Tuesday, 9 March 1982
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. M. O'Leary: Tairgim an Teachta Gearóid Mac Gearailt cun a cheaptha ag an Uachtarán mar Thaoiseach. I wish to nominate Deputy Garrett FitzGerald for the office of Taoiseach. Wise and courageous leadership of our country is always necessary. At a time of acknowledged difficulty, wise, courageous national leadership and the trust it engenders are even more vital. These leadership qualities Deputy FitzGerald enjoys in abundance. Those of my colleagues who served in Government with Deputy  FitzGerald over the past seven difficult months have had daily proof of his fitness for the heavy responsibilities of State which accompany the office of Taoiseach in the Republic. I ask Dáil Éireann to approve my proposal for the nomination of Deputy FitzGerald to the President of Ireland for appointment as Taoiseach.
Mr. Sherlock: On behalf of my party, Sinn Féin The Workers Party, I wish to say that my party decided to support the nomination of Deputy Charles J. Haughey. The factors considered by us in arriving at that decision are that it appears to us to be the choice of the voters that there should be a Fianna Fáil Government, and that the proposals but forward in the economic and industrial package by Fianna Fáil seem to be what the country needs at this time. I make this point with as much emphasis as I can. The lack of cohesion on the Coalition side was not conductive to convincing us that the Coalition were worthy of our support. Also, everybody will agree that at this time the country needs continuity of government. Our support is unconditional and we have made no deal or pact. One consideration only will guide our judgment in Opposition, and that is the interests of the working class of this entire island. Every action, every word, every deed, every piece of legislation coming from Government will be judged in that light and we will vote accordingly. We are, in fact, the workers' party and have as our goal the establishment of a democratic, secular, socialist and unitary State. We have declared our total opposition to terrorism and violence in Northern Ireland and we say here today to the people of Northern Ireland that we will resist any attempt in word or deed of the Government to coerce or to assist in the coercion of the people in the North.
Finally, I repeat that what the country needs is a Government who will give continuity, so that issues important to the people can be tackled. We will judge  each issue on its merits and will vote accordingly.
I rise to give the House what is possibly the first indication that anybody has given — and it is right that this indication should be given to this House rather than to the media, who naturally have a job to do but in this case merely assumed what was being done rather than pointing out what might be done, although I thank them for trying and also I congratulate them — as to how I wish to vote in this election of Taoiseach, and also why I am proposing to vote as I will. I fought this election, as I fought the past two elections, with absolute emphasis on just two major points of policy. It may sound strange to many here to find that in the 1977 election I was as concerned and committed to job creation and the necessity for job creation as all of us now are. I only wish that I had been listened to a little earlier because the job to be done now would be accomplished so much more easily. However, I think still that we are not too late, despite the massive unemployment and the signs of it continuing to rise in a rather alarming fashion. I have advocated and do advocate and in the recent election highlighted almost to the exclusion of everything else that this job creation can be done in our present world depression only through the one industry over which we have the greatest control, for which we do not depend on outside markets for its product and bear little cost for its materials with regard to its accomplishment, and that is the construction and building industry in its widest possible form.
I have had discussions with both the aspirants who have been proposed here, Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Haughey, and I have found in both a willingness at this time to see the need for not just an effort to create some few thousand jobs, but to create a massive input to this industry as the only way in which we can possibly get ourselves off the ground and work our way out of this  depression rather than idling our way more deeply into debt, as for too long we have been doing. Do not get me wrong if I disbelieved what Deputy FitzGerald indicated as his mind on this, but I believe that there is a greater commitment and conviction on the part of Deputy Haughey as to the value of this proposal and that as a result more will be done, because if this job is done partially it will be better not done at all. We need the products. We need the roads so badly since the last frost and snow. The damage done to them is just unbelievable and soon they will be impassable. Houses are a crying need, likewise additional hospital accommodation. Schools, primary, secondary or vocational, are obviously unfit to cater for our growing young population. All of our problems might well be laid at the feet of the increasing population, which is the greatest thing that has happened in my lifetime. Emigration declined and stopped and our population began to grow and we did not provide for it as we went into the world depression, which we blamed for the problems which arose as a result. We have ourselves to blame to a large degree, but we can pull ourselves out of this. However, nobody outside will come in and do it for us and there is no point in us sitting on our behinds and crying and hoping that it will be done by the wave of a wand of some great power outside. They have their problems and the bigger they are the bigger their problems are, relatively speaking.
The second point on which I campaigned in the last and many other elections is my outlook in so far as the whole of this island is concerned. I want — and the people of this island, North and South, are entitled to it, the people of Great Britain also are entitled to it, world opinion, and especially that of the US is entitled to it — a clarification from the incoming Taoiseach as soon as may be as to what is the wish of the vast majority of our Irish people, taking the island as a whole as we are entitled to do, in regard to the partition of our country. Putting it without any strings attached, we want it to be clearly known throughout the world that we want Britain out of this country.  On that I got a good and receptive hearing from Deputy Haughey. I did not get quite the same hearing — nor was I disappointed — from Deputy FitzGerald.
