Enda’s Ard Fheis Speech

View from my seat for Enda's Speech

I’m finally back in Cork after last weekend’s Fine Gael Ard Fheis in the Convention Centre in Dublin. It was an interesting Ard Fheis with plenty to talk about and to plan for. The highlight of course was of course Enda Kenny’s speech on Saturday night.

His speech for me summed up the change that we have seen in Enda Kenny since the attempted heave in 2010. It was measured and it contained positives and negatives. I for one was very proud of An Taoiseach during that speech.

It was a speech that was not just for the party faithful, but for Irish Citizens watching at home and he used the speech perfectly well. Have a read of it yourself.

Just over a year ago, the Irish people turned to Fine Gael and the Labour Party at a time of national crisis.

We told the people then that it was time to get Ireland working again and that our plan was designed to make that happen.

The Irish people gave us their support and their trust in historic numbers.

I thank you for your trust.

Thank you for your belief, and for your patience, and for your sacrifice.

You gave us a mandate and a responsibility to clear away the air of fear and uncertainty.

To get our country moving in the right direction again.

Therefore, as we gather at this Ard Fheis, our purpose cannot be one of celebration.

We will not celebrate until Ireland has reason to celebrate. Tonight, unemployment remains too high. Too many families are struggling to make ends meet. Too many worry about losing their homes. Too many of our children are still moving away.

Our purpose now must be to redouble our efforts, to work even harder to deliver our plan.

To get Ireland Working.

To retrieve our economic independence and take back our country.

These tough times require straight talk.

So we will continue to be straight and honest with the people.

To tell them what we have done to meet our pledges, and how much work remains to be done.

To explain to people the scale of the challenge that remains.

This government has made a solid start, but we have a long way to go. Fine Gael and Labour are providing Ireland with a strong and stable government.

Our first priority was to stabilise the economy. That meant a tough Budget in which we had to make very difficult choices.I know that for many people, the measures we have had to take have been painful.But we are doing the best we can to protect the most vulnerable by reversing the cut in the minimum wage; by protecting basic welfare payments; and by exempting 330,000 low paid and part-time workers from the Universal Social Charge.

The public finances are coming under control, and the budget deficit will be down to 3% of GDP by 2015. We have downsized and recapitalized the banking system. Investor confidence is starting to return. Deposits are flowing back into our banks and several multi-national companies have announced investments to create further jobs, and others intend to follow.

Exports are performing strongly due to our improved competitiveness. Ireland’s international standing is being restored.

Over the past year, the Tanaiste and I, along with the other members of the Government, have worked hard to convince international political and business leaders that Ireland now has a serious government with a serious plan.

A government that can be trusted.

Crucial to that mission has been proving our determination to tackle the economic problems we inherited.

Our commitments under the EU/IMF agreement are being delivered in full and on time. The interest rates on these loans have been reduced, saving us €10 billion. The interest rates on Irish government bonds have fallen steadily. We have made a start on jobs.

Our first Budget saw no increase in income tax. Because taxing work damages jobs.

Our first jobs initiative helped create 6,000 jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Already, 20,000 men and women have taken up training places on schemes including JobBridge and Springboard. We have made it much easier for foreign investors to visit and create jobs in Ireland.

Yes – this is a start.

But there is so much further to go, with so much more effort and imagination required.

We have also made a start on reforming the political system itself.

We cut ministerial pay and transport costs. The entitlements of former Taoisigh have been withdrawn. Work is continuing on legislation to reduce the size of the Dáil, and to prepare for a referendum for the abolition of the Seanad. I believe that more women should become involved in Irish politics.

To encourage more women into politics we are linking State funding of political parties to the level of female participation in elections. Parties, including our own, will be penalised if they do not fulfil these conditions.

We are continuing to reform the wider public sector. We are reducing the size and cost of the public service, and radically cutting the number of state agencies.

We need to reform the way we deliver our essential public services like health, education and justice. We must provide people with the quality services they deserve at a lower cost. To achieve this, we need the continued support and co-operation of those who work in our public service and the unions that represent them.

