Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd was the first Oireachtas member from Louth to address the new Dáil Éireann on Thursday afternoon, where he urged members to support Leo Varadkar’s nomination to continue as Taoiseach.
During a lengthy afternoon sitting in which four parties – Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party – all put forward nominations for Taoiseach, many new and returning TDs addressed the Dáil for the first time upon it’s resumption.
The process of nominating of a new Taoiseach was moot and undertaken as a matter of course, considering no nominee is expected to get anywhere near the majority vote of 80 needed to take the position.
O’Dowd, who was considered to be in the running for Ceann Comhairle before ruling himself out of contention on Tuesday, spoke in support of the Fine Gael leader, who himself believes he will likely be leader of the opposition once, or if, a new government is formed.
The Drogheda-based TD spoke about Fine Gael’s delivery on new facilities at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and the economy before making what speaker Seán Ó Fearghaíl described as a “clarion call” for action against Ireland’s drug problems, something particularly in focus in the Louth constituency.
“Many things need to be done in Health but many things have also been done by this outgoing government. I have been elected here today, as have my Fine Gael colleagues, because of work that has been done,” O’Dowd said.
“If you look at the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, over 80 new beds have been opened there. There are five new operating theatres. There is a brand new A&E. There has been a huge improvement in services.
“As I speak here today, there are over 10,000 more people getting up to work in Louth this year than there was five years ago because of the significant improvement in our economy. I believe by electing Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach and putting Fine Gael back into office, that will continue.”
On the subject of Drogheda, O’Dowd said cross party collaboration was required to extinguish the serious crime and drug culture that poses a threat to young people, as recently seen in the murder of Drogheda teenager Keane Mulready-Woods.
“I speak obviously as a Dáil Deputy, elected for the fifth time. I am a father, I am a grandfather,” O’Dowd continued in his contribution.
“I have worked as a teacher for many, many years. I have never seen the crisis I see now with our young people. Never have I heard a Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan tell us that in his view, as a professional Garda Superintendent, that we will lose a whole generation of young people to our drug problem unless we deal with it more effectively and comprehensively.”
While O’Dowd was quick to praise his party for the work in alleviating the crisis at OLOL and removing thousands from the Live Register in Louth, he said there was much work to be done in ending the gangland feuds that continue in places like Drogheda and north Dublin.
“I know from the violence and the violent, evil actions in my own town where people have been shot, people have been murdered and bodies have been dismembered – it is absolutely unacceptable in our society that that should continue.
“Young people, we need to offer them hope.We need to offer them a real future. We need to fight crime, we need to defeat it. We can only do that by engaging fully with the needs of our young people. We need to do it now.
“We need to all work together. We need it with Slaintecare, let’s do it with our drug problem. We need to make sure that the next generation of young people will be safe, will be secure and will be happy and fulfilled in their lives as we have had the good luck to in ours.