When the Irish people give a new Government a new mandate, the natural energy, optimism and ideas of the Irish people will be unleashed. Set free. Liberated from the strangle hold of despair created by the current Government’s failings.
Fine Gael wants to seek that mandate, that permission from the people. We want to put the case of the Party I have the honour to lead to the people. Let me confirm to you tonight that Fine Gael has done the hard work and is now ready to lead the way in restoring our country’s fortunes. We have people who will lead. We have a team that will not lie down in the face of this challenge. And most crucially - we have the plans.
1. We will restore order and structure to the public finances
Never again will we allow bad politics and reckless banks destroy the economy. We will cut the budget deficit to 3% by 2014 and we recognise the need for a four year fiscal planning horizon. In that regard Michael Noonan will be meeting with Department of Finance officials on Wednesday as part of our own budgetary planning process.
But, let me be clear. We will achieve these budgetary targets not just through the usual spending and tax measures but by supporting economic growth and job creation. We know we cannot tax our way to economic recovery or health in the public finances. As a former Minister for Trade and Tourism I know at close quarters that a competitive tax regime is crucial for a small open economy like ours.
Even if others waiver on the issue, Fine Gael will not raise corporation tax. A successful Fine Gael Government introduced the current low rate and it has served our economy well over the years. Let me also confirm, that as Vice-President of the EPP in the European Parliament I have already made it clear to my colleagues the Treaty of Lisbon for which you all worked so hard makes tax matters sacrosanct to each individual country.
Finally, next week I travel to the US to meet Irish and US business interests to reinforce that message and to assist in the promotion of this country as one of the best locations in the world in which to do business.
2. We will make the protection and creation of jobs the first and last priority of a new Government
It seems to have escaped the notice of those in Government today that we will never fix our financial crisis if we don’t grow our economy and fix our jobs crisis.
We’ll get credit flowing by establishing a new small business loan guarantee scheme, as has been successfully introduced in many other countries – most notably Chile and Taiwan. Fine Gael will be launching a detailed policy document in this regard shortly and we will seek cross party support for this measure in the Dáil.
We’ll create over 100,000 jobs by putting in place an €18bn investment stimulus in the vital arteries of our economy – high speed broadband, clean energy, water - financed in part by selling off those state assets that we no longer need. This Fine Gael plan is called NewERA.
3. We’ll bring the Dutch health system – the best in Europe – to Ireland
Fine Gael’s health plan, FairCare, will eliminate hospital waiting lists - as they did in Northern Ireland – and put the patient front and centre by paying hospitals for what they actually do rather than for what they did last year. We’ll eliminate the unfair two-tier health system by making sure that health insurance is affordable for everyone. This will mean people will get access to care on the basis of need rather than wealth. This new approach is based on the world famous Dutch system of healthcare. It has worked there, it can work here too.
4. We will change politics and the public service
If the public is to take seriously political parties’ plans for rebuilding our country then, I believe, that political parties have to show that they are serious themselves about changing.
That is why within 12 months of forming a new Government Fine Gael will ask you to vote to abolish the Seanad and to reduce the Dáil by 20 TDs. We’ll make the Dáil smaller and more effective at holding Government to account in the public’s interest.
And let me state this clearly and without any ambiguity: A Fine Gael Government will operate in the people’s interests. It will not be the prisoner of big business, powerful unions or any other vested interest. Our only interest is the public’s interest.
We must make our political system more responsive and effective in tackling the wanton waste of public cash. I am determined that this scandalous waste of public monies is eliminated. We will also eliminate significant fraud in the welfare system and, finally, we will take on the white collar criminals with the same energy and determination that any threat to our society is pursued. The law of the land will apply, and must be seen to apply, to every section of our society. And if the law isn’t strong enough to do this we will strengthen it further.
Tonight, let us decide on one thing.
Let us look back on Black Thursday and recognise it not as an end but as a beginning. A day when the Irish people braced themselves for a fight, took a deep breath and said; never again.
I stand tonight with those true Irish patriots. I too say, never again. From this day forward let us stand together as a people and rebuild our country. Our banks, our public services, our economy and our politics all need a new start. It is a massive undertaking. The struggle will be long, our opponents many and the challenges diverse.
But the prize is worth fighting for.
A country to be proud of. One that protects its vulnerable. Rewards hard work and effort. Treats all with dignity and respect. Cherishes our young and invests for our shared future. And one that prizes community ahead of economy while recognising we need to nurture both. That is a country worth fighting for.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Ireland: Enda Kenny address at FG Presidential Dinner Saturday 9 Oct, 2010
Extracts of the Speech by President and Leader of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny T.D., at the Party’s Annual Presidential Dinner