Full text of speech by Taoiseach Enda Kenny
‘We can say we have learned from the difficult past only if we make sure not to repeat it.’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveils his new Cabinet in the Dáil this afternoon.
A Cheann Comhairle, I wish to inform the House that the President, acting on my advice, has accepted the resignations of Deputy Pat Rabbitte, Deputy Ruairi Quinn, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, Deputy Phil Hogan and Deputy Jimmy Deenihan as members of the Government.
I move that Dail Eireann approves the nominations by the Taoiseach of Deputy Paschal Donohoe, Deputy Heather Humphreys, Deputy Alan Kelly, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan and Deputy Alex White for appointment by the President as members of the Government.
I also wish to inform the House that I am nominating Deputy Phil Hogan as Ireland’s next member of the European Commission.
I intend to nominate Deputy Jed Nash for appointment as Minister of State attending the Government and Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with responsibility for Business and Employment.
I also intend to propose to the Government the appointment of Deputy Jimmy Deenihan as Minister of State at my Department and at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for the Irish abroad.
Further appointments of ministers of state will be made by the Government in the near future.
I intend to assign the following responsibilities to the members of Government:
- Department of Defence to Deputy Simon Coveney, in addition to his current responsibilities.
- Department of Education and Skills to Deputy Jan O’Sullivan.
- Department of Foreign Affairs to Deputy Charlie Flanagan.
- Department of the Environment and Local Government to Deputy Alan Kelly.
- Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht to Deputy Heather Humphreys.
A Cheann Comhairle, I’d like to thank the outgoing members of the Cabinet for their service during what have been difficult times for our country.
Individually and collectively, these Ministers have played a major part in creating those all-important jobs for our people and in securing Ireland’s economic recovery.
I have already publically and deeply thanked the former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. As Tánaiste, over the last three years, he has been outstanding in the service of Ireland and the Irish people. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, he has been central to restoring Ireland’s international reputation. A restoration that has been vital for generating investor confidence and creating jobs.
Minister Pat Rabbitte’s upgrading of broadband infrastructure has seen Ireland move up the international league tables for high-speed connectivity, with all the attendant benefits for business, investment and jobs. Right now, hi-speed broadband is being installed in all secondary schools, with plans in place for new investment across rural Ireland.
Minister Ruairi Quinn’s passion for reform was the leitmotif of what has been an outstanding Ministerial career in various Governments. He took FAS and transformed it into a new service for training and further education that will help jobseekers get back into work. I wish him well in his retirement from politics. He will be missed.
Minister Phil Hogan has introduced some of the biggest reforms of Government during his tenure that will have lasting benefits long into the future. Issues such as local government reform; the effective banning of corporate donations; new building regulations; a new water service; dealing with ground water pollution from septic tanks; and climate change to name but a few. His record of implementing difficult, but necessary, change will stand to him as EU Commissioner, and I wish him well in his new role.
Minister Jimmy Deenihan’s tenure began what will be a successful decade of commemorations marking Ireland’s path to independence. He made major progress on the inherited and long-ignored issue of protecting our national bogs. Here, he negotiated with considerable sensitivity the plan to fulfil our environmental responsibilities while offering good solutions to landowners and turf cutters.
I look forward to working closely with him in his important new role in connecting with the huge Irish diaspora throughout the word.
I also congratulate the new members who are proposed for appointment as ministers. This is a great day for themselves and their families and I look forward to working with each of them as we build on the progress made by the Government over the past three years.
A Cheann Comhairle, when we came to office, rescuing Ireland’s economy and restoring its reputation, were our top priorities. We were a Government for National Recovery.
Through our carefully-assembled plan, we have achieved this. Crucially, our reputation as a safe bet for inward investment has been restored.
Last December, thanks to the hard work and enormous sacrifice of the Irish people sacrifice that at times they must have thought would never end we exited the EU-IMF bailout. That clean exit of the bailout, without requiring a precautionary credit line, or indeed the second bailout, predicted by many has improved Ireland’s standing and has allowed us to raise new funds, so we can safeguard the public services our people depend on in their lives day-to-day.
With new policies to encourage job creation right across the economy, and with competitiveness high on our agenda, we have seen encouraging progress in our stated aim which is to get Ireland working. Last year alone saw 61,000 new jobs. That’s not only over 1,000 jobs a week for men and women all over the country. It’s the highest, employment-growth rate in Europe.
Through our ambitious, but necessary, reforms of the social welfare system led by the Tánaiste we’re making sure that we help the long-term unemployed back into work which is where our hardworking and dignified men and women want to be. Yes for sure in these very difficult years for our country we haven’t got everything right. In the circumstances, I believe no government could.
But over the three years, we made the difficult, but necessary, decisions. Because we were determined that, with this government, it would be people and country first. That we would, at last, get Ireland moving again in the right direction. Since we exited the EU/IMF bailout, I’m glad to say that the economy has
continued to recover strongly. But vital as it is and was I want to stress that economic recovery was never the end in itself.
Economic recovery is about creating the kind of environment where enterprise and jobs can thrive. Where we can provide people the kind of public services they deserve.
