Mary Lou McDonald response to the nomination of Taoiseach

Ceann Comhairle,

Our great country faces real challenges and big opportunities. The decisions that we take now directly affect our people today and for the future. I believe that our prospects can be so bright.
When all is said and done politics is about choices. Good politics is about making the right choices.

Today, for the third time in four years you present your choice for Taoiseach. For the third time you rearrange the cabinet deckchairs. For the third time in four years, you pat each other on the backs, and tell the people what a great job you’re doing.

The narrative today from the government is a fairytale so outrageous that Hans Christian Anderson himself would be proud of it. For people to believe the spin from government benches, they would have to suspend all connection to reality, and any memory of people’s lived experiences.  On the things that really matter to workers and families you have comprehensively failed, and no amount of bragging or bluster can disguise that fact.

A housing crisis

A health service that’s crumbling.

A cost-of-living crisis that pushes households to the brink.

That’s reality.

So, people don’t buy the fiction being spun today.  Don’t buy a story that dresses-up failure as progress.Micheál Martin said this government would be the government to fix housing.

But it got worse. Then Leo Varadkar came in and said that housing was his priority.

It got worse again.

Now, we hear Simon Harris say he will fix housing for once and for all. And people brace themselves. So, here we go again. You pass the parcel with the keys to the Taoiseach’s office one more time.

Let’s be clear what this is about today. This is not about what’s good for Ireland. It’s not about what’s good for the people. It’s about what is good for you. It’s your century-old cosy-club, circling the wagons once again, to cling to power at all costs.

The people of Ireland deserve so much better. This is a country – full of talent, ideas, and optimism. The people of Ireland have achieved incredible things, often against the odds. The Irish people deserve an Ireland where opportunity and prosperity are open to everyone.  An Ireland where everybody gets a fair go and where no one is left behind. They deserve a government that can match this ambition. 

Now, you say you want Simon Harris to be Taoiseach. If you truly believe that. If you really believe that your government has the support of the people,  then you should go before the people and get a mandate. The people must decide who leads. You should call a General Election. 

Third time round, with the benefit of hard experience, we can state clearly what another Fine Gael Taoiseach and the continuation of this government will mean. It means the housing emergency and the scandal of homelessness will continue. The crisis in our hospitals, trolley counts, waiting lists will continue. Households under huge pressure just to get by.

It means more of the same.  That is what Deputy Harris offers and represents – more of the same.

He sat at the Cabinet table for eight years presiding over the very policies that have seen a collapse in home ownership, skyrocketing rents, and our health service brought to its knees.

Much has been said today from the Government benches about Deputy Harris.

It’s interesting what hasn’t been said, what has been conveniently forgotten. 

Not so long-ago, Simon Harris was Minister for Health. On his watch, hospital overcrowding spun out of control, the trolley crisis escalated, and treatment waiting lists hit one million patients for the first time. On his watch, the scandalous costs of the National Children’s hospital grew and grew.

Today, the most expensive hospital in the world has yet to open its doors and has yet to treat a single child. Perhaps those who best remember Deputy Harris’ term as Health Minister are the families of children with scoliosis who were promised that they would not wait longer than four months for life changing surgery. A promise broken again and again.

Fianna Fáil refused to vote confidence in Simon Harris as Minister for Health in 2020. 

Today, they dutifully line-up to vote him in as Taoiseach, joined at the hip by a group of independent TDs.

Out there, in the real world, the experience is that if you fail and fail again, you get your P45.

However, in the world of this government – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens – it seems you can fail your way right to the very top.

Since Simon Harris became Fine Gael leader, he has been telling people – “we’ve got your back.”

This is said without a hint of irony, and it seems with no idea of just how hollow it rings for young adults forced to live in the box room of their parents’ house into their thirties, 

For the mother and father at their wits end battling for services for their child, for disability services, for mental healthcare. For the elderly man or woman who’ve worked hard all their life and now suffer the indignity of lying on a hospital trolley for days, For the stressed-out couple watching every euro and deciding which bill to leave unpaid this month.

Fine Gael has been in power for thirteen years and for thirteen years you have shown people, time and again, whose backs you’ve got. Fine Gael has the backs of the vulture funds. Fine Gael has the backs of the rack-renting corporate landlords. Fine Gael has the backs of the financial speculators and those at the top. That’s the Fine Gael way. 

And today, you propose more of the same.  Today is proof positive that we need change like never before. We need a new direction. We need a new government that will put workers, families, and community first. A new government with determination to roll up its sleeves and get the work done to improve the lives of ordinary people. That’s why we need a General Election.

Because a better future is possible.  A future where everyone can have a secure, affordable home, where you can see a doctor quickly when you’re sick and access proper hospital care if you need it, A future where life is affordable, where a job provides a decent living, and where you can retire at sixty-five with your pension.  A future where our young people get the chance they deserve at home, where they are not forced to emigrate for opportunity, where they can build a good and prosperous life here with their family and friends.That’s what change looks like.  This is the change that people want.  The change we need.

Our future can be defined by equality, prosperity, opportunity.  By building a strong, modern, vibrant all Ireland economy. By achieving energy Independence and security. By the reunification of our country.  None of this is beyond us. All of this is possible.  All of this can be achieved. 

But it won’t be achieved with Simon Harris as Taoiseach. It won’t be achieved by this directionless government staggering on for another year with no objective other than staying in power.

Tá Simon Harris mar an gcéanna leis an méid a chuaigh roimhe. An rud deireanach atá ag teastáil ag daoine ná Taoiseach eile ó Fhine Gael. Tá géar gá le Olltoghchán anois. Tá rialtas nua ag teastáil uainn. Tá athrú ag teastáil uainn.

Another Fine Gael Taoiseach is the last thing people need. We need a change of leadership.

We need a change of government.  The people must have their say. They should decide who forms government.

The trip to Áras this afternoon shouldn’t be to seek the appointment of Taoiseach.

It should be to ask President Higgins to dissolve this Dáil and to call a General Election.