I finish by saying on these two points alone that these are the important ones, these are the ones on which I campaigned and I believe they are of the utmost importance to our whole being and to our immediate future. For that reason I will be voting — confirming the media's perception — for Deputy Haughey as Taoiseach. Further, I say to Deputy Haughey if he is elected here, as it now appears he will be, that the last thing we want in this country is another election in the near future.
Mr. Blaney: I warn those who would unnecessarily take down within the next 12 months whatever Government are elected that they would do so at their peril because the electorate are fed up with elections.
Mr. Kemmy: Obviously there are few certainties left in Irish politics and perhaps that is a good thing. We must all learn to live with uncertainty and it is a challenge to every one in this House. I have had some difficulty in making my decision on the election of Taoiseach.
Mr. Kemmy: I will not apologise to any Deputy for speaking in this House. My decision was by no means easy or clear-cut regarding the choice of candidate but a number of factors have influenced me. Like Deputy Blaney and Deputy Sherlock, I had a number of meetings with the two candidates for the office of Taoiseach and I tried to assess to the best of my ability the merits of the two contenders and the promises of their respective parties. Today's election is not simply about two men seeking high office; it is about the whole future of Irish politics and of the people. It is in the light  of these considerations that I have made up my mind as to how I shall vote.
I am not in any way dismayed, terrified or alarmed at the close outcome of this election and I think there will be many more such results in time to come. We must all learn to live dangerously in politics. I am satisfied, however, that this tight situation in the balance of power will bring about greater public accountability by future Governments and this is surely a good thing. The problems facing our people call for greater public accountability and a drastic change in the policies which have failed in the past. In my talks with the two candidates I have stressed these problems and the urgent need to find solutions.
The problem of unemployment has been mentioned. In order to stem the rising tide of unemployment and find work for our young and fast-growing population we need a new sense of direction and a change in our goals and objectives. The goal of full employment has never been taken seriously and has been considered unrealistic. Other aims have been put forward and Deputy Blaney has referred to one of them as the first national aim. In my book that is a lot of bunkum. The first national aim should be full employment for our people. The cry “Brits Out” is nonsense when speaking about the one million Protestant people who have lived here for four hundred years and regard themselves as British. It is an insult to them and any time that cry is raised in this House I will be the first and most vigorous to oppose it. That attitude is useless and we must learn to live in peace on this island and treat those people as our neighbours and friends and work together in the common interest of finding employment for all our people. That, surely, is far more important than dreams of bygone ages. We will not gain anything from looking with bitterness at the past. We must look to the present and to the future for solutions to the problem of unemployment. Surely these objectives are far more noble and enduring than any kind of mythology that has emerged here.
 I very much regret that neither of the two big parties have taken seriously the goal of full employment but I am hopeful that young people will impinge on politics and make politics and politicians more relevant than ever before. Young people have a right to work and I will encourage them to assert that right to work in this country, not in America or Britain as was the case in the past.
As well as the right to work, I have also discussed with the two candidates the right of people to adequate housing and accommodation. This is a fundamental human right which is being ignored in our society. It can no longer be ignored because it is totally unacceptable that, at a time when people are crying out for housing and accommodation, wealthy and influential people should exploit this human need for personal profit and private gain. It is also unacceptable that these people should make millions of pounds profit at the expense of fellow human beings through the mere re-zoning of agricultural land for building purposes. In this connection it is very regrettable that the recommendations of the Kenny Report have been totally ignored.
In the past the right to private property has been enshrined, almost canonised, and it has been advanced as the reason for not implementing the Kenny Report. The Rent Restrictions Act has also been found unconstitutional on these grounds. It is wrong for our courts to interpret the right to private property as superior to the right of people to housing accommodation and the common good. I believe in the reverse of the court's decision, that the rights of people to work and housing are superior to any other rights. The sooner the better our Constitution is changed in this regard.
I am also unhappy about the Rent Restrictions Act which has been found to be unconstitutional. Surely the Constitution should reflect the goals and objectives of society. It should be a guide and protection for people living now in this country rather than an obscure, abstract document which is not relevant to these issues. In my talks with the two candidates I have stressed the need for the Constitution and politics in general to be  more responsive and more relevant to these issues. Unfortunately I do not think that either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael understand just how volatile are these issues of employment, housing and the distribution of wealth. These issues will not go away and must be tackled by the Government in power. I have my doubts about the ability of any of these parties to tackle the problems.
There has been much talk about the Government's budget and the Fianna Fáil alternative but I have not been much impressed by either and I am happy that my stand on the Government's budget has been vindicated. A mistake was made and people were insensitive to the issues in a balance of power situation. Let us hope lessons have been learned from that. I am not here to cry about spilt milk but to talk about the present and the future.
I regret that it was impossible for me to forge a pact with my fellow socialists in Sinn Féin, The Workers' Party, and Deputy Tony Gregory. I respect the right of Sinn Féin, The Workers' Pary, to make a decision as a party on whom they should vote for today. I have weighed all these matters in the balance. I know the problems are immense and there must be both short-term and long-term policies.
I have considered very carefully the two contenders for the office of Taoiseach, Deputy Garrett FitzGerald and Deputy Charles J. Haughey, and the policies they represent. I have not made my choice in the light of any personal advantage; that does not matter, I have tried to weigh in the balance the importance of this decision in the long-term interests of the people and I have come down on the side of Deputy FitzGerald.
Mr. Gregory-Independent: A Cheann Comhairle, I preface my remarks by wishing you well in your position. Since my election to the Dáil my advisers and I have had extensive talks with Deputy FitzGerald, Deputy Haughey, Deputy O'Leary and the other Independent groups. At all these meetings we presented the contenders with the same basic proposals. These proposals were exact  and specific developments of the issues for which I stood in the election.
Two major considerations dictated our approach to these negotiations: first, to try to get clear commitments from a future Taoiseach on tackling the issues with which we are concerned and on which I was elected; secondly, we were conscious of the responsibilities placed upon us to interpret the balance of political forces in the Dáil and to make a decision that would encourage the development of progressive and class politics. This was no easy task.
I interpreted the result of the election and my own election in particular as demonstrating that the two main political parties have failed to respond to the needs fo our society. I had no illusions about the differences between the main political parties. Policies, not personalities, influenced my decision. The decision I have come to has not been taken lightly and certainly not with a view to maintaining any particular party in power. My decision is purely tactical and based on achieving as many as possible of the issues that I was elected on.
Specifically, my decision is based on a clear difference in response from Deputy Haughey and Deputy FitzGerald. Given the commitment by Deputy Haughey, witnessed and signed by the General Secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union I had no alternative but to support a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach. The issues to which Deputy Haughey committed himself included a major increase in Dublin Corporation's housing programme, which has been a scandal for years, the allocation of £91 million for housing in 1982, and a commitment to reach 2,000 houses by 1984 was given. Four hundred new housess in the north centre city area will be started this year.
Mr. Gregory-Independent: I regret, though I understand it, that some members of the Opposition do not appreciate the importance of these commitments. I certainly do. I should like to go on with the details and the basis on which I shall give my support to Deputy Haughey as Taoiseach. An almost total breakdown of Dublin Corporation services will now be averted as a result of a commitment by the Leader of Fianna Fáil to allocate a further £20 million to Dublin Corporation's budget for this year.
On the issues of employment we put specific proposals to Deputy Haughey. He committed himself to an immediate work force of 500 men costing £4 million for a corporation environmental works scheme and more than 150 additional craftsmen at a cost of £1,500,000 in addition to the present staff to be employed and to give a major boost to the corporation's repairs and maintenance service. A commitment to nationalise Clondalkin Paper Mills to save the jobs of 500 men if no other option presented itself immediately was given. This commitment is a demonstration of a new departure and attitude to the development of our natural resources.
The controversial and destructive motor way plan will not now be proceeded with. The vital 27 acres on the Port and Docks Board site will be nationalised and developed along lines geared to the needs of centre city communities. In the field of education a major commitment to pre-school education along with the provision of a £3 million community school for the neglected centre city area was given, this being part of the designation of the central city area as an educational priority area. Advances in the taxing of derelict sites, office developments, financial institutions and development land were agreed to. A national community development agency will be set up for a budget of £2 million to replace and continue the work of the Combat Poverty Committee.
 These are some of a very comprehensive list of agreed policies between my advisers and the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party. Deputy FitzGerald in his response, though sincere and genuine, was most pessimistic and did not approximate remotely to the commitments given by Fianna Fáil.
Mr. Gregory-Independent: One was the role of the five Independent Socialist Deputies and the hope that they could agree to a common strategy in electing a Taoiseach. The decision of Sinn Féin the Workers Party not to participate in an alliance prior to the election of the Taoiseach and on the election of the Taoiseach, a decision which we respect as their right, made our hoped-for alliance impossible. The position of the Labour Party was also important to us because of the common ground between us on social and economic issues. Their decision not to participate in Government effectively ruled out any other option but to give conditional support to the election of a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach. Once a Government have been elected they will receive my support only in so far as they pursue the programme of agreed commitments and other acceptable policies to me.
At this stage I shall not comment on the many interesting points made by speakers on my nomination. I shall have plenty of opportunity to do so later. I should like simply to say that I am conscious of the great honour being conferred on me and I wish to thank the Dáil for nominating me to this high office.
I am conscious also of the many grave problems facing us. I will try as Taoiseach to deal with these problems to the best of my ability. It is necessary that I should go now and inform the President of my nomination so that he may appoint me. Accordingly, I suggest that the house adjourn until 7 p.m.
Dr. FitzGerald: I wish to offer my congratulations and those of my party to Deputy Haughey on his election as Taoiseach. After the past eight months I am in no doubt as to the difficulties which face him on the economic front. We shall offer constructive opposition and will support all reasonable measures that may be necessary to maintain the real underlying level of borrowing and the current deficit in the amount set by us and accepted in principle by Deputy Haughey and his party. We believe that this must be the new Government's priority if they are to have the possibility of securing existing employment, maintaining the value of our currency necessary to protect the living standards of our workers and retaining the freedom to promote the expansion of our economy and the creation of jobs. We shall facilitate the passage of all measures that are in the national interest.
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