I firstly want to warmly congratulate President elect Michael D Higgins on being elected the 9th President of Ireland.He will be an outstanding President for all the people of this State. I also want to recognise his strong links to County Clare having been raised in Ballycar, Newmarket-On-Fergus and having gone to school in Ballycar and St. Flannan’s College, Ennis. I was delighted to pass on my congratulations to Michael D’s brother John at the count centre in the Clare Inn on Friday evening.
The Presidential election was a major disappointment for Fine Gael. We have had far better days in electoral terms and must now reflect as a party on this election. I believe Gay Mitchell to be a fine politician – a man of principle who has been a very strong voice for his constituents. However, the Irish public wanted something different from their President.
In relation to both referendums, I am delighted firstly that the vote on Judge’s pay was strongly passed. This will ensure that Irish society continues to be a more equal one in terms of pay and salaries. I am disappointed naturally with the way the other constitutional amendment went. Fine Gael came to power with a mandate of reform. We pledged to reform the way politics works in this country. As part of that process, in this referendum, we asked the people to give the Oireachtas more powers to lead investigations and in so doing avoid the expensive Tribunals of the past. Clearly there were aspects of the Oireachtas Inquiries Referendum which did not connect with voters and we need to reflect on them. We must accept this result, learn the lessons and move on with the job of building a better Ireland.