Ba mhaith liom buíochas a gabha le baill Dáil Éireann don onóir mhór a thug sibh dom inniu.
Tá a fhios agam go bhfuilim ag déanamh mar a rinne na daoine ar éirigh leo a ainmniú mar Thaoiseach don dara huair.
Glacaim go humhal leis an ainmniúchán seo. Ba mhór an onóir dom a bheith mar Thaoiseach agus céad bliain mar Stáit á gcomóradh againn.
Céad bliain ó shin, tháinig aisling na Saoirse i gcrích de réir mar a bhaineamar státacht amach. D’aithin an domhain ár neamhspleachas. Ba cheart go mbeadh sé mar mhisean againn anois, irracht a dhénamh cabhrú lenár dtír go ceann céad bliain. Chun na fadhbanna atá roimh muintir na hÉirinn a réitigh. Chun dóchas a sholáthar áit a bhfuil éiginnteacht agus éadóchas.
I am proud of the State that was created, under the most extreme of pressure, 100 years ago. Throughout difficult crises and challenges, our democracy endured, it survived, and it prospered.
We won the ultimate freedom that ‘all nations desire and develop to,’ as Michael Collins said, and we owe a debt to men and women of all political parties and traditions.
A crucial year in the history of our State is 1932, because that is when the wishes of the people were respected, the democratic principle was put above all others, and there was a peaceful transfer of power. The coming together of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in a shared government with the Green Party in 2020 was less significant, but it was nonetheless another important moment in our history.
I want to take this opportunity to commend Micheál Martin on the leadership he has shown as Taoiseach, for putting the country before politics, and for providing reassurance and hope during difficult times.
In 2020 the new Taoiseach was unable to have his wife and family with him in the Convention Centre as he received the greatest honour of his life. That, too, was leadership. I am glad they are here today.
During the pandemic we saw the best of each other, and it meant that the new coalition was born in a spirit of togetherness and hope. I intend for that spirit to continue as we implement, with our partners in the Green Party, the agreed Programme for Government.
Today, I also want to thank my family, friends and staff.
Thank you for your work, the love and support you have shown me. When we enter public life, we choose this path. Our loved ones do not.
I want you to know that my work as Taoiseach is driven by your example. I intend to honour your confidence in me.
Also, I want to thank all of the Deputies who supported my nomination – Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and Independents.
A Cheann Comhairle, when I became Taoiseach in June 2017 so much of the focus was on my election and what it represented and symbolised. That was understandable at the time, but today I think we should focus on where we are as a country and what needs to be done to prepare for the next century of statehood.
Our history over the last 100 years has been about winning the additional freedoms that were denied to us or which we were unable to imagine.
Becoming a Republic. Becoming a place where you are not limited by your gender, religion, race, background or sexual orientation. Becoming a country where you are free to be yourself.
So, what are the challenges for us for the next 100 years? We have many, and some of them we have to fix now. Otherwise, we will be betraying the current generation and the generations who come after us.
I am thinking of housing and how we have to go all out to turn the corner on homelessness and homeownership. We need to accelerate our plan, Housing for All. It’s about making home ownership a reality for the many again.
I am thinking of how we need to tame inflation and bring the cost of living under control, especially when it comes to the cost of energy, childcare, education, rent and healthcare.
I am thinking about our climate and biodiversity, the challenges facing our planet. We need to set ourselves the ambition of becoming energy independent and develop new ideas to make it happen.
I believe that we can harness our massive untapped, renewable natural resources – providing greater energy security, stable prices, more jobs, and regional development.
I am thinking of the unprovoked war that has brought death and devastation to Ukraine. Today I reaffirm our commitment to stand with our fellow Europeans in this harsh winter and to help them in every way we can.
I am thinking of our Defence Forces, the men and women who put the safety of others above their own and in particular Private Sean Rooney. We offer our condolences to his fiancé, family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are also with Trooper Shane Carney.
I am thinking of the Good Friday Agreement of nearly 25 years ago. Fundamental elements of that Agreement – the Assembly and the Executive – are still suspended.
Dreams of a better future are not built on stalemate and the status quo. I want to work with all parties in this House and in Northern Ireland, as well as with the British Government and our partners in the European Union, to make progress on the Protocol and restore the institutions of the Agreement.
I am also thinking about the most vulnerable in our society, and especially children. We need to improve access to therapies, provide better special needs education, and do more for those who need it most. We also need to do more about child poverty and disadvantage.
We know that poverty restricts a child’s opportunity, and casts a long shadow over their lives.
The number of children in consistent poverty has fallen by 45,000 – we are making progress – but it still means too many children are missing out on everyday opportunities.
A Cheann Comhairle, Ireland has never been a failed State, and it is grotesque and dishonest to claim that we are or we were. But we are failing some of our citizens, and it is essential to our success as a country that we put this right.
In eight days’ time most homes around the country will celebrate Christmas with presents and good cheer. Most, but not all. For some families – for some children – Christmas is a time of fear and uncertainty. A time of unhappiness.
Our greatest resource as a country is our people. So, let’s try and make sure all our people have a fair chance. Starting with our youngest. Their health. Continuing with education.
Staying with our young people until they are able to create the future that they want. Providing them with the stepping stones to their ultimate freedom.
Our ambition is to make Ireland the best country in Europe in which to be a child.
As Taoiseach my mission will be to build on the achievement of 100 years ago, and work on what needs to be done for this generation and the next. Providing hope and housing, economic opportunity and a fair start for all.
And so, I accept this nomination by the Dáil with humility and resolve, with a burning desire to make good the promise of 100 years ago and to provide new hope and new opportunities for all of our citizens.