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

Mary Lou McDonald speech following resignation of Micheál Martin as Taoiseach and ahead of nomination of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach:

Ceann Comhairle,

I want to wish Teachta Micheál Martin the best as you exit the office of An Taoiseach and as your role in Cabinet changes. 

I wish you and yours a happy and peaceful Christmas.

For the last two and a half years, we have debated the important issues facing Ireland and our people. 

No doubt you will greatly miss our engagements on the floor of the Dáil every Tuesday and Wednesday.

I wish you well.

*******

Teachta Martin argues in his speech that this government is successful. 

That this government is delivering. 

The rest of us must live in a very different Ireland from you.

We live in an Ireland, where during your time leading government, the housing emergency has gotten worse. 

Where crisis in health has gotten worse.

Where households struggle to get by.

As you pass the baton to Leo Varadkar, more than 11,000 of our people are homeless, including more than 3,000 children. 

Close to 1 people million are on treatment waiting lists. 

Many working families queue at foodbanks to get a hot meal.

Surely you can’t count this as success.

You say there are no easy answers. 

But I don’t think that is an acceptable response to those mothers frantic because their child waits and waits for vital surgery, for essential services, for assessment of needs.

To families distressed because they can’t pay the latest bill, the mortgage repayment or afford the rent.

To a child growing up in a hotel room or in a B&B.

Yes, there are no easy answers, but there are answers. 

Solutions that a government with the right priorities would grasp with both hands, but instead you chose to ignore them.

The policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, not only over the last two and half years, but since you joined together in 2016 have driven these crises.

So, to dress up your failures as progress, is to insult ordinary people who live with the consequences of those failures.

Rather than being accountable,

Rather than facing up to reality,

You point the finger at others, you hide behind excuses, you present alibis for not getting the work done.

It’s a cop out so typical of the parties who have passed power to each other for over a century.

Ireland is a great country. Maybe the greatest. 

Our people are a great people, achieving the extraordinary every day, sometimes against all the odds.

What we need now is a government worthy of them, worthy of their hopes, worthy of their ambitions.

*******

Sinn Féin does not support the nomination of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach. 

The policies of Fine Gael have always been about ring-fencing the wealth and privilege of those at the top, 

pushing workers and families to the back of the queue, 

privatisation and the hollowing out the vital public services.

That hasn’t changed under the leadership of Leo Varadkar.

Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar have been in government now for eleven years. 

Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar’s policies are writ large across the crises in housing, healthcare, and the deep economic inequalities in Ireland today.

It is no coincidence that during Fine Gael’s time in power, 

people desperately struggle to put a roof over their heads, 

a generation is locked out of home ownership, 

and renters have been fleeced by extortionate rents – an 82% increase since 2012.

Housing policy written for big developers, wealthy investors, and corporate landlords.

Fine Gael, of course, are the party that rolled out the red carpet for the cuckoo funds and the vulture funds. 

You couldn’t wait to get them in and now look at the damage being done.

Fine Gael’s refusal to see housing as basic right has seen the crisis escalate to an emergency so bad that it has spread to impact education, healthcare, and the economy.

It’s no coincidence either that our hospitals are under unprecedented strain with a never-ending trolley crisis, with record waiting lists, and struggle to recruit and retain the staff needed.

The chickens of Fine Gael’s failure to invest in and resource our health service have back to roost and its patients who pay the price.

We must remember that Leo Varadkar has been at the centre of these crises.

Sitting at the Cabinet table for over a decade contributing to these terrible decisions, and eventually ascending to the office of an Taoiseach in 2017.

We shouldn’t forget that Leo Varadkar’s last government ran out of road because of Fine Gael’s disastrous performances in the areas of health and housing, eventually falling to the prospect of a no confidence vote in Simon Harris.

Nor should we forget that the revolving door of former government Ministers into cushy jobs as lobbyists for banks and insurance companies continued during Mr Varadkar’s term leading government.

From Cabinet to lobbyists in the blink of an eye.

And it’s no coincidence that Paschal Donohoe is now ready to oversee the return of bumper pay to the top brass at the banks. 

Backing the haves over the have nots

showing up for the insider class,

looking after their friends in high places has always been the Fine Gael way.

It is the Leo Varadkar way.

The episode that defines Leo Varadkar’s last term as Taoiseach is his leaking of a confidential government document to a friend.

Something he admitted on the floor of this Dáil.

While criminal proceedings were not pursued on this matter, serious questions remain.

That is what it is worrying that Deputy Varadkar’s stated belief is that he is somehow above having his actions questioned by the Standards in Public Office Commission. 

Leo Varadkar believes that power places him above accountability.

This is the view held by the man who now returns to the office of An Taoiseach.

The man who recently told young people forced out of Ireland by his policies that the “grass isn’t always greener” in other countries.

The man who asked exploited renters to remember that “one person’s rent is another person’s income”.

The man who advised a generation locked out of home ownership to borrow from their parents for a mortgage deposit. The bank of Mammy and Daddy.

These are views that emphasise loudly and clearly that Fine Gael – and their friends in Fianna Fáil – have been in power for far too long. 

Out of touch.

Out of ideas.

Out of time.

Micheál Martin has resigned as Taoiseach. The Government has been dissolved. We should have a General Election. We need a change of government.

Tá a fhios againn cheana féin cad a gheobhaidh muid le Leo Varadkar mar Thaoiseach. 

Bhí muid anseo cheana. Diúltaíodh daoine tithíocht. Diúltaíodh daoine cúram sláinte. 

Seirbhísí poiblí atá i ndroch-chaoi. Oibrithe agus teaghlaigh sáinnithe ag cúl na scuaine. 

Tá athrú rialtais ag teastáil ag Muintir na hÉireann. Ní hamháin athrú Taoiseach.

*****

We face real challenges, but there is also hope, positivity and ambition amongst our people.

Ireland has big opportunities in the coming decades.

The reunification of our country.

The achievement of energy independence.

And the power of our young people.

Capturing these opportunities is key to Ireland reaching its greatest days.

Days that are on the horizon.

Days that will belong to everyone.

We will not get there with Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach.

We will not get there on the watch of this government. 

But we can get there.

With a change in leadership,

With a change in direction,

With a change in government,

We will get there.

Today, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil – backed to the hilt by the Green Party – cling to power.

But, make no mistake, you can’t prevent the new daw breaking.

The light of a better tomorrow burns brightly.

You can stand in the way of change, refusing to budge.

You can slow it down, making people wait a little longer.

But you cannot stop change.

The touch paper has been lit by the hopes of a new generation. The old ways are on borrowed time.

Our future will be defined by equality, prosperity, unity, and opportunity for all. Building a strong, modern, vibrant all Ireland economy.

That’s a future worth fighting for. 

It’s a future that a Sinn Féin government would work night and day to achieve. 

For workers. 

For families.

For communities.

For Ireland.

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