Opposition benches.
I believe there is therefore an onus and responsibility on those same parties, groupings and TDs to step forward in the national interest, not sit back.
Of course, none of us are truly foolish enough to believe that Sinn Fein and the ultra-left will suddenly act in the nationalist interest.
If they are remotely serious about fixing Ireland’s problems, they should be prepared to make sacrifices in the national interest, as opposed to promoting narrow, partisan interests.
We sometimes forget that one of the basic demands that people make of politicians is that they should be prepared to take risks on behalf of those they seek to represent.
The Labour Party has never been afraid to take such political risks.
Sometimes the cost of taking those risks is very high, as we know.
And as Shakespeare put it: “He jests at scars who never felt a wound.”
Given the reality that quite a few on the Opposition benches don’t want to be in government, there is, therefore, an onus on those who have been there before.
Even though Fianna Fail presided over and created the crash, I believe there is an onus on that party to step up to the plate and seek to remedy their wrongs.
In 2011, the Labour Party didn’t stand idly by in our own best interests.
We stood by the Republic.
Fianna Fail should do likewise now.
Together with Fine Gael, they can provide a government with sufficient numbers to provide stability.
And stability is vital now.
To see why, we need only look at Spain.
Three months after their election, there’s still no sign of a government.
In the meantime, Spain’s unemployment rate is still over 20%, and business leaders have warned that the stalemate is having a chilling effect on investment.
Ireland can’t afford a similar stalemate.
Not when we’ve returned to strong growth and added 140,000 new jobs.
Put the public finances back on a healthy footing.
Created the room for additional investment in our schools.
Begun the process of raising living standards after a traumatic time for our people.
And made significant social progress too – legislating for the X case, strengthening children’s rights and delivering marriage equality.
We also delivered significant political reform – the first legislation to protect whistleblowers, to regulate lobbyists, and the restoration of the FOI Act.
It will fall to the next government to protect – and extend – those gains.
Indeed, given that Fianna Fail was the party that shredded the FOI Act, I would welcome an assurance from Deputy Martin today that he is committed to retaining these new laws.
Now, as Labour leader, I know that if a conservative coalition occurs, there is a real risk economic policy will veer to the right.
And further social progress will be limited, if at all.
But Labour will apply the pressure for further economic and social progress by providing principled, responsible opposition.
When we went into government in 2011, we put the country first, and I’ve no regrets about that, despite the losses we incurred.
I’m proud of the work undertaken by my colleagues and my party.
As we rebuild from the Opposition benches, we will continue to fight for a recovery that works for all, and not just the few.
A recovery that puts equality at the centre of everything this republic stands for.