Taoiseach pledges ‘recovery and renewal’ at centre of new Government’s priorities

Micheál Martin says wife Mary has been his ‘pillar of support and partner since college days’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been elected Taoiseach by 93 votes to 63, with three abstentions, in a historic Dáil vote which has taken place in Dublin’s Convention Centre. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

New Taoiseach Micheál Martin has pledged that “recovery and renewal” are at the centre of the new Government’s priorities.

Addressing the Dáil, assembled in the Convention Centre in Dublin rather than Leinster House due to social distancing requirements, Mr Martin said the coronavirus pandemic “is the fastest moving recession ever to hit our country and to overcome it we must act with urgency and ambition”.

The new Taoiseach, speaking ahead of his trip to Áras an Uachtaráin to receive his seal of office, said there are “nearly 900,000 of our people wholly or partly relying on special pandemic payments”.

There was no question about the Government’s most urgent work, which was to “move forward rapidly to secure a recovery to benefit all of our people”.

He acknowledged the work of the outgoing government and “especially Minister for Health Deputy Simon Harris and outgoing Taoiseach Deputy Leo Varadkar”.

“But there is much more that we can and must do to help our society and our economy to recover.”

He said that, starting today, helping society and economy to recover “will be at the very centre of everything the new Government will do”.

The new Taoiseach said the three coalition parties - Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens - come from very different traditions. “We do not and could not be expected to agree on everything. However, we have been able to agree on core democratic principles and on a balanced and comprehensive programme.

“We are conscious of the fact that must work hard to build trust with each other and with the people we have a duty and privilege to serve.”

He added: “At the same time, we know that there are other great challenges which we faced before the pandemic and which remain to be overcome.

“Too many of our people cannot find a decent and affordable place to live. Waiting times for urgent treatments are far too long. Our communities, our families, our young people need support to be able to thrive in a rapidly changing modern economy.

“And we must tackle the existential crisis posed by climate change.”

In an at-times emotional address, he thanked his party and the other parties and Independent TDs who supported him.

“Most of all I want to thank my family and my community. Without them I could have achieved nothing.

“My wife Mary has been a pillar of support and a partner for me since our days in college.

“Our children have tolerated my many absences over the years. As they have grown, studied and experienced the world they have not just supported me, they have given Mary and I the benefit of their views of the Ireland which they have grown up with.”

And he paid tribute to his working class background and his parents, who he said had taught him and his siblings “the importance of persistence, of optimism and of always understanding that Cork will soon win another double”.