Ceann Comháirle, before we begin I would like to express my deepest sympathies and those of the government to the family and loved ones of Private Seán Rooney. In addition, our thoughts today are also with Trooper Shane Kearney who was critically injured in the attack.
I know that their colleagues are deeply shocked at the loss of their comrade.
In my conversation with President Higgins concerning the events of Wednesday, we talked about the remarkable service which Óglaigh na hÉireann have always provided. In his capacity as Commander in Chief, the President has always spoken of his deep appreciation for the men and women from all parts of our society who serve in our armed forces.
They have protected our democracy at home and brought honour to our country by representing our values abroad.
The loss of Private Rooney is truly shocking. He was a very committed young man who had many plans for the full life he had ahead of him. His family has, over many years, built a deep tradition of service in our armed forces
Private Seán Rooney served his country proudly and with honour.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h'anam dílis.
A Cheann Comháirle,
Ba mhian liom a chur in iúl don Teach gur thug mé fógra don Uachtarán ar maidin go raibh mé ag éirí as oifig an Taoisigh de réir Bhunreacht na hÉireann
This morning I visited the President and, pursuant to the relevant provisions of Bunreacht na hÉireann, I have tendered my resignation from the office of Taoiseach.
Today’s sitting will, quite reasonably, be very political in nature. The democratic mandate of this Dáil remains and we have much work left to do.
Diverse views are represented here. All sides of the House will express themselves in strong terms in support and in opposition to the proposals which we will vote on.
However, before we proceed, I would like to make a few comments.
We unfortunately live in an increasingly polarised world. Everybody who participates in public life knows the impact of the ever-faster rush to judge others and the rising sharpness with which comments are made.
I believe that we must not let this become the dominant way in which our public discourse is conducted. And within this, we must make time to acknowledge the good faith, dedication, and achievements of the many thousands in public service who work on behalf of the Irish people.
It is both a privilege and a responsibility to serve as head of government in a free and democratic republic. I have been deeply conscious of this every day I have held the office of Taoiseach.
I have sought always to work on behalf of all the Irish people and not just those who support my party and our colleagues in government.
June 2020 was a time unlike any other in the modern history of our country.
Ireland, just like the rest of the world, was grappling with a terrible pandemic which was touching every part of our society. The fastest moving recession ever recorded was underway.
Both fear and uncertainty were the daily reality for people concerned about the health and livelihoods of their loved ones.
The dramatic situation which we were confronted with, was reflected in the day when I and my colleagues secured the confidence of Dáil Éireann.
Exceptional measures were undertaken by the Ceann Comháirle and the staff of the Oireachtas to make sure that the basic of structures of our parliament could function.
For the first time, the Dáil met away from this chamber to elect a Taoiseach. Sitting apart and sharing little of the intimacy which distinguishes this place, we were also obliged to meet without our families, friends and supporters who normally define such an important day in our democracy.
The weeks and months which followed were intense and challenging as we worked to both build new working relationships and respond to the rapidly evolving emergencies on hand.
Tremendous dedication was shown by every person who was involved in not only keeping the work of government going but also in helping us to understand and react to new threats.
And in this, we saw the true spirit of public service which lies at the heart of the Irish government. Our public servants showed yet again their unmatched commitment to the wellbeing of the Irish people.
I would, in particular, like to acknowledge the support and excellent work of my staff and the staff of the Department of the Taoiseach. This was critical in ensuring that government managed the intensity of the challenges we were addressing
We did not, nor could we, get everything right in responding to the pandemic – but the facts show that Ireland was able to limit the terrible impact of the virus well below that seen in most comparable countries.
The implementation of one of the most successful vaccines programmes in the world required enormous coordination - ranging from our negotiations to secure supplies, to the thousands of medical professionals and support staff who administered vaccines in every community.
On various occasions during the pandemic, and particularly at the gravest moments, I spoke directly to the Irish people. I sought to be open and clear about what we knew and what we were proposing.
At even the hardest moments I tried to show that there was hope and my absolute belief that we would get through it together.
The sense of community and resilience of those days is something I will never forget.
It will always inspire me.
This government of three different democratic parties came to office with a detailed agreed programme. It respects our distinct priorities but creates common ground in a wide range of areas.
Government can only work if people trust each other and respect each other’s mandates.
As Taoiseach, I have tried to treat all office holders fairly and been available to consult and help whenever needed.
I want to thank Deputy Leo Varadkar and Deputy Eamon Ryan for the close and highly constructive way in which they have worked to ensure cooperation in the government.
The new system of cabinet committees put in place has required ministers to be more engaged with each other’s work and to address both the urgent and the long-term issues on our agenda.
I want to thank each minister and minister of state for their dedication and their cooperation.
In accordance with the agreement made between the parties, Paul Gallagher the Attorney General will be leaving his role.
I believe that he has been one of the great attorneys general. The range and depth of his legal knowledge is unmatched. His drive in ensuring that legislation was drafted as fast and as well as possible has been critical to action in areas as diverse as controlling the pandemic to addressing climate change.
Most of all, he has fulfilled the most important role which a government should seek from an attorney general, he has been direct and honest in his counsel – making sure that both the limits and possibilities of actions were understood.
I thank him for his support, his advice, and his service.
Ó laethanta m'óige suas go dti an lá atá inniu ann bhí meas agam ar agus grá ó chroí agam do shaibhreas na teanga Gaeilge agus do na codanna saibhre ar leith dár gcultúr dúchais náisiúnta.
