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Varadkar today
Dáil Éireann

Varadkar's parting speech: 'Most if not all' of Ireland's recent problems had external origins

Varadkar told the Dáil he “always knew” Simon Harris would be Taoiseach one day.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Apr

LEO VARADKAR ADDRESSED the Dáil for the final time today as Taoiseach before handing the reins to Simon Harris.

In his speech he focused on what he saw as Fine Gael’s, and his own achievements, during his time in office and offered some advice to his fellow politicians, encouraging them to be more respectful of each other. 

Varadkar wished incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris every success in the role and said he “always knew” the Wicklow TD would be Taoiseach one day. 

“This is perhaps coming a little bit sooner than he might have planned or expected, but I know he will rise to the occasion.

“He has empathy, energy, experience, campaigning skills and political antennae to take us forward. And I look forward to voting for him and the new Cabinet in the house later today. Go raibh míle maith agat,” Varadkar said to a standing ovation.

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Varadkar, who has been leader of Fine Gael since 2017, thanked his staff and his party for choosing him to be their leader and for their support over the past seven years. 

He gave a special thanks to Minister Simon Coveney who leaves Government today also. 

He also thanked the Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, noting that the historic coalition “ended civil war politics in our politics”. 

Varadkar said he thinks this Government will be a model for future “coalition’s of equals” in this state and elsewhere.

Varadkar went on to offer a number of reflections on his time as leader. 

“The first is that Ireland is a great country.

We’ve been a stable and continuous democracy for over 100 years, one of only a handful in the world. We have our problems, but we are free and prosperous and safe, with huge opportunities for our citizens.

That would have been unimaginable in the past,” he said.

Varadkar added: “We’re not a failed state. We are a great state. We should love it, protect it and build on all that’s been achieved since independence to make it better still.”

External problems

Varadkar went on to discuss some of the problems facing Ireland in recent years, and argued that most have had an external origin. 

He told the Dáil: “Most if not all of the problems that we faced in the past 15 years have been international or external in origin or have had an international dimension to them.

“The banking and financial crash, Brexit, the pandemic, inflation, the energy crisis, climate change, and migration. These are all problems with an external origin. Even challenges like health and housing that are more domestic in nature, have a strong international element too.”

He continued: 

“Health services are under pressure all over the world due to rising and ageing populations, the development of new and often expensive treatments and the global skill shortage. Ireland is not an outlier on health.”

On housing, Varadkar said:

“And when it comes to housing, much of the problems we face are linked to changes in the way that housing construction and purchase have been financed. As well as rising populations and incomes, there was a prolonged period of low interest rates and internationalization of how new home building and mortgages are funded, which has meant profound changes in rental and housing markets globally.

He added: “Ireland is an island, but it’s not a separate planet.

And it’s a fallacy to believe that most of our problems are homegrown, or due to any particular political party or ideology. They’re mostly global mega-trends.

We’re a small ship on a big restless ocean, and we needed that ship to be crewed by good people.”

Warnings about national security 

Varadkar also dedicated a portion of his final speech to the threats facing Europe and Ireland currently. 

He noted that European leaders are seeing “very dark clouds on the near horizon”.

“For the first time in decades, we have a full scale war in Europe with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Sweden has abandoned 200 years of neutrality.  Finland has joined NATO,” Varadkar said. 

“Some European countries are debating the reintroduction of national service, others raising taxes, cutting expenditure and reducing holidays to pay for increased defence spending. 

“European leaders I speak to see very dark clouds on the near horizon.  They may be wrong.  I hope they are wrong.  We cannot assume they are or ignore the growing risks of a world in which democracy is in retreat and autocrats more powerful,” he said.

He added: “Our geography and neutrality does not protect us in the way it did in the past and the nature of security threats has changed utterly.  We have to be prepared for the consequences of an attack on an EU country and how we would respond.”

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