December 17, 2022
Mary Lou McDonald TD speech following election of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach

Mary Lou McDonald TD speech following election of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach: Mary Lou McDonald TD:

Ceann Comhairle,

I want to offer my good wishes to Deputy Leo Varadkar and his family as he enters the office of An Taoiseach for the second time. 

To lead government is a huge honour and an even greater responsibility.  

We all want those who assume this responsibility to succeed on behalf of the people of Ireland.


Nearly three years ago, people voted for something new. 

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael passed power between themselves for a century.

Our people paid a heavy price for this perpetual merry-go-round.

Financial crash and recession.

Jobs lost, livelihoods ruined, homes repossessed.

Austerity and vicious cuts to public services. 

Communities made to carry the can for the mistakes of those at the top. 

So, to break from the past, people reached hopefully for something they never had before.

A government that would put workers, families, and communities first.

A government with the determination to match their ambitions, their hopes and seize Ireland’s opportunities for the future.

A government that would do what is necessary to improve their lives by fixing a broken housing system, by tackling the crisis in our hospitals, and by working to build a fairer, sustainable, modern economy.

Our people had a glimpse of what might be. 

The historic chance of a government for change. 

Following the 2020 General Election, your collective instinct was to come together to block that demand for change. 

After one hundred years of pretence, all it took to bring Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together, was the threat to your power and position.

In the end, what mattered most to you was keeping others out.


So, with this Coalition, the people got another government that fits neatly into the pattern of a hundred years.

A tired government that resorts to excuses and alibis instead of bringing real leadership, ambition, and fresh ideas.

This coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens has stuck to the age-old, worn-out playbook that sees workers and families failed, short-changed, and left behind. 

A government that persisted with a way of doing business that prioritises insiders, the well-got and the well-connected. 

A system that keeps ordinary people on the outside looking in. 

Children with scoliosis waiting in agony for life-changing surgery. 

Elderly people left on hospital trolleys for days. 

Working families relying on foodbanks for a decent meal.

I said back in 2020 that this broken way, this Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil way of doing business means that governments come, and governments go but nothing really changes.

And so, it has come to pass. 

On the watch of this government, the housing crisis has become a housing emergency, the crisis in our health service has deepened, and, despite working very hard, thousands struggle to afford basic the necessities.


Taoiseach, of all your failures your failure on housing is inexcusable. 

Your government has spent the last two and a half years recycling the very policies that created the housing emergency in the first place.

We are now seeing the impact of this emergency on education, on health, and on the economy.

Our teachers and our nurses can’t pay extortionate rents or save for a deposit.

So, they’re leaving for Britain and the Middle East, and our schools and our hospitals struggle recruit and retain staff.

Investment is threatened as workers are unable to take up good jobs with good salaries because they can’t find affordable, secure housing.

The human cost of the housing emergency is tragedy layered upon tragedy. 

It’s now driving our young people out of Ireland in search of a better life. 

They look around them and they see houses they will be able to afford to buy. 

They walk past fancy apartments they will never live in.

At hurling or camogie training, or over a pint, they talk with their friends about their future, and they just don’t see one at home.

So many parents will spend this Christmas watching their sons and daughters pack their bags.

To take long flights away from their families, away from their homes, to live in Toronto, or Boston or Sydney.

Forced emigration is back with us again and yet government stands by and watches it happen.

There is no doubt that the government’s failure to fix housing has done real damage to our society, threatens our international reputation, our competitiveness, but worse, smothers the chance of our country reaching its full potential.

Governments are here to serve the people. 

Governments should be judged on their record, and the record of this government is one of spectacular failure.


The changeover of Taoiseach and swapping of Ministerial offices won’t change anything really.

One hundred years ago a great republic leader, Liam Mellows said,

Men who get into positions and hold power will desire to remain undisturbed and will not want to be removed or will not take a step that will mean removal in case of failure.”  

Liam Mellows was right.

The man sitting in the Taoiseach’s office is changing but there will be no change in policy, no change in direction, no change in delivery.

Your first act as Taoiseach is to reappoint Ministers who have failed to get the job done. 

You reward incompetence. 

You reward failure.

So, the truth is we need a change of Government, not just a change of Taoiseach.

Is dromchlach é an rud atá ag tarlú inniu. 

Tá an fear atá ina shuí in oifig an Taoisigh ag athrú ach ní bheidh aon athrú ar pholasaí ná ar threo ón rialtas seo. 

Teastaíonn athrú rialtais uainn, ní amháin athrú Taoiseach.


There is a real danger that people looking on at this meaningless shuffling of positions today may become disheartened.

But I’m asking people everywhere not to surrender your belief in change.

I’m asking you not to give up or give in. Hold tightly to your hope. 

A new and united Ireland is about you. 

A new and united Ireland is for you.

A new day is on the horizon. 

We have never been closer to achieving real change. 


This hope is especially important for our young people.

Young people who want to be given their chance.

Young people who can achieve great things if give them their moment.

We need a government that will work for them and work with them to change Ireland. 

An Ireland that gives our young people a life of opportunity.

Opportunity to stay and build a good life, the opportunity to travel and experience the world without being forced out, and the opportunity to come home.

our people, particularly our young people, deserve an ambitious government that says –

we can do it, 

this is how we are going to do it, 

and we will get the work done.


Sinn Féin wants to lead a government for change. 

A government that will house our people, 

Build strong public services, 

Achieve energy independence, 

Advance Ireland’s journey to full nationhood.

As we approach the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, it’s time to write the next chapter.

It’s time to plan and prepare for democratic constitutional change.

Taoiseach, it’s time for the government to establish a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish Unity.

As we move forward, we again look to a spirit of partnership.

The people of the North are entitled to government. 

We need the political institutions up and running, delivering for all communities. 

That is the best way to build progress and a better tomorrow.

So, it’s time to cast aside the small thinking of the past. 

Time to do big things for Ireland and our people. 

It’s time to give those of us who are committed to change the chance to show what we can do.

If I was given the chance to lead a Government of change, I would stand before the people and say,

We set out to end the housing emergency because we believe that every person has a right to a roof over their head, and we will not stop until this is achieved.

We set out to build a fair health service for all of Ireland – because we believe that every person has a right to treatment and care – and we will not stop until this is achieved.

We set out to build our economy, our prosperity – because we believe all people are equal and deserving of opportunity – and we will not stop until this is achieved.

We set out to end partition and unite Ireland in our time – because we believe that we are stronger together – and we will not stop until this is achieved.

That is the type of ambition Ireland needs.

Sinn Féin is ready to lead. Sinn Féin ready to govern. Ready to deliver.

We believe that the people should be given a straight choice.

The tired performance of this failed government 

or Sinn Féin’s positive, ambitious, achievable vision for Ireland.

So much has changed in the last three years.

If you, Taoiseach, are so confident that your government and its policies command the support of the people, then you should give them this choice in a General Election.

Let the people have their say. Let the people choose who leads. 

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