Putting a decent roof over their heads.
Giving people confidence and security in their lives so that they can start to see day-to-day that the huge sacrifices they have made for the recovery now have all been worthwhile.
I’m glad to say that some people are experiencing this already. For them, at last, confidence is creeping in life has improved and when you meet them you can see the relief and the new hope in their faces their attitude.
But many more people many more people are not yet experiencing the upturn.
They have yet to see and measure the benefits of the recovery in their lives. I want to assure the people of Ireland that their efforts and sacrifices to date will neither be taken for granted nor squandered by this Government.
The resources we have at hand will be used to promote ever more job creation.
It is by returning the country to full employment that we can best reach our goal of making Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business, to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and security. And as we enter this new phase of recovery, I want to pay tribute to our workers.
Despite waves of economic instability, they got out and they got to work. And because they did they got us the country back on track.
Today, we owe our workers our recovery.
On every trade mission I go on, at every meeting with foreign investors, I hear lavish praise for the skill and commitment of our workers.Today, I want to say to our workers and particularly to the middle income and low earners.
I know it’s been galling. I know that at times the anxiety alone has been suffocating. Yes - the Government has already removed 330,000 earners from the Universal Social Charge.The introduction of that charge by the previous Government brought the top rate of tax to 52 per cent for individuals and families on average incomes. This is neither right nor tolerable for you nor sustainable for the country.
The Government wants to make work pay for Ireland’s families. Now, especially, we want to make their lives that bit better easier.
The objective of Government should always be to create the conditions and supports to allow families to thrive, prosper and reach their full potential.
A plan to make work pay will be a big part of our priorities for the remainder of this Government.
Fairness and job creation will go hand in hand. Everyone must have the opportunity to work and live their lives at home.The changes at Cabinet level outlined today reflect the best team to take recovery forward.
There is still much to do and all of it urgent. The new Ministers will bring a new approach and energy to job creation and to making sure that the recovery, for which people sacrificed so much, reaches every family in Ireland.
In the remaining months of this Government there will be a relentless focus on restoring our domestic economy so we have rapid job growth, on the scale needed to return Ireland to full employment.
In addition to our Action Plan for Jobs we will target specific sectors of the economy for particular attention.
Agri food possesses huge potential for Ireland. The agri-food sector is one the biggest and best domestic industries.
With the right supports, we estimate that 25,000 new jobs can be created in this sector in the next seven years.
The construction sector is another part of the domestic economy that has a key role to play in our recovery and in creating new jobs.
Right now, this sector is too small for the needs of our growing economy. We need high-quality business space in order to attract in new investment.
The negative impact of lack of housing supply in the capital is both unmissable and unacceptable. To bring construction back to a sustainable position, we have a plan to create 60,000 jobs. One sector that has shown encouraging signs of growth since the Government introduced new measures within 100 days of entering office, has been tourism.
Last year, The Gathering was a major success. This week the Government published a new tourism strategy to add 50,000 new jobs over the next decade.
This year has also seen a shake up in how local government will support local businesses. Now there are 31 new Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) nationwide to provide advice and support to people starting businesses at local level. To further help Irish retailers win new business, the Government is targeting 1,000 outlets this year to start trading online via a new Voucher Scheme. By helping small Irish business trade online we expect 3,200 new jobs to be created in this area over the next two years. As the economy begins to recover we must also value, protect and nurture our hard-won competitiveness gains. Creating a competitive business environment that supports an increase in exports is essential in ensuring Ireland achieves growth and, crucially, gets more people back to work.
These are just some short examples of the hard work and agenda ahead.
Each Minister will outline how she or he in their portfolio, will promote jobs and better support our working families. In addition, the Government will shortly publish a Statement of Priorities for the remainder of our term.
As we return to better or more ‘normal’ times this document outlines how
we intend to give a hand to working families along with low and middle-income workers.
We intend to make sure that recovery is felt and deeply in every city, town and village across this country. Yes Ireland has been through the wars. There isn’t a family in any part that hasn’t been affected. But my message here today is that already, we’re in recovery things are getting better and we intend now to make sure they get better for everyone.
We know that the people are impatient to see and feel this recovery in their lives. They’re impatient to see and feel the change for which they made such sacrifice. And as the government we are every bit as impatient for that as they are.
I have a strong belief in this country. I have a powerful faith in our people.
In the time I have been privileged to be Taoiseach I have travelled all over the country. I’ve spoken to all manner of people I’ve listened to their stories sometimes of great loss great anxiety. And I have learned that despite this.
Belief fragile as it is exists. We can say we have learned from the difficult past only if we make sure not to repeat it.
With the actions and decisions the government has taken as bitter and unwelcome as they have been for many I believe we will not repeat that past.
Rather, there is both the will and the possibility now to move forward. To rebuild. To renew. To recreate.
There’s a chance now for change a welcome and overdue change so we’re not just gritting our teeth keeping the head down and surviving but that we can get to live our lives. In government, we will give every help, every opportunity, every support to make that happen. It is both our intention and our duty that we would.