‘Government intends to honour commitments to Donegal’

Joe McHugh with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

THE GOVERNMENT is intent on honouring its commitments to Donegal, the Minister for Education Mr Joe McHugh has said.
Minister McHugh took part in a cabinet meeting remotely from his Carrigart home on Tuesday but he’s travelling to Dublin for a sitting of the Dáil today.
What about all the promises made by the last government with regard to capital investments in Donegal after the latest economic crash?
“I believe that you have to spend your way out of a recession and that will require money but no matter what government is in place the big projects like the A5 and city status for Letterkenny-Strabane-Derry are still there.
“We spoke about it at cabinet on Tuesday – discussing how we will honour those commitments in the capital works programme. For example, we have plans for a new community hospital in Letterkenny. Those plans will still come to fruition. We have to honour them.
“In Education, a contractor has been appointed for the Glenswilly National School project and will be on site once restrictions are eased. Similarly, St Mary’s in Stranorlar and Scoil Cholmcille in Letterkenny will be given the green light once we’re out of lockdown,” Minister McHugh said.
As talks between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and other groupings including the Greens, Social Democrats and Labour continue about the formation of the new government it’s business as usual for Minister McHugh.
“I quickly learned that there’s no such thing as a caretaker Government. Until there’s a new Taoiseach, Government duties and decision making falls squarely on our shoulders. Whatever happens in the future is a discussion for another day. Our whole focus at the moment is on the community and their safety and wellbeing, especially taking care of the elderly and those with under lying illnesses,” he said.
Asked about Civil War rivals coming together in Government, Minister McHugh said that it was a partnership which nobody could have dreamed or predicted before the general election.
“We are faced with a conundrum in terms of the next government. We are taking the responsible step and the only way I can see it working is by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil coming together. That said, we still need a third party and time and space is now being given to the Greens, Social Democrats and Labour to see if they’re interested in coming into government,” he said.
What about the possibility of a national government, one that would involve Sinn Fein?
“We still need accountability. I’ll be in the Dáil  on Thursday and Thomas Byrne (Fianna Fáil Education spokesman) will be holding me to account as will the Sinn Féin spokesperson. Being a Minister involves making difficult decisions all the time. It requires making judgement calls – not all of which are right – but to ask up to nine groupings to make difficult decisions..I can’t understand how that consensus would work in real life. I can’t rationalise the thought of a national government in my own head,” he said.
Back in 1997, the government of the day was propped up by four independents, one of whom was the late Harry Blaney.
“Harry Blaney and Jackie Healy Rea certainly used their voice to great effect back then but I think it would be perilous to try and get twelve to fourteen independents to join us in government.
“If this option (Fianna Fáil) was presented to me and the party faithful in Donegal before the last election we would have said it wouldn’t work. It won’t be without its difficulties that’s for sure and we still need a third party to join us. Even then there’s no guarantees that it will work,” he said.
He also confirmed that the Leaving Cert exam would start on July 29.

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