The shameful and corrupt practices revealed in the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunal Reports must never be allowed to happen again. That’s why this Government is taking firm action to break the link between business and political funding. That interaction should be based solely on achieving economic recovery through creating jobs.

Our new laws on political funding will ban corporate donations over €200 to a political party unless they are registered and declared.

We will create a register of lobbyists and enact new laws to give protection to those who discover and report unethical behaviour. These long overdue reforms, along with other measures being considered by Government, will help to put integrity, transparency and honesty back at the heart of public life.

While the steps we have taken in the first year have brought stability, we recognise that some of the pledges we made have not been delivered.

We had intended to legislate to end upward only rent reviews, but this has proven to be impossible because of constitutional difficulties.

We kept our promise to increase mortgage interest relief for people who bought their homes at the height of the property boom, but mortgage arrears remain a serious problem for far too many families.

We have made some progress in reducing the penal burden on the Irish people of the previous Government’s bailout of the banks.

Through a combination of burden sharing on junior bondholders, private investment and avoiding asset fire sales, we have more than halved the cost to tax payers envisaged in the original plan.

But despite these improvements, this burden remains too heavy.

Let me be clear. I will not throw away the progress we have made in the last year by reneging on our international commitments.

Ireland will NOT default.
But we are determined to ease this burden on our people.

That’s why we are negotiating with our Troika partners to find a cheaper way of financing the cost of bank recapitalisation.

That’s why the €3.1 billion promissory note payment due to be paid to Anglo Irish Bank on Monday is not being paid.But is being replaced by a long-term government bond and the wider negotiations will continue.

The year ahead is a crucial one for rebuilding and recovery.

An essential first step – and the Government’s immediate priority – will come at the end of May when the Irish people vote on the European Stability Treaty.

Throughout my recent visits to the United States, and to China this week, the consistent message from both political and business leaders is that they see Ireland’s place as a fully committed member of the Eurozone as a crucial element of Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for investment.

I cannot over-state it.

In this referendum, we have a brilliant opportunity to say to the world that Ireland believes in the future of the Euro, that Ireland is central to the future of the Eurozone, that Ireland is four-square with Europe, as together we build a system that will bring responsible budgeting to Euro governments and Euro nations across the entire Eurozone.

This commitment is an investment in our children’s future, and in our country’s future.

Never again will a government be able to behave recklessly and arrogantly with the people’s money.

In recent months alone numerous multi-national companies have shown their confidence in Ireland by committing to new investments here.

I want to continue and grow this strong flow of inward investment in the future…for our future.

I want Ireland to have the same access as other countries to the insurance policy of the ESM – a critical reassurance for investors.

We can do this, we can achieve this….by voting YES.
Yes to Europe.
Yes to Jobs.
Yes to Ireland.
YES on May 31st.

As you know, my message while abroad recently has been strong and clear – Ireland is open for business.

Now is the time to invest in our recovery.

I recently signed economic co-operation agreements with China and the United Kingdom, both of which offer significant potential for the future.

We must translate that rising international confidence into more jobs all across this country.

We are a nation of doers and entrepreneurs. But there are still too many obstacles to job creation – too much red tape, too many high costs and too many archaic regulations.

The measures taken in the Jobs’ Initiative last May have helped. But this is not nearly enough.
I always said that this was only a first step towards my commitment to make jobs the top priority of this Government.

Jobs are about more than work. Jobs are about dignity, incentive, pride.

More jobs mean better lives, stronger communities, more resources for public services, and less debt.That‘s why last month, this Government published our Action Plan for Jobs.

We aim to create 100,000 extra jobs by 2016. The plan contains 270 separate actions to remove the barriers to job creation. Actions to cut the cost of red-tape by a quarter. Actions to cut the different employments-rights bodies from five to two.

Banks must become part of the solution to the jobs crisis by meeting their agreed lending targets.

The Partial-Loan Guarantee Scheme will give existing companies more and better access to bank credit. We will stimulate investment in infrastructure by using some of the proceeds from the disposal of State assets to pay for extra investment in areas like water and energy that can boost jobs and growth.

We will make it easier to expand into overseas markets, for example with tax reliefs for companies sending sales-people to the rapidly-expanding economies of China, Brazil and India.

We will also support traditional sectors of the economy, such as the plan to double food exports by 2020.

Action will be taken to ignite new sectors of the economy – such as cloud computing, digital gaming and data content storage.

I believe that in the next five years, Ireland can become a global hub for cloud computing.
The key to the success of this jobs plan is in the title – ACTION.

All Government Ministers and State Agencies are committed to the delivery of this plan. My Department of the Taoiseach will drive its implementation throughout the public service.

In fact, the idea of ‘drive’ is behind every aspect of what this government is undertaking.
And this drive makes sure that economic recovery does not by-pass those who have lost their jobs, their wealth and even their self-confidence in this recession.

People on the live register must be put at the top of the queue to fill newjobs as they arise.

Ireland hasn’t been good enough to, or strong enough for its jobseekers. The supports have been too passive and too scattered. The vast majority of people who are out of work want a hand up, not a hand out. These men and women know the dignity of work, and feel its absence in their lives. Our Pathways to Work Plan will help those people.

From now on, the day a person loses their job is the day the State starts helping them to find another job, or to train for another job.

In place of FAS there will be a one-stop-shop for job-seekers where welfare claims will be processed thoroughly and quickly.

This new person-centred system will identify and help those most at risk of being unemployed long-term. With all the difficult consequences of that. Because of our duty to help people find work and to use their talents for their own good and for the good of the country, we will give employers additional incentives to hire people who are currently out of work.

That means extending the employer PRSI exemption scheme from 12 to 18 months.

This Government wants work to pay. It has to be seen to be a more attractive option than staying on the dole.

That is why in the last Budget we delivered on our commitment not to increase taxes on income and work.

Now we will ensure that the social protection system incentivises, rather than discourages, people from returning to work.

Reforms to the jobseekers’ schemes are being introduced to ensure that people in part-time employment are encouraged to take up full-time employment whenever possible.

We also need to show the debt-distressed in our communities that there is light at the end of tunnel.
For too many people, the only escape from unsustainable debts is long-term bankruptcy, economic inactivity or emigration.

I know this.

I’m frustrated that we haven’t been able to move as fast as we wanted to, to tackle the mortgage crisis.

So, I’ve appointed a temporary Cabinet Committee, which I chair, to drive action in four vital areas:

Firstly, we will work with the Financial Regulator to encourage banks to offer “negative equity mortgages”, whereby families can, depending on their circumstances, trade up or down.

Secondly, we will finalise and enact a Personal Insolvency Bill designed to rebalance the rights of the borrower and lender, in a fairer way.

Thirdly, we will expand the use of “mortgage to rent” for families who can no longer afford their mortgages, to allow them to sell their houses and rent them back at affordable rents.

Fourthly, to free up the housing market, we are giving additional mortgage interest relief to first time buyers who buy their homes before the end of 2012.

These steps are to protect our families and to keep our children in the most powerful and precious place they will ever have in their lives: HOME.

This is a great country with unlimited potential. We are now regarded the world over as being a country on the way back. We have the best young generation on the planet. Our challenge is to harness all these qualities together and nothing will stop us.

We’ve overcome hardship and adversity in the past. We’ve overcome poverty and deprivation in the past. We’ve beaten all these difficulties.

I don’t have all the answers but I do know this: a government that works hard, that brings honesty, clarity and decisiveness in its service of the people will not fail.

It is my privilege to lead such a Government and I am proud to do so.

And I look forward to achieving my ambition that by 2016 we will prove to be the best small country in the world to do business, the best country in which to raise a family, and the best country in which to grow old with dignity and respect.
My Government will work with you to fulfil these ambitions in the interest of our future, our country and our children.

YFG to hold Human Rights Session at Fine Gael Ard Fheis

As part if the 76th Fine Gael Ard Fheis, Young Fine Gael will be hosting a session on Saturday afternoon on the topic of Human Rights. The session will discuss Human Rights at home and abroad. The Session will include discussion on how human rights should become central to our society and political system, the media treatment of human rights, children’s rights and the Children’s Referendum, and advocacy for people with disability.

Speaking about the Session, Young Fine Gael President, Patrick Molloy said:

“This is a great opportunity to bring YFG members together with key opinion makers campaigning for human rights in Ireland. The Session will enable our members better understand future changes in major issues like marriage and adoption rights for LGBT individuals in Ireland, children’s rights, and disability rights, and also how these issues develop in the political and media sphere. Our members will also have an opportunity to engage with speakers about these topics.”

“As Fine Gael work with Labour in government, Young Fine Gael are advocating that human rights are kept central to our policies and goals and this Ard Fheis Session is an opportunity for our members to have their say on human rights in Ireland and abroad.”

The speakers will include

  • Tanya Ward, Children’s Rights Alliance
  • Carl O’Brien, Irish Times
  • Simon Harris TD
  • Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty Ireland

It will be an interesting session and I for one am looking forward to it!

Facebook Event

YFG Press Release

FG out of step with the political consensus?

History of Fine Gael
Image via Wikipedia

After the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, Fine Gael is now the only political party in Ireland that is opposed to the introduction of Gay Marriage in Ireland. It was interesting to read that Fianna Fail passed motions in favour of both Gay Marriage and Gay Adoption following pressure from Ógra Fianna Fail and others who have been pushing for it for a number of years.

With the Fine Gael Ard Fheis approaching, William Quill blogs that it is the perfect time for Fine Gael to correct this. With Young Fine Gael supporting the issue since their (our) Summer School in 2011 and at this year’s National Conference voted in favour of Gay Adoption.

It would be remiss of Fine Gael at this point to remain opposed to Gay Marriage. As I think a political consensus and with a majority of the public in favour of Gay Marriage, the conditions are right for Fine Gael and Labour to bring this in quite easily and should do so. The start of this will of course will be if Fine Gael pass a motion in favour at its Ard Fheis at the end of this month.

While I am not a proponent of Gay Marriage, I am not as much against it as I used to be. I still believe the state should have nothing to do with the recognition of relationships, but as long as it does it should recognise all relationships between consenting adults.

(Yes William you finally wore me down on this!)

The party is over, now the work begins

So I am home from the Fine Gael Ard Fheis and what an Ard Fheis it was. Enda’s speech was as Yellow Roman Candles describes it “as good as it gets” for Enda, but it was the reaction to the speech which is what made it.

Mairead McGuiness MEP did a great job as compere of the evening and making sure that everything went in order and making sure that everyone was entertained. Micheal Ring TD did a fantastic job in getting us all going and got a standing ovation for his speech. But of course all the attention was on Enda’s speech.

When I read Enda’s speech before hand, I wasnt so sure of the ending (see here). The reaction in the hall was something else. On two occasions the hall went mental The first was the line “One of my first acts as Taoiseach”. That line had the hall on its feet! And Enda was not expecting that. I don’t think anyone expects a standing ovation in the middle of a speech. Enda soldiered on and the reaction got better and better and when it came to the “Yes we Will” line people were jumping out of their seats to shout it. Of all the (Young) Fine Gael Conferences and Ard Fheisenna I have attended, I have never seen such a reaction to a speech.

The time for speechs is over now. Now is the time for hard work, for knocking on doors, for asking for number ones. Now is the time for Fine Gael members, to get behind their candidates, new and old. And get out there and get them elected. Fine Gael have a hard task in trying to increase our number of MEP’s. Sen. JP Phelan in East, Sean Kelly in South and Sen Joe O’Reilly in North West, will all be a welcome additions to our current MEPs.

So can we do well? Yes We Will! IF we put our shoulders to the wheel and explain our points and get our message across, then we will do it!

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Holiday Atmosphere at Ard Fheis?

If you take a walk outside the main hotel there is a big crowd outside enjoying the sunshine. There is a relaxed mood among delegates as the various sessions continue this evening.

I attended the YFG session for part of it, but had to leav early. I was there for contributions from Lucinda Creighton (Europe) and Brian Hayes (Education). They gave good speeches, with Lucinda focusing on the Lisbon Treaty and the Lisbon Strategy (not to be confused). Brian Hayes explained the background to his recent Green Paper on higher education. It made alot of sense especially when he said in his speech to the Education Session that if this comes in, the new entrants will not have to pay a registration fee.

Who knows what will come of these, will the youth manifesto be any different to senior manifesto? We will find out

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The Morning Sessions

We started this morning we two motion based sessions on Health and the Economy. There was no new substantive addition to the heakth policy as announced by Enda Kenny last night. The only addition was the idea of a National Body Test (NBT), which would be “an age appropriate annual check up to pick up illnesses early.” which is an interesting idea.

Dr. James Reilly TD’s speech was very good and had some hard hitting words aimed at the HSE. It ticked a lot of boxes with those in the room and be ended up getting a standing ovation. (Was that just for the telly though?)

We are currently on the Economy session which is providing quite a few number of quotes for those watching on twitter (#fgaf is trending on twitter!)

Dont forget to watch the liveblog! and is the streaming working on the Fine Gael website?

Enjoy the telly coverage

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YFG gain seat on National Exec

There was amotion this morning giving Young Fine Gael an extra seat on the Fine Gael National Executive. This was a amendment I assumed would be passed. But two member from the National Executive actually stood up and spoke against the amendment. It looked tight. Thankfully Denis Kirby, a stallwart of the party in Cork South Central stood up and spoke for the amendment. It is great to have people like that behind the youth of the party.

The amendment did pass by a large majority thanks to a get out of bed campaign by the YFG National Exec, so very happy!

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Controversial Amendment defered

At one point last night before the opening ceremony I came down stairs to find myself in the middle of an argument about Amendment  23. This amendment would each branch entitled to 20 delegates at convention and one extra for every five members over the 20 (i.e 25 members in a branch equals 21  votes).

This was proposed by the Parliamentry Party. A decision on this and a number of other motions have been defered to a special delegate conference later in the year.

I don’t know what to make of it, especially making it a delegate conference, but it also does raise valid issue and maybe concern about interviewing and “packed” branches which does happen.

Ard Fheis – Opening Ceremony

Well the opening speeches of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis are over and the first session is under way.

Senator Francis Fitzgerald gave the local welcome to the Ard Fheis and placed the blame of the current crisis’ firmly at the feet of the Government.

Following her, after some formalities, was the main speech by Enda Kenny. He started off about our candidates in the local elections. We ahem, I mean Fine Gael, have 733 candidates in the locals elections. 75 of them are under 35. The youngest being 21.

The majority of the speech was about a new 3 phase health system based on the Netherlands system of Universal Health Insurance (UHI). It is based on mandatory Private Health insurance, which is either fully or partly subsidised by the Government. There is also some other ideas such as “Money Follows the Patient” which is a way to encourage hospitals to be efficent. Its an interesting idea and I am looking forward to the full policy document been launched by Dr James Reilly tomorrow and the discussion at the health session.

I have to agree with him that the HSE needs reform and the Minister must not be allowed to hide behind it. People have been saying this for years and its about time we have been given an alternative proposal that is based on a system that works. I must say Fine Gael picked a good system in the system used in the Netherlands.

On the new logo, its growing on me. Its not exactly working on the current website, but on the stage and that it works very well in my opinon.  The signage displays very well with it. But why change nine weeks before an election?


What you think of the new logo?

Yellow Roman Candles has its view of the opening ceremony also.

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FG Ard Fheis – Keeping up online

Thanks to the wonderful Suzy for these links.

I’m off to Dublin today for the Ard Fheis and you too can keep up with the action. You have two ways, you can watch all the tweeting on scribblelive showing all the action from twitter or you can watch the live streaming on the Fine Gael website. The live stream will be between 19:00 – 21:00 today and  11:00 – 21:00 on Saturday with some of the day’s sessions and some interviews being streamed during that time.

I plan on speaking on at least one motion tonight so watch out for me!

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