Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach faces Leaders' Questions

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was eased into his first Leaders' Questions in the Dail with a rare display of cross-party consensus.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin kicked off proceedings as the chief opposition speaker with a less than combative performance, expressing backing for Mr Kenny's defence of Ireland's controversial corporate tax rate and offering the Government assistance in helping Irish citizens in quake-hit Japan.

In an assured, confident first performance, Mr Kenny stressed the coalition's focus was to fight for a better deal in Europe on the multi-billion bailout after his first days in office were dominated by crunch EU meetings.

"I want to say to Deputy Martin it is heartening to hear you speak like this in respect of our Corporation tax rate," Mr Kenny said.

"This is an issue of fundamental importance to everyone in this house and to everyone in this country."

But Mr Kenny faced a tougher time from the Socialist Party's Joe Higgins and first time TD Gerry Adams, who accused him of dodging a number of questions.

Mr Higgins claimed the Government was guilty of a "monumental betrayal" of its promise to be honest with voters, claiming the party was reneging on its promise to have bondholders share the burden of the bank bailout.

"Taoiseach, only six short hibernian nights and days ago since the formation of your Government, and it is already guilty of monumental betrayal of its promise of honesty in Government to the Irish people."

But Mr Kenny hit back, claiming his first week in office was spent fighting for the voters. "I learned how to stand up for the Irish people, I learned to stand and defend our mandate, I learned to articulate on behalf of our country and it was a privilege to do so, that we will stand up for what we believe in, that we will stand up for what we've signed up for," Mr Kenny said.

It was the second time the 31st Dail has sat and the first Leaders' Questions. Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett opened proceedings with a run-down of the time allowed for speakers and stated Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin would be the chief opposition speaker.

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