Taoiseach's acceptance speech

 

Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, in Dáil Éireann on Thursday, 14 June, 2007 accepting his nomination for Taoiseach in the 30th Dáil

A Cheann Comhairle,

Is cúis mór áthais domsa seasamh anseo inniu ós chomhair na Dála mar Thaoiseach. Is mór an onoir, an phribhléid agus an dualgas atá orm ceart a dhéanamh ar son muintir na hEireann agus cuirfidh an Rialtas nua seo chun oibre le fuinneamh. I express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the Dáil for the great honour it has conferred on me by electing me Taoiseach. I am deeply conscious of the important responsibility this honour places on me. It is my first duty and my great pleasure upon being nominated by Dáil Éireann for the office of Taoiseach to congratulate you on your election by the House as Ceann Comhairle. Your long years of experience as a Deputy, together with your experience as a Minister, will equip you well for the important office to which you have been elected. Deputies from every side of the House can have full confidence that in you we will have a fair and an impartial champion.

For my part, I pledge you the respect and cooperation upon which the effective discharge of our parliamentary business depends.

I wish you well in your new and important position. On 24th May, democracy took its course and the Irish people went to the polls and elected the 30th Dáil.

The exercise of democracy, as prescribed by the constitution, is fundamental to the stability of our country and to the legitimacy of our government. Though our free, transparent and peaceful exercise of the democratic franchise is happily the norm, it should never be taken for granted.

It is worth remembering as we meet for the first time today that Ireland enjoys a longer period of continuity under a single written constitution than any other European country.

From a perspective of peace and prosperity, the abiding memory today of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s may be of economic hardship and emigration. But we should recall too that in a world at war and a European continent oppressed by fascism and communism, that Ireland's proudest achievement then was the establishment of stable democracy. It remains one of Ireland's proudest achievements now.

Ireland's democracy, established with such firm political purpose by those who fought for and those who established this Republic, is the foundation for all we enjoy. Today, for myself and on behalf of all those who share the privilege of being elected to the 30th Dáil, I want to acknowledge those who have gone before us and left so much of lasting value behind.

Every generation has made its contribution to the unfolding story of Irish history. Today, it is fitting to recall and to salute those who served in the 29th Dáil and who are not here today. Many former deputies stepped down after long years of service. Others suffered the bruising and very public pain of political defeat. All made their own contribution to public life. I salute them, their families and their political supporters and I wish them well in the future.

Today is an occasion of great honour for every deputy who has been elected as a representative of the people. This is especially so for those who are taking their seat in the Dáil for the first time today. You have come here to Leinster House with your families and your supporters, who are looking down on you from the visitor's gallery with a justified sense of pride in your election. You carry not only their high hopes but also the high hopes of the community who elected you. You are the ministers and the taoisigh of the future and in years to come the turn of events will hinge on your decisions.

For myself, I am greatly honoured to have been elected ten times in thirty years by the people of Dublin Central. I promise that I will continue to do my utmost to repay the trust that has been placed in me and to continue to serve my own community to the very best of my ability.

I also want to pay tribute today to my political opponents on the benches opposite. Political battles are hard fought and a general election is especially so. Deputy Enda Kenny and Deputy Pat Rabbitte made their case to the people and they did so with all the strength and passion of people who were genuinely persuaded of their cause. For my part, I respect their convictions, I respect them and today I want to wish them and their families well in the future.

I welcome the opportunity to serve the people in the years ahead with colleagues from the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats, with the support of others who see the merits of our Programme.

A Cheann Comhairle, today, we live in an Ireland of unprecedented peace and prosperity. This has not happened by chance. Through every single day of the past decade, the quest for peace has been the single dominating purpose of my public life and of the work of government.

Today, I pledge again as I have before, that the cause of peace will be the cause that is always closest to my heart. During these past weeks, attention has understandably been focused on the course of the general election.

In the future, I believe a far greater regard will be given by history, to the new and glad departure in the relations between unionist and nationalist and between North and South on this island. There now exists between British and Irish, nationalist and unionist, an agreed consensus on our shared future. It is not an end of history but it is a new beginning.

The work of this Dáil and of the Government which I will shortly nominate is to shape and to strengthen that shared and better future. In doing so, we can begin to put the divisions of the past permanently behind us. All of the island of Ireland including Northern Ireland can be a place of peace and of promise.

Today, Ireland stands as a strong economy in a global market place. We enjoy the full employment, the good wages and the promising opportunities of which the generations that secured our independence and who built our democracy could only dream. Now our opportunity and our duty is to secure our prosperity and to use it to build a better Ireland. By promoting a strong economy, by enabling individual enterprise and by increasing investment in public services, we can continue to build not only a strong economy, we can build upon the foundations already laid for a stronger and fairer Ireland.

Wealth creation is not an end in itself. Rather it is the engine that drives improvements in our social services - giving us the money to increase child benefit, build more playgrounds and sports facilities, deliver pension increases, improve services for children and adults with disabilities and ensure that our strong economy is grounded on a sustainable environment so that together we can all enjoy a sustainable future.

A sound economy is the essential bedrock of social progress. It is the foundation for all our ambitions - in health, enterprise, welfare or education. In a world with higher interest rates, higher energy costs and increasing competition from emerging economies, success cannot be assumed and prosperity cannot be taken for granted.

Today, I pledge that the Government I will lead will work to protect prosperity and strive to ensure that Ireland's potential, all our potential, is achieved. In doing so, I look forward to achieving with the social partners the challenging goals we agreed in Towards 2016. I also look forward to leading the public service into a new phase of modernisation and change to the benefit of all our people.

On this occasion five years ago, I said that, "high office does not confer upon its holder either a monopoly of wisdom or the benefit of hindsight". It has certainly proved to be so. But I take courage from all the lessons I have learnt from life including my life in politics. I especially take heart that I have learnt from experience that effort is rewarded and that if you stay the course, difficult goals can be reached.

A Cheann Comhairle, today I am honoured and humbled by the democratic mandate which the Irish people have given me. It is an honour I will work with all my might to repay. And so it is with great pride and an acute sense of responsibility that I accept the nomination of Dáil Éireann for the office of Taoiseach.