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Taoiseach Brian Cowen's final Dáil speech in full

The Taoiseach’s final address to the Dáil, announcing he will soon travel to the Áras to seek the dissolution of the 30th Dáil.

A Cheann Comhairle,

Mar a dúirt mé inné, níl sé i gceist agam seasamh don Dáil sa toghchán seo ag teacht. Is le meas agus le buíochas a sheasaim romhaimh inniú. Le meas ar an obair a dheantar sa Dáil seo, agus meas orthu siúd a dhéanann an obair sin. Agus le buíochas don tacaíocht agus cáirdeas a tugadh dom le linn mo 27 bliain anseo.

Thosaigh me sa Dáil sa bhliain 1984 tar éis bás m’athair. I rith na h-ama sin, rinne mé mo mhíle dícheall ar son pobal na tíre seo. Ba mhór an onóir dom bheith i mo Theachta Dála ar dtús, ansin i mo Aire, agus ar deireadh thiar mar Thaoiseach.

Fifty years ago, almost to the day, on 30th January 1961, John F Kennedy delivered his first State of the Union message, noting that the Members of Congress were “among my oldest friends …. and this House is my oldest home.”

These words resonate with me here today. I have made many great friends in this House, and this parliament and its traditions will always have my deepest respect. These are enduring friendships that go beyond politics and any debates or disagreements that we may have had about the issues of the day. It was for that reason that I decided to come into this House so that the 30th Dáil should conclude in plenary assembly.

It has been a privilege to serve the people of Ireland in our government. In every government department in which I served, my overriding objective was to do my best by the Irish people.

Politics is public service – and it is an honourable profession. I say that with sincerity, with conviction and from experience. I have no time for the cynics who talk down or belittle people in public life.

Members will be aware that I announced my decision yesterday not to contest the forthcoming election. It has been my immense privilege to represent the people of Laois-Offaly in this House for the past 27 years. I will be forever grateful for their loyalty and their support during good days and bad in my political life.

I also want to express my gratitude, on this my last day here, to my late father who gave me a great grounding in the values of community service and a love of politics.

I entered this parliament as a young man of 24 years of age.  I have been privileged to learn a lot since then from many fine public representatives on all sides of this chamber. I know from those years of experience that the vast majority of the representatives in this House, from all sides, do their utmost to serve the best interests of the people honestly and unselfishly.

The time is once again close at hand when the people will decide who to send here to represent them in the next Dáil. This election will define our economic future and it will decide whether Ireland moves forward from this recession or whether we prolong it or indeed succumb to it. The choice, in many ways, is that fundamental.

I urge the people to examine the policies being advanced by each of the parties and to cast their vote accordingly. This election should not be about personalities.  It should be about serious debate, reflection and the solemn business of democracy. It is my hope that over the course of the campaign we will conduct a mature, responsible debate, where we all show respect for each other and the democratic process.

All parties bear responsibility to be honest with the people about the solutions they propose to continue us on the pathway to recovery. And we all have a duty to give confidence to the people and not talk Ireland down for short-term political gain. This is especially so as there are still plenty of reasons for confidence in Ireland’s future, our potential and what we can achieve over the coming years.

Ireland’s economy retains very significant strengths:

  • we are the fifth best country in the world as measured by the UN
  • Human Development Index – which ranks 169 nations in terms of health, education and income;
  • we have the highest proportion of graduates in the European Union amongst the 25-34 age group;
  • our exports are performing better than ever;
  • US investment in Ireland is now greater than they have invested in Brazil, Russia, India and China combined;
  • Ireland’s stock of direct inward investment is five times greater than the OECD average;
  • our competitiveness has significantly improved;
  • we have clusters of the world’s leading multinational companies,
  • including household names such as IBM, Google, eBay, Intel and Facebook;
  • and Ireland is consistently in the world’s top ten places in which to open a business.

Our investment in science, technology and innovation is increasing productivity in our companies at home and helping to create the jobs of the future.

These are just a few reasons why the real Irish economy – which is an open, flexible, trading economy – will prosper in the future, if responsible policies continue to be pursued.

Peace on this island is another foundation upon which we can build.  The achievement of peace in Ireland has always been a collective, cross-party endeavour in this House. Peace is priceless – and we must continue to work collectively to protect it. The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, established by all of the people of this island in 1998, are now working as the people intended.

The successful conclusion of the Hillsborough Agreement on the devolution of policing and justice, which I was proud to play my part in negotiating, ably assisted on our government’s side by Fianna Fail’s new party leader, Micheál Martin, ensured that we will now see the longest-ever unbroken period of power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, when the Assembly elections are called in May.

I have always said that the genius of the Good Friday Agreement is that we agreed to go on a journey together, without predetermining the destination in advance. We must continue to take the journey together, in the new spirit of friendship, reconciliation and respect that is the essence of the Agreement.

Imbued with that spirit, I believe that the forthcoming decade of centenary anniversaries will be a time of reflection and renewal across this island – a time not for dwelling on a divisive internecine past, but a time for shaping a better future with deepening political co-operation across all major policy areas to our mutual benefit on this island.

Today is not a day for me to list achievements or engage in contentious debate.  But I do want to simply say that while the past two half years since I was elected Taoiseach have been a time of great trial and test, I believe we have worked hard to correct past failures and to secure the future recovery of our country.

I know some of the decisions my government had to take were not popular. But they had to be taken.

In making judgement, people should remember sometimes it is not just the content of policy that defines a political decision but its context too. And more than anything, it is the motivation that inspired that decision.

I believe politics is about serving the interests of the people first and last.  That was my motivation starting out in public life and I stayed true to it right to the end. In every decision I took, as Taoiseach, I can honestly say the common good was my overriding concern, and loyalty to this country and its people informed every choice I made.

I want to conclude by quoting the wise words of a man I came to know through his friendship with my late uncle, An t-Athair Aindriú.  I refer to the poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, whose book Benedictus contains a poem called “For a leader”.  I commend it to all in the House and particularly to those who will be in positions of leadership in the 31st Dáil:

May you have the grace and wisdom
To act kindly, learning
To distinguish between what is
Personal and what is not.

May you be hospitable to criticism.

May you never put yourself at the centre of things.

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May you act not from arrogance but out of service.

May you work on yourself,
Building up and refining the ways of your mind.

May those who work for you know
You see and respect them.

May you learn to cultivate the art of presence
In order to engage with those who meet you…

May you have a mind that loves frontiers
So that you can evoke the bright fields
That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.

May you have good friends
To mirror your blind spots.

May leadership be for you
A true adventure of growth

Dá fhad é an lá, titeann an oíche.

In conclusion, a Ceann Comhairle, I wish to inform the House as a matter of courtesy that I will proceed presently to Áras an Uachtaráin to advise the President, pursuant to Article 13 of the Constitution, to dissolve Dáil Éireann and to summon the incoming Dáil to meet at 12.00 midday on Wednesday, 9th March 2011.

As we have witnessed on our TV screens in recent weeks, there are people in many countries across the world who still fight for the opportunity to cast their ballot in a democratic election —so I hope the electorate will use the opportunity to cast their vote in the forthcoming General Election.

I wish those Members of the House who are not seeking re-election a very happy and healthy future. I wish all other Members well in their endeavours to return to the House. Go n-éirí libh go léir i bhur n-iarrachtaí. Agus duitse, a Cheann Comhairle, mo mheas agus mo bheannacht.

Mar fhocal scoir- ó pheann Raiftearaí, an file, “Anois teacht an earraigh, beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh, Is tar éis na féile Bríde, ardóidh mé mo sheol.”

Go raibh maith agat a Cheann Comhairle.

How Brian Cowen bowed out – and how the other party leaders waved goodbye>

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