Full text of speech by Tánaiste Joan Burton

‘Government setting out how it will avail of opportunity to ensure the recovery improves living standards for every person’

Tánaiste Joan Burton, who is to remain as Minister for Social Protection, has set out her priorities for the remainder of Labour’s term in Government. Image: Oireachtas screengrab.

Tánaiste Joan Burton, who is to remain as Minister for Social Protection, has set out her priorities for the remainder of Labour’s term in Government. Image: Oireachtas screengrab.

Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 14:15

Statement by the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD on the nomination of the new Government

Many individuals, families and communities have experienced the worst of times since the economic crisis first struck. But I am optimistic that the best of times are still ahead of us, because a window of opportunity has opened for this country.

And today, this Government is setting out how it will avail of that opportunity to ensure that the recovery improves living standards for every person, every family and every community.

In other words, we will deliver a social recovery to accompany the economic recovery now firmly under way – to ensure that the recovery works for the many and not just the few, and that the burden borne by the people of this country has not been in vain.

This means an unrelenting focus on jobs, increased living standards and affordable homes for our people. I look forward to working with the Taoiseach and our coalition partners to make that social recovery happen.

When this Government took office, the economy was on the brink of collapse and threatened to bring down social cohesion with it. Now it is clear that huge progress has been made on the job of economic repair.

The economy grew by a healthy 2.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year. Unemployment has fallen for 24 months in a row, and is down to its lowest level since 2009. Exports are at an all-time high and Government borrowing is falling rapidly.

In a little over three and a half years, Labour and Fine Gael in Government have restored financial stability, ensured Ireland’s successful exit from the EU-IMF bailout programme and overseen a return to economic growth.

And for that, I want to thank former Tánaiste and minister for foreign affairs and trade Eamon Gilmore for his principled leadership and unyielding resolve to put Ireland on the road to recovery.

I also want to thank former minister for education and dkills Ruairí Quinn and former minister for communications, marine and natural Resources Pat Rabbitte for their immense contributions not alone to this Government’s work, but to public life.

Eamon, Ruairí and Pat have always fought for progressive change in the best interests of our people, and I know that they will continue to do so.

The progress we have made on economic recovery has created the conditions to place an equal emphasis now on social repair.

And I’m confident that, through the statement of priorities we are publishing today, and this Government’s determination to see those priorities achieved, we will successfully deliver a social recovery.

A new deal for working families The social recovery starts with jobs, because secure work is the single best protection against poverty.

So the Government will continue to strengthen the domestic economy, continue to implement policies that fuel growth, and prioritise new jobs for the unemployed through our Pathways to Work strategy.

Helping small and medium businesses to prosper again will be crucial to increasing employment. The Government will establish the Strategic Bank to channel billions of euro in much-needed finance to our SMEs over the next four years, and that in turn will create thousands of new jobs.

But they must be jobs that pay decent wages, where people don’t need to fall back on welfare. One of the first things I did upon becoming Minister for Social Protection was to restore the Minimum Wage to €8.65 an hour.