Ba phribhléid agus onóir mhór dom mar Thaoiseach na hÉireann bualadh le daoine ó gach cearn den tír seo atá lárnach, gníomhach agus riachtanach sa ré nua bríomhar seo a cheapaim atá timpeall orainn i leith úsáid na Gaeilge, ní hamháín inár scoileanna ach i ngnáthshaol laethúil na tíre.
Ba mhaith liomsa mo mhórbhuíochas a ghabháil leo as a ndíograis agua a bhfonn agus an fuinneamh gan teorainn don teanga agus don chultúr a roinnt liom.
Ina theannta sin, caithfidh mé creidiúint agus aitheantas a thabhairt don ról a bhí ag na meáin Ghaeilge agus an pobal i réimse na healaíona chun a rá leo inniu, cé chomh buíoch is atáim as na naisc agus as na caidrimh le linn na ndúshlán go léir agus cora an tsaoil le dhá bhiain go leith anuas.
Is í m'aidhm agus mo chuspóir láidir na naisc agus na ceangail seo a choimeád sna blianta atá romhainn.
At the European Summit which concluded yesterday, I was very thankful for the kind words of the leaders. In filling this part of the role of Taoiseach I was at all times motivated to give voice to the very clear view of the vast majority of the Irish people that this is a European democracy, and that the success of the European Union is a priority for us.
With the support of the government, throughout the last two and half years I signalled to other leaders a renewed willingness on the part of Ireland to strengthen the Union – to help it to be more urgent and ambitious in its work.
Ireland has been to the forefront in promoting shared action in Europe on critical issues like creating new funding possibilities for economic recovery, insisting on the rule of law as a condition for all member states, and helping Europe to achieve energy independence based on sustainable energy supplies.
Ireland will not stand on the side-lines as the destructive populism of the extreme right and left seeks to damage a union which has been central to so much progress in the past half century.
Europe’s role in helping its citizens through the pandemic and becoming the world’s leader in sharing vaccines is a testament to how our Union remains strong and will continue to face down those who want to return to the days of destructive competition between states.
And today, we are living with the reality of a war against a European state by an imperial aggressor.
The resolve of the Ukrainian people has been an inspiration as has been the generosity of the Irish people in supporting them. This appalling war is the fault of one man, his government and an ideology which seeks to destroy the very possibility of free democracy.
The welcome which has been given to tens of thousands of refugees fleeing this war has been wonderful. It inevitably causes major pressures, but the values which are at stake are much bigger than the sacrifices which we must make while this assault on Ukraine is underway.
Undoubtedly one of the most important reasons why the Irish people have reacted with such strength in supporting Ukraine is because they remember our own struggle for independence.
During my time as Taoiseach the centenaries of many of the critical moments which shaped our modern history were commemorated. These have included many events which were characterised by deep divisions.
I believed it was important to engage in detail with these commemorations – to take the time to reflect on our past and how this influences our democracy.
Our history has often been used to try to justify current actions. Many have promoted the idea that history is about choosing sides in a single continuous narrative.
What this misses, is the diversity and change which has been central to Irish identity from the earliest times.
The great generation which secured our independence did not subscribe to an inflexible view of Irishness or our ambitions.
The founding charter of our freedom, the Proclamation of 1916, is unique when compared to the many such documents which emerged out of what was the greatest period of nation building ever seen in Europe.
This uniqueness was because it spoke of wanting to establish a democratic republic.
A republic where the nation was defined as inclusive of different traditions.
A republic which sought friendship and cooperation with others.
A republic which demanded that all who served in its name do so with honour.
This is a wonderful inheritance for us, and an inspiration as we face the historic challenge of seeking to overcome division on our island.
If there is one thing we should all be able to acknowledge, it is that if we genuinely believe in an Ireland which includes and serves all, then we must be prepared to build new bridges. We must be prepared to reach across divides and to do the hard work of learning to understand and respect each other far more than we have in the past.
We must stop making assumptions about each other and get to know each other.
That is why I have put such an emphasis on the Shared Island Initiative and why it has been established as a new unit, with dedicated funding, in the Department of the Taoiseach.
For the first time the hard and vital work of building a detailed understanding of cross border links and differences is being done. We are investing in links which bring people together and in innovation which is the key to addressing the legacy of disadvantage left behind by the years of conflict.
I want to thank the thousands who have participated in the Shared Island Dialogues and the often every direct conversations involved. And also, those who have developed the many Shared Island projects which are now underway.
I have had the privilege to hold this office because of my party and the thousands of Fianna Fáil activists throughout the country. I want to thank them and my colleagues here in the Oireachtas. Each of us here draws on different traditions. For us, we continue to be inspired by the great generation who met 96 years ago under Constance Markievicz as Chairperson, to found our democratic republican party.
As I finish this term in office, I would like most of all to thank my wife Mary and our family for the unfailing advice, support, and encouragement they have given me.
We have been blessed by the wonderful community of Cork, which has looked out for us and given me the strongest possible reassurance that all would be well as I spent so much time away.
Finally, Ceann Comháirle, I would like to say thank you to members of the Dáil. We have had many very robust exchanges here, but I have never ceased to be honoured to be a member of one of the democratic world’s oldest parliamentary chambers.
We have much work ahead of us for the rest of this Dáil’s term. I look forward to this and to continue our service on behalf of the Irish people.