14 June 2017
Leo Varadkar elected as Taoiseach, endorsed by Fianna Fáil but opposed by Sinn Féin
Ireland needs a Taoiseach ‘to represent all of the people – not just some of the people’
FINE GAEL’S Leo Varadkar was elected as Taoiseach to succeed Enda Kenny with the active support of the Independent Alliance and acceptance of Fianna Fáil but opposed by Sinn Féin and other Left TDs.
The vote was 57 for to 50 against with 45 abstentions.
In the Dáil, Gerry Adams said he looks forward to working with the new Taoiseach to help address the crises in housing and homelessness, health and justice, and facing the challenges of Brexit and the political situation in the North but Sinn Féin would not be supporting his nomination as Taoiseach.
“Never in the history of this state has the need for a progressive head of government been more essential,” the Sinn Féin leader said.
He highlighted “the ongoing difficulties in the north, the dire consequences of Brexit, the continuation of corruption, the hardship borne by ordinary people because of the crisis in the health services and housing, the scandals in justice and An Garda Síochána”.
All the issues demand a reforming Taoiseach, Gerry Adams said.
“To represent all of the people – not just some of the people.”
Gerry Adams said that is a huge honour to serve as Taoiseach, especially at 38 years of age, “but not all young people are radical – or progressive, or visionary”.
The Sinn Féin leader added, referring to Leo Varadkar’s record as a minister in Health and Social Protection:
“I have already expressed my fear that Teachta Varadkar will drag this government even further to Right.”
Gerry Adams thinks Leo Varadkar is a decent man.
“I do not know him well,” he said, adding with a smile across to the Fine Gael benches:
“Though he and I once attended the same Pilates class.”
Leo Varadkar acknowledged to inquisitive colleagues that this was true.
Gerry Adams returned to Deputy Varadkar publicly declaring in recent weeks that he will relish the opportunity to “take on” Sinn Féin, describing the party as “the greatest threat to our democracy”.
The Sinn Féin leader said of Leo Varadkar:
“Maybe he is perplexed by Sinn Féin’s refusal to accept the status quo.
“Or by our refusal to join the cosy club typified by his party’s little arrangement with Fianna Fáil.”
He said that the new leader of Fine Gael declaring that he is going to take on Sinn Féin may play well in some quarters but it means little in the real world.
“Successive British governments and the old unionist regime – using extraordinary powers and cruel oppression – took on Sinn Féin for decades. They failed miserably.
“For most of that time, they were actively assisted by successive Irish governments also using extraordinary powers and cruel oppression. They also failed miserably.
“Maybe the Taoiseach-to-be should get to know Sinn Féin,” Gerry Adams suggested, commending the example of the late Albert Reynolds when he was a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach.
“He was the first Taoiseach to make the difference when the Peace Process needed it.
“When others talked the talk, Albert walked the walk.”
Deputy Adams reminded Leo Varadkar that he recently said that “the North should stay in the Customs Union and the Single Market and any customs checks should be in the ports and airports, not on land borders”.
He also recognised the vote of the people of the North to remain part of the European Union, Gerry Adams noted.
‘Designated Special Status for the North Within the European Union’ is the best solution in the immediate term.
“You can deliver on this crucial issue.
“The prospective new Taoiseach must also get behind the cause of Irish unity.
“That is your constitutional duty.
“Irish unity makes political, social and economic sense.
“The Taoiseach should be a persuader for the ending of partition and the reunification of our country.”
The Sinn Féin leader said that Albert Reynolds “did the right thing” when the prevailing political mood and most of the media agenda was against this.
“Leo Varadkar also has the opportunity to do the right thing.
“He could allay the worries and fears of ordinary people about what he will do in office.
“I am appealing to him to do so: to turn away from the easy rhetoric of ‘a republic of opportunity’ to the hard task of building a real rights-based republic with a plan to eradicate inequalities.”
Sinn Féin is willing to work with Teachta Varadkar if he is willing to take meaningful action to deal with the issues, Gerry Adams said.
“However, if the prospective new Taoiseach will not do this – if he is convinced that the right-wing policies being pursued by this government have the support of the people – then he should put that belief to the test by calling a general election.”
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An initiative for dialogue
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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures