Sinn Féin says it is time for a general election, not a switch of taoiseach

Mary Lou McDonald led opposition criticism of the handover of power from Micheál Martin to Leo Varadkar.
Sinn Féin says it is time for a general election, not a switch of taoiseach

By David Young, PA

Sinn Fein’s leader said the country needs a general election, not a Government rotation of taoiseach, as she led opposition criticism of Leo Varadkar’s nomination.

Mary Lou McDonald said the coalition could try to delay real change in the country, but said they could not halt it.

As polls continue to show Sinn Féin as the most popular party, its party president launched a scathing criticism of the Government during the special Dáil sitting to elect Mr Varadkar as taoiseach for a second time.

Accusing the Coalition of being “out of touch, out of ideas and out of time”, Ms McDonald questioned outgoing taoiseach Micheál Martin’s claim that the Government was delivering.

She also challenged his claim that there were no easy answers to Ireland’s problems.

“You all say that there are no easy answers, but I don’t think that’s an acceptable response to those mothers frantic because their children wait and wait for vital surgery, for essential services, for assessment of needs, to families distressed because they can’t pay the latest bill, the mortgage repayment or afford the rent, to a child growing up in a B&B or a hotel room,” she said.

“Yes, there are no easy answers, but there are answers, solutions that a government with the right priorities would grasp with both hands, but instead you chose to ignore them.

“The policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael not only over the last two and a half years but since you joined together in 2016 (when Fianna Fáil agreed to support a Fine Gael government in a confidence and supply deal) have driven these crises.

“So, to dress up your failure as progress is to insult ordinary people who live with the consequences of those failures.

“Rather than being accountable, rather than facing up to reality, you point the fingers at others, you hide behind excuses, you present alibis for not getting the work done.

“It’s a cop-out, gentlemen, so typical of the parties who have passed power between each other for a century.”

She added: “We should now have a general election because we need a change of government.”

Ms McDonald claimed the coalition was clinging to power.

“Make no mistake, you can’t prevent the new dawn breaking, the light of a better tomorrow burns brightly,” she said.

“You can stand in the way of change. You can refuse to budge. You can slow it down. You can make the people wait a little longer, but you cannot and you will not stop that change.”

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said the handover at the top of Government was only a “cosmetic” change.

“We in Labour cannot support the Fine Gael nomination at this change over time, we do not believe that this changeover, so called, represents anything but a cosmetic change at a time when we do need to see a real and substantial change in the policies and the solutions proposed by government,” she said.

“Because we in Labour know, as people across the country know, that this government is not delivering an Ireland that works for all, an Ireland of equality.”

Catherine Murphy, the co-leader of Social Democrats, said the rotation at the top of government did not represent real change.

“It’s more like a roundabout, with the government going around in circles,” she said.

Ms Murphy added: “People want genuine change, not a repackaging of stale parties or policies as something new.

“This handing over the baton from yourself (Micheál Martin) to the Tánaiste (Leo Varadkar) does not represent real change. Most people in society will not feel a difference. They probably won’t even see a difference. Even your own cabinet members, most of whom are remaining in situ, will barely feel the change.

“This rotation of taoiseach will not serve the people out there who need new politics informed by the values of social democracy that delivers for them.

“The only thing it will achieve is finally sounding the death knell for Civil War politics after a century and the pretence that there was ever any real difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

People Before Profit/Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett also criticised the government’s record.

He said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had “protected the interests of the few over the many”.

“I don’t wish to be ungracious, but this is not a time for standing ovations,” he said.

“It’s not a time for self-congratulation, because we are living in one of the richest countries in the world.

“And yet one in five of our population are living at risk of poverty.”

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