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Speech of An Taoiseach, Simon Harris T.D., Nomination of Members of Government, Dáil Éireann

Tuesday, 9 April 2024

9th April 2024 - Fine Gael Press Office

A Cheann Comhairle,

B’áil liom cead a chur in iúl, mar eolas don Dáil, gur chuir mé m’ainmniú mar Thaoiseach in iúl don Uachtarán agus gur cheap sé mé dá réir.

I beg leave to announce, for the information of the Dáil, that I have informed the President that the Dáil has nominated me to be the Taoiseach and that he has appointed me accordingly.

This Government will need to be both energetic and laser-focused on delivery:

  • On housing.
  • On health.
  • On helping families, farmers and small businesses.
  • Equality of opportunity for all and empowering people with disabilities.
  • Security.
  • Exerting our influence in the world.

With that in mind….

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approve the nomination by the Taoiseach of the following Deputies for appointment by the President to be members of the Government:-

As Tánaiste and to the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence, Micheál Martin.

To the Department of Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport, Eamon Ryan.

To the Department of Finance, Michael McGrath.

To the Department of Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe.

To the Department of Education, Norma Foley.

To the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin.

To the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien.

To the Department of Social Protection, Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys.

To the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

To the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman.

To the Department of Health, Stephen Donnelly.

To the Department of Justice, Helen McEntee.

To the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Peter Burke.

To the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Patrick O’Donovan.

I propose to nominate Rossa Fanning SC for appointment by the President to be the Attorney General.

I propose to nominate Deputy Hildegarde Naughton as Minister of State in the Department of the Taoiseach and as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education & Inclusion at the Department of Education.

We have the provided the biggest budget ever for this area and it is a priority for me, which I want Deputy Naughton to lead.

I also propose to nominate the following to continue as Ministers of State in attendance at Government meetings: Deputy Jack Chambers as Minister for international and road transport and logistics at the Department of Transport, as well as Minister of State for postal policy at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications;

and Senator Pippa Hackett as Minister of State for land use and biodiversity at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

I also propose to nominate Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs, with special responsibility for EU Affairs and as Minister of State at the Department of Defence.

Our relationship with the European Union and role within the EU is more important than ever at this time of geopolitical uncertainty.

Tomorrow, I will propose further Deputies to serve as Ministers of State.

With these appointments, I believe we have a team with the right mixture of experience and new talent, to build the new social contract I talked about earlier – one which renews our promise as a Republic to:

Create equality of opportunity

Support those who need the State the most

Protect our hard-earned economic success, and

Use its benefits to deliver tangible outcomes to society.

First and foremost, this Government is going to elevate our level of ambition and urgency on housing. We want to make sure young people see their future in Ireland.

We are going to build more homes and drive home ownership.

We know the waiver of development levies is working and I am working with my colleagues to extend this so that it remains cheaper to build and cheaper to buy a home.

A Cheann Comhairle, over the past eight years there has been unprecedented investment in our health service.  The budget has doubled.

Outcomes have improved for many conditions, leading to people living longer and healthier lives. I had the privilege as Minister to bring the Slaintecare implementation plan to Government.

People are beginning to feel the benefits of Slaintecare – free GP care for more people, the abolition of in-patient hospital charges, the extension of the free contraception scheme and the introduction of the new consultant contract.

This Government will increase capacity and improve access in our health service.

That means opening more beds, more theatres and recruiting more GPs, more consultants, more nurses and more therapists.

Mental health is one of the greatest challenges facing us as a society. I will work with colleagues to introduce the Mental Health Bill and reform mental health services.

All of this is dependent on a thriving economy. I believe in Deputies Donohoe and McGrath we have the experienced team to continue improving infrastructure and services for our people.

Implementation of the National Development Plan will be an essential driver of our ongoing economic success.

I look forward to working with both Ministers on the Summer Economic Statement to convert our economic success to real and tangible benefits for our people.

This Government understands it has been a horrendous year for farmers.

We will help you get through this and build on the Fodder Transport Measures already announced today with practical supports.

A Cheann Comhairle, I also know small businesses are hurting and there’s a lot coming at them at once. I want Minister Peter Burke to bring his passion and drive to the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, developing a number of practical measures which will ease the burden of small business in the near future.

I have asked him to work with the LEOs to ensure they are maximising their capacity to provide grants, mentoring and training to small businesses in each county.

I know families continue to struggle with the cost of living.

This Government will help with the cost and availability of childcare, and fast track legislation to include child minders in the National Childcare Scheme.

I want Minister Heather Humphreys to extend hot school meals to more schools, make thousands more carers eligible to receive the carer’s allowance, and to report back before the Budget on means-tested payments for family carers.

I have also asked Minister Humphreys to prioritise the auto enrolment legislation along with her work on options to address the impact of minimum wage increases on employers’ PRSI contributions.

I believe we can and we must break down the barriers to education.

I have worked tirelessly over three years to cut college fees because nothing should stop a person from reaching their full potential.

I am now tasking Minister Patrick O’Donovan with continuing that work and in particular to focus on developing new pathways for young people into further and higher education.

I have asked Minister O’Donovan to prioritise labour force planning and the strategic development of the skills needed both to deliver housing in the here and now and for our future economic success.

I want him to continue increasing the number and variety of apprenticeships and I am charging him with delivering on my commitment to establish new vet schools in rural Ireland.

A Cheann Comhairle, I intend to prioritise law and order, making our streets safe and ending the scourge of anti-social behaviour in our communities.

Minister Helen McEntee and I have been discussing our shared priorities in recent days.

Garda recruitment is strongly recovering after the pandemic, with 746 trainees entering Templemore.

We have negotiated the highest Budget for the Gardaí ever – over 20% higher than when this Government entered office in 2020.

We have doubled the maximum sentence for assault causing harm to 10 years, increased the sentence for conspiracy to murder from 10 years to life and increased the sentence for assaulting a Garda or emergency worker from 7 to 12 years.

In reappointing Deputy McEntee, I am tasking her to continue this momentum of delivering stronger, safer communities by continuing to:

  • Fast-track legislation to give judges new powers to make sure heinous criminals serve long sentences before they are even considered for release.
  • Bring in body cameras and up-to-date technology to help Gardai in carrying out their work.
  • Bring forward new measures to increase penalties for knife crime and antisocial behaviour.
  • Increase the number of prison spaces, and
  • Give the Criminal Assets Bureau more powers to strip criminals of their assets more quickly.
  • We will also work with our European partners to ensure a firm and fair migration system.

As Taoiseach, I will also convene a Dublin City Centre taskforce to chart a path towards a safer and vibrant Dublin. It is time to have pride again in our capital city.

Tonight, as we hold our first Cabinet meeting, this Government will establish the Cabinet Committee on Children and Education and Disability. This is about breaking down silos across Government and making change happen more quickly.

We are determined to bring new coherence and faster progress on solving the issues that matter most to people with disabilities.

I am committed to building on the good work of the Child Poverty and Wellbeing Programme Office and we will make more progress on this in the Budget.

A Cheann Comhairle, the Irish State has a proud history of peace-keeping and making our mark in the world.

We punch above our weight and we have a responsibility to bring our influence to bear on global issues like migration, climate, international conflicts and human rights.

We have built strong relationships with our European neighbours and will continue to work in partnership to uphold our shared values and objectives.

I am proud of the partnership which has been built by the three parties in coalition since 2020.

This new Government will be founded on that mutual respect and together we will work, day and night, to fulfil the ambitious agenda we set out in the programme for government, Our Shared Future.

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