Ba mhaith liom ar dtús mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le chuile Theachta a thug vóta dom sa toghchán seo. Ba mhaith liom freisin mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leo siúd nár ghlac lena gcuid vótaía chaitheamh chun méa thoghadh mar Thaoiseach. Gabhaim buíochas leis an dTeachta Rock agus an Teachta NíBhroin as ucht moladh a thabhairt dom.
I am grateful for the trust the Thirty-second Dáil has placed in me to lead the new Government as the country leads a new century. The circumstances of today are very different from those of five years ago when Ireland was in deep crisis and when our very survival as an independent country was in doubt. I promised at that stage that the new Fine Gael and Labour Party Government would work night and day to rescue the economy, fix the public finances and get the people back to work. I pay tribute, in particular, to the members of that Government from the Labour Party – those who are present – for their work during that period and who will be stepping down shortly from their ministerial offices. They know what it means to act in the national interest come what may. They know what it means to have to make difficult decisions and stand over them and to place the needs of the country and the people above all else. I thank them for their service and support and wish them well for the future.
While I contend that we fulfilled our core mandate to move the country back from the edge of an economic cliff, I acknowledge and understand very many people have not felt the benefit of a recovering economy in their daily lives.
While five years on Ireland is a better place and a safer place, we face many serious challenges that we know of both home and abroad. If economic survival was the urgent priority of the previous Government, using a strong economy to improve the quality of the lives of our people must and will be the priority of the new Government. That fundamental principle will be the bedrock of our policy programme.
Therefore the Government that I will lead in the very different circumstances of the Thirty-second Dáil will be a very different kind of administration formed in very different and almost unprecedented circumstances. The verdict of the people in the recent general election means that no party or group has any mandate to instruct, force, direct or coerce anybody to do anything they do not want to do. Therefore we must all work together in the best interests of all our people.
It has always been the case that under Bunreacht na hÉireann the Taoiseach and the Government of the day are responsible to Dáil Éireann. That will never be truer than in respect of this Thirty-second Dáil, a Cheann Comhairle, over which you preside, in terms of the reform of this Chamber. The engagements that have taken place over the past ten weeks between parties, between groups and their affiliates, and between the Fine Gael Party and the Fianna Fáil Party have demonstrated that a very significant number of Deputies in the House are willing to try to make the current political configuration work in the interests of our people and the country.
In that same spirit I commit myself and the incoming Government to work in partnership with the elected Members of this House to devise and implement solutions to the many problems facing our people. I take on board the constructive comments from the many comments made by Members from the benches opposite earlier today. I will energetically oversee and implement the programme for Government I have agreed with the Deputies and groups that are part of the new Administration. I will play an active role in implementing comprehensive reform of the Oireachtas, both Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, and in so doing I will discharge my responsibilities as Taoiseach to the very best of my ability as I have always sought to do. However, those responsibilities will be shared by every Member of Dáil Éireann in a way that they have never had to be shared before. Everyone will have an opportunity to play a constructive role as we work in partnership together to build a better Ireland. It will be a great test of our democracy, of our character and of this House – a test, I am convinced, we will pass.
This Government has much to do. Our country faces many challenges. That was the message the people gave in the election and was the message that has been repeated by so many of you on so many occasions. The new Government has listened to that message and we will act on that message in an attempt to redress many of the difficult challenges people face every day. This programme sets out a vision for a more caring, more prosperous and fairer Ireland. At the heart of that programme for Government is a belief in the enormous potential of our people and our country. That potential lies within every citizen whatever their age and wherever they live. The new Government will be driven by a firm belief that good politics can help realise all of that potential in the interests of all our people throughout the country.
I have been here for many years, as the Ceann Comhairle knows. I have seen things that people once thought were impossible come to pass and become commonplace. I have seen days in this Chamber filled with hope and indeed days that were seared with despair. There have been years of difficulty, years of bloodshed and, thankfully, years of precious peace. The greatest challenges have been met and the widest of chasms have been bridged. Recent years saw sovereignty lost and then our sovereignty regained. The commemoration of the centenary of the Easter Rising has given all of us a moment to reflect with pride on the achievements of those who went before us and the achievements of our independence.
As servants of our democracy, whether in the Government or the Opposition, we now have a new opportunity to help write the next chapter of the unfolding story of our country. In doing so, we draw inspiration from that heroic generation that gained Ireland her freedom. Like them, we should never forget the hard-earned lessons of history and, like them, we should never set limits to our ambitions for our people or for the country.
It is my great honour to accept the nomination of Dáil Éireann for the position of Taoiseach. I now have a duty to go to the President to inform him of my nomination in order that he may appoint me as Taoiseach. Accordingly, I suggest that the House be suspended for three hours before we resume to deal with the nomination of members of the Government.