Premature to vote for a candidate for Taoiseach today

06 April 2016

Ceann Comhairle,

When the Dail last met to debate this issue, the Labour Party made very clear our position.

We supported the nomination of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach on March 10 to complete the offer we made to the people in the general election – the return of the Labour Party-Fine Gael government.

We also made very clear that we would take every subsequent vote on its merits, in the best interests of the country – we will be the sensible Left.

Specifically ahead of today’s vote, we made clear that we would listen to what the various candidates for Taoiseach had to say in terms of the package they put to the Dail, the stability of any arrangement being put forward, and the Programme for Government proposed.

The Dail is nowhere near being able to make that assessment, because the parties with the two largest mandates following the election – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail – have yet to speak to each other.

Therefore, the Labour Party considers that it would be premature to vote for a candidate today.

We will therefore be abstaining on the nomination of Enda Kenny, and opposing the nomination of Micheal Martin and others.

I will give a brief summary as to the reasons why.

Firstly, I think it’s fair to say that Fine Gael have made a much more concerted effort at forming a government than Fianna Fail.

I welcome the fact that at least Fine Gael is taking its responsibilities seriously because the country cannot afford this impasse.

New figures show consumer sentiment has weakened, meaning people are becoming fearful about the ongoing political uncertainty.

That is not without consequences, as practically every business in this country can testify.

There are a range of immediate policy issues which demand urgent action – housing and healthcare, to name just two.

In addition, the vote on Brexit – with all its potential consequences for this country – looms large on the agenda.

The foundation document which Fine Gael has circulated following its negotiations with Independents has some welcome commitments but, in my view, is not progressive enough.

I can’t help but notice – and welcome – that its core theme – “a strong economy for a decent society” – is borrowed wholesale from the Labour Party manifesto.

I also welcome the commitment – though vague – to the “removal of the PAYE tax credit for high earners and other measures to ensure the tax system remains fair and progressive”.

The Labour Party put forward precisely such a plan in the election, built around the principle of ensuring more take-home pay for low-income workers while ensuring high-income earners continued to pay their fair share.

Nonetheless, while there are some welcome commitments in the foundation document, it does not go far enough on other issues, such as the Living Wage, housing, healthcare, class sizes, and important social issues such as the 8th Amendment.

Hence, we are not in a position to support Enda Kenny’s nomination as Taoiseach.

But we do acknowledge that at least Fine Gael have put forward a basis for progress.

Fianna Fail, in my view, have prevaricated while they try to figure out what’s best for themselves.

That is why we will oppose the nomination of Micheal Martin today.

His party have presented nothing of substance for consideration – apart from a promise of legislation on Irish Water.

In doing so, they’ve brought us back to the days of Old Fianna Fail – because the irresponsible game-playing on Irish Water is the closest thing I’ve seen to an act of national vandalism since Old Fianna Fail abolished rates in the late 70s without developing any alternative model.

We know how that set the country back – both economically and in terms of developing the infrastructure Ireland needed – and now Fianna Fail are at it again.

What Fianna Fail should be doing is sitting down with Fine Gael to see if a responsible – rather than reckless – set of policy agreements can form the basis for a government.

I will remind the House that in 2011, the Labour Party did not hesitate when our country was at risk.

We entered coalition in the full knowledge of how difficult things would be, because Ireland was in a perilous state and stable government was essential.

Five years later, Fianna Fail are serving their own best interests rather than the people’s best interests, as they prevaricate about government and put themselves first.

Hopefully today will be point where, for the country’s sake, this nonsense will stop.

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