Friday 24 November 2017

'The government will not be right or left but of the new European centre' - Leo Varadkar is officially Ireland's Taoiseach

'The country as we know it would not be here today if it was not for Enda Kenny' - Varadkar

Leo Varadkar and Michael D Higgins Credit: Steve Humphries
Leo Varadkar and Michael D Higgins Credit: Steve Humphries
Leo Varadkar and Michael D Higgins Credit: Steve Humphries
President Michael Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Credit: Steve Humphries
Leo Varadkar and Michael D Higgins Credit: Steve Humphries
Leo Varadkar announced as Taoiseach. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Leo Varadkar congratulated by colleagues. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Leo Varadkar elected as Taoiseach of the Dail. Picture: Maxwell Photography
John Downing

John Downing

Leo Varadkar has been elected as Ireland's new Taoiseach by 57 votes to 50, with 47 abstentions.

"The country as we know it would not be here today if it was not for Enda Kenny," he said following the vote.

The Fine Gael leader, who now becomes the 14th Taoiseach, said he took his seat in the Dáil exactly 10 years to the day, today.

"For some politics is a bad word, but we've seen in some countries, and this one, that it can be a way to convince people that change is possible," he said.

Watch Leo Varadkar's first Dáil address as Ireland's new Taoiseach.

Posted by Independent.ie on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"Today was a demonstration of democracy in action. Something we sometimes take for granted.

"I hope through our acts and the progress we achieve, we can earn the trust of the people."

"If we want to inspire somebody to believe in your vision you have to appeal to their heart as well as their head.

"The Government I lead will not be of the Left or the Right. It will be of the new European centre. A Republic of opportunities."

The Dáil was then suspended until 6.30pm as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar travelled to Áras an Uachtaráin to receive his seal of office after 1pm.

He will alert new ministers about their jobs between 4 and 6pm, in an expected reshuffle of the Cabinet.

Taoiseach

He is the country’s youngest ever Taoiseach.

Enda Kenny’s last act as head of the Irish Government earlier this morning was to nominate Leo Varadkar to succeed him as Taoiseach.

“As our youngest Taoiseach, he represents a modern, diverse and inclusive Ireland and speaks for them like no other,” Mr Kenny, who is aged 66 said.

Mr Kenny said he knew Leo Varadkar, who is aged 38, since his election to Fingal County Council in 2004 and especially since he was first elected a TD in 2007. He said Mr Varadkar had the drive and commitment needed to succeed in politics.

Leo Varadkar was seconded by one of the Dáil’s newest TDs, Josepha Madigan of Dublin Rathdown, who was elected in February 2016.

Ms Madigan said Leo Varadkar was “honest, genuine with a first class intellect.”

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, congratulated the incoming Taoiseach earlier today and noted that it was a very special day for his family. Mr Martin also joked that Mr Varadkar had been wise not to choose new Fine Gael TD, Noel Rock, to nominate him for Taoiseach.

Deputy Rock had to nominate Enda Kenny for Taoiseach four times last year before Enda Kenny was finally elected on May 6, 2016.

But Mr Martin set down a marker for the new Taoiseach warning him that soundbites and media leaks were not enough for good government.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams began by warmly congratulating Mr Varadkar and welcomed his family to Leinster House on “a proud day for them.”

But Mr Adams then quickly went on the attack, stressing that he feared the new Taoiseach “would drag Fine Gael to the left.”  He criticised Mr Varadkar’s record as Health Minister and Social Protection Minister.

The Sinn Féin leader warned that Mr Varadkar had in the past mistakenly engaged in abuse and invective during Dáil exchanges.

“I hope the new Taoiseach does not repeat that mistake. I think he is a decent man. I wish him well,” Mr Adams said.

Mr Adams also joked that both he and Leo Varadkar once attended the same Pilates class. “I don’t think we could get the former Taoiseach to stretch that far,” he further joked.

Mr Adams also urged the new Taoiseach to emulate the late former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, and take bold initiatives on Northern Ireland.

Also for Sinn Féin, Dublin-Fingal TD, Louise O’Reilly, struck a particularly harsh note by castigating the new Taoiseach’s record as Health and later Social Protection Minister. She noted that he had failed to win the support of his party membership in the leadership election.

“I note that failure and unpopularity is no bar to winning the leadership of Fine Gael,” she said. Ms O’Reilly wished him well but did not believe he could succeed as Taoiseach.

Labour Party leader, Brendan Howlin, paid a warm personal tribute to the new Taoiseach and wished him and his partner well. Mr Howlin said the election of a gay man and son of immigrant reflected well on the Irish Republic.

But Mr Howlin warned that the current Government was rowing back from progress by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition of 2011-2016.

“It is my hope that you can re-start the ‘engine of government,’” Mr Howlin said. But he added that the new Taoiseach was getting off to a bad start by deciding to adjourn the new Dáil until next Tuesday.

Former Labour leader, Joan Burton, who is a Dublin West constituency colleague, warmly welcomed the new Taoiseach’s parents and his partner. She said their constituency was the “most diverse part of Ireland” with a huge population from all over the world.

“Dublin West encompasses many of the problems now facing modern Ireland,” she said.

People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, said he had no wish to be mean spirited on a special day for Leo Varadkar and his family. But he reminded the Dáil of families living in poverty and urged an abandonment of the “politics of personality” and a new focus on the issues.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, also a Dublin West constituency colleague, said Mr Varadkar would be “greatly surprised” to hear she would not support him for Taoiseach.

She warned him that when he reached that high office he would see just how “rotten and corrupt” the system really is.

Independent Clare TD, Dr Michael Harty, who had voted for Enda Kenny for Taoiseach last year, said he was abstaining in this vote. He wanted to draw attention to lack of urgency on health reform and rural development.

Tipperary Independent, Mattie McGrath, drew the new Taoiseach's attention to the "Who" song entitled "Won't Get Fooled Again."  He warned against supporting efforts to cut Independent TDs' Dáil speaking time and also said that he had a record of under-achievement in his previous jobs as transport and health minister.

Kerry Independent, Michael Healy-Rae, said he had reluctantly agreed to Mr Varadkar’s request that he abstain in the vote to help his election as Taoiseach. He reminded the new Taoiseach that “the world does not stop at the Red Cow roundabout.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he regretted they could not back him for Taoiseach. He said despite all sorts of modern hobbies and practices – Mr Varadkar was “too right-wing” and without “green instincts.”

Former Fine Gael Minister and Independent Tipperary TD, Michael Lowry, said he had backed the last government and would also back Leo Varadkar for Taoiseach.

He utterly rejected comments of Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who had warned the Government against accepting Mr Lowry’s support. He said he had no doubt those comments were motivated by his Labour Tipperary rival, Alan Kelly. 

“I have exactly the same entitlements to access the facilities of government as anyone else in this House,” he said. Mr Lowry added that he had discussions with Mr Varadkar on two occasions based on the Programme for Government.

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