Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Fein, criticized the decision to nominate Leo Varadkar for Taoiseach and called for a general election instead of a rotation of the position. She argued that the coalition government could try to postpone significant changes in the country, but would not be able to stop them. McDonald also accused the government of being disconnected from the public, lacking innovative ideas, and being outdated, and challenged the outgoing Taoiseach’s assertion that the government was effective in addressing the country’s issues. She also disputed his claim that there were no simple solutions 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 assessments 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 Fail and Fine Gael not only over the last two and a half years but since you joined together in 2016 (when Fianna Fail 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.”
Irish 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 the 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 (Micheal Martin) to the tanaiste (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 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 Fail and Fine Gael.”
People Before Profit/Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett also criticized the government’s record.
He said Fine Gael and Fianna Fail 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.”