Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Gerry Adams TD speech on the nomination of An Taoiseach

14 June, 2017 - by Gerry Adams TD


Go raibh maith agat Ceann Comhairle,

Never in the history of this state has the need for a progressive head of government been more essential.

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 Siochana.

All demand a reforming Taoiseach.

To represent all of the people. Not just some of the people.

It 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.

So today, the question is what kind of leader are we getting in Leo Varadkar?

I have already expressed my fear that Teachta Varadkar will drag this government even further to right.

As Minister for Social Protection, when he should have been working to protect the most vulnerable, he used his position to make their lives even harder.

More recently, he spent over two hundred thousand euro of public money on a campaign which suggested that welfare fraud is rife in this state.

That has since been proved to be untrue.

This attitude contrasts sharply with Fine Gael’s attitude to white collar crime and corporate tax dodging.

In his time as Minister for Health, Teachta Varadkar failed to tackle a crisis that left patients languishing on trolleys and tens of thousands more waiting months for vital treatments.

He presided over a two tier health service and the privatisation agenda at the heart of government policy.

A couple of weeks ago he claimed that the health service does not require significantly increased investment.

This is despite knowing that billions have been cut from the health budget since 2011.

There are now 3,200 fewer nurses and midwives that there in 2008.

Services for citizens with disabilities, for other vulnerable citizens – including children, have been vandalised.

During the Fine Gael leadership contest, Teachta Varadkar said that Sinn Féin represents the biggest threat to democracy. That is nonsense and he knows it.

This chamber is a little theatre.

It lends itself to theatrics and play-acting.

Most of the media reflect this. I do not blame them for that.

The politics of the soundbite rules.

Most of us can play that game.

But this chamber is also a bubble - detached from the lives of citizens. A silo.

Sometimes, the politics takes the form of cheap-shots.

Of slander, demonisation, playing to the lowest common denominator.

The first term of this government saw lots of that.

The political discourse was cheapened and coarsened as a result.

I hope the new Taoiseach does not repeat that mistake.

I think he is a decent man.

I do not know him well.

Though he and I once attended the same Pilates class.

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.

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.

I would commend the example of the late Albert Reynolds.

He was the first Taoiseach to make the difference when the peace process needed it.

When others talked the talk, Albert walked the walk.

He was able to do so because he had an affinity with the North.

Because in many ways, he was not enthral to the system.

But especially because he was new to the office.

So 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.

This means turning away from the politics of austerity and cuts in favour of investment in our people and the rebuilding of vital public services.

It means ending poverty and disadvantage.

Leo Varadkar could be a Taoiseach who sees the level of homelessness and the state of our health services, and says, “No more. Not on my watch.”

He could be the Taoiseach who invests in Rural Ireland.

Ba chóir go mbeadh mar gcuspóir aige Éire níos fear a chothú agus níos cothroime do chách a thógáil.

Where no child has to calls a hotel room home.

Becoming Taoiseach gives the person in that office an opportunity to do great things.

Like ending discrimination against women.

The Eighth Amendment is a relic of the past.

It has to go. It must be replaced with compassion.

I am asking you to get behind the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment and to enact legislation.

Greatness is not determined by status or power.

It is determined by how well you treat those who can do nothing for you.

But that involves going against the direction set by the establishment.

It means tackling the crisis in housing by delivering social housing and tackling extortionate rents.

It means investing in our health service to ensure that access to treatment is solely on the basis of medical need and not on the size of your income.

It means making the economy work for the citizens.

It means really reforming the administration of policing and justice.

This has to start with the removal of the Garda Commissioner.

The policy and the position of the political system here is very partitionist.

After almost one hundred years of the existence of this state, that is hardly surprising.

It is also self-serving and selfish.

A visionary Taoiseach would foster a real affinity and a spirit of solidarity with the North.

With all sections of the people there.

The Good Friday Agreement defines the relationship on this island and between these islands.

A vigilant and truly patriotic Taoiseach would promote and protect that agreement against all comers, including those in Downing Street who have undermined, and who are prepared to abandon, this cornerstone international treaty for transient and temporary political power.

A visionary Taoiseach would facilitate a referendum as soon as possible to allow for citizens in the North and the diaspora to vote in Presidential elections.

He will allow for Northern MPs, who want to, to have speaking rights in the Dáil as was agreed in 2003.

Turning the tide of an entire political agenda, which has been in place since partition, will take courage, vision and determination.

Tá an rogha leatsa, Teachta Varadkar.

You will soon have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across this island who need it most.

Ná cuir amú é.

You said recently 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.’

You also recognised the vote of the people of the North to remain part of the European Union.

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.

Sinn Féin will not be supporting this nomination for Taoiseach.

But I look forward to working with Teachta Varadkar on the basis that he is willing to take meaningful action to deal with the issues.

However, if the prospective new Taoiseach will not do this, if he is convinced that the right-wing policies currently 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.

Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat Teachta Varadkar.

Do mhaithe na Tíre, táim dáiríre faoi sin.

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