Simon Harris: We need Dublin Bay South to elect a Government TD

Dáil numbers are tight and the last thing we want now is instability – there is too much to do

Housing was the key issue on the doorsteps as the candidates entered the final week of the Dublin Bay South byelection. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

It is no exaggeration to say Covid-19 has been seismic for the country, our economy, our society, our health and education systems, and our political system too.

The pandemic curtailed the way we interact and engage. It made us all realise how interdependent we are.

Simon Harris retained his seat in Wicklow for the third consecutive election. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Simon Harris is Minister for Further and Higher Education and Fine Gael director of elections for the Dublin Bay South byelection. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

After a long and difficult 18 months, we are emerging from the darkest of times and it has allowed us – politicians – to be outside once again talking, listening and learning.

And what I’ve learned is, there is no going back “to how things were”. The hackneyed phrase “new normal” must be consigned to the past.

Like all effective partnerships, it has taken time to settle but the Government is pursuing a really ambitious programme. United in one aim. To deliver for the country

We are now as a country creating our future – a better future – together as we emerge from this pandemic.

The priorities I can hear on the doors and streets of Dublin Bay South mirror the priorities set out by Government.

How can we help those who have lost their jobs get back to old jobs or secure new, sustainable employment?

How will small- and medium-sized businesses prosper once more as we rebuild?

What does quality of life mean now? How do we care for our elderly? What role does remote working have in our future? Can we have a childcare system that works for all families? Can we get on top of the housing crisis, can we have a cleaner country with a better transport system?

Dublin Bay South byelection

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What opportunities are there for young people to follow their dreams in education, work and family life?

These are the challenges this Government is facing as we look to a country post- pandemic.

The difficulties we are facing are unprecedented. We need a Government that can meet and overcome the greatest challenges of our time: rebuilding a better economy and society, and addressing existential crises such as digitalisation and climate change.

Like all effective partnerships, it has taken time to settle but the Government is pursuing a really ambitious programme. United in one aim. To deliver for the country.

Instead of partisan politics, we are working together to make big decisions and deliver for the people.

Our first and foremost priority is housing and ensuring those who wish to own their own home have the chance to and offering renters more security. In the last few weeks, we have passed legislation to establish a new Land Development Agency, to build affordable homes on public lands, we have changed the law to restrict rent increases and remove obstacles to renters.

Hugely important too is the national economic plan. Last month, the Tánaiste launched the blueprint for our economic recovery. It is about restoring jobs and creating new ones, particularly in construction and the green economy. But it is not just economic growth, it is about building a lasting dividend from the pandemic with the move to a living wage, sick pay, occupational pensions for all workers and remote and flexible working.

Climate remains one of the greatest challenges the world is facing and we are introducing new laws to set binding targets on us all. This means better public transport, more cycle lanes, less waste, less plastic, more sustainability.

And our biggest job is to create a society and an economy that reflects the loneliness, vulnerability, worry and anxiety people have endured over the past 18 months.

We should be able to debate policy and ideas without stereotyping people and political parties

A society that ensures you, your family and your community are cared for and respected. An economy that is sustainable and works for you.

This is how mature, well-run, modern democracies work with compromise, consensus and determination to deliver.

I respect many across the opposition benches. Right now though, at this moment in our country’s history, stable government has never been more important. This Government does not have a large majority. We need the people of Dublin Bay South to elect a Government TD to help us advance our work and be a strong voice for their communities.

Contrary to the one-sided criticism levelled against him in a column in this newspaper on Monday, James Geoghegan is that voice.

Two years ago, he put his name forward for the local elections. The electorate evaluated what he stood for and he emerged successful. Since then he has worked to instil change including: helping establish a cross-departmental taskforce for a city centre recovery plan, voted for more than 3,000 homes and successfully sought higher State subsidy for affordable homes to buy and rent on public land.

We should be able to debate policy and ideas without stereotyping people and political parties.

When the people of Dublin Bay South come to vote on Thursday, they have a choice to make. Between another Opposition TD in the Dáil or a Fine Gael Government TD who can help us get things done.

Dáil numbers are tight. We don’t need to in any way bring about instability or provide another vote for the Opposition to try bring down the Government. There is too much to